Richard johnson: A case of 18th-century pragmatics

Anat Biletzki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The grammarians of 16th, 17th, and 18th century England were, in the main, conservative, but the elements of continuity and change characteristic of these times make for a strange blend of uniformity and variety in the grammars they produced. Of all the grammatical categories, the treatment of mood is most hesitant, variable, and problematic. Building on this confusion, and taking a cue from the modern discussion of mood which lends itself to pragmatic analysis, the paper asks about pragmatics in the treatment of mood in earlier periods. In this it is claimed that although numerous hints and inklings provide evidence of some pragmatic tendencies, only one grammarian, Richard Johnson, in the Grammatical Commentaries of 1706, comes close to an explicit rendering of moods akin to speech acts and based on language use. His theory of moods is presented and analyzed; it is seen to formulate theoretical, pragmatic principles for moods and, furthermore, to apply such principles in the detailed analysis of specific moods. Johnson emerges as unique in his time for his treatment of moods, but obviously still limited by its conceptual frameworks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-299
Number of pages19
JournalHistoriographia Linguistica
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1991


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