THE GREAT VOWEL SHIFT
It is a phonological change which affected late ME long vowels. Generally, the vowels were raised in their point of articulation (not all the vowels). The long /a:/ was also fronted (apart of being raised). /i:/ and /u:/, as the highest vowels couldn’t be raised anywhere, so they became diphthongs. The reason for the shift is not known.
A) /a:/ as a low vowel was raised and fronted to /æ/ by 15th. Then, the vowel /æ/ was raised again, giving a long opened e, /ε:/ by 16th c. In the course of 17th the vowel was closed /e:/. Last, during 18th (late Mod E) the vowel was diphthongised /ei:/.
Many French loanwords presented long vowels, as is the case of the word case, fame. They are all ME vowels.
Also affected were English words that contained short /a/ that were lengthened in opened syllables: name→ nāme (affected, so, by the GVS)
Name:/na:mə - næ:me - n ε:mə - ne:mə - neim(ə)
B) /O:/: This vowel was closed /o:/ in 17th; during 18th, it diphthongised to /ou/→ /əU/ in RP. Stone: /stO:n/ - sto:n/ - st əUn/
The /o:/ (closed o) was raised to /u:/ in 15th. Foot: /fo:t – fu:t/
There are 2 exceptions here : blood an flood : /blVd - flVd/. In this case, the vowels were first shortened and then centred, so they did not undergo the GVS.
C) The /ε:/ was raised and closed to (e:/ by 15th. Then it was raised in 17th to /i:/. Teach: /t ε:t∫ - t e:t∫ - t i:t∫ /
There were some exceptions affecting the /ε:/: break and steak, great (they depart from the same /ε:/ sound, but we get a diphthong /ei/: /break – steik – greit/ They should not be confused with brick, stick and greet: /brik – stik – gri:t/.
D) the /e:/ was raised to /i:/ by 15th.
E) the /u:/ couldn’t be raised, so it became a diphthong /eU/ aby 16th. Then, the 1st element was relaxed, and centralized to schwa by 17th / əU/. The last movement: the 1st element was lowered, giving rise to /aU/ in 18th. Mū ð → mouth (ou→ /u:/)
Mouth: /mu:θ - meUθ – m əU θ - maU θ/
F) The /i:/ suffered a parallel change to /u:/: it was diphthongised to /ei/ by 16th; then the 1st element was relaxed /əi/ by 17th and last, the 1st element was lowered by 18th: /ai/
Child: /t∫i:ld - t∫eild - t∫əild - t∫aild/
[bO:st] (boast): /bO:st - bo:st - boUst - bəUst/
[de:m]: /de:m - di:m/ (deem)
[grε :t] (great): gr ε :t - gre:t- greit
(in this case is an exception: the vowel was diphtonguised)
[gu:n] (gown) : geUn - gəUn - gaUn
[ka:s] (case): ka:s - kæ:s – kε:s – ke:s -keis
[li:s] (lice: piojo; lūs- lys-french): /li:s - leis - ləis – lais/
(one thing is what you transcribe and a different one is what you spell)
[lu:d] (loud: french spelling): /lu:d - leUd - ləUd - laUd/
o turned into diphthong in 16th > mein
o it was relaxed in 17th > məi
o schwa is lowered again and transformed into diphthong > main
o in 15th the vowel turned into æ
o in 16th vowel is raised in open ε:
o in 17th the vowel was closed: e:
o in 18th the 1st element of the diphthong was ei
o in 15th it was raised the point of articulation to long u:
o 16th vowel closed to o:
o 18th diphthong ou: 1st element is centralised and relaxed: əU
[u:t] (out in ME spelling from french, and ūt in OE)
o 16th u: diphthongised to eU
o 1st element relaxed an centralised əU
o 1st element was lowered int18th : au
o vowel turned into diphthong ei in 16th
o the 1st element was relaxed in 17th əi
o the 1st element was lowered to ai in 18th
o a was raised in 15th to æ
o 16th raised again to open ε:
o 17th was closed to e:
o 18th was diphthongised to ei
All these affected long middle English Late vowels.
