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From Hwæt to Whattup: A Bibliography of the History of English (July 2014): The Early Twentieth Century

by Edwin Battistella

The Early Twentieth Century

The twentieth century began to see OED scholarship mined, as in Henry Bradley’s The Making of English, which included a section on “profit and loss” in grammar.  Henry Sweet’s influence was felt in the phonetically based studies of his colleague Henry Cecil Wyld, who produced several detailed studies of the history of the pronunciation of British English, including A History of Modern Colloquial English (which dealt with historical dialects).  The Danish scholar Otto Jespersen contributed a study of word development, Growth and Structure of the English Language, but he is best known for his seven-volume A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles (the last volume was published posthumously).  The latter reflects his then-novel view that language change was not to be equated with decay and that change is responsible for many now-standard concepts of historical grammar, including the term “Great Vowel Shift.”