Reactions for a Course of Diachronic Linguistics

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Oct 15, 2011 04:12

I will be posting some reactions that I wrote for a course of diachronic linguistics during 2007. The reactions deal with the origin of English, a little bit of its history and its evolution thru the years. I hope this contribution might help those students who are learning English as a second language.

Reaction Paper 8: Early Modern English (Linguistic and Literary Achievement)


The book mentions that the Early Modern English period covers three centuries, and the status of the language varied as the vehicle for learning, science, administration and literary activity. The functions that the English language developed can be seen in the literature produced. Naturally, this period is significantly marked by the Renaissance in which we can find a rebirth of culture and scholarship. This is also the epoch of the Elizabethan period that brought many important works from writers such as Sir Phillip Sidney, Edmund Spencer, William Shakespeare and Marlowe. Consequently, this period gave way to the Jacobean period that was in reference to the reign of James I of England.

Talking about possible evidence of varieties of English is not so viable to determine because we do not have representations of written records to verify those regional and social dialects that supposedly existed in the Early Modern English. During this period, there were four main linguistic changes: the introduction of the printing press, access to education, increased communication and social stratification. It is worth to mention that such changes marked English as a uniform language. Another important issue was that the Protestant Reformation helped introduce English in religious contexts, leaving aside Latin. Due to the advent of the printing press, English lacks correspondence between sound and symbol in its writing system.

Furthermore, one of the most striking phonological changes is the Great Vowel Shift. This change began approximately in the fifteenth century and was largely completed by the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.


According to what I read, I could see that this period was extremely significant for English since it reached a consolidated and uniform linguistic character. It is wonderful to get familiar with the fact that English has such a lack of correspondence in its writing system due to the invention of the printing press; the sound system was much more established since Chaucer’s times than the orthographic system.

The protestant Reformation had positive effects on the development of English since this social change introduced the language in the religious contexts and at the same time left aside Latin. In my point of view, this was very positive because Latin marked certain social difference among the inhabitants, and at being gradually displaced, other European languages took strength.