Linguistica Inglese (Storia della lingua dalle origini e Lessicografia)
OE: ða twa bec awende
PDE I translate the two books
(note that the OE verb inflection clearly marked the person, and the pronoun could therefore be
omitted, like Latin and PDItalian)
Old English Lexis
- Marked germanic character (basic lexis, processes of word formation, vocabulary expansion)
- Toponymy from Anglo-Saxon invaders
- Celtic substratum
- Three different sources of Latin loans: Celts-Romans contact in Britain (55-410 AD); Contact
between the Romans and the Germanic people on the Continent (Angles, Jutes, Saxons before they
moved to Britain); Latin evangelizers from Rome after 600 AD. Each had a different impact, it
happened at a different historical periods, it affected different semantic fields
- Old Norse influence: semantic loans; phonological loans; lexical (loanwords); place-names
West Saxon Standard
- Age of predominance of the West Saxon standard was the 9th century
- Crucial contribution given by King Aelfred the Great, who defeated the Scandinavians, unified the
English territories and embarked on a process of cultural reconstruction that is still celebrated to this
- The primacy of the West Saxon dialect was due to external factors: political and cultural
predominance. Although the West Saxon variety became an influential literary language, it is not
the direct ancestor of modern standard English, which is mainly derived from an Anglian dialect.
Old English Alphabet
Old English was first written in the runic alphabet (Futhor alphabet), which consisted of 24 letters:
The letters consisted of intersecting straight lines, purpose for engraving on stone, metal, wood and
bone. → no long texts
Then came latin alphabet, which was more practical for longer texts like the Bible.
When the Latin alphabet was introduced it became the standard alphabet, because of the ease with
which it was written and it was the vehicle of a great culture.
A number of adaptations took place to represent those sounds that did not exist in Latin:
(w, th, ae -palatalised a- ):
ƿ = wynn (joy) æ = ash from OE Latin alphabet as modification of lat. diphthong <ae>
On the other hand, sounds of Latin not necessary for OE were dropped, it is the case of <q>
reintroduced only later.
Example: A cognate with other Germanic languages: Old Saxon quan, Old Norse kvan, Gothic
quens, originally a woman, a wife.
Semantic evolution: Queen = woman > female sovereign (narrowing)
Quean = woman > impudent woman, spec. prostitute (pejoration)
(Swedish kvinna has remained the neutral term for woman)
Broadening: OE holy day (religious feast) > PDE holiday (general break from work)
Broadening /narrowing: OE docga= a particular breed of dog > PDE dog = all breeds
OE hund= all breeds of dog > PDE hound = specific breed
OE steorfan (to die, for any cause) > PDE to starve (to die from lack of food) → narrowing
Example 2: ME nyht, nicht,nicst, nihht, neyȝt, nichte, niȝht... → night (PDE)
From the point of view of spelling the term is very unstable, but there is phonological
Whichever graphic strategy is used the presence of <h>, <ch>, <hh>, <ȝ>, <ȝh> indicates that the
sound /h/ was still being pronounced and heard.
Why does the spelling becomes so problematic and unstable?
After the Norman Conquest, French scribes introduced several new spelling conventions. A number
of OE forms were replaced, such as <qu> for <cw>, <gh> for <h>, <ou> for <u> in house…
Spelling and pronunciation
There is no notion of ‘correct’ spelling before the beginning of stabilization.
Stabilization gradually emerged after the introduction of the printing press and especially Caxton’s
choice of the London standard as a printing norm (but printers from the Netherlands also introduced
idiosyncratic practices, eg. Ghost) th th
Debate about how words should be written was rife in the 16 and 17 centuries (should it borrow
from Latin? Should it coin new terms? Should the spelling conform to the pronunciation or conform
to the etymology of words? And so on…)
An even more dramatic change was brought about by the first dictionaries, which established a
Battle of Hastings 1066 → social consequences: a new elite in power
Linguistic consequence: Anglo-Norman, or Norman French, spoken on the island
William of Malmesbury, De Gestis Regum Anglorum (1100-1125 ca)
Nulla hodie Anglus uel dux, uel pontifex, uel abbas; aduenae quique diuitias et uiscera corrodunt
Angliae, nec ulla spes est finiendae miseriae
→ There is today no English lord, nor bishop nor abbot; foreigners erode the wealth and the heart of
England, and there is no hope that this desolation will end
Principles of language change
- Analogy → modelling a form in relation to an already existing one (-s in all the plurals, -ed in the
simple past of weak verbs)
- Economy → weak syllables > silent syllables
- Conditioned or unconditioned sound changes, difficult to know why
- Contact between people: loans, military conquest, migration, political predominance,
christianization, technological innovation.
