「#3231. 標準語に軸足をおいた Blake の英語史時代区分」 ([2018-03-02-1]) の記事で取りあげた，Blake による英語史区分の第6期（1798年?1914年）について考える．ロマン主義の起こりと第1次世界大戦に挟まれたこの時期は，標準英語を念頭においた英語史の観点からは，諸変種や方言的多様性が意識された時代といえる．19世紀が近づくと，18世紀の特徴だった堅苦しい規範主義の縛りからある程度解放されるようになり，自然にして自発的な言葉遣いが尊重され，非標準変種が見直される契機が生じた．英語自由化・英語相対化の思想が発現したといってよいだろう．新時代の到来を告げる狼煙が，象徴的に，Wordsworth and Coleridge による Lyrical Ballads (1798) の出版だった．Blake (13) 曰く，
This collection of poetry [= the Lyrical Ballads] attacked the idea of a prescriptive language for poetry and raised the concept that it should deal with 'the real language of men'. It was inspired in part by the French Revolution of 1789, which had called into question the very bases of the old order and its assumptions of regulation and conformity. This attitude gradually spilled over into language as well, for there seemed to be a profound attack on the nature of authority and the assumption that those at the top could dictate what was right and acceptable to the rest of society. While such attitudes did not change overnight, we can accept that there was a new spirit abroad which provides us with a convenient boundary in 1798.
この1798年に始まり，第1次世界大戦の勃発した1914年までの時期は，長い19世紀と表現してもよいだろう．Blake によれば，この時代は，言語的にみて (1) 多様性と非標準変種の尊重，(2) 歴史的研究の興隆，という2点に特徴づけられる時代だという．それぞれの部分を引用しよう．
Firstly, the previous age had been concerned with regulating language and discovering the principles which underlined a language on the assumption that all languages followed the same structure. The nineteenth century was interested in the diversity of languages and varieties of language. The growth of the empire promoted interest in a whole range of languages other than the classical languages which had hitherto been the model for all linguistic structure. And scholars in England began to record the various regional dialects found in the United Kingdom. Whereas before these dialects may have been considered provincial and little more than barbarous, their use in poetry and the novel and the collections and studies based on these forms gradually meant that they were seen as real means of communication, even if they were not as socially acceptable as the standard. The respect for non-standard varieties increased, though this was a gradual process which even today has not made these dialects socially acceptable. One problem that such varieties faced, and still face, is that they do not usually exist in a regulated written form and thus may be regarded as inferior.
Secondly, the nineteenth century saw an enormous growth in the historical study of language. Many of the changes in English and its ancestors which will be outlined in the book were discovered in the nineteenth century. The development of the concept of a family tree for languages and the recognition that English was a Germanic language which belonged to the Proto-Indo-European family of languages (also known simply as Indo-European) were among the advances made at this time. Not unnaturally this put English and the classical languages into a different perspective. Their nature was not different from that of other languages, and English dialects could be regarded as closely related to standard English in origin and development; they had simply not been chosen to form the standard.
・ Blake, N. F. A History of the English Language. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996.
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