/U/: in some cases unrounded and shifted into central vowel /V/
OE cuman (short) > come
OE ‘cuman > ME comen (Norman change in spelling, not in pronunciation, replacing u>o, and levelling the e > MElate come(n) dropped
Come (final e –schwa disappeared in pronunciation) > Mod E come (central vowel in RP /V/)
OE lufu (v: voiced) > ME love (influence of French + the voiced v is reflected + levelling process pronounced as a /ə/.
Other spelling is “loue”: from Latin spelling, influence transmitted through French. The pronunciation is “luvə”.
In Mod E luvə : /lVv/: the schwa dropped.
Sometimes U remains as U, specially when the vowel was preceded by labial consonant, specially “l”:
a) /U/> /V/
b) /U/ >/U/ (bull, full, pull)
In ME [eu] [iu] were pronounced both as [iu]. But in 16th (Early Mod E] there was a lengthening of the 2nd element > [ju:], for example few, neuter.
Another diphthong was ME [au]. Then, transformed in a new back element, and the 1st element was affected by the 2nd and was rounded =[ou]. Along the 16th, there was a 2nd stage with the dropping of the 2nd element and to compensate, the 1st element lengthened.[O:]
[au] > [ou] >[O:]
ME hawk > late ME houk > Mod E kO:k
ME autumn > late ME outumn >Mod E O:tumn
Awe >owe > O:we
- the palatal fricative [ç] before or after a front vowel:
o Early ME spelling: riЗt > ME right. In the pronunciation there was a change: the drop of “f” along the 16th
- the velar fricative [x], with back vowels or consonant:
o brohte – broЗte – brouhter – brought(e)
o there were 2 changes:
§ [x] >[Ø] = silent gh
§ [x] >[f] labiodental : cough, laugh
Then the gh disappeared as a velar and palatal fricative in pronunciation in 16th , and only didn’t drop and turned into “f” in the case above.
OE righ >ME riЗt, right (i:). In 16th diphthongised in “ai”, centralised and relaxed to ə in 17th and it was lowered in a diphthong “ai” in 18th + dropping in pronunciation of gh group.
The group ch (t∫) affricate didn’t disappeared
There was a tendency to reduce the final group –nd>-n because of the economy of effort. When “d” in final position started to disappear in spelling, people started to disappear in pronunciation.
ME laund > Mod E laun or lawn (césped). In pronunciation [ou] >[O:] = lengthened and has the same pronunciation as today.
Confusion arose for other words. A final “d” which wasn’t there before, sometimes added in other words:
ME soun [u:] >Mod E sound. This final “d” is a mistake, a product of confusion
-al before a consonant in ME. The consonant became a vowel the closest possible: -al > -au. The diphthong was reduced and became a simple vowel >[O:]
[al] >[Oau]>[O:] autumn
Before certain consonants the “l” was vocalised.
The pronunciation /ei/ in steak is an exception in the GVS
Group gn- and kn-
The new pronunciation affected the 1st consonant, because it disappeared (g and k dropped). Although the spelling maintained
(k)night; (g)nat; (k)nife, (k)nee.
Is the present participle today: watching (iN)
[in] was the ortodox pronunciation untiel the 19th . From the 1st quarter this iN was in RP.
The term hypercorrection is a mistake in pronunciation and started in the low classes. The standard English began in ten 15th. The growth of standard was due to the need of the Central Government, for a uniform speech, needed to communicate with its citizens. All citizens could understand in the same nation. Was seful for official, administratice and political purposes.
Inflectional matters and in syntactical aspects, the development were less important in phonology. They continued the trend stablished in the ME which made the grammar of English change from synthetic type to analytic type of language.
By the end of ME we have the ending –es extended for practically all nouns. We find it in genitive singular and as a caseless plural suffix.
As a result of this simplification most nouns had only 2 forms: singular and plural. The use of the apostrophe to distinguish genitive singular or genitive plural was only stablished later in 17th (the singular) and 18th (the plural).
