An introduction to Early Modern English, this book helps students of English and linguistics to place the language of the period Terttu Nevalainen. Reviews of books This interdisciplinary study is an exemplary collection of high quality essays, each of which makes a very valuable contribution not only to . Terttu Nevalainen, An Introduction to Early Modern English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. $

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In the Early Modern English period —steps were taken toward Standard English, and this was also the ezrly when Shakespeare wrote, but these perspectives are only part of the bigger picture.

This chapter looks at Early Modern English as a variable and changing language not unlike English today. Standardization is found particularly in spelling, and new vocabulary was created as a result of mpdern spread of English into various professional and occupational specializations.

New research using digital corpora, dictionaries, and databases reveals the gradual nature of these processes. Ongoing developments were no less gradual in pronunciation, with processes such as the Great Vowel Shift, or in grammar, where many changes resulted in new means of expression and greater transparency.

Word order was also subject to gradual change, becoming more fixed over time. This line of thought goes back to the 19th century, well before the division of postmedieval English into Early and Late Modern English.

Another common approach in the literature has been to view the Early Modern era as a transitional period leading to Standard English. The period has also come to be characterized in functional terms as an era during which the use of the English language spread to all communicative purposes, including science and the law. Related modernn these developments are advances in communication technologies, notably the impact of printing, which was introduced toward the end of the 15th century.

These various approaches provide different answers to the question of how long a time span the EModE period covers. The answers also depend on whether we look for linguistic or language-external factors.

Referring to cultural and political landmarks, the six-part Cambridge History of the English Language begins the period at neavlainen, when the printing press was introduced to England, and ends it at the American Declaration of Independence in Lass, Purely linguistic factors are a good deal harder to pin down.

He motivates ending the period terhtu by pointing to the virtual disappearance of the remaining syntactic redundancies and the rapid redefining of the existing grammatical categories by that time.

However, it is noteworthy that all these features represent processes that do not have exact beginning and end points. Acknowledging that linguistic periodization is necessarily arbitrary because language change is continuous, EModE is commonly viewed as the period from to These developments will be approached through some of the priorities set by earlier scholarship, showing how they have shaped—and continue to shape—our perceptions of this era in the history of English.

Early Modern English as the Language of Shakespeare: Abbott specifies his focus in the subtitle of his book: Franzp. To bridge the grammatical gap between Shakespeare and his current audiences, more recent grammars such as Blake and Hope continue to address these issues, benefiting from a century of linguistic and nevaalainen scholarship on the topic. While grammatical differences are relatively easy to discover and describe, vocabulary presents challenges of a different kind, most of them having to do with the data sources available to researchers.

Using this resource, which contains digital copies of most books printed in England beforeit is possible to explore the contemporary print record of words and review the datings given in historical dictionaries.

One of the neologisms attributed to Shakespeare is courtship Garner, It appears in 1, documents in EEBO. But publication dates do englis tell the whole story about lexical growth, and a number of other issues need to be considered when counting coinages.

Elliott and Valenzap.

Early Modern English

Counting coinages has most of the problems of counting other words—making due allowance for corpus size, latency, inflections, multiple meanings and so on—plus engilsh problems of its own, which are harder to do with computers and have been less explored: There is thus more to bridging the lexical gap between Shakespeare and his modern audiences than looking for neologisms.


Opinions are nonetheless divided as to the degree to which the pronunciation of Shakespearean drama can be recreated and understood today for some views, see Nevalainen,nwvalainen.

One of the recurrent topics of scholarly discussion of EModE is concerned with the standardization of the English language in that period. This is the story told in most textbooks from Wyld to Freebornand many more. Wyld describes his engliish of study as follows:. For reasons which will soon appear, it is proposed here to call it Received Standard English.

Wyld,p. In tracing the history of Standard English, Wyld took a particular interest in pronunciation. He assumed that a spoken standard must have existed from the first half of the 16th century on, but also admitted that it allowed more variation than today and was largely confined to the Royal Court Wyld,p. Both Wyldp.

If by a standard language we understand a variety with minimal variation in form and maximal variation in use, spelling is a much better candidate for Early Modern Standard English than speech. Both professional copyists and printers were instrumental in spreading southern forms and spelling conventions to the rest of the country. But the process was not straightforward: Those in favor of a reform argued that English spelling had become too far removed from the pronunciation of the language and that a closer connection should be re established.

Those supporting established usage countered them by arguing that there was too much variation in speech to form a basis for a renewed orthography. When analyzing this list of ca. Teaching manuals and spelling books made an important contribution to fixing English spelling norms in the 17th century.

Scraggpp. Coote promoted, for example, spellings such as seem and seen instead of seme and seneproposed by Mulcaster These processes apply to spelling regularization in print, which displays remarkable stability by the midth century. Moreover, punctuation and capitalization are standardized later than spelling in print as well. For example, the apostrophe only begins to be used to signal the possessive -s in the 17th century, earlier in the singular than in the plural, but it can mark the elision of the vowel in regular past participle forms e.

