Nineteenth and Twentieth Century English: Change and Continuity in the Language.

When looking at Bible-translations too many people do forget how language changes through the times. We always should remember how often, certain articles and additions should be carried out to make the text readable in the new translation, demanding choices of the translators to come up with a readable text in that time and age of publication.


To remember

  • William Cobbett (British journalist) (1763-1835), self-educated farmer’s son from Farnham in Surrey, who began a weekly newspaper, The Political Register, in 1802 as a Tory, but soon became converted to radical cause of social and Parliamentary reform. > wrote about how use of concept of vulgarity in language was used to deny the value & meaning of petitions to Parliament. + wrote A Grammar of the English Language
  • people accused of presenting petitions ‘not grammatically correct’ => petitions  ‘rejected’
  • rules of grammar = study, which demands hardly any powers of mind. To possess a knowledge of those rules is a pitiful qualification…
    Grammar = of vast importance as to the means of giving to the great powers of the mind their proper effect…
  • The Politics of Language by  Olivia Smith
  • no significant differences in grammar of Cobbett’s writing separate today’s language from the English of the early nineteenth century.
  • What we now call Standard English = established for over two hundred years, since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, at least. > (SE, also standardized English) = dialect of English language > used as national norm —standard language— in an English-speaking country, especially as the language for public and formal usage. => only form of the language, together with its North American variant, which obtains universal acceptance. => seems to contradict linguistic statement that all living languages are in constant state of change.
  • grammatical innovations since Cobbett’s day are developments of established features, rather than of fundamental changes.
  • Once standard form of writing becomes norm => rate of change in grammar = slowed down considerably.
  • There have been significant lexical shifts & changes +modifications in pronunciation, especially in recent decades > constant change in vocabulary of the language over the past two hundred years
  • 18th century. English = language has taken in & assimilated words from many foreign languages to add to core vocabulary of Germanic, French & Latin words.
  • standard orthography fixed in the 18th century by agreed practice of printers.
  • Samuel Johnson, byname Dr. Johnson, English critic, biographer, essayist, poet, and lexicographer, set down accepted spellings in his Dictionary of 1755, + also recorded some of arbitrary choices of ‘custom’:
  • it has become acceptable to change ‘ae’ spelling in words like archaeology to ‘e’ – archeology.
  • Some American spellings have also become acceptable in Britain, such as program, mainly as a result of its use in computer programming.
  • phonetic system = failed.
  • underlying rules of grammar have remained unchanged > their use in speech & writing continued to develop into forms that distinguish varieties of language use since 18th century = described in terms of ‘style’ and ‘register’.
  • Present-day English = observe greater complexity in both noun phrase & verb phrase.
  • rule of pre-modification = developed => much longer strings of words & phrases can now precede head word = particular feature of newspaper headlines & other media => noun phrase used to shorten longer statements containing number of post-modifying prepositional phrases.
  • process of converting clauses with verbs into noun clauses = called nominalisation = marked feature of some contemporary styles, including formal & academic writing.
  • grammatical features of tense (past or present), aspect (perfect or progressive), voice (active or passive) + mood (positive/ negative statement or interrogative).
  • English has become a more analytic language in recent centuries => structures now depend far more on strings of separate words, rather than on inflections of words.
  • increased use of phrasal and prepositional verbs
  • Henry Alford = English churchman, theologian, textual critic, scholar, poet, hymnodist, + distinguished scholar > wrote numerous books, including a critical commentary on the Greek New Testament + wrote number of hymns, some of which remain well-known +  still used regularly today (harvest hymn, Come ye thankful people, come, > collection of Psalms and Hymns 1844 > revised Poetical Works 1865 + Year of Praise 1867). => changes firmly repudiated by the author >persisted to this day, reappearing in the New Standard version of the Anglican hymn book.
  • Alford = stickler for correct grammar > also in favour of the movement to bring folk language & culture of the countryside into church worship, connecting it with the simplicity of the gospel texts.
  • copy of The National Chartist Hymn Book of 1845 recently discovered in Todmorden Public Library ~~ almost certainly complied by South Lancashire Delegate Meeting > desire for social justice = expressed in biblical language, + in the form of a hymn
    John Wesley

    John Wesley, English cleric, theologian and evangelist who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism.

