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Vowel Changes From Old To Modern English

1243 words - 5 pages

The Great Vowel Shift

English is a language spoken by millions of people world wide. In many countries in the world you can make yourself understood by speaking in English. English has not always been as it is today, not only did the writing change, but also the pronunciation has been through major changes. In this essay I will argue how pronunciation has changed in Britain from Old English, to Modern English.
Old English is the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons in Britain. The roots of Old English can be traced back to the Germanic languages. The Saxons, Angles, Jutes and Frisians came to Britain around the fifth century. The new immigrants became the new power in Britain, and ...view middle of the document...

Because of all the research the pronunciation of Old English is quite certain. Old English had six vowels a, æ, I, o, u and y. A was pronounced as ah, as in father, æ was pronounced as in cat, e as in fate, I as in feet, o as in boat, u as in tool, and y is pronounced like the German ü.[4]
After the Norman Invasion of 1066, the English language went through a big change. The rulers of England were no longer Anglo-Saxon Kings; all the high positions were taken over by the French. This had great influence on the language, because the Normans started to write Old English with the alphabet they knew. For example the Old English sc was replaced by sh or sch.[5] The changes in writing had influence on the writing of English, but the pronunciation also changed, Different sounds altered, some disappeared completely. The Old English a sound changed to an o sound, ban became bon, what today is pronounced as bone, and swa became so.[6] The h was a letter that was at the beginning of many Old English words such as hring ‘ring’ and hnecca ‘neck’[7]. Because French was such an important factor in English life, new contrasts emerged. French loan words came into the language and therefore new contrasts were needed. For example the v sound became much more important in Middle English to make a distinction between for example feel and veal. The different sounds for f and v were also found in Old English, but the sounds were not used to differentiate between words.[8] The sounds of Middle English during the time of Chaucer were very different from the sounds of today. A is pronounced as ah as in Ah! There you are, e is ay as in say, I is ee as in Gee, o is oh, and u is mostly oo as in who. The pronunciation of the vowels a, e, I, o, and u were pronounced as ah, ay, ee, oh, and oo[9]. How Middle English sounded during the time of Chaucer is very different from the pronunciation of late Middle English. The big difference is because of the Great Vowel Shift. The Great Vowel Shift was an important change in the English language; the changes in the sounds of the vowels took place at the end of the Middle English period. The changes did not happen overnight, it took two hundred years for some vowels to change. An example of the Great Vowel Shift is with I, it was first pronounced as ee, and later shifted to ai. E was first pronounced as ay, and later shifted to ee.[10] These examples are only a couple of the changes that occurred with the Great Vowel Shift.
English pronunciation continued to change during the Early Modern English period. The effects of the Great Vowel Shift that started in the...

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