Eighteenth-century England saw the rise of standard English and an ideology of standard English -- and the rise of periodical reviews.
This project explores that intersection: with the support of U of T's Mentorship and Work-Study Programs, the Faculty of Arts and Science's "Dean's Incentive Fund", and the SSHRC, many students over many years have read systematically through the two major periodical reviews of the period, the Monthly Review (1749- ) and its competitor the Critical Review (1756- ). Although there were other reviews, the Monthly and the Critical began early, had long runs and high circulations, and have been characterized as having opposing political and religious attitudes.
We have made records of those reviews which discussed language or style, and have recorded the information in a database designed by Philippa Matheson. We have added keywords so that you can select reviews according to the genre of the book and to the nature of the linguistic complaint. In theory, you can select all of the poetry books with colloquial language, for instance. In practice, it's not as tidy: the genre keywords in particular are quite arbitrary, and within the linguistic keyword field there are unhelpful overlaps among concepts like "ungrammatical", "incorrect", "inaccurate". See the more detailed description of encoding for more information.
The information here does reveal many clear trends. I have published articles on stereotypes of women's style and Latinate orthography, and am writing a book about eighteenth-century English. Undergraduate students have used the database for their senior essays: Tim Marskell's "Linguistic attittudes and linguistic advocates: English language nationalism in the age of Johnson" (2003). The database has also been useful for colleagues who work on other aspects of eighteenth-century language, literature, and history, as with over 10,000 records it is likely to have some record of most authors of the period.
The database is password protected. Please contact Carol Percy if you'd like it searched for a particular query.