  • hymn form further popularised by the Methodist preachers who formed the early agricultural workers’ unions in the 1860s and ’70s. > poor man’s choral tradition passed into Clarion Movement > ‘evangelised’ for socialism in town + countryside in late VictorianEdwardian periods.
  • invention of sound recording, especially portable recorders = possible to study spoken language=> able to produce transcripts of modern Standard English, enabling to compare it with surviving dialects.
  • texts of King James Bible compare to Revised Version made by teams from Oxford and Cambridge Universities between 1870 and 1880, with the New English Bible of 1961:
  • revisers of King James Version were given a brief of making a more intelligible version than the 1611 original > kept as close to its wording as they could => Revised Version represents both > transitional elements of Early Modern English + forms of dialogue in use in mid-Victorian England > New English version reflects contemporary speech of early 1960s > trying to remain true to original meaning.
  • last quarter 20th century > fears for future of language become staples of newspaper columns, + joined in discussion by new media of television news items + chat shows.
  • Britain of 1978: subject of special debate in House of Lords > debate The English Language: Deterioration in Usage =>,proposition language was deteriorating +  misapplication of words + language cluttered with monstrosities  + new meanings
  • use of the word for propaganda purposes => destroyed its useful meaning…
  • laments about latest revisions of Bible translations + the Book of Common Prayer
  • usual condemnations of the way in which American usages creeping into our language > Lord Somers expressed view > if more hideous language on the face of the earth than American form of English, he should like to know what it is!
  • peers also blamed schools, universities + mass media for state of language <= Children + students no longer educated in grammar + classics.
  • Newspapers, radio and television familiarising public with  language depending on generalisations which are usually imprecise + often deliberately ambiguous > unblushing use of jargon
  • Lord Davies of Leek: worldwide collapse of not only values of the past but of our language which, more and more, tends to be vague, indecisive, careless and often callous <= relativism of 20th century > encourage a more permissive approach to language
  • <= decline of respect for God, family & property
  • language = only medium of discourse, not the matter itself > the messenger, rather than the message.
  • Language = mirror to society
  • In Britain, where English developed = become standardised & centralised in the South, apparently cautious of change.
  • In the British Commonwealth, independent traditions of Australia, New Zealand and Canada breathed new life into English that was exported from Britain more than two hundred years ago.
  • In the Caribbean,= focus of emergent nationalism.
  • In Africa, continent-wide means of communication
  • In South Africa medium of Black consciousness.
  • In India + South-East Asia, associated with aspiration, development + growing self-confidence, => not neutral = vehicle of both change + continuity, rather than victim of social degradation.


Additional reading

  1. Reading Grade-Level of main English Bible Versions
  2. A Book to trust #18 Available in many languages #1
  3. A Book to trust #19 Available in many languages #2
  4. A Book to trust #20 Available in many languages #3
  5. A Book to trust #21 Biblical hermeneutics and Keys to truth
  6. A Book to trust #22 Confirmed writings and Tampered books
  7. A Book to trust #27 Also words from ordinary and foolish men
  8. A Book to trust #29 God His Book, God-breathed profitable for doctrine, for reproof and for correction
  9. A Book to trust #30 KJV-onlyism Conclusion
  10. Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #8 Selective Bibles and selective people
  11. Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #11 Muslim Idiom Translations
  12. Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #12 God Himself masters His Own Word
  13. Another way looking at a language #1 New Year, Books and Words
  14. Another way looking at a language #4 Ancient times
  15. Challenging claim 4 Inspired by God 3 Self-consistent Word of God
  16. How do you keep an eye out for heretical teachings?



