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This is a collection of essays about the English language by English and American men of letters, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries; that is, until the rise of formal linguistic studies. The writers represented are concerned with the history, the use, the reform or the changing nature of English. Topics discussed include the defence of English as a literary language; the relationship with other languages; propriety in literary style; the psychological bases of speech; the relationship between words and things; usage; the need for academies and standards of correctness; the rise of lexicography; spelling reform; prescriptive grammar. These essays are the most important serious attempts to consider the language from various standpoints. Students of English in university departments will find this a convenient and comprehensive collection. It is also in itself an illustration of the development of the literary language.