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Great vowel shift


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Great Vowel Shift, a short ppt

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Great vowel shift

  1. 1. The Great Vowel Shift © Ms. Mohlere
  2. 2. What is the Great Vowel Shift?  The term “The Great Vowel Shift” is used to describe a time period between the mid 1300s and 1700, when the English language began to change.  Before the shift, the spelling and pronunciation were flexible and inconsistent. While it began to be consistent during this period, it’s also responsible for some of the unusual spellings and pronunciations we have.
  3. 3. Why did it happen?  There are lots of theories why this happened, but no one knows for sure. Some are:  1 – migration. The “Black Death,” or the plague began in 1348. People began to move southward to escape the disease.  2 – Emerging middle class. (Upper classes, including monarchy, spoke French or Latin.) The plague affected every class, therefore some lower classes were able to raise above their station.  3 – Language Contact. Because of increased travel (including wars), people who spoke different languages met more often, meaning they were able to affect each other’s pronunciation.  4 – Most importantly, the printing press invention in 1440, which helped standardize spelling.
  4. 4. What does this mean?  Spelling and pronunciation changed drastically during this time period. You’ll be able to see more evidence of this as we progress through the semester. Reading the Canterbury Tales in your textbook is tricky, right? Flip ahead to something towards the end, like John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government,” or Thomas Gray’s poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Church yard.” Just at a glance, it’s MUCH easier to read isn’t it? That is evidence of the Great Vowel Shift.
  5. 5. What did it sound like?  The best example I can find is from Wikipedia. (You know English teachers usually run away from Wikipedia, but this is really the easiest example for you to look at.) Hopefully the Teaching Gods will forgive me!  To go and scroll down to Details/Changes. There is a sound file where you can hear the changes as they occur from Late Middle English, to Early Modern English (think Shakespeare), to Modern English.
  6. 6. WHO CARES?  Isn’t that the most important question? English is an unusual language, full of weird spellings and pronunciations. The Great Vowel shift helps to explain why things changed, and how.  And the question I can’t help but ask: Could we go through this again? Our language has already changed significantly because of technology. Will future generations speak the same way we do?
  7. 7. Works Consulted  Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print  History of English – The Great Vowel Shift. Perf. Jurgen Handke. Youtube. Virtual Linguistics Campus, 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 Aug 2015.