The introduction of printing press in 1476 by William Caxton marks the end of the period and the beginning of new times. This affected the development of the languages.
The consequences of the introduction of the printing press were:
- Printing press made books cheaper and available
- Spread of education. Schools multiplied. Many more people started to read and write in their mother tongue. We tend to believe that the 1/3 or ½ of
habitants could read in Shakespeare’s time London
- We call Renaissance a period of growing of desire to read different subjects. The press was important in the spread of the knowledge in different matters. Also was an increase of translated texts because of that desire to learn more and more.
- They asked to learn other languages. The more demanding were Latin and Greek. Translation of classical Latin works into English (astronomy, mathematics…).
- Religion: the Reformation in
contributed to democratizing of Knowledge. Every Christian should read the Bible for himself without the intervention of the church. There were different translations of the Bible into English, for example that of Tyndale and Coverdale. Tyndale finished his translation in England because he had to scape. He was accusated of heregy. Germany
There was a new official version of the Bible by the beginning of the 17th called King Jame’s version (1611).
There was the difficulty in translation that they couldn’t find the accurate term to translate from Latin or Greek. There was a time that English had a complex. They considered English as a rude language.
They borrowed thousand of words of the classical languages. There was a incredible expansion of the vocabulary, there was an enriching of English language for more or less 10000 new words.
The early Modern English followed the Middle English. Was a period important for translations. English in Renaissance shared with other continental vernacular languages the problem that they couldn’t fin the equivalent of Latin (lingua Franca).
Also Latin was a dead language. That was an advantage. It couldn’t change. The vernaculars had the struggle to be serious enough.
There was the growth of some figures that favoured the vernaculars instead the Latin.
English: Richard Mulcaster.
There was a great expansion of the vocabulary of English: Latin vocabulary provided eloquent words that sounded sophisticated, bookish. Anything but familiar, because English used simple words. These words were called inkhorn words. Some people opposed the movement of borrowings from foreigner languages. Some of figures who opposed this enrichment of classical words were labelled as “purists”:
Sir John Cheke
Reasons for the expansion of English:
- Influence of borrowings in Latin.
- Great contact with
. Influence of Italian literature. Increasing of Italian terms with relation with the Arts. Italy
- Social and economic factors:
opened new market with all parts of the world. They imported new products and the name of these products (food, for example) England
- In the 2nd part of Mod E, English also expanded because of the great influence of science and its terms, for example, compounds.
- In its 1st stage (OE) English coined its own words. As time goes by, English becomes lazier and accepted borrowings. In the 2nd stage is more important in terms of numbers.
There are 2 linguistics factors very important:
a) The Great Vowel Shift: most of the long vowels in the late ME were raised in their point of articulation. This factor gives the answer of the differences in pronunciation in the Late ME and The RP English. The change was along the 14th c and lasted several centuries.
b) The rise of standard English: This happened during the 15th (ending of ME). The dialects of
and surrounding were regarded as something like standard. Writers coming from other part of London started to choose the dialect of the South of East Midlands. England
The factors that helped to choose this dialect as standard were:
- Cultural: the presence of the printing press. Caxton established the print press in
. All the books printed presented the dialect of London . London
- Political: the court was also in
. The most important universities were London and Oxford and both used this dialect. Cambridge
At last, a uniformed type of speech over the all of
started to be used. People complained that they did not understand each other because of the different dialects. England
The problem of spelling:
In Mod E period we can say that there was no authority which could provide information of how to spell the different words:
Tung, tunge, tong, tonge, toong, toonge, toung, trunge, tongue…
Shakespeare had different ways to write his own surname: Shaksper, Shackspere, Shaxpere…
Classical learning added more confusion. Classical patterns were imitated, because they were considered as “the top”.
ME dette > Mod E debt (because the Latin original form was debit.
ME doute > Mod E doubte (Latin form: dubit)
Other examples: receipt
Curious case: OE īland > Mod E island (but it is not pronounced). In Latin is insula.
Dutch printers who came to
when the printin press was introduced in England also introduced spelling habbits in ther own language. Netherlands
Ghost, gherkin (pepinillos), ghastly
They also introduced the “h” in other words: ghess (guess=French spelling habbit), or ghospel.
Spelling habbit from French: tunge tongue
Some of the modifications were caused because some of the graphemes were not introduced in the printing press (because was introduced by Germans)
þ did not existed in printing press and many times we find “y”.
If the printer had not enough space in the line he selected a short form:
Yt: short form from that
Ye: the. Is different from “ye”= vosotros.
The “h” was inserted after the “t” in some foreign words: /t/
Mod E throne < trone (french) < thronus (Latin) < Greek θ. They changed in spelling and that gave the change in pronunciation.
Sir John Cheke proposed some easier spellings of English in 16th . the final –e should not be kept if not pronounced words like would, doubt: the l/b change the final –y in –i. He was not successful with these changes: “sai” instead of “say”.
Thomas Smith, John Hardy, Will Walker introduced some changes in English spelling, by 16th c, yet.
Variant spelling of English in 16th were reduced by 17th (1650). The use of “i” instead of “j” is still present. They were interchangeable until 19th .
16th also affected the pair of “u” and “v”. This was a spelling habit with French and Latin influences. Spelling of English was very reduced by middle of 17th, though minor exceptions were still used in late Modern English.