John Walker


John Walker was an actor, theater manager, educator, lecturer, writer and lexicographer in England who exerted considerable influence on the elocution movement in his home country as well as in the early days of elocutionary practices in the US. He established a notation system for training actors in oratory. His system differed from earlier ones (e.g., that of Thomas Sheridan) in that Walker's tied grammar to intonation. He presented an elaborate set of rules that he saw as governing the relationship between intonation and grammatical form.

Walker was long known for his English dictionary of the English language (1791) which followed the famous Johnson's dictionary (1755) and was much later superseded by dictionaries in America created by Noah Webster (1828) and Joseph Emerson Worcester (1831).

Writings of John Walker, arranged chronologically

Walker, J. (1799). The exercises for improvement in elocution. (A collection of readings.)

Walker, J. (1781). The elements of elocution. (Walker's most important work, a systematic presentation of a theory of elocution.)

Walker, J. (1783). Hints for the improvement in the art of reading. (A summary of his book Elements of elocution (see above.)

Walker, J. (1785). A rhetorical grammar (unites old canons of rhetoric with new ones of elocution.)

Walker, J. (1787). Melody of speaking delineated. (Explains a method of teaching elocution by means of signs adapted from musical notation.)

Walker, J. (1789). The academic speaker (a book of extracts for declamatory practice, introduced by two essays on gesture and acting).

Walker, J. (1791) A critical pronouncing dictionary. London: Robinson.

Writings about Walker

Haberman, F. (1954). English sources of American elocution. In K. Wallace (ed.). History of speech education in America. (pp. 105-126). NY: Appleton-Century Crofts, Inc.