Shakespeare’s linguistic legacy

William Shakespeare died four hundred years ago this month and my local library is celebrating the anniversary. It sounds a bit macabre when you put it that way, of course, so they are billing it as
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William Shakespeare died four hundred years ago this month and my local library is celebrating the anniversary. It sounds a bit macabre when you put it that way, of course, so they are billing it as a celebration of Shakespeare’s legacy. I took this celebratory occasion to talk with my students about Shakespeare’s linguistic legacy. Often, we hear that legacy stated in terms of the vastness of his vocabulary and the number of words he contributed to the English language. In the middle of twentieth century, Alfred Hart, then a leading authority on Shakespeare’s vocabulary, wrote that Shakespeare is … “credited by the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary with being the first user of about 3,200 words.” Sometimes, people take this to mean that Shakespeare actually made up 3,200 words, perhaps because it’s easier to say “Shakespeare coined thousands of new words” than “Shakespeare is credited by the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary with being the. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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