Background and history
In 1989, Charles Jones described the Late Modern English period (1700–1900) as the ‘Cinderella of English historical linguistic study’ (1989: 279), referring to the little scholarly attention given, by then, to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Over the past twenty years, however, these two centuries have received increasing attention and one of the areas in which interest has thrived the most is the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition (e.g. Beal, Nocera & Sturiale 2008, Tieken-Boon van Ostade 2008; see also Pérez-Guerra et al. 2007, Tieken-Boon van Ostade & van der Wurff 2009, Hickey 2010). New research trends demand an update of the resources available to the growing research community. With a view to providing scholars with a new resource for interdisciplinary studies on the eighteenth century, we have thus compiled ECEG: a free, electronic database which contains bibliographic information of eighteenth-century grammars of the English language and biographical information of their writers. The compilation of ECEG also promotes the use of comprehensive electronic databases – and not only corpora – to explore the intricate patterns and correlations in the history of grammar writing and grammar publishing.
Tieken-Boon van Ostade pointed out that “[a]s a result of publications such as Alston’s bibliography (1965), his reprint series (1974), Michael (1970, 1987), Vorlat (1975) and Sundby et al. (1991), it is now possible to give a more detailed description of the latter stages of the standardisation process of the [English] language” (2000: 876, emphasis added). It was the aim of the ECEG database to make this possible, to give a more detailed description of the primary sources of the standardisation process by compiling in a single data source full information documented in earlier bibliographies, indexes and collections. ECEG provides scholars with a free, electronic, searchable tool which will spare the time-consuming tasks of sifting and cross-checking information. Besides, its design allows us to update and add information any time.
Although primarily addressed to scholars working in the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition, the bio-bibliographic nature of ECEG allows for interdisciplinary work such as literary studies (e.g. interest in the life of the grammar writers), social network analyses, or the history of the book trade (e.g. interest in book production and publication history). In the belief that the eighteenth century ‘was a key phase in the development of the English language’ (Görlach 2001: 12), it is also hoped that ECEG will contribute to the process of ‘de-cinderellisation’ of the eighteenth century in the history of English (see Pérez-Guerra et al. 2007: 12–13).
The database compilers at the launch event.