[ExI] Genes and the Great Vowel Shift

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sun Feb 24 09:47:17 UTC 2008

On Sun, Feb 24, 2008 at 12:21 AM, hkhenson wrote:
>  One of the mysteries of the past is why both German and English
>  underwent a serious shift between 1200 and 1600 in the way vowels are
>  spoken.  It's part of the reason English spelling (partly set before
>  the shift) is such a non phonetic mess.

Invasions, migrations and the printing press.
Oh - you want more detail??

1066 Norman Invasion started the end of Old English.
The nobility (and courts, etc.) spoke Old French, the commoners - Old English.
The Black Death, 1350, killed about one third of the population, and
the working classes (and their language) grew in importance. By about
1400 or so, the mixture was complete and England spoke Middle English.
The next wave of innovation in English, and the Great Vowel Shift,
came with the Renaissance, 1450 -1700.
The printing press, Shakespeare, standardised spelling, all created
Modern English. The dialect of London, where most publishing houses
were located, became the standard. Spelling and grammar became fixed,
and the first English dictionary was published in 1604.

I don't see any need to create a mystery about it. English is still
changing as words from other languages and fashionable accents enter
the mix.


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