Module (3)The Development of EnglishEarly Modern English
*Early Modern English is the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period (the latter half of the 15th century) to 1650.
*The first edition of the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare both belong to the late phase of Early Modern English.
*The standardisation of English spelling falls within the Early Modern English period and is influenced by conventions predating the Great Vowel Shift, which is the reason for much of the non-phonetic spelling of contemporary Modern English.*The revival of classical scholarship brought many classical Latin and Greek words into the Language.
*Two other major factors influenced the language and served to separate Middle and Modern English. 1. The Great Vowel Shift 2. The invention of printing
The Great Vowel Shift* This was a change in pronunciation that began around 1400.* Long vowel sounds began to be made higher in the mouth* The letter e at the end of words became silent.* Examples: 1. Chaucer’s Lyf (pronounced /leef/) became the modern word life. 2. name was pronounced /nam-a/ 3. five was pronounced /feef/ 4. down was pronounced /doon/.
The invention of printing* William Caxton brought the printing press to England in 1476.* Books became cheaper and as a result, literacy became more common.* The printing press brought standardization to English.1. The dialect of London, where most publishing houses were located, became the standard.2. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the first English dictionary was published in 1604.
Feature ChangeAdjectives Adjectives lost all endings except for in the comparative and superlative forms.Pronouns The neuter pronoun it was first used as well as who as a relative pronoun. The class distinctions between formal and informal you were decreasing, so that today there is no difference between them.Verbs More strong verbs became weak and the third person singular form became -(e)s instead of -(e)th.Pronunciation The Great Vowel Shift (1400-1600) changed the pronunciation of all the vowels. Several consonants were no longer pronounced, but the spelling system was in place before the consonant loss, so they are still written in English today.
*Shakespeares writings greatly influenced the entire English language.*Prior to and during Shakespeares time, the grammar and rules of English were not fixed.*Once Shakespeares plays became popular in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century, they helped contribute to the standardization of the English language.
*Many familiar words and phrases were coined or first recorded by Shakespeare, some 2,000 words and countless catch-phrases are Shakespeare’s.*Examples: 1. Catch-phrases: One fell swoop, vanish into thin air, and flesh and blood 2. Words critical, leapfrog, majestic, dwindle, and pedant.*He expanded the scope of English literature by introducing new words and phrases, experimenting with blank verse, and also introducing new poetic and grammatical structures.