Pidginisation → grammatically simplified variety that develops between two or more groups that do
not have a common language but need to communicate. (ie. Contact between Scandinavian people
The year 1066 marks the beginning of a new social and linguistic era in Britain.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Peterborough MS for 1137
Ðis gære for þe king Stephne ofer sæ to Normandi; & ther wes underfangen, forþi ðat hi uuenden
ðat he sculde ben alsuic alse the eom wes, & for he hadde get his tresor; ac he todeld it & scatered
sotlice. Micel hadde Henri king gadered gold & syluer, & na god ne dide me for his saule tharof. Þa
þe king Stephne to Englaland com, þa macod he his gadering æt Oxeneford. & þar he nam þe
biscop Roger of Serebyri, & Alexander biscop of Lincol & te canceler Roger, hise neues, & dide
ælle in prisun til hi iafen up here castles. Þa the suikes undergæton ðat he milde man was & softe
& god, & na iustise ne dide, þa diden hi alle wunder. Hi hadden him manred maked & athes suoren,
ac hi nan treuthe ne heolden. Alle he wæron forsworen & here treothes forloren, for æuric rice man
his castles makede & agænes him heolden; & fylden þe land ful of castles.
bold: remaining OE features
italic: innovations of French origin
( This year went the King Stephen over sea to Normandy, and there was received; for that they concluded that he
should be all such as the uncle was; and because he had got his treasure: but he dealed it out, and scattered it
foolishly. Much had King Henry gathered, gold and silver, but no good did men for his soul thereof. When the
King Stephen came to England, he held his council at Oxford; where he seized the Bishop Roger of Sarum, and
Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and the chancellor Roger, his nephew; and threw all into prison till they gave up
their castles. When the traitors understood that he was a mild man, and soft, and good, and no justice executed,
then did they all wonder. They had done him homage, and sworn oaths, but they no truth maintained. They were
all forsworn, and forgetful of their troth; for every rich man built his castles, which they held against him: and
they filled the land full of castles. )
Middle English dialectal areas:
North → influenced by the contact with the Danes, innovative
Centre → fragmentary and without conventions;
Southern/ Kentish → conservative, with highly idiosyncratic characteristics.
Middle English Spelling
ME spelling was extremely diversified in comparison to OE spelling.
The Norman scribes listened to the English they heard and began to spell it according to their
<qu> for /kw/ (cf. queen and OE cwen) <gh> for /x/ (cf. night/niȝt and OE niht)
<ch> for /tʃ/ (cf. chirche and OE cirice) <c> for /s/ before e and i, (e.g. cercle and cell)
<sch> or <sh> for /ʃ/ (cf. s(c)hip and OE scip)
Middle English morphosyntax
Middle English pronouns
Middle English Lexis
As new words arrived, there were many cases where they duplicated words that had already existed
in English. Two outcomes:
1. One word supplant the other
2. Both would co-exist, but develop slightly different meanings:
doom vs. judgement, hearty vs. cordial, house vs. mansion
The simultaneous borrowing from French and Latin led to a highly distinctive feature of ME
sets of three lexical items all expressing the same fundamental notion but differing slightly in
meaning or style → kingly vs. royal vs. regal
Outline of points covered
- Standardization as a long and complex process:
1. English supplants French and Latin in all domains
2. One variety must gain prominence over others
3. Codification (lesson 7)
- Diatopic variation in Medieval England
- The four language standards:
a)Wycliffite dialect: John Wycliffe (c.1330-84), translation of the Bible, religious writings from the
b)First London Standard (1300-50): Essex, Greater London (the language of the Provisions of
c)Second London Standard (1350-1400): Chaucer English, linguistically mixed character
d)Chancery Standard (from 1430s onwards): mixed character, a professional variety
The Provisions of Oxford
- King Henry III (1216-1272)
- Dated 18 October 1258
- Compiled in Latin, French and English
- First example of the official use of English since William the Conqueror
The Provisions of Oxford are an enforcement and confirmation of the ‘Magna Carta Libertatum’
stipulated in 1215. The king’s proclamations were sent into all counties of England and issued in
three languages in order to reach everybody.
Kentish: The Ayenbite of Inwyt
• Date: 1340, Arundel MS 57
• Dialect: Kentish
• Author or scribe: Dan Michel of Northgate
• Form / Genre: prose / treatise, Close literal translation of a French work Somme le Roi
• Linguistic value: conservative Kentish dialect
• Instruction for laymen: ‘This boc is ymad for lewede men, Vor vader and vor moder and vor other
Kentish translation (Ayenbite of Inwyt, 1340)
Verst zigge we of þe zenne of glotounye þet is a vice þet þe dyevel is moche myde y-payd and
moche onpayþ God.
[…] and þo hi weren [...]
East midlands translation (The Book of Vices and Virtues, 1350c.)
