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Box 5 From the Preface to Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755)

‘In adjusting the ORTHOGRAPHY, which has been to this time unsettled and fortuitous, I found it necessary to distinguish those irregularities that are inherent in our tongue, and perhaps coeval with it, from others which the ignorance or negligence of later writers has produced. Every language has its anomalies, which, though inconvenient, and in themselves once unnecessary, must be tolerated among the imperfections of human things, and which require only to be registered, that they may not be increased, and ascertained, that they may not be confounded: but every language has likewise its improprieties and absurdities, which it is the duty of the lexicographer to correct or proscribe.’

The English Language A Very Short Introduction (2018) by Simon Horobin, p 69.

I'll re-write and delete some immaterialities to simplify the last sentence.

Every language has its anomalies, which, though inconvenient, and in themselves once unnecessary, must be tolerated among the imperfections of human things, and which require only to be registered, that they may not be increased, and ascertained, that they may not be confounded . B ut every language has likewise its improprieties and absurdities, which it is the duty of the lexicographer to correct or proscribe.’

Rectify me if I didn't curtail this sentence correctly.

  1. What exactly does they` refer to?

  2. Now the last two THAT clauses look ungrammatical.

Every language has its anomalies, which must be tolerated among the imperfections of human things, and which require only to be registered, that they may not be increased, and ascertained, that they may not be confounded.

2

It is very dated English.

"They" refers to "anomalies"

The "that" clause functions rather like "so" in modern English.

Hide the chocolate cake, that I am not tempted to steal a slice.

The author observes that there are some strange features about English, and that is okay. You don't have to get rid of every strange aspect of English, just note (or register) them (so you don't create new strange things in your writing) and understand (or ascertain) them (so they don't cause confusion).

While Johnson is an old master of English, and of great historical interest. you will not learn much of use by studying his grammar.

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