But there are some other forms of plurals. All these nouns are denominate of irregular plurals. We have different groups:
1) umlaut: frontmutation of stem: lice, mice, man, feet… inherited of OE
2) –n plural: children, oxen, brethren (hermandad), kine (plural for cow>cū)
When the Mod E started we still find plurals in –n (shoen, eyen). Now they are obsolete. Instead, they imitated the norm: shoes, eyes, following the analogical system.
In ME we find both, and was a geographical distribution: North, plural in –s; South, more conservative, preferred –n.
OE cū; plural cỹ
2 marks of plurality :
ME kynor – kin – kine : y is plural, but people added 2nd mark of plurality : « n ». the “e” was added to show the “i” lengthened. In ModE in 18th is “kine”.
OE cild /t∫/. Plural ‘cildru>childer: metathesis. This is still alive but is Northern dialect, not standard.
ME children+n: “ch” is influence of French but in pronunciation there was not modification; the “r” is the 1st mark of plurality. The “e” is a levelling process, and the “n” is the 2nd mark of plurality. This is the standard English, in
East Midlands and South.
Oxen/oxan (n- stem) plural > oxen= levelling process (ə). This is the only form that has survived.
3) Uninflected plural: no indication of plural.
OE deor (neuter form) > deer.
A few other forms also were inflected: sheep, folk (little by little could not resist the analogical principle and added an –s: folks); also with kind(s) and horse(s): until 17th could present invariable form but started adding –s
The names of other animal which had –s started to present uniflected plural in Mod English: fish, fowl, pig. Also other animals considered exotic: antelope, buffalo.
Another constructions that affected to syntax:
- his/her/their genitives.
o Augustus his daughter [Зis]. Speakers came to regard the hystorical genitive ending in –s as a variant of “his”. Both forms were the same (they thought). The “h” is dropped in unestresssed pronunciation:
§ James ‘s friend: sounded the same in both cases: James is friend, James his friend. And, then, the genitive was confused with “his” unstressed construction.
§ Such confusion shows that the use os “his” was applied to female. For example “Mrs Sands (his) maid” which interpretation is “Mrs Sand’s maid”. Then his is seens as ‘s. This is a mistake that occurred in the Early Mod E.
§ There were different spellings: his/is/ys. It most used in proper names and specially after sibilants where was easier to drop the “s”: Grace, Sands, Moses, James… For example: Her Grace’s requeste: is not the verb “to be “. Is= his.
- another genitive construction which became important in Early Mod E was called group genitive construction. It was a group which is usually 2 nouns connected by means with preposition or conjunctions, regarded as a union. There was affixed to the last word of that phrase:
o Kenyn and Knott’s dictionary: the “ ‘s” attached to the las noun, but affected the all group.
- another class of genitive: uninflected genitive. It is more rare. It occurs especially for some nouns which were feminine.
Occasionally they are nouns
o ending in –s
o preceeding nouns beginning in “s”: for conscience sake; for god sake (not for god’s sake.
All this, survives in present in few examples related to Virgin Mary:
- Lady Day: means Or Lady’s Day
- Lady Chapel: Our Lady’s Chapel
- Ladybird: our Lady’s bird (mariquita).
- THOU: OE þū > 14th thou (subject)
> thy (following words starting in consonant) / thine (starting with vowel). Both are the possessive form.
The 3 forms disappeared along the Mod E
- They: Is a subject form borrowed from Scandinavian, and adopted by English in the ME (f.i. Chaucer)
Them and Their are used for possessive and object, used the AS pattern
In Mod E: one generation after Chaucer used the Scandinavian forms, and AS forms disappeared.
Aproximately near 15 % that were OE words have survived, but many words have got lost. Sometimes a foreigner word made disappear English words, f.i. them, they and their.
- YE, as subject, 2nd person plural disappeared. Only the object form survived: YOU, and “you” filled the gap of “ye”. For that reason we use “you” today as a subject. The “th” forms disappeared and “you” occupied their place.
- -Y forms: in Mod E –y forms have singular meaning to show politeness. F.i., the lord asking to his king, or a man to a women specially in public. In intimacy they used the th form, and in public the –y form. Is like French: tu/vous.
The distinction between strong and weak had completely disappeared. The loss of the final shwa eliminated the distinction of plural and singular.
