Vernacular, First vernacular grammar

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Summary

A vernacular or vernacular language is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, especially as distinguished from a literary, national or standard language, or a lingua franca used in the region or state inhabited by that population.

Details

Vernaculars acquired the status of official languages through metalinguistic publications. Between 1437 and 1586, the first grammar of Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German and English were written, though not always immediately published. It is to be understood that the first vestiges of those languages preceded their standardization by up to several hundred years.

Irish
Auraicept na n-Éces is a grammar of the Irish language which is thought to date back as far as the 7th century: the earliest surviving manuscripts are 12th-century.
Welsh
The so-called Grammar Books of the Master-poets () are considered to have been composed in the early fourteenth century, and are present in manuscripts from soon after. These tractates draw on the traditions of the Latin grammars of Donatus and Priscianus and also on the teaching of the professional Welsh poets. The tradition of grammars of the Welsh Language developed from these through the Middle Ages and to the Renaissance.
Italian
Italian appears before standardization as the lingua Italica of Isidore and the lingua vulgaris of subsequent medieval writers. Documents of mixed Latin and Italian are known from the 12th century, which appears to be the start of writing in Italian.
The first known grammar of a Romance language was a book written in manuscript form by Leon Battista Alberti between 1437 and 1441 and entitled Grammatica della lingua toscana, "Grammar of the Tuscan Language" In it Alberti sought to demonstrate that the vernacular – here Tuscan, known today as modern Italian – was every bit as structured as Latin; He did so by mapping vernacular structures onto Latin.
The book was never printed until 1908. It was not generally known, but it was known, as an inventory of the library of Lorenzo de'Medici lists it under the title Regule lingue florentine ("Rules of the Florentine language"). The only known manuscript copy, however, is included in the codex, Reginense Latino 1370, located at Rome in the Vatican library. It is therefore called the Grammatichetta vaticana.
More influential perhaps were the 1516 Regole grammaticali della volgar lingua of Giovanni Francesco Fortunio and the 1525 Prose della vulgar lingua of Pietro Bembo. In those works the authors strove to establish a dialect that would qualify for becoming the Italian national language.
Spanish
Spanish (more accurately, la lengua castellana) has a development chronologically similar to that of Italian: some vocabulary in Isidore of Seville, traces afterward, writing from about the 12th century, standardization beginning in the 15th century, coincident with the rise of Castile as an international power. The first Spanish grammar by Antonio de Nebrija (Tratado de gramática sobre la lengua Castellana, 1492) was divided into parts for native and nonnative speakers, pursuing a different purpose in each: Books 1–4 describe the Spanish language grammatically in order to facilitate the study of Latin for its Spanish speaking readers. Book 5 contains a phonetical and morphological overview of Spanish for nonnative speakers.
French
French (as Old French) emerged as a Gallo-Romance language from Vulgar Latin during late antiquity. The written language is known from at least as early as the 9th century. That language contained many forms still identifiable as Latin. Interest in standardizing French began in the 16th century. Because of the Norman conquest of England and the Anglo-Norman domains in both northwestern France and Britain, English scholars retained an interest in the fate of French as well as of English. Some of the numerous 16th-century surviving grammars are:
  • John Palsgrave, L'esclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530; in English).
  • Louis Meigret, Tretté de la grammaire françoeze (1550).
  • Robert Stephanus: Traicté de la grammaire françoise (1557).
German
The development of a standard German was impeded by political disunity and strong local traditions until the invention of printing made possible a "High German-based book language." This literary language was not identical to any specific variety of German. The first grammar evolved from pedagogical works that also tried to create a uniform standard from the many regional dialects for various reasons. Religious leaders wished to create a sacred language for Protestantism that would be parallel to the use of Latin for the Roman Catholic Church. Various administrations wished to create a civil service, or chancery, language that would be useful in more than one locality. And finally, nationalists wished to counter the spread of the French national language into German-speaking territories assisted by the efforts of the French Academy.
With so many linguists moving in the same direction a standard German (hochdeutsche Schriftsprache) did evolve without the assistance of a language academy. Its precise origin, the major constituents of its features, remains uncertainly known and debatable. Latin prevailed as a lingua franca until the 17th century, when grammarians began to debate the creation of an ideal language. Before 1550 as a conventional date "supraregional compromises" were used in printed works, such as the one published by Valentin Ickelsamer (Ein Teutsche Grammatica) 1534. Books published in one of these artificial variants began to increase in frequency replacing the Latin then in use. After 1550 the supraregional ideal broadened to a universal intent to create a national language from Early New High German by deliberately ignoring regional forms of speech, wh

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ich practice was considered to be a form of purification parallel to the ideal of purifying religion in Protestantism.