  1. Church History 6C: Developments in England
  2. How the Septuagint corrects the Masoretic text
  3. Archaic language of the bible [1004]
  4. Archaic language of the bible [1004a]
  5. Bible translation is not just about translating word for word
  6. Bible Translation: It’s not what I thought it was!
  7. Slicing up Books
  8. Bible in more languages than Hamlet and Harry Potter put together
  9. Light to Better Understanding the Bible
  10. Why Have Modern Bible Translations Removed Words, Phrases, Sentences, Even Whole Verses?
  11. The Art of Bad Bible Translation
  12. An Analysis of Early Modern English, using the King James Bible, Chapter 28, verses 8-20
  13. The Importance of The King James Bible?
  14. Shakespeare and the King James Bible – Some Tentative Conclusions
  15. Slavery in Melvyn Bragg’s ‘The Book of Books’
  16. Is the King James Bible an inspired translation – more accurate than the original autographs in Hebrew and Greek
  17. The King James Version Controversy
  18. KJV Only!
  19. Differences in KJV editions
  20. King James Only–Refuted
  21. King James Only–Refuted part 2
  22. King James Only–Refuted (part 3)
  23. The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions/Part 1: Introduction + Is the King James Version the “only inspired Bible”? + What about the claim that the 1611 edition of the King James Bible alone is “the Word of God”? + What About the Ancient Manuscripts of the Bible?
  24. The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions/Part 2: False or Irrelevant Claims About the KJV [King James Version] and New Translations
  25. The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions/Part 3: Do Modern Versions Corrupt the Purity of God’s Word? #1 The Deity of Christ
  26. The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions/Part 4: Do Modern Versions Corrupt the Purity of God’s Word? + #2 The Deity of Christ
  27. The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions/Part 5: Were There Heretics and Occultists on the Translation Committees of the New Versions?
  28. The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions/Part 6 : Are Modern Versions Less Readable than the King James Version (KJV)? + Riplinger’s Errors on the NKJV
  29. How Trustworthy Are Bible Translations?
  30. When someone says… “We must use the King James Bible, yes, only the KJV”
  31. Is the King James Bible the only one Bible that presents God’s Word?
  32. Ambiguity (rightly author’s intended meaning is not immediately clear) in Literal Bible Translations
  33. The Making of a Worthy Bible Translation
  34. The Majority Text Has Always Been The Text of the Church
  35. How to Read and Understand the King James Bible
  36. Hensley: How to Rightly Divide the Bible
  37. Adventures in Bible Translations: Sirach 26:25 and female dogs
  38. Happy Birthday King James Bible, and GPS
  39. 47 Scholars who translated the Scriptures and created the King James Version tell us what we should believe about this Bible
  40. David Bentley Hart’s Prophetic New Testament Translation and America’s Heresies
  41. How to Read The Bible ( King James Bible )
  42. Easy To Read
  43. King James Version: Read the Bible to Understand It
  44. A new translation
  45. Why’s My NIV So Different From My KJV?
  46. Bible Translations in other Country
  47. Bible Translation Around the World.
  48. Try telling me that heart language Bible translation isn’t important!
  49. Ulster Rugby and Bible Translation
  50. Which Bible Translation Should I Use?
  51. How Can You Explain Contradictions in the Bible?

Andrew James

Grammarians and Reformers:

William Cobbett (1763-35), the self-educated farmer’s son from Farnham in Surrey, who had served in the army in Canada from 1785 to 1791, then returned to England to become a journalist. He began a weekly newspaper, The Political Register, in 1802 as a Tory, but soon became converted to the radical cause of social and Parliamentary reform. After the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832, he became an MP, continuing to write for and edit The Political Register until his death. In 1817, following the suspension of habeas corpus (freedom from imprisonment without trial), Cobbett was back in North America, from where he continued to write his newspaper. He wrote about how the use of the concept of vulgarity in language was used to deny the value and meaning of petitions to Parliament:

The present project… is to communicate to all uneducated Reformers, ‘a knowledge…

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