Looking at the big picture, Baron, Rayson and Archer calculated the relative frequencies of spelling variants over time in several corpora and databases, covering the period from to and including the Shakespeare Corpus and the EEBO database.

Automatic studies of spelling variation do not necessarily take into account the growth of English vocabulary over time, which vastly increases the number of rare words in the language in the 16th and 17th centuries. Vocabulary growth represents the widening range of domains of the vernacular, thus showcasing the tendency of a standardizing language to maximal variation in use.

Lancashirep. Various aspects of this growth have been explored using the Oxford English Dictionary. Dividing the EModE period into fifty-year subperiods, Durkinp. Lexical innovations reflect the ongoing processes of modernization and vernacularization in the EModE period. The vernacular gained currency in a wide variety of specialist fields and replaced Latin and French, for example, in many legal, religious, and scientific domains.

The growing range of specializations of contemporary knowledge is recorded in monolingual dictionaries and glossaries, which cover fields as diverse as alchemy and architecture, classics and cosmography, fencing and heraldry, hunting and falconry, mathematics and minerals, philosophy and poetics, and weights and measures Nevalainen,pp.

English was felt to lack the prestige of Latin or French as a language of learning and literature. As a result, several often competing methods of vocabulary expansion were adopted, including both borrowing and coinages based on native word formation processes Nevalainen,pp. These means were used to introduce new lexis to meet the needs of vernacularization but also to consciously enrich and embellish the language.

One of the early borrowers of the utilitarian kind was Sir Thomas Elyot, a scholar and diplomat. Most of the loans he used come from the classical languages, and include a number of words that are still current, such as encyclopediafrugalitymetamorphosismodestyand persist Barber,p. He was also among the first to use education in print ex.

Reflecting its cultural dominance at the time, Latin was indeed the primary source of borrowed lexis in EModE Durkin,pp. Borrowing often resulted in native and borrowed lexemes co-occurring in the same lexical sets. Loan words typically appeared in technical uses, as in the following word pairs, where the first member has its roots in Old English and the second in Latin or French the fields and dates come from the EEBO database: It is noteworthy that loan words did not necessarily have the same meaning as they have today.


The case of ovum nicely illustrates the prevalence of Latin in the English print culture at the time; one of its first occurrences in the EEBO database goes back to a dietary guide fromwhere it simply provides the Latin term for egg in a header. It appears as an integrated specialist term in English in the latter half of the century, the OED dating this technical use in Philosophical Transactions to The fact that specialist terms are well documented does not mean that they have survived until the present.

Analyzing The Shorter Oxford English DictionaryNeuhaus found that between and many more new words were introduced than old ones lost. By contrast, between andwords introduced after showed a higher than average rate of disappearance. This comparison suggests that the intensive period of vocabulary enrichment was followed by a corresponding increase in obsolete words.

An Introduction to Early Modern English – Terttu Nevalainen – Google Books

Most of them disappeared during their first decade, and many were cited only once. It would appear that they had never made it to wider use. This was true of one-third of the Latinate neologisms attributed to Shakespeare and of a large number of coinages introduced by lexicographers like Cockeramwho endeavored to enrich the EModE lexicon with parallel formations Nevalainen,pp. Measured in terms of the intake of new words, lexical standardization remains an abstraction.

It does not take place in a cultural vacuum midern constitutes an ongoing process with both gains and losses, and takes its time to be integrated into actual use. Importantly, the expanding vocabulary of EModE did not become the property of the population at large; as Lancashirep.

An Introduction to Early Modern English

If vocabulary growth did not directly affect all English speakers in the EModE era, changes in pronunciation and grammar did. As noted above, pronunciation can tettu be reconstructed from written evidence before it was integrated into monolingual English am using a systematic phonetic notation in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Although there is earoy fair amount of commentary provided by early phoneticians and orthoepists, it is far from unproblematic. Lassp. Despite these problems of primary evidence, there are comprehensive studies, such as Dobsonwhich derive their evidence from contemporary EModE grammarians, phoneticians, and spelling reformers.

Scholarly opinion agrees that while some major changes happened in the EModE vowel system, the consonant system remained comparatively stable. It was commonly dropped in French loan words historyhonor but often reintroduced into these words on etymological grounds. The most dramatic changes took place in stressed syllables, as long vowels were redistributed in a series of processes which resulted in what is known as the Great Vowel Shift GVS. The rest of the long vowels systematically moved up one step in the vowel space: It is noteworthy that the Great Vowel Shift was not completed in the northern dialects, where it affected the front vowels but not all back vowels.

Long vowels also emerged from diphthongs i. In almost all these changes, a Middle English diphthong was reduced to a pure long vowel. These processes earrly in vowel mergers, and many word pairs came to sound alike see further Lass, Unlike pronunciation, grammar change can be observed in most genres and registers, from formal kinds of writing such introdutcion statutes to informal kinds such as comedy.

Englosh communication is available in correspondence and approximate records of speech in trial proceedings. There are some broad trends that characterize many processes of grammatical change in EModE. One of the most conspicuous is greater transparency.