William Barnes

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BARNES, William [1801–86]. English schoolmaster, clergyman, dialectologist, and poet, born in Dorset of a farming family. In addition to textbooks, grammars, and articles on etymology, philology, archaeology, and local history, he produced a primer of OLD ENGLISH (Se Gefylsta, 1849) and collected dialect material. Most of his poetry was in DIALECT. He wrote two grammars and glossaries of the Dorset dialect, which, together with Philological Grammar (1854), compared features of STANDARD ENGLISH and the Dorset dialect with those of other languages. As a teacher and clergyman, he was distressed by the intricacies of English vocabulary, blaming its shortcomings, as he saw them, on its HYBRID nature. He set out therefore to counteract the classical influence. He revived Old English usages, such as hearsomeness and forewit to replace obedience and caution, drew on dialect, using fore-elders and outstep to replace ancestors and remote, made LOAN TRANSLATIONS from other Germanic languages, such as birdlore and speechlore to replace ornithology and grammar, and coined new words on VERNACULAR principles, such as birdstow and beestow to replace aviary and apiary. Although his PURISM had little impact, it was comparable to that in other parts of 19c Europe.

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William Barnes, 1801–86, English poet and philologist. After a career as a schoolmaster, he took holy orders in 1847. He is best known for his poems in Dorset dialect, which began to appear in local newspapers in 1833. His Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect were published in three series between 1844 and 1862. Besides a Philological Grammar (1854), he wrote other books on the English language.

See his Selected Poems (ed. by G. Grigson, 1950).