History Summary

The first English grammar, Pamphlet for Grammar by William Bullokar
William Lily’s Latin grammar, Rudimenta Grammatices (1534)
Lily’s grammar was being used in schools in England at the time, having been “prescribed” for them in 1542 by Henry VIII.
Although Bullokar wrote his grammar in English and used a “reformed spelling system” of his own invention, many English grammars, for much of the century after Bullokar’s effort, were to be written in Latin; this was especially the case for books whose authors were aiming to be scholarly.
Christopher Cooper’s Grammatica Linguæ Anglicanæ (1685) was the last English grammar written in Latin.
Latin grammar traditions bore down oppressively on early English grammar writing.
Any attempt by one author to assert an independent grammatical rule for English was quickly followed by declarations by others of the truth of the corresponding Latin-based equivalent.
As late as the early nineteenth century, Lindley Murray, the author of a widely used grammar, was having to cite “grammatical authorities” to bolster the claim that grammatical cases in English are different from the ones in Ancient Greek or Latin.
The focus on tradition belied the role that other social forces had begun to play in the early seventeenth century.
Increasing commerce, and the social changes in its wake, created a new impetus for grammar writing.
The greater British role in international trade in the second half of the century, created a demand for English grammars among speakers of other languages.
Quite a few English grammars were published in European languages.
Grammars were also being written for “non-learned, native-speaker audiences” in Britain, such as women, merchants, tradesmen, and children.
As education and literacy had become more widespread by the early eighteenth century, many grammars, such as John Brightland‘s A Grammar of the English tongue (1759) and James Greenwood‘s Essay towards a practical English grammar, were intended for those without a Latin background, including the “fair sex” and children.