Fisher’s pedagogical concern clearly represents an advancement in the practicality of grammars, when compared to those of Lowth (1762), Priestley (1761) and Ussher (1785), which did not discuss teaching techniques, as “the only important thing was the content, not the form” (Rodriguez-Gil, 2006: 20). Despite this, children had a tendency to merely memorise lists of rules and apply them to the examples in isolation, and Mitchell (2001: 104) therefore suggests that exercises such as this “did little to enhance writing”.
The exercises were also criticised by Daniel Fenning (1771: vi), who argues that “They are more likely to perplex a young Scholar, and to confirm an old one in error, than to direct the judgment of the one, or correct the bad habit of the other”. Instead, in what appears to be an “early form of peer editing” (Mitchell, 2001: 105), he recommends students writing letters to the schoolmaster or to each other, where they will “frequently err against every rule of syntax”, as from his experience, “a Child will attend more carefully to the correction of an error made by himself, than to the correction of one made by another” (vii).Order now
Nonetheless, Fisher’s exercises made a significant impact on subsequent grammars, as demonstrated by Murray, who suggested that “a proper selection of faulty composition is more instructive to the young grammarian, than any rules and examples of propriety that can be given” (1795: iv). The exercises were included in about eighty eighteenth and nineteenth century English grammars (Michael 1987: 325-327) and even in separate textbooks, such as Murray’s English Exercises (1797). This was supplemented by Key to the Exercises (1797), which aimed to guide readers through the examples.
In the Orthography section, Fisher provides a list of how the letters of the alphabet are pronounced. She distinguishes between vowels and consonants, and more specifically, between long and short vowels, as well as diphthongs. While Fisher introduced various innovations in other sections of her grammar, her treatment of orthography is “traditional” among English grammarians, according to Michael (1970: 184), who states that “Orthography meant the study of letters of the alphabet, which were enumerated, and classified as consonants, vowels and diphthongs…
The structure of a word was therefore shown by the syllables into which it could be divided. ” This latter remark is demonstrated by her conception of spelling as the “DIVISION of WORDS into SYLLABLES” (Fisher, 1753: 29), which is not dissimilar to Douglas’ (c. 1720) suggestion that “To Spell is to Name all the letters of a Word, divide them into distinct Syllables, and then join them together in order to read or Pronounce them aright” (cited in Michael, ibid).
Thus, Fisher appears to continue this English orthographic tradition with few additions or variations. However, the various similarities between features in this section and Daniel Fisher’s The Child’s Christian Education (1743) leads Rodri?? guez-Gil (2008) to suspect that Daniel Fisher may have acted as a co-author in A New Grammar. The spelling rules in the two grammars, she suggests, “run almost in parallel, even occurring in the same order, although with some more or less trivial changes” (159).
For example, Daniel Fisher’s Rule I is “If two Vowels come together, not making a Diphthong, they must be divided, as Li-ar, Ru-in” (Daniel Fisher, 1759: 101), which is identical to Ann Fisher’s Rule I, with the minor exception of her replacement of “Li-ar” with “pi-ous” (Ann Fisher, 1750: 33). Rodri?? guez-Gil (2008: 161) admits however, that it was not uncommon for the same or similar rules to appear in contemporary grammars or spelling books and she is therefore unable to provide sufficient textual evidence that Daniel Fisher was the co-author. Despite this, Rodri??
guez-Gil presents circumstantial evidence that supports Daniel Fisher being somehow connected with A New Grammar. The second edition (1750) states that it was written by the “AUTHOR of THE CHILD’S CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, and others”, and Daniel Fisher was in fact, the author of this work. Moreover, the third edition (1751) was written by “D. FISHER, and others”. Rodri?? guez-Gil (2008: 150) dismisses the suggestion that Ann Fisher used ‘Daniel Fisher’ as a pseudonym as Daniel Fisher was already a popular contemporary author and the use of his name without his permission would cause legal problems.
Furthermore, Isaac Thompson published a number of books by both Ann and Daniel Fisher. Based on this, Rodri?? guez-Gil suggests that this common acquaintance “supports the possibility that Ann Fisher and Daniel Fisher knew each other” (153). This indicates that as Ann Fisher was an unfamiliar author when A New Grammar was first published, having not produced anything before this, and due to her disadvantage as a female, it is possible that she presented the book as being co-written with Daniel Fisher in order to increase its chance of success.
Consequently, there is convincing evidence that Daniel Fisher contributed, at least in some ways, to A New Grammar, and as Rodri?? guez-Gil (2008: 175) suggests, he seems to have “introduced Ann Fisher… into the male-dominated world of scholars, thus acting as her patron”. A New Grammar presents a descriptive account of features of the English language, based on Fisher’s linguistic observations. She is clearly a ‘reformer’ grammarian, who celebrates the uniqueness of English, embracing its peculiarities and outwardly rejecting the traditional Latin model of English grammar.
Her career as a teacher shines through with her emphasis on a ‘practical’ grammar, which revolutionary takes into consideration pedagogical methods. Although Fisher is often overshadowed in modern linguistic studies by grammarians such as Lowth and Murray, the innovations she brought to the grammatical tradition cannot be overlooked. Bibliography Baugh, A. and Cable, T. (2002), A History of the English Language. London: Routledge. Bodine, A. (1975), “Androcentrism in prescriptive grammar: singular ‘they’, sex-indefinite ‘he’, and ‘he or she’ “. Language in Society 4: 129-46. Goldsmith, L.
(1979), “Ambivalence towards women’s education in the eighteenth century: the thoughts of Vicesimus Knox II”. Paedagogia-Historica 19: 315-27. Michael, I. (1970), English Grammatical Categories and the Tradition to 1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Michael, I. (1985), English Grammatical Categories and the Tradition to 1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Michael, Ian. 1987. The Teaching of English from the Sixteenth Century to 1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mitchell, L. (2001), Grammar Wars. Hampshire: Ashgate. Moessner, L. (2000), “Grammatical description and language use in the seventeenth century”.
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London. Fisher, A. (1754), A New Grammar. Newcastle upon Tyne: I. Thompson. Fisher, A. (1789), A Practical New Grammar. Newcastle : printed for S. Hodgson, successor to Mr. T. Slack. Fisher, D. (1759), The child’s Christian education. London : printed and sold by B. Dod. Greenwood, J. (1711), An essay towards a practical English grammar. London : printed by R. Tookey, and are sold by Samuel Keeble, John Lawrence, Jonah Bowyer, R. and I. Bonwick, and Rob. Halsey. Johnson, S. (1775), A Dictionary of the English Language vol.
1. Dublin : printed for Thomas Ewing, 1775. Lowth, R. (1763), A short introduction to English grammar. Dublin : printed by H. Saunders. Murray, L. (1795), English Grammar. York : printed and sold by Wilson, Spence, and Mawman. Priestley, J. (1761), The rudiments of English grammar. London : printed for R. Griffiths. Websites Oxford English Dictionary Online www. oed. com Accessed on 20th April 2009. van Ostade, I. (2000), “Female grammarians of the eighteenth century”. Historical Sociolinguistics and Sociohistorical Linguistics website: http://www. let. leidenuniv. nl/hsl_shl/femgram. htm#N_1_