Founding Grammars

How Early America's War Over Words Shaped Today's Language by Rosemarie Ostler
Founding Grammars Book Cover

Founding Grammars uncovers the origins of our grammar obsession, tracing current debates back to America's earliest days, an era when many families owned only two books — the Bible and a grammar primer. Everyone agreed that proper speech was important, but just what that meant was much more hotly contested. A 2016 Oregon Book Awards finalist.


Founding Grammars is a fanfare for the common word, a welcome reminder that American English is a language of the people, by the people, and for the people."
–Patricia T. O'Conner, author of Woe Is I and coauthor of Origins of the Specious

"Chronicles [the] word wars in wonderful, wonkish detail."
–Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post, July 31, 2015

"Delightful book."
–John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun, Nov. 10, 2015

"[Shows] that grammar-pusses have been with us for centuries now while English has kept on keeping on."
–John McWhorter, author of Power of Babel, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, and What Language Is