Searching for the perfect gift to celebrate Mom? Shop our hand-selected Mother's Day collection of gifts and books here!

The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight Over the English Language

The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight Over the English Language cover

The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight Over the English Language

$ 29.95
Add to Wish List
Out of Stock In Store (Click to Order)

A compelling history of the national conflicts that resulted from efforts to produce the first definitive American dictionary of English

In The Dictionary Wars, Peter Martin recounts the patriotic fervor in the early American republic to produce a definitive national dictionary that would rival Samuel Johnson's 1755 Dictionary of the English Language. But what began as a cultural war of independence from Britain devolved into a battle among lexicographers, authors, scholars, and publishers, all vying for dictionary supremacy and shattering forever the dream of a unified American language.

The overwhelming questions in the dictionary wars involved which and whose English was truly American and whether a dictionary of English should attempt to be American at all, independent from Britain. Martin tells the human story of the intense rivalry between America's first lexicographers, Noah Webster and Joseph Emerson Worcester, who fought over who could best represent the soul and identity of American culture. Webster believed an American dictionary, like the American language, ought to be informed by the nation's republican principles, but Worcester thought that such language reforms were reckless and went too far. Their conflict continued beyond Webster's death, when the ambitious Merriam brothers acquired publishing rights to Webster's American Dictionary and launched their own language wars. From the beginning of the nineteenth century to the end of the Civil War, the dictionary wars also engaged America's colleges, libraries, newspapers, religious groups, and state legislatures at a pivotal historical moment that coincided with rising literacy and the print revolution.

Delving into the personal stories and national debates that arose from the conflicts surrounding America's first dictionaries, The Dictionary Wars examines the linguistic struggles that underpinned the founding and growth of a nation.

Peter Martin is the author of numerous books, including the acclaimed biographies Samuel Johnson and A Life of James Boswell. He has taught English literature in the United States and England and divides his time between West Sussex, England, and Spain.

ISBN: 9780691188911

ISBN-10: 9780691188911

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Publication Date: 05/28/2019 - 12:00am

On Sale: 05/28/2019 - 12:00am

Pages: 368

Language: English


United States - 19th Century


More by Peter Martin

  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Linear Regression: An Introduction to Statistical Models Cover Image
  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Radioactive Materials in Engineered and Environmental Systems Cover Image
  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Theodor Oder Des Zweiflers Weihe: Bildungsgeschichte Eines Evangelischen Geistlichen Cover Image
  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Camels in the Biblical World (History #10) Cover Image
  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Lehrbuch Der Bauphysik: Wärme - Feuchte - Klima - Schall - Licht - Brand Cover Image
  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Burket's Oral Medicine Cover Image
  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Dien Bien Phu 1954: The French Defeat that Lured America into Vietnam (Campaign) Cover Image
  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Strategies for Sustainability of the Earth System Cover Image
  • Pre-Order Now Badge
    Advances in Imaging and Electron Physics, 219 Cover Image