This paper examines particular aspects of 18th-century British linguistic thought by focusing upon discussions of American Indians which depicted them as poetic and eloquent. The paper places this depiction within the context of the larger British concerns of the time to show how it was used by some to portray the ‘primitive’ Indians and their languages as inferior, by others as superior, to the ‘modern’ Europeans and their languages. It is argued that this contextualizing of the idea of the ‘savage poet’ helps us to understand the terms of the debates over which European language could rightfully lay claim to the crown of linguistic supremacy.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL
Journal Historiographia Linguistica
Lauzon, M. (Matthew). (1996). Savage eloquence in America and the linguistic construction of a British identity in the 18th century. Historiographia Linguistica, 23(1-2), 123–158. doi:10.1075/hl.23.1-2.07lau