Spelling Change

Spelling change in Language change

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  • Spelling Change
    • The Alphabet
      • The anglo-saxons used the symbols þ and ? fr 'th', they are still used in the phonetic alphabet
      • Fairy 'e'. -Richard Mulcaster (16th century) suggested that the letter 'e' should be added to words of one syllable with a vowel in them to show readers that the vowel was a long one.
        • However, some printers gave the fairy 'e' to words that didn't fit the rule and so we have words like 'give' 'some' done'
      • The English Language is not consistent with graphemes, as there are 7 ways to use the grapheme /i/
    • Pronunciation
      • Many spelling problems today can be put down to the fact that pronunciation of words varies from region to region. And that pronunciation has changed many times over the years but the written letters and words have not kept pace.
      • During the 15th century the Great Vowel Shift altered the pronunciation of all vowels containing long vowels.
      • Speech changes faster than writing so many spellings reflect an earlier pattern of pronunciation.
    • Writing and Printing
      • The early scribes in England were monks and nuns; after the 12th century professional scriveners too their place.
        • Words has to be clear to read, e.g. wonder is not wunder, as there would be too many loops.
        • Writing had to fit onto the page
      • Caxton introduced the printing press in 1476, he influenced the spelling system permanently.
        • He selected East Midlands dialect, so the speech of London is linked to standard English.
        • He trained in Holland and borrowed some of the Dutch spelling, such as the 'gh' in 'ghost' comes from Dutch.
    • Fashion
      • After the Norman conquest, French letter patterns were brought in such as 'qu' instead 'cw' because it was thought to be better.
      • In the 16th century writers added extra letters to existing words to make them more Latinate.
    • Dictionaries
      • Dr Samuel Johnson (1755) took 7 years to complete the two volumes of his first dictionary, It was regarded the first English dictionary.
      • Most Modern dictionaries are based on the Oxford English Dictionary.
    • Foreign Influences
      • In the 15th/16th century, European scholars became interested in the ideas of ancient Greeks and Romans and so new words came into English.
      • Words were borrowed from many cultures, some were Anglicised and some were not.


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