English origin

Early Modern English– The Next Innovation


The Renaissance brought with it the next wave of innovation in English. The period from 1400 to 1600 witnessed a couple of sound changes in English which led to the origin of Early Modern English. With new ideas surfacing, the English language had grown, borrowing words from French, Latin, and Greek. The prime focus of this page is Early Modern English origin. Read on to know more.

One major change seen in early Modern English was the removal of a vowel sounds at the end of the words in certain unstressed positions. Affecting thousands of words, it gave a different aspect to the whole language. Early Modern English period is often dated from the Great Vowel Shift, during the 15th century. English was further changed with the spread of a standardized London-based dialect in government and administration. The introduction of many classical Latin and Greek words into the Language was deliberate. With the introduction of many words from different languages, the spellings in English became variable. The risk of mispronunciation ran high.


By the time of William Shakespeare, the Early Modern English language had become clearly recognizable. Students having difficulty to understand Shakespeare, would be surprised to know that he wrote in modern English. Some 2,000 familiar words, phrases and countless idioms were first recorded by Shakespeare.


Two other foremost factors influencing the Early Modern English language were the Great Vowel Shift  and the advent of the printing press. These also served to divide Middle and Modern English. The Great Vowel Shift comprises of a change in pronunciation beginning around 1400. Vowel sounds were made further to the front of the mouth plus the letter "e" at the end of words was to become silent. The shift was rather unexpected and sudden in linguistic terms. Although the change has become more gradual, the shift is still not over.


The printing press was next major factor in the development of Early Modern English. In 1476, the printing press was brought to England by William Caxton. As a result, books became cheaper and literacy more common. As publishing became a profitable venture, English, as opposed to Latin, became more common. Bringing standardization to English, the dialect of London, became the standard. Spelling and grammar became fixed and the

the first English dictionary was published in 1604.


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