Jefferson studied “Anglosaxon”
Posted: 05 August 2019 05:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2019-08-05

A biography of Thomas Jefferson mentions the son of a family friend liked to study “Latin, Greek, and Anglosaxon.” The book also mentions Jefferson liked study these topics and also history.  The only time “Anglosaxon” is mentioned is alongside Latin and Greek, implying it referred to language study, not history.

In the late 1700s, did studying “Anglosaxon” mean studying English?

If so, when did “English” replace “Anglosaxon” as a word for the formal study of the English language?

If not, what did Anglosaxon refer to?  (Old English?)

Posted: 05 August 2019 09:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  958
Joined  2013-10-14

DTX175, This might answer A few of your questions, from the OED

Anglo-Saxon, n. and adj.

a. The English language as spoken before c1150; Old English.
1678 G. Hickes Ravillac Redivivus 77 I confess I have a great veneration for our own and the Northern English language, upon the account of the which they are so nearly ally’d.
1698 Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 20 445 The manuscripts..are written in these Languages, viz. Hebrew,..Malayan, Malabaric, Russian.., Anglo-Saxon, English, and one Book..of the Hieroglyphicks of Mexico.
1783 Bailey’s Universal Etymol. Eng. Dict. (ed. 25) Anglosaxon, the Saxon language as it was spoken in England.
1876 H. Sweet Anglo-Saxon Reader xi The oldest stage of English before the Norman Conquest is now called ‘Old English,’ but the older name of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is still very generally used.
1884 N.E.D. (at cited word) In this Dictionary, the language of England before 1100 is called, as a whole, ‘Old English’… Anglo-Saxon, when used, is restricted to the Saxon as distinguished from the Anglian dialects of Old English.
1955 R. Quirk & C. L. Wrenn Old Eng. Gram. 1 In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the term Anglo-Saxon..was the commonest name for the language; has gradually been replaced in the last hundred years by the more scientific term Old English.
2001 A. Frantzen in P. Pulsiano & E. Treharne Compan. Anglo-Saxon Lit. v. xxvi. 478 English literature was a popular topic and Anglo-Saxon was compulsory within it.
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b. The English language, esp. considered as plain, forthright, unaffected, or crude. Hence: coarse, profane, or obscene language.
1866 J. C. Gregg Life in Army xv. 137 Occasionally a word of honest, hearty Anglo-Saxon, or a ‘bit of the brogue’, to remind you that you are not in Naples, but in New Orleans.
1872 H. A. Wise Seven Decades Union 141 He [sc. Senator Leigh of Virginia] was a purist in his Anglo-Saxon.
1917 in Amer. Speech (1929) 4 271 I like your stilted style best Jack. When you descend to the Anglo Saxon you get too much in dead earnest.
1927 Yale Rev. Jan. 414 Tell me what you forget and I will tell you what you are, says the psycho-analyst. But I can do this, too, and in plain Anglo-Saxon. The man who insists on telling me what he forgets is a fool.
1947 K. Malone in Word Study Oct. 2/2 In current speech Anglo-Saxon often means plain English. In this use, the word has Latin for antonym.
1999 Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch (Nexis) 28 Dec. f2 Pardon my Anglo-Saxon, but it’s been one hell of a year.
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Posted: 06 August 2019 04:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2019-08-05

Thanks.  Yes, considering the context in the book, I believe your post answers my questions. 

In particular: “1876 H. Sweet Anglo-Saxon Reader xi The oldest stage of English before the Norman Conquest is now called ‘Old English,’ but the older name of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is still very generally used.” fits very well with the time. 

It’s interesting to think what forms of writing of “Anglo-saxon” were available for study in the times of Jefferson.  It sounded like Anglo-saxon was studied both in school and independently for pleasure.

Posted: 06 August 2019 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Total Posts:  6855
Joined  2007-01-03

It means that Jefferson studied the Old English language. He wrote a grammar of Old English, insisted that the University of Virginia include its study in the curriculum, and tried to get the image of Hengist and Horsa on the Great Seal of the United States.

There was a belief in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the principles of liberty and democracy were forged among the Germanic peoples of northern Europe, with the English being the apotheosis of that movement. We now recognize this idea for what it is—racist hogwash—but it was a very common belief back in the day, and unfortunately still current among white supremacist circles.

Old English was not generally studied in schools in Jefferson’s day (UVa was the first in North America to teach it), and only a handful of antiquarians studied it. Its formal, institutionalized study took off in the early nineteenth century.

[ Edited: 06 August 2019 04:53 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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