First wole we speke of þe synne of glotonye, for þat is a defaute and an yvel þat wondre moche
likeþ þe devel and myche myslykeþ God
[…] and whan þei were [...]
Date: 1382 to 1395, a group of Bible translations, over 250 mss
Dialect: East Midlands
Author or scribe: team under the direction of John Wycliffe, the English philosopher, Oxford
professor, theologian and religious dissident.
Versions: two, the earlier translated during Wycliffe’s life, the later continued by John Purvey, of
Wycliffe’s idea was to translate the Bible into the vernacular, he said that ‘it helpeth Christian men
to study the Gospel in that tongue in which they know best Christ’s sentence’
Latin Vulgate: Dixitque Deus fiat lux et facta est lux
Early Wycliffe: And God seide, Be maad liȝt; and maad is liȝt
Later Wycliffe: And God seide, Liȝt be maad; and liȝt was maad
KJB (1611): And God said, let there be light: and there was light
Later Wycliffe: For God louede so the world, that he ȝaf his oon bigetun sone, that ech man that
bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf.
KJB (1611): For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life
The rise of English
rise of a new entrepreneurial middle class, rise in production in english, process of “englishing”.
Richard II (1377-1399) supposedly the first english mother tongue since Harold.
Many dialectal varieties (Northern, West Midland, East Midland, East Anglia, Kentish, Southern)
→ which english will become the standard?
London becomes the most important economic, political centre of Medieval English. It has the
highest population, it is at the junction of three dialectal areas.
London hasn't always been the capital, in OE it was Winchester (south-central part)
After the Norman invasion the estuary of the Thames was raised to the status of capital: it became
the seat of government and king + nearby town of Westminster (now neighbourhood) was a main
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
The forms of the 3rd p. pl.: Chaucer has hem, hir(e) which corresponds to the later them, their(e)
Chaucer still has a /j-/ at the beginning of the verb ‘give’, e.g. yeue ‘give’. This is replaced in the
15th century by an initial /g-/ which has its source in a Scandinavian pronunciation in the North.
Thanne were ther yonge povre scolers two,
That dwelten in this halle, of which I seye.
Then there were two young poor scholars, [SVO]
Who dwelt in this hall, of which I tell. [rel. pronoun, verb]
Chancery English (London)
The spelling and morphology of Chancery English was conservative. It also developed a distinctive
handwriting. It is clear that already by the 15th century the language of the Chancery was not a
regional variety but a mixed form of English which was used as a general means of
communication between dialects.
- Spelling becomes more standardised and the pace of grammatical change slows down
- More dialects emerge compared to the Old English era. West Saxon is now Southern;
Northumbrian is Northern; Mercian splits into West Midlands and East Midlands; Kentish is the
most conservative and it still encompasses the south east
(NB In Scotland, the dialect diverges radically from English dialects and it adopts Gaelic words and a unique
pronunciation. The change is dubbed by some ‘Middle Scots’ to distinguish it from ME)
- The dialect of the East Midlands begins to establish itself as a form of ‘standard English’. This is
the most populous region of England and home to important social, administrative, and educational
centres, including the royal court at London
Which English? [summary]
Four language standards:
a) Wycliffite dialect (J. Wycliffe, 1330 – 84)
b) First London standard
c) Second London standard
d) Chancery standard (government office in Westminster, London) (from 1430s onwards)
th th th
[Early London English → late 13 and 14 century → late 14 century (Chaucer) → …]
From Middle to Early Modern English
The language meanwhile keeps on changing, new conditions come into play:
(a)Language variation and change (e.g., Great Vowel Shift)
(b)Printing from movable types (Caxton 1476)
(c)Education makes rapid progress / literacy becomes more common
(d)Travels, communication, explorations / the Renaissance
Great Vowel Shift
The GVS was a major change in the pronunciation that took place in Southern England between the
15 and the 18 centuries.
It was first studied by Otto Jespersen (1860–1943), a Danish linguist and Anglicist, who coined the
The values of the long vowels form the main difference between the pronunciation of ME and
ModE, and the GVS is one of the historical events marking the separation of ME and ModE.
The changes affected the seven long vowels in ME /a:, ɛː,e:, i:, ɔː,o:, u:/
Each vowel changed its sound quality, but the distinction between one vowel and the next was
The two front vowel /ɛː,e:/ did merge as /i:/, but not until the 18 c.
In two cases, just a single move was involved; in others, the shift had further consequences which
entailed other steps.
