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FRIES, Charles C(arpenter)

FRIES, Charles C(arpenter) [1887–1967].American grammarian and lexicographer, born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell U., where he was appointed to the faculty in 1911 to teach RHETORIC and GREEK. In 1914, he shifted from classics to English, and he gained his Ph.D. in 1922 with a study of shall and will in Renaissance English. He joined the English department at the U. of Michigan in 1921 and worked there until his retirement in 1958. He became editor-in-chief in 1928 of the Early Modern English Dictionary, and was an adviser to the Random House American College Dictionary (1948). Fries sought to describe English as it was rather than as it ought to be. In American English Grammar (1940), he investigated social-class differences through the study of letters written to a government agency. In defining the scope of this enquiry, he declared ‘that there can be no “correctness’ ‘apart from USAGE’. A second descriptive work, The Structure of English (1925), drew on recorded telephone conversations; his innovative approach in that volume emphasized ‘signals of structural meaning’ that could be isolated and described from the stream of SPEECH rather than from the ‘ideas’ expressed. A conviction that English should be described and learned through speech rather than WRITING shaped Teaching and Learning English as a Second Language (1945) and Foundations of English Teaching (1961). The methods he developed at the English Language Institute, which he founded at Michigan in 1941, influenced ESL teaching around the world and his conception of pattern practice shaped ESL teaching for a generation. He was senior author of the Fries American English Series (1952–6), among other ESL textbooks. After retirement, he turned his attention to reading instruction for native speakers and published Linguistics and Reading (1963) and A Basic Reading Series Developed upon Linguistic Principles (1963–5). See APPLIED LINGUISTICS, BASIC ENGLISH, LITERACY.

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