History of English GrammarThe history of English grammar naturally begins in England. In 1586, the Pamphlet for Grammar was published by William Bullokar. It attempted to prove that English was just as rule bound as Latin, which was the most common written language at the time. His pamphlet competed with many others that were written in Latin and assigned to schools at the time by Henry VIII. Furthermore, an increase in commerce created social change that emphasized the importance of English grammar. Great Britain’s prominent role in international trade created a demand for participating countries to learn English grammar. Soon, grammar pamphlets in England spread beyond the typical privileged man to women, merchants, and schoolboys. By the end of the 17th century there were 16 new grammar books since Bullokar’s pamphlet. By the 18th century there were 270 new titles. Yet, even at the beginning of the 19th century scholars such as Lindlay Murray were having to cite grammatical authorities to support the claim that English grammar was different than Ancient Greek or Latin, which is what William Bullokar had initially set out to accomplish. Consequently, the 19th century led to further development of modern language studies. English studies first developed in continental Europe by people such as Danish philologist, Rasmus Rask and Jacob Grimm, the elder brother of the Brothers Grimm. Eventually, English was studied in depth by the first professional linguists.
As phonology developed as its own field of study, spoken English also prompted scientific inquiry. All the disparate pieces were in place to create what we now call English grammar. Henry Sweet’s A New English Grammar: Logical and Historical, which was published in two parts (Phonology and Accidence(1892) & Syntax(1896)) was the first work to lay claim on this new type of scholarship. Another influential work was A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles later titled the Oxford English Dictionary (1895) - a highly acclaimed source still used today.
Despite its many variations and different dialects, standard English is a widespread language that could not have developed this far without its attention to grammar. The pliable nature of English grammar that allows it to both retain its own properties and welcome those of other languages allows it to continue to grow and develop. Therefore, it is important for English speakers to adhere to proper grammar usage just as much as we accept colloquialisms and slang terms. A balance between the two is necessary for modernity and growth.