The series of changes was connected
A move in one of the vowels causing a move in another, and so on throughout the system.
a. Drag chain: the series started with the /i:, u:/ dropping to diphthong, opening their slot and
dragging the vowels to follow, so that /e:, o:/ raised
b. Push-chain: /e:, o:/ raised to /i:, u:/ pushing them to diphthongise and giving way to a move up in
the articulation for the lower and central vowels which could fill the slots left empty by raising
These sound changes are widely recorded:
- In the form of the order in which new spellings appeared, the use of new rhymes, and the
description of contemporary writers
- Competing systems of pronunciation reflected in rhymes: scene/green but also shade/mead
Language change: the GVS
- Principles of vowel shifting
The exact causes of the shift are continuing mysteries in linguistics and cultural history; some
theories attach the cause to the mass migration to the southeast part of England after the Black
Death, where the difference in accents led to certain groups modifying their speech to allow for a
standard pronunciation of vowel sounds.
The different dialects and the rise of a standardised middle class in London led to changes in
pronunciation, which continued to spread out from that city.
- the arrival of the printing press → texts and books become more widely available → spread of
literacy, at least one person per middle-upper class family.
The printing revolution
The new invention gave an unprecedented impetus to the formation of a standard language and the
study of its properties.
Apart from fostering norms and spelling conventions, the availability of printing provided more
opportunities for people to write (and much wider circulation). Nearly 20,000 books are estimated
to have appeared from 1500 to 1650. The story of English thus became more definite.
William Caxton as a translator
The items printed by him can be grouped into 4 categories: His own translations, Works of the
English poets, Prose works in English, A miscellaneous group of works, probably for particular
He was a merchant –not a linguist or a scholar –he had to deal with major problems while
translating: Should he use foreign words or replace them by native English words? Which variety of
English should he follow? Which literary style should be used as a model? Should he change the
language of native writers so as to make it more widely understood?
Examples: ‘And certainly the language now used is very different from that which was used and
spoken when I was born’
‘I have translated this book into an English which is neither too coarse nor too refined, but using
phrases which are understandable, God willing’
First book he printed: The recuyell (collection) of the Historyes of Troy (printed in Bruges, France,
The first one printed in England was The canterbury tales
Selection and codification
[...] and specially he axyd after eggys. And the goode wyf answerde that she coude speke no
Frenshe. And the merchaūt was angry. for he also coude speke no frenshe. But wolde have hadde
egges/ and she understode hym not/ And thenne at laste a nother sayd that he wolde have eyren/
then the good wyfe sayd that she understood hym wel/ Loo what sholde a man in thyse dayes now
wryte. Egges or eyren.
egg, eggs(< OE æʒ, æʒru) takes in ME both pl. forms eggys (< Scandinavian loan) and eyren from
the OE weak declension of plurals in –en, think of children.
Spread of Literacy
The Paston Letters are a large corpus of letters between members of the Paston family (Norfolk
gentry) and others connected with them between 1422 and 1509. From landed gentry to second
generation access to education and rising professional status as lawyers, JP, local govt and
connections through marriage. Letters between members in London and the family estate in
Queen Elizabeth I established the power of Britain on the seas;
Two main policies followed by the Queen:
- To encourage English sailors, John Hawkins and Francis Drake, to attack and destroy Spanish
ships (e.g. the defeat of tSpanish Armada).
- To encourage English traders to settle abroad and create colonies
a. Since the 17 century English trading companies in India and participation to the slave trade in
b. Starting from the 17th century stable colonies established in America, Australia, New Zealand,
Canada, The Caribbean and South Africa.
c. Later on in the 19 century colonial empire in Asia and Africa.
During the 16 century there was a flood of new publication in English, prompted by a new interest
in the classical languages and literatures, and in the rapidly developing fields of science, medicine,
and the arts. This period, from the time of Caxton until around 1650, was later to be called the
‘Renaissance’. It included the Reformation, the discoveries of Copernicus, the European
exploration of Africa and the Americas.
The effects of these fresh perspectives on the English language were immediate & far-reaching
Unprecedented breadth and inventiveness in the use of English (especially in the area of
vocabulary). It has been estimated that the period around 1530 and the Restoration (1660) displayed
the fastest lexical growth in the history of the language.
Nearly half of the of the new words were borrowings from the many cultures with which English
was coming into contact; the remainder were different types of word formation using native
Shakespeare’s influence on the language
Shakespeare and King James Bible: greatest influence on EmodE, especially as documents of
current usage and for lexical creativity as a source of usage.
