Capitalization of Nouns in English
|08/11/20 3:25 PM|
I'm sure most english Speakers are familiar with the following Passage:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
Written in the latter Half of the 1700s, the Declaration of Independence is somewhat well-known for having an unusual Tendency to capitalize almost every bloody Noun in its Sentences, without much Rhyme or Reason to it. (And yes, I will be typing like our Founding Fathers for the Entirety of this Page, just for Kicks and Giggles.) I always found this Convention to be quite bizarre, so I decided too look into why exactly Texts from that era seemed to love pulling a German with the whole Capitalization thing.
This Article from StackExchange written by Gpr was very helpful in providing Answers with actual Sources. Here is what the top answer had to say:
"I found this in an actual printed book, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (David Crystal), p67, where the internet let me down. It's in the section about emerging orthography in the 16th Century:
Hart recommended his readers to use a capital letter at the beginning of every sentence, proper name, and important common noun. By the 17th century, the practice had extended to titles (Sir, Lady), forms of address (Father, Mistris), and personified nouns (Nature). Emphasized words and phrases would also attract a capital. By the beginning of the 18th century, the influence of Continental books had caused this practice to be extended still further (e.g. to the names of the branches of knowledge), and it was not long before some writers began using a capital for any noun that they felt to be important. Books appeared in which all or most nouns were given an initial capital (as is done systematically in modern German) - perhaps for aesthetic reasons, or perhaps because printers were uncertain about which nouns to capitalize, and so capitalized them all.
The fashion was at its height in the later 17th century, and continued into the 18th. The manuscripts of Butler, Traherne, Swift, and Pope are full of initial capitals. However, the later 18th-century grammarians were not amused by this apparent lack of discipline in the written language. In their view, the proliferation of capitals was unnecessary, and causing the loss of a useful potential distinction. Their rules brought a dramatic reduction in the types of noun permitted to take a capital letter.
It seems odd that Hart's recommendations on capitalization [sic] should have taken root where his suggestions for phonetic spelling have fallen on deaf ears..."
Oh, how right You are, Gpr. So, our Question seems to be answered. I guess I can knock off the over-capitalization now!