The final “e” is in ME not in Mod E.
The adjectives became fixed in forms.The only words which still agree in number were the demonstratives. They had different form depending on the number with they go.
THIS is specific form for singular. Is invariable: this white house
THESE: the same
The other pattern:
THAT: se, seo, paet: from OE
THOSE: the same.
Comparatives and superlatives
The same tendency for OE: -ra (comparatives), -est,-ast,-ost (superlatives)
In ME and OE the spelling was <-re>, -er, -est…; the pronunciation /ə/ or [ə]. But there was in ME greater use of analytical constructions : periphrastic that came from Latin and became more popular : mo/more + adj+than or the most + adj.
In the use, the main differences were:
- The norm that we apply today didn’t applied in those days: it is the same the number of syllables.
- Also we find both at the same time, and was more emphatic: the most unkindest cut of all. Periphrastic+Germanic joined. But from 18th some grammarians agreed that double comparison should be banned form English use.
In the history of English strong verbs decreased in their number as a contrast to weak, that increased.
Strong verbs had four main parts: infinitive, 1st and 3rd person singular of preterit, the plural form of preterit and the past participle.
Today, the differences are that we have only three forms of preterit in Modern English. With the exception of be : with was and were. In the 19th was considered right to say “you was”. But after the 19th it was considered wrong.
More recently there is a different classification:
- regular (today always the verbs that were weak)
- irregular: strong verbs like swim, or former weak verbs like think, pay…
There is a simplification in the personal endings:
ME sitten (onlu infinitive form) > late ME sitte > sitt(e): when “e” was dropped there was no sense to reduplicate 2 consonants, and then: sit in Mod E.
This simplification affected to infinitives and 1st person singular.
2nd person singular (thou form): thou sitest, sitst. Sitesrt started to drop in Mod E, and the “st” by the 17th.
3rd person singular: he/she sits: the “s” come from the North and this form tended to prevale. There was an alternative form: sitteth, in the South and midlands. From 17th we start to find the form of the North, and disappeared the other form.
Other forms were conservatives:
- to do: doth and does
- to have: hath and has
The “th” forms were used until 18th.
The form to be is the most irregular. Mod E shows different forms: some are the same as the present but 2nd person of singular shows other form: thou “art” (disappeared)
In the plural forms of indicative in we, you and they, could use “are” or “be” (both were equivalent)
The preterit form was the same as present. The difference was in the 2nd person singular: wert(fashionable at 19th), was, werst disappeared and the only that remained was: you were.
- Contracted negative form: -n’t in written form during 17th. We tend to believe that began in oral speech (colloquial)
- Other contractions:
o It’s: started along 17th. Before we can find: ‘tis
o Past tense: there wasn’t contracted form in ‘twas, for the past tense “it was”.
o Future: twill> it’ll. The form will was contracted after personal pronouns: I’ll
o Would: it’s 1st contracted form as ‘ld is found around 16th EMod E. but after was simplificated as ‘d in the 18th Late Mod E.
o There was a problem: there was another verbs contracted in the same way: had: ‘d. Both remained in this form from 18th.
o The auxiliary “have” =’ve. After a consonant, this construction is identical in pronunciation as the preposition “of” (unstressed form): She would have(əv) come; ane The wood of(əv)the tree. Some people produced wrong spellings because they sound the same.
Verb forms that appeared in Mod E:
- Progressive tense: combination of to be + present participle: I was reading. Rarely we find it in OE, but they were current at the 17th.
- Progressive passive: He is being told. Found in Late Mod E, in the late 18th.
- Presence of impersonal and reflexive contructions:
o The impersonal of a type: It dislikes me. It is not in the present English, because today we say: I dislike it, because of the tendency to follow the order SVO. The dative was transformed as subject: me thinks (in Shakes peare language) is It seems to me.
o Reflexives that now are not ini use: In Early Mod E: I doubt me, that means I repent me (me arrepiento).
- some verbs that were considered transitives and now are intransitives:
o Give me leave to speak him. Today we say: to speak to him
o Smile you my speeches? = Do you smile at my speeches?