Shakespeare’simpact on English lexis:
a) neologisms still in use: accommodation (Oth.), assassination (Macb.), barefaced (MND), cat-like
(AYLI), count-less (Titus), downstairs (1HenryIV), go-between (Merry), laughable (Merchant),
long-legged (MND), priceless (Rape), successful (Titus), well-read (Taming);
b) forgotten neologisms: abruption, appertainments, cadent, persistive;
c) conversion: I am proverb’d with a grandsire phrase(R&J), Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no
uncle (Richard II), It out-herods Herod(Haml)
d) from quotation to idiom: what the dickens (MerryWives), a foregone conclusion(Othello),
caviare to the general (Hamlet), it’s Greek to me (Julius Caesar), make a virtue of necessity
(Pericles), I must be cruel only to be kind (Hamlet), all our yesterdays (Macbeth), love is blind
Elizabethan theatre represents one of the most important influences on the development of the
language during the English Renaissance. In Shakespeare’s works we can find the first recorded
usage of a large number of words (about 2000 new words and phrases appear to have been invented
by him). The works of Shakespeare can be credited with having shown and popularised the
expressive power of English.
King James Bible
The King James Bible (a.k.a. Authorised Version of the Bible or KJV) was published in 1611
- Enormous influence on the development of the language
- The new translation was the work of about 50 scholars and it was based on bibles previously
circulating in England (Bishop’s, Geneva, Tyndale, also based on Wyclif Bible)
- As stated in the preface ‘to make a good translation better’
By the mid 18 century it had become the most influential version, perceived as a masterpiece of
the English language. It contributed 257 idioms to English.
- A conservative style
Many irregular verbs are found in older forms
[digged(‘dug’), gat (‘got’), bare (‘bore’), holpen(‘helped’), wit/wist/wist(‘know’, cf. D wissen, SV
Archaic lexis and syntax [twain (the two of them), things eternal, cakes unleavened, they knew him
Early Modern English
There is no doubt that an EModE period needs to be recognised.
Between the time of Chaucer (15thc.) and Johnson (18thc.) the language continues to change in
quite noticeable ways. Reading a modern novel does not require the same kind of effort or editorial
elaboration as is needed to understand Shakespeare.
There is no consensus about when the EmodE period begins:
- The Great Vowel Shift (1 half of 15 c.)
- Printing revolution (around 1500)
- Shakespeare (1564–1616)
- The King James Bible (1611)
Early Modern English features
- Spelling / othrographic inconsistence: eggys, egges, eyren; love, loffe; yore, yowre; etc...
- Phonology complete reconfiguration of the system
Subj/verb concordance: My old bones akes (Tempest 3.3.2)
Double negatives: I cannot go no further (AYLI 2.4.)
Negatives: and she understode hym not (Caxton, Eneydos)
Plurals: You shew’d your teethes like Apes
Comparatives: This was the most vnkindest cut of all
Verbs: It is the Larke that sings so out of tune (R&J 3.5.27) vs The Bird of Dawning singeth all
night long (Hamlet 1.1.161); and if they be never so wroth (Paston); I beseech you that this bill be
not seene (Paston)
My life is run his compass > my life has run its compass
I cannot go no further > I cannot go any further Me thinks he did > I think he did
Says she so? > Does she say so?
The Great Vowel Shift is responsible for many of the peculiarities of English spelling.
Throughout this period /r/ was sounded before consonants and at the end of a word, as is suggested
by the way it is preserved in the modern spelling → jar, corn, fire,etc.
It stopped being pronounced in RP during the 18thcentury, with various effects on the previous
vowels → Diphthong (peer, bear), lengthened (barn, corn)
The palato-alveolar fricative (voiced) /ʒ/ emerged in the 17thc. as a development of /zj/ → Vision,
occasion, measure, pleasure + French loans: garage, beige.
Spelling and orthography
- Even a generation after Caxton, the writing system remained highly inconsistent. Foreign printers
introduced native conventions (ghost); Proofreading was not always carried out by educated people,
so that errors were promulgated. → Publication of spelling guides and writing manuals
- Vowels came to be spelt in a more predictable way: Long vowel: double vowel (e.g. soon),
silent –e (e.g. Name); Short vowel: doubled consonant (e.g. well and glass) not systematic
- 1630s: standardisation of the use of <v> and <u>
- The influence of etymology on spelling
- Phonological spelling → E.g. sartinlyfor certainly
- Etymological spelling (false etymologies), e.g. island (ME yland-OE igland) but influence of isle
from Lat. Insula; scissors spelling influenced from Lat. sciss-= cut but the in fact from FR cisoires.
A look forward: Johnson’s dictionary
But it was not until Samuel Johnson completed A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755 that
the lexicon received its first authoritative treatment. Over a 7-year period, he wrote the definitions
of about 40,000 words, illustrating their use from the best authors since the time of the
Elizabethans. The dictionary conferred stability on the spelling of English, to the extent that most of
Johnson’s choices are found in modern practice.
Some definitions in Johnson’s Dictionary have become famous: LEXICOGRAPHER: A writer of
dictionaries; a harmless, drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the
signification of words. OATS: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in
Scotland supports the people. TORY: One who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and
the apostolical hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to whig. WHIG: The name of a faction.
