English, Department of


Date of this Version



Louise Pound, American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage 1:2 (Nov 1925), pp 101-06.


WHAT is included in the usual course in the history of the English language? Presumably some teachers emphasize the translation of older monuments, some emphasize training in etymologies, some phonetic changes, and some changes in language structure and forms. Some offer courses in the hope of fostering a more accurate use of language, some because of the discipline ~o be gained from the study of language ID the abstract, and some in order to afford the necessary preparation for the scholar. All have in mind the development, on the part of the student, of a scientific attitude toward language. Any teacher is the better who has background in the subject which he teaches, and he teaches it the more inspiringly and the more validly for having that background. The exhaustive study of philological details belongs to the advanced student and to the specialist. ~o: the average student of the language, 1t 1S of less importance to "settle Hoti's business" than to understand the relation of existing linguistic forms to the language in general, and to acquire a deepened linguistic consciousness. Except for the ultra-specialist, the consideration of a multiplicity of details (though command of details and accuracy in details are always important) may well be subordinated to the establishment of main lines and the opening up of new fields. A main benefit of the historical study of English is that it enhances linguistic sensitiveness and brings a wider linguistic horizon.