Languages developed over the years to make it easy to communicate and exchange complex ideas. For example the whole point of the phonetic writing system is to be able to write down complex ideas without have different symbol for each word but alot of time the spelling of a word is not straightforward by the way it pronounced and you have to remember how to spell each world? Why is that ? Is it have practical reasons for that or it developed because of culture? I guess in the start people just struggle in expressing they ideas, so they developed grammar and word for each idea in the easiest way they found , and if someone had mistake it wasn't that big deal

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    This might be more appropriate on Linguistics SE, although it could do with a spell check first.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented May 10 at 19:50
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    Languages are dynamic, they change over time. Modern education tries to standarize languages, but probably your question aims to an earlier period of time. Maybe you can define in which place/culture your question is for. If not, I would say that people learns languages by imitation and they adapt to changes, it has been like that even before historical times.
    – Santiago
    Commented May 10 at 19:55
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    "Grammar was invented by the Devil, who taught Adam to conjugate the word God in the plural."
    – Tomas By
    Commented May 10 at 20:03
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    Probably since the earliest days of writing, when people realised that a mistake could lead to miscommunication. Are there any existing foreign language teaching texts from the Ancient Near East? and What would a Roman education include in the years 77 - 85? may be of interest to you. Commented May 11 at 2:08
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    Cardinal Richelieu -- the antagonist of the Three Musketeers -- founded the Académie Française for the purpose of codifying the French language -- in 1635. It still exists today...
    – Mikhail T.
    Commented May 16 at 15:31

1 Answer 1


It was a gradual historical process that happened at different times for different languages. According to an article by Wim Vandenbussche which focuses on Germanic languages including English, there were several distinct stages:

an early first codification around 1500/1600, and a second more elaborated codification in the 17th century. [...] The 20th century, then, brought the establishment of language councils in many language communities.

James Gleick wonderful popular book The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood emphasizes how modern this was, a consequence (in part) of technologies like the printing press. Even in the late 16th century Gleick writes:

few had any concept of “spelling”—the idea that each word, when written, should take a particular predetermined form of letters. The word cony (rabbit) appeared variously as conny, conye, conie, connie, coni, cuny, cunny, and cunnie in a single 1591 pamphlet. Others spelled it differently. [...] Every time people dipped quill in ink to form a word on paper they made a fresh choice of whatever letters seemed to suit the task. But this was changing. The availability—the solidity—of the printed book inspired a sense that the written word should be a certain way, that one form was right and others wrong. First this sense was unconscious; then it began to rise toward general awareness. Printers themselves made it their business.

Over time printed dictionaries came to be the critical authority that allowed us to know what the true spelling of work was. Before that, how could we even know? Even though the lexicographers who write dictionaries often try to resist imposing themselves on the language, however inadvertently they do.

If the driver of the first wave of standardization was technological, the continuation of this process through later waves was very much political. Print technology went hand in hand with modern nation-states and their administrative and educational apparatuses. The historian and political scientist Benedict Anderson captured this dynamic in his concept of "print capitalism" as the origin of nationalism. Linguistic standardization is a fundamental part of nation building.

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    I'm no expert here, but didn't the Chinese, Egyptians, Romans and Greek have interest in grammar and spelling?
    – Jos
    Commented May 11 at 1:11
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    If you can find evidence for that it will make an interesting answer. If any of those ancient societies wrote dictionaries or formal grammars, that is news to me. Even if they did, the literate community was a small elite. The Chinese obviously didn't have "spelling" and their grammar has always been fluid and contextual.
    – Brian Z
    Commented May 11 at 1:18
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    Panini and at least Cicero, Caesar, and Varro, to name three early Romans, were concerned with spelling and grammar in antiquity.
    – cmw
    Commented May 11 at 1:31
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    @cmw Also Quintilian. Even Spanish had a grammar in 1492, English is a really bad example for this question. Commented May 11 at 7:58

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