- The third person singular present has an alternate inflection: -(e)th (progressively more solemn)
and -s (Northern form): ‘With her, that hateth thee and hates vs all (Shakespeare, Henry IV)
- The second person singular was marked in both the present and past tenses with -st or -est(e.g., in
the past tense, walkedst or gav'st)
- The subjunctive becomes almost indistinguishable from the indicative tenses.
- The plural form of nouns established as in ModE
- Second-person personal pronouns: thou, informal singular / ye, plural and formal singular (Fr.
tu/vousand It. tu/voidistinction)
- my and thy became mine and thine before words beginning with vowel or h (mine eyes, thine
- There was a significant stylistic development in sentence structure:
In ME the sentences tended to be loose and linear, with repeated coordinating linkers
The influence of Latin syntactic style on English became marked in the 16th c.
- New conjunctions emerged: because vs. for (that)
- Development of do auxiliary, valid alternative constructions: cf. Says she so? and Does she say
so? Believe him not! and Don’t believe him!
They do offend our sight (Henry V) (in declarative affirmatives no extra emphasis, unlike today)
English was considered an inferior language: mis-spelt (orthography), unruled (grammar), rude
(limited lexical store), barbarous (rhetorically inadequate)
English was overall considered less prestigious than Italian and French.
Latin was considered a superior language, it was the international language for religion, culture and
science (Copernico, Galileo, Cartesio, Harvey 1628)
F. Bacon: Advancement of Learning (1605) vs Novum Organum (1620)
I. Newton: Principia (1689) vs Optics (1704)
- Disputes as to how the English language should respond to the new needs.
Three main attitudes and schools of thought:
1. Neologizers: welcoming loanwords(from Latin and other languages)
2. Purists: using existing words (composition, semantic widening or specialization)
3. Archaizers: reviving archaic, obsolete or dialectal words
Translators and popularizers adopt loanwords from other languages, especially Latin: vacuum,
equilibrium, area, radius, calculus, caveat, affidavit, miser, circus; from Gk anonymous, criterion,
lexicon, misanthrope, polemic; Re-borrowings from Latin/Greek: episcopus, discus >OE biscop
(bishop), disc (dish), EModE episcopal, disc
- The French ‘model’: (ME) condition, extortion >(EModE) affirmation, negation
- Synonyms and explanatory glosses in texts help: animate or gyve courage to others; persist and
continue; education or bringing up of children; circumspection, which signifieth as moch as
beholdynge on everyparte; explicating or unfolding (Sir Thomas Elyot)
Enlarging the lexicon by using the existing resources of the language: derivation, composition,
Cheke, Matthew’s Gospel: biwordes / parables, hunderder / centurion, tollers / publicans,
onwriting / superscription, washing / baptism, vprising / resurrection; freschman / proselyte,
gainbirth / regeneration, gainrising / resurrection, mooned / lunatic;
A puristic attitude of a sort still found in the following centuries.
Obsolete and dialectal words being revived
- Chaucerisms, words from Chaucers’s works (although in the following century purists would
criticize Chaucer because of his introduction of loanwords)
- Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender (1579): algate / always, eld / old age, gar/ cause, make, sicker
/ certainly, soote / sweet, stour / conflict, underfong / receive, yblent / confused, yfere / together,
yode / went;
- from Spenser and other archaizers: belt, bevy, fortright, glen, glee, drizzling, surly, glance,
blandishment, birthright, endear, enshrine, fleecy, wary, gaudy, gloomy, merriment, shady, verdant,
The Inkhorn Controversy
The first time in the history of the English language that speakers actively debated over language
Part of the language revolution that was taking place in the 16th-17th centuries = growing
awareness, printing press, official translation of the Bible, expanding world…
Inkhorn terms = foreign borrowing deliberately introduced into the language, largely by scholars,
deemed unnecessary, overly pretentious or “artificial” at risk of obscurity, affectation, pomposity.
Sir John Cheke’s letter to Th. Hoby, included in Hoby’s translation of Castiglione’s Cortegiano,
1561: I am of this opinion that our own tung should be written cleane and pure, vnmixt and
unmangeled with borowing of other tunges, wherin if we take not heed by tijm, euer borowing and
neuer payeng, she shall be fain to keep her house as bankrupt.
Expression of fear for English to become corrupt
Thomas Wilson, Arte of Rhetorique (1553): plainness as an ideal.
Fundamental contest bewteen English and Latin as the language of science and learning in England,
a period of contestation of the cultural supremacy of Latin / desire of empowerment and
emancipation for English.
