#EngKnowledge: Noah Webster

Fellas, do you know why Americans use honor instead of honour, color instead of colour and center instead of centre? The spelling stems from the work of one of the most influential figures in the development of American English, Noah Webster.

Noah Webster Jr. was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, on October 16, 1758. His father, Noah Webster Sr., was a descendant of John Webster, the Connecticut Governor. His mother, Mercy Steele Webster, was a descendant of William Bradford, the Plymouth County Governor.

Despite being well known for his work in the field of language, Webster studied at Yale Law School. His study began in 1774. Due to serving in the American Revolution, he was graduated four years later. Having been unable to find a work as a lawyer, he finally taught in a school in Goshen, New York.

While teaching, he was dissatisfied inasmuch as texts for children did not reflect the American culture. He said, “Let us then seize the present moment, and establish a national language, as well as a national government”. His first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, was published in 1806. Webster argued that Americans should simplify their spelling by matching letters more closely with phonemes. He expected to standardize American English for Americans spelled, pronounced and used English words differently.

Webster’s most famous masterpiece, An American Dictionary of the English Language, was published in two volumes in 1828 and contained 70,000 entries. It took 18 years to complete the dictionary. In order to know the origin of words, he learned 26 languages, including Old English, German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic and Sanskrit. It sold more copies than any English book, except the Bible. Later, George and Charles Merriam purchased the right to publish the dictionary and it became what we know today as the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Sources:
Wikipedia, Noah Webster, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_Webster
Britannica Online Encyclopedia, Noah Webster, https://www.britannica.com/print/article/638653
Elyse Graham, Noah Webster, American identity, and the simplified spelling movement, https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2018/05/07/noah-webster-american-identity-simplified-spelling-movement/
Garden of Praise, Noah Webster, https://gardenofpraise.com/ibdnoahw.htm
The Atlantic, Noah Webster, Father of the American Dictionary, Was Unemployable, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/10/noah-webster-father-american-dictionary-was-unemployable/322508/

Compiled and written by @fathrahman for @englishtipsforyou on Thursday, June 21, 2018

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