Webster’s 1793 speller: not yet a portrait of America
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The many different authors that have examined Webster’s speller agree on its influence in establishing American English. However, this examination seeks to accomplish something different from these works: to further explore the author’s linguistic and political concerns to reveal how they influenced the design of the speller. For that reason, this article compares Webster’s American Spelling Book of 1793 to Thomas Dilworth’s American edition of A New Guide to the English Tongue (1796). The essay identifies the changes that Webster introduces in his speller, set apart from Dilworth’s, and reveals how they were determined by his nationalistic beliefs and how the alterations might have contributed, from the author’s perspective, to the creation of a national character in the United States. Still, the investigation concludes that this edition of the speller does not, yet, define what it is to be American.
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