Language awareness in Shakespeare
- Lexicon: I did converse this quondam day with a companion of the king's, who is intituled,
nominated, or called, Don Adriano de Armado (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
- Lexicon: By my sweet soul, I mean setting thee at liberty, enfreedom-ing thy person: thou wert
immured, restrained, captivated, bound (Love's Labour's Lost)
- Orthography and phonology: I abhor such fanatical phantasims, such insociable and point device
companions, such rackers of orthography, as to speak dout fine, when he should say doubt; det,
when he should pronounce debt; d e b t, not det: he clepeth a calf, cauf; half, hauf; neighbour
vocatur nebour; neigh abbreviated ne: this is abhominable, which he would call abominable. It
insinuateth me of insanire: ne intelligis domine, to make frantic, lunatic (Love’s Labour’s Lost).
Main historical, sociolinguistic events:
- Printing revolution (around 1500)
- Literacy and education
- Trade, travel, the Renaissance and vocabulary expansion
- The role of Shakespeare (1564–1616) and of KJV of the Bible (1611)
Changes and variation in phonology, morphosyntax and vocabulary:
- The Great Vowel Shift (1st half of 15th c.), morphological simplification
- Examples of variation in synchrony
Emerging of ModEorthographic system
Language and metalinguistic awareness
Debates: over the vocabulary and over the use of English
Dialogue between two gentlemen…
Wel mette my ser[…] Howe long haue you been here in this Realme?
I hauebeen here about a yeare.
How haue you done to learne to speake English so soone?
I haue learned English by reading.
May a man learne a language so soone, by reading?
Yea sir, a man may learne it.
Certis I wold not haue thought it: what thinke you of this English tongue, tel me, I pray you?
It is a language that wyl do you good in England, but passe Douer, it is woorth nothing.
Is it not vsed then in other countreyes?
No sir, with whom wyl you that they speake?
With English marchants.
English marchantes, when they are out of England, it liketh them not, and they doo not speake it.
Kachru's model of World Englishes (1985- 1992)
Cause of spread: settlement by first language English speakers
Pattern of acquisition: as a native language
Functional allocations: all functions
Countries: UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand
Cause of spread: Colonisation
Pattern of acquisition: as a second language
Functional allocations: administration, education, literature
Countries: e.g. India, Kenya, Singapore
Cause of spread: Globalisation
Pattern of acquisition: as a foreign language
Functional allocations: tourism, diplomacy, business
Countries: e.g. China, Japan, most countries in Europe
The spread of English
(English civil war 1642 – 1651) → key moment for the development of the country
Colonial, industrial power of GB in 18 and 19 century → spread of the language
industrial revolution → the vocabulary had originated in english → english specialised vocabulary
British empire → ¼ Earth surface → english adopted foreign words, pidgin languages were born
Early english territorial expansionism begins in 12 century
Trade, exploration and conquest bring English in contact with other languages, so the discussion of
the history of the language begins to (extensively and systematically) involve the discussion of the
relationships between British native speakers and members of other speech communities
Colonisation > Asymmetrycal relationships → linguistic consequences: political incorporation;
dialect levelling; nationalistic reactions; new varieties.
Useful and important linguistic concepts:
Substratum (low) vs superstratum (high) (stratum= language that influences or is influenced by
another through contact)
Diglossia (speech community uses two languages, formal and evereyday)
Different kinds of variation (accent/register, gender/race, sociolect/ethnolect, and other v...)
Early English territorial expansionism, since late 12th c., Celtic-speaking areas
Early colonial process as a model for forthcoming colonization worldwide
Varieties of English spoken in Scotland and Ireland to influence the development of WE by means
of Scotch and Irish emigrants
- Wales, Scotland, Ireland
Second phase (inner + outer circle)
North America and Canada: early 17th century (Britain vs Spain, Portugal, France)
West Indies: asa result of the 17 century slave trade
Australia: 1770, Capt. James Cook
New Zealand: 1769-70, Capt. James Cook, a colony since1840s
South Africa: since 1795-1806 (Napoleonic wars), 1820
India: 1612 trading station in Surat; British rule 1765-1947
West/East Africa: commerce since 15 c., 19 c. explorations and exploitation
South Pacific (UK + USA):
-1819: Singapore founded by the British East India Company
-1842: at the end of the first Opium War (1839-42), Hong Kong to the UK-1898: the USA control
the isle of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean
World English(es) in historical perspective
1.More conservative than British English
2.Differences among varieties depend on colonizers’ home variety
3.Differentiation and dialect levelling
4.Colonies as meeting places –mutual influence of languages
5.Language changes to highlight different varieties
6.English as the source of pidgins and creoles
7.Different influences and a search for identity
8.Political dimension of different varieties
(1) More conservative than British English
Some features of AmE derive from 17 century English because colonizers were linguistically
- ME /a/ :
