Henry Sweet

Henry Sweet

Henry Sweet (1845-1912) was an English philologist, phonetician and grammarian. [http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O29-SWEETHenry.html Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language] ]

As a philologist, he specialized in the Germanic languages, particularly Anglo-Saxon (Old English), Old Icelandic, and West Saxon. In addition, Sweet published works on larger issues of phonetics and grammar in language and the teaching of languages. Many of his ideas have remained influential, and a number of his works continue to be in print, being used as course texts at colleges and universities.

Life and work

Henry Sweet was born in London and educated at King's College School, London. In 1864, he spent a short time studying at the University of Heidelberg. Upon his return to England, he took up an office job with a trading company in London. Five years later, aged twenty-four, he won a scholarship in German and entered Balliol College in Oxford.

Sweet neglected his formal academic coursework, concentrating instead on pursuing excellence in his private studies. Early recognition came in his first year at Oxford, when the prestigious Philological Society (whose President he was destined to become later on) published a paper of his on Old English. In 1871, still an undergraduate, he edited King Alfred's translation of the "Cura Pastorialis" for the Early English Text Society ("King Alfred's West-Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care: With an English Translation, the Latin Text, Notes, and an Introduction"), his commentary establishing the foundation for Old English dialectology. He graduated, nearly thirty years old, with a fourth-class degree in "literae humaniores". Subsequent works on Old English included "An Anglo-Saxon Reader" (1876), "The Oldest English Texts" (1885) and "A Student's Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon" (1896).

In 1877, Sweet published "A Handbook of Phonetics", which attracted international attention among scholars and teachers of English in Europe. He followed up with the "Elementarbuch des gesprochenen Englisch" (1885), which was subsequently adapted as "A Primer of Spoken English" (1890). This included the first scientific description of educated London speech, later known as received pronunciation, with specimens of connected speech represented in phonetic script. His emphasis on spoken language and phonetics made him a pioneer in language teaching, a subject which he covered in detail in "The Practical Study of Languages" (1899). In 1901, Sweet was made a reader in phonetics at Oxford. [ [http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Sweet-He.html The Columbia Encyclopedia] ] "The Sounds of English" (1908) was his last book on English pronunciation.

Other books authored by Sweet include "An Icelandic Primer with Grammar, Notes and Glossary" (1886), "The History of Language" (1900; 1995: ISBN 81-85231-04-4; 2007: ISBN 1-4326-6993-1), and a number of other works he edited for the Early English Text Society. Sweet was also closely involved in the early history of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Despite the recognition he received for his scholarly work, Sweet never managed to get a professorship with a university, a fact that disturbed him greatly; he had done poorly in school, he had annoyed many people through bluntness, and failed to make every effort to gather official support.Anthony Philip Reid Howatt, Henry George Widdowson: "A History of English Language Teaching". Oxford University Press (2004), S. 198–207. ISBN 0-19-442185-6 ( [http://books.google.com/books?id=g2e7iw_F-ZcC&pg=PA198&lpg=PA198&dq=henry+sweet+oxford&source=web&ots=UxyjKC7eIw&sig=15i3VS0kBjnrGV60j_nuva9d9kQ#PPA198,M1 Online-Text] )] His relationship with the Oxford University Press was often strained.

In the preface to his play "Pygmalion", George Bernard Shaw, after describing Sweet, stated that "Higgins is not a portrait of Sweet, to whom the adventure of Eliza Doolittle would have been impossible; still, as will be seen, there are touches of Sweet in the play."

Henry Sweet has retained a reputation as "the man who taught Europe phonetics". His work established an applied linguistics tradition in language teaching which has continued without interruption to the present day.

A bibliography and "Collected Papers" were published by H. C. Wyld.

Further reading

* Charles Leslie Wrenn, 'Henry Sweet', "Transactions of the Philological Society" 46.177-201 (1946)
* cite book
title=A History of English Language Teaching
author=Anthony Philip Reid Howatt, H. G. Widdowson
publisher=Oxford University Press


External links

* cite book
title=A History of English Language Teaching
author=Anthony Philip Reid Howatt, H. G. Widdowson
publisher=Oxford University Press

* [http://victorian.fortunecity.com/vangogh/555/Spell/sweet-short.html Henry Sweet's "The Principles of Spelling Reform"]
* [http://dlxs2.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=cdl;idno=cdl426 An Anglo-Saxon primer] Cornell University Library Historical Monographs Collection. {Reprinted by} [http://www.amazon.com/dp/1429740426/?tag=corneunivelib-20 Cornell University Library Digital Collections]

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