History of English Language Essay

History of English Language Essay

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In addition to his greatness as a writer in world literature, Shakespeare is one of the most important figures who left their fingerprints on the history of the English language. A close study of Shakespeare’s sonnet 34, onecan identify some changes that occurred to the English language in terms of morphology, vocabulary, and pronunciation. To begin with, the inflectional ending -st in didst (first line), which implies the second person singular simple past tense of do is an archaic usage and is absent in Present-day English PDE (OED). Baugh and Cable say: “it is apparent that in Shakespeare’s day there was much more latitude in the inflection of the verb than is permitted today” (242). Concerning lexical change, Shakespeare’s frequent use of pronoun thou (first line) has significantly decreased in usage in Present-Day English. Although thou has been recently used as early as 2012 according to COCA, its usage is limited to religious contexts as in “Guide me, oh, thou great your hold.” According to OED, thou isstill occurring in religious contexts “in prayers or hymns addressing God and in archaic language,” but has largely fallen out of use in PDE. Last but not least, pronunciation has largely changed since Shakespeare’s day. Rhyme is one of the evidences that show the difference in pronunciation during that time. For example, the vowel sounds in break and speak are distinct in PDE, but not in Shakespeare’s day, where break used to rhyme with speak as seen in line 5 and 7 respectively. Therefore, Shakespeare’s works have rhymes that only work in Original Pronunciation. [ɛː] [e] and [i] were distinct. These changes might be puzzling for modern readers’ ears because many of linguistic features, pronunciation in particular, have c...


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... has ever done before.
As you trace the development of spoken and written English, you'll learn how words denote social rank, how and why dialects arise and interact, and how the Anglo-Saxons, the Norman invasion, and British colonialism each left their marks on the words we use every day.
You'll learn, too, why spelling meant so much to Renaissance schoolmasters, and how Noah Webster, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, H. L. Mencken, and others helped to give us our familiar American English.
In conclusion, studying the history of the English language is useful for everyone because it helps us understand the present. With this knowledge, people can find the history of English embedded in the words they use, the literature they read, and the everyday lives they lead. They will learn about the past, but also see the making of their own present.

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