Caxton (1476) - Printing Press
In 1476, William Caxton set up the first printing press in England - establishing the future direction of the language. It made texts easy to replicate, and these texts were written in English rather than in French or Latin; making English accessible to the public.
Tynedale (1525) - 'Tynedale's Bible'
'Tynedale's Bible' was the first to be published, at a time when it was illegal to translate the Bible into English - which led to his prosecution.
Cawdrey (1604) - 'A Table Alphabeticall'
Early Modern English saw the increase in prescriptivism in the language, and also saw the emergence of English dictionaries. The first dictionary published solely in English was Robert Cawdrey's 'A Table Alphabeticall' in 1604.
King James (1611) - King James Bible
King James abolished the law that made translating the Bible into English illegal, and commissioned an official English publication that was designed to be read throughout the country. 'The King James Bible' is still published to this day.
Johnson (1755) - 'Dictionary of the English Langua
The most comprehensive and formative dictionary of the Early Modern English period was Dr. Samuel Johnson's 'Dictionary of the English Language' published in 1755.
Johnson tried to set a standard for the orthography of the language, as well as provide his own definitions of words. Johnson used many quotations from literature to evidence the usage of a word.
Edward Sapir & Benjamin Lee-Whorf (Sapir-Whorf Hyp
In the first half of the 20th century, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee-Whorf put forward the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - which summed up the concept of Linguistic Determinism.
The main principle of the SWH is that language precedes thought and controls it. We can only think things which we have the language to articulate - Strong Version
The Weak Version is more accepted. This is that language can only influence thought, and does not have complete control over it.
Jean Aitchison - Language Decay Models
Jean Aitchison suggested three models for the (often prescriptivist) view that language is in decay.
Damp Spoon - Implies laziness in language use.
Crumbling Castle - Language must be preserved.
Infectious Disease - Sees 'non-standard' speakers of English as 'catching' from others an unhealthy, inferior form that we should all steer clear of.
Lowth (18th Century) - The Grammarians
Many of the rules proposed by the Grammarian writers shaped the formation of Standard English. The 18th century Grammarian Robert Lowth, suggested that the practice of using a preposition that was unattached to an object was a colloquialism. Similar rules regarding ‘incorrect’ usage have included beginning sentences with a conjunction, double negatives, and the use of split infinitives.
Some people blamed the advent of printing itself for causing such diversity in the orthographical system of English. The proofreading and printing process was often carried out by people with little education, and even people with a first language other than English, so errors came about.