> EmodE /æ/ man, cat, thatAmE /æ/
> EmodE /a:/ glass, path; danceAmE /æ/
- ME not /nat/
Chaucer, CT: And he was natright fat, […] For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye, I saugh nat this
yeer so myrie a compaignye
ME not /nat/ > EmodE /nɔt/ (later rounding) vs AmE not /nat/
- AmE mad ‘angry’, fall ‘autumn’, I guess ‘I think/suppose’ all reflect ME usages not lost in PD
(2) Differences depend on hom e variety
Earliest (successful) British settlements in America
1)1607 Chesapeake Bay (later Jamestown), Virginia
colonizers came from West Britain (Somerset, Gloucestershire)
/s/ voicing to /z/, strong pronunciation of /r/ after vowels (typical features of Shakespeare’s English,
still present in the area)
2)Nov. 1620: Pilgrim Fathers were driven by a tempest to Cape Cod Bay, founded Plymouth,
Massacchusetts → 35 Puritans + 67 other colonizers, many of them from East Britain (Lincolnshire,
Nottinghamshire, Essex, Kent, London)
silent /r/ after vowels, still in New England pronunciation
(3) Differentiation and dialect levelling
Between 1620 and 1640 ca 25.000 British colonizers new shiploads of immigrants brought an
increasing variety of linguistic backgrounds:
Quakers (from Midlands and North of England) in Pennsylvania
1720s: ca 50.000 immigrants from Ireland and Scotland
By the time of the Revolution War (1775-1783), about 1/7 of the population were British
People speaking very different kinds of English thus found themselves living alongside each other.
The sharp divisions between regional dialects gradually began to blur and from speakers of different
varieties of English on the East coast to dialect levelling.
(4) Colonies and mutual influence of languages
Multilingualism in early modern America:
Spanish spoken in South America and southern regions of North America (Mexico, Florida,
Southwestern and Pacific Coastal regions) (imperial expansion)
French spoken in North America, areas along the St Lawrence river (connecting the Great Lakes to
the ocean) but also French Louisiana down to the Gulf of Mexico (imperial expansion)
Dutch spoken in/around New Amsterdam (since 1664, New York), founded in 1625 at the southern
tip of Manhattan Island, to defend the Dutch West India Company’s fur trade operations on the
Hudson River (commerce)
German (Pennsylvania Dutch) spoken in Pennsylvania by German-speaking immigrants from
Southwestern Germany (Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg), but also Alsatians, Dutch,
French Huguenots, Moravians, Swiss (religion)
African dialects → trans-Atlantic African slave trade developed pidgin, creole, AAVE (African
American Vernacular English)
Native American languages → nearly 300 indigenous languages (formerly) spoken
(5) Language changes to highlight different varieties
Dialect levelling but...
Early Canadian English derived from the same language mixture that produced New England
After the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776), loyalists fled to Canada (Nova Scotia, New
Brunswick: the Maritime Provinces)
Here postvocalic /r/ was pronounced, in order to distinguish the variety from the silent
postvocalic /r/ in New England; this was strengthened by /-r/ users from Britain.
(6) English as the source of pidgins and creoles
The first group of 20 African slaves was deported to Jamestown, Virginia on a Dutch ship in 1619.
By the American Revolution the slave population had grown to 500,000. When slavery was
abolished in 1865 at the end of the Civil War there were more than 4,000,000
1661 Virginia officially recognized slavery by statute
African people from the same families, regions and settlements were separated and forced on ships
together with people of different provenance, cultural backgrounds and language, so that plotting
rebellion might be more difficult.
Several pidgins developed in order to make communication between the slaves and the
Pidgins would in turn develop into creoles in the Caribbean.
(7) Different influences and a search for identity
The early colonial period of Australia’ s history starts in 1788, when the British landed at Sydney
(New South Wales) and established a penal colony there. Some 1500 people (over 700 convicts,
over 200 marines, about 300 officers and others)
- Solution to overcrowded British prisons system; convicts especially from London and Ireland
(Irish rebellion of 1798)
- Many convicts skilled tradesmen or farmers who had been convicted for trivial crimes and were
sentenced to seven years, the time required to set up the infrastructure for the new colony. Convicts
were often given pardons prior to or on completion of their sentences and were allocated parcels of
land to farm.
-Australianisms from British dialects: cobber (= friend, mate), tucker (=food)
-Australianisms from Aboriginal languages: kangaroo, koala
-Later influence from American English
-Delicate balance/tension between preserving British culture and promoting Australian identity
(through nationalism and internationalism without any specific British focus)
Similarly, New Zealand vs Australia:
-Stronger links with Britain
-National identity, emphasis on differences between New Zealand and Australia
-The Maori ethnic group(12% of the population)
4 mesi fa
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Ange(: di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Linguistica inglese e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Milano - Unimi o del prof Berti Barbara.
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