Chronological division in the history of English: the Early New English period
Traditional periodization divides English into 3 periods – old English, middle English, new English.
1475(printing) - the start of the New English period
Early New English 1475- 1660 , first printed book by William Caxton in 1475 . Literary Renaissance. The growth of the great English Nation was accompanied by the formation of the English Language .
Early ME was a time of sweeping changes at all levels – lexical and phonetic. New bourgeois society was the reason for growth of vocabulary, new words from internal and external sources enriched vocabulary. Extensive phonetic changes were transforming the vowel system => gap between written and spoken forms. Grammatical forms and syntactical constructions were almost same with Modern E, but their use was different.
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The Formation of the National Literary English languagethought to be 15th -17th cent.
Factors, led to this development:
1. the unification of the country
2. the progress of culture.
Increased foreign contacts affected the wordstock.
Processes played an important role in the unification of the English language:
1. the changes in the economic and social conditions
2. the intermixture of people coming from different regions
3. the growth of towns with a mixed population
4. the strengthening of social ties between the various regions.
In the 15th and 16th centuries England needed a uniform standard language to make further progress. The making of the English nation was connected with the formation of the national English language.
The universities at Oxford and Cambridge (founded as early as the 12th century) - centres of new learning in England. Education ceased to be the privilege of the clergy; it spread to laymen and people of lower social ranks: the lower nobility, merchants and artisans. After the reformation (1534) teachers and tutors could be laymen as well as clergymen.
The main subject in schools - Latin; the English language - instrument in teaching Latin. Scientific and philosophical treatises were written in Latin, an international language. => The enrichment of the English vocabulary.
The invention of printing had the most immediate effect on the development of the language.
The art of “artificial writing” was invented in Germany in 1438; the first book in the English (1476, printed by William Caxton) - story of Troy. The total circulation of the books was about 10 000.
Printers used the London literary English (since the age of Chaucer) and modified in accordance with the linguistic changes that had taken place during the past hundred years. Cheap printed books became available all over England => the London form of speech spread in other regions (was imitated in the written words produced there). The form of the language used by the printers became the standard form of literary English recognised throughout the country.
Writers of the 15th century: Thomas Hoccleve (1370-1450) and John Lydgate (1370-1450), the disciples and imitators of Geoffrey Chaucer.
In the 16th century: Thomas More (1478-1535), who wrote both in Latin and in English, and William Tyndale, the famous translator of the Bible. His translation of the New Testament was first published in Worms in 1525. All versions of the bible in English and first of all King James’ Bible(1611), which was officially approved and spread were largely based on Tyndale’s translation.
The progress of literature and drama in the late 16th and early 17th centuries are linked up with an enrichment of the language. William Shakespeare (1564) and his contemporaries (Edmund Spencer, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon, Philip Sidney, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher and others) wrote in the Early New English literary language, which was represented by a wide variety of literary styles and was characterised by a rapid growth of the vocabulary, freedom in creating new words and meanings, and versatility of grammatical construction.
The early 16th century: John Cheke, a scholar of Cambridge and a pioneer among spelling reformers, proposed that all letters should be consistently doubled to indicate length – a practice very regularly employed before his time; Thomas Smith set out a new alphabet of 34 letters to the same object.
The greatest English phonetician of the 16th century was John Hart (“ An Orthographie”, 1569): the changing values of the letters brought about by the change in the sounds. His proposed reforms of the English spelling, however, were as unsuccessful as those of his contemporaries.
Richard Mulcaster (The Elementarie, 1582) admitted that no spelling could record the changing sounds. He suggested that traditional spelling should be employed as before, but wherever possible, should be made more consistent: words pronounced alike should be spelt in the same manner, through analogy.
The written form of the English language became standardised earlier than its spoken form. The literary form of English came into existence in the age of Chaucer, was fixed and spread with the introduction of printing and was further developed as the national English literary language during the rise of literature in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The question of sources and dating for the standard superdialect form of the spoken literary language is more problematic. Its formation had the same basics as the linguistic unity in the sphere of writing. The earliest date suggested as the time of the formation of the spoken standard is the end of the 17th century; some authorities refer it to the period of “fixing the pronunciation” (the 18th century), yet others believe that the process is not over to this day.
The first references to a form of speech superior to other forms are found in the works of the earliest phoneticians: John Hart (16th century). In the 17th century the type of speech used in London and in the Universities was unanimously proclaimed the best type of English.
17th century: the gap between the written language and the spoken language became narrower. Spread of education => more people learned to speak “correctly”. Standard speech was distinguished from local dialect upon the 18th century (insisted in the grammars and dictionaries).
By the 17th century the tongue of London (the basis of the spoken standard) had absorbed many new features of the local dialects, because:
1. the country was more unified
2. the ties between its regions strengthened,
3. and the population of London had become still more mixed.
The tongue of the middle class of London had become closer to the tongue of the common people. In the turbulent 17th century – the age of the English Revolution –people of lower ranks joined the upper and middle classes => speech assumed many of the features of the lower varieties of English.
The spoken form of the literary language is not stable even now: + professional jargon, social dialects or local dialects => the spoken standard comes into the written standard.
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