Thomas stackhouse’s theory of linguistic rhetoric
A study of reflections on the nature and property of languages (1731)
Thomas Stackhouse’s (1657–1752) Reflections On the Nature and Property of Languages (1731) was directly concerned with two areas critical to an understanding of 18th century English linguistic theory: the nature and origin of language, and rhetorical grammar. Stackhouse’s method was as follows: he defined language according to its origins and history, and he identified those rhetorical universals which he believed were essential for the refinement of language. Assuming that all languages were equal in their capacity to communicate, Stackhouse argued that perspicuity, purity, copiousness, neatness, energy, sublimity, and number increased the effectiveness of language. A study of Reflections suggests that theories of language, thought, and society must dovetail if we are to ever explain communication.