In 1617, the Fruitbearing Society, a language club, was formed in Weimar in imitation of the Accademia della Crusca in Italy. It was one of many such clubs; however, none became a national academy. In 1618–1619 Johannes Kromayer wrote the first all-German grammar. In 1641 Justin Georg Schottel in teutsche Sprachkunst presented the standard language as an artificial one. By the time of his work of 1663, ausführliche Arbeit von der teutschen Haubt-Sprache, the standard language was well established.
Dutch
A sermon of 1275 AD by Berthold von Regensburg made the earliest known distinction between the speech of the Niderlender and that of the Oberlender. The Niderlender, or speakers of Low German, were anyone living in the lowlands from the Baltic Sea to the Netherlands, while the Oberlender, who spoke High German, lived in more elevated terrain. The first known such distinction was made in Dutcha Low German variantin a printed book of 1482, which mentioned nederlantsche and oberlantsche sprake, still with the same ranges, with the meaning of neder duutsche and hoghen duutsche. Martin Luther, however, a generation later, used Niderlender to mean the population of the Burgundian Netherlands, a small state consisting of several lowland counties ruled by the Duke of Burgundy since its creation by Charles the Bald of the Holy Roman Empire in 843. By that time also northern Germany was using düdesch for their variant as opposed to duutsch in the Low Countries. The southerners referred to their speech as diutesch.
In the 16th century, while Martin Luther was working out a compromise High German for his translation of the Bible, the so-called rederijkerskamers, "chambers of rhetoric," learned literary societies founded throughout Flanders and Holland from the 1420s onward, first attempted to impose a Latin structure on Dutch, on the presumption that Latin grammar had a "universal character." However in 1559 Jan van den Werve published his grammar Den schat der Duytsscher Talen in Dutch and so did Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert (Eenen nieuwen ABC of Materi-boeck) in 1564. The Latinizing tendency changed course with the joint publication in 1584 by De Eglantier, the rhetoric society of Amsterdam, of the first comprehensive Dutch grammar, Twe-spraack vande Nederduitsche letterkunst/ ófte Vant spellen ende eyghenscap des Nederduitschen taals. Hendrick Laurenszoon Spieghel was a major contributor but others contributed as well.
English
Modern English is considered to have begun at a conventional date of about 1550, most notably at the end of the Great Vowel Shift (for example, "bot", the footwear, more as in "boat" to "boot"). It was created by the infusion of Old French into Old English after the Norman conquest of 1066 AD and of Latin at the instigation of the clerical administration. While present-day English-speaking students may be able to read Middle English authors such as Chaucer with some schooling, Old English is much more difficult.
Middle English is known for its alternative spellings and pronunciations. The British Isles, although geographically limited, have always supported populations of widely variant dialects (as well as a few different languages). Being the language of a maritime power, English was of necessity formed from elements of many different languages. Standardization has been an ongoing issue. Even in the age of modern communications and mass media, according to one study, "… although the Received Pronunciation of Standard English has been heard constantly on radio and then television for over 60 years, only 3 to 5% of the population of Britain actually speaks RP … new brands of English have been springing up even in recent times ...." What the vernacular would be in this case is a moot point: "… the standardisation of English has been in progress for many centuries."
Modern English came into being as the standard Middle English, i.e. as the preferred dialect of the monarch, court and administration. That dialect was East Midland, which had spread to London where the king resided and from which he ruled. It contained Danish forms not often used in the north or south, as the Danes had settled heavily in the midlands. Chaucer wrote in an early East Midland, Wycliffe translated the New Testament into it and William Caxton, the first English printer, wrote in it. Caxton is considered the first modern English author. The first printed book in England was Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, published by Caxton in 1476.
The first English grammars were written in Latin, with some in French. After a general plea for mother-tongue education in England: The first part of the elementary, published in 1582 by Richard Mulcaster, William Bullokar wrote the first English grammar to be written in English: Pamphlet for Grammar, followed by Bref Grammar, both in 1586. Previously he had written Booke at Large for the Amendment of Orthography for English Speech (1580) but his orthography was not generally accepted and was soon supplanted, and his grammar shared a similar fate. Other grammars in English followed rapidly: Paul Greaves' Grammatica Anglicana, 1594; Alexander Hume's Orthographie and Congruitie of the Britain Tongue, 1617, and many others. Over the succeeding decades many literary figures turned a hand to grammar in English: Alexander Gill, Ben Jonson, Joshua Poole, John Wallis, Jeremiah Wharton, James Howell, Thomas Lye, Christopher Cooper, William Lily, John Colet and so on, all leading to the massive dictionary of Samuel Johnson.

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