Shakespearean English

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Publicat de: Todor Filimon
Cost: Gratis
Profesor îndrumător / Prezentat Profesorului: Gavriliu Iulia
Facultatea de Litere, Universitatea "Dunarea de Jos" Galati

Extras din curs

This final study session is intended to complete your knowledge about the evolution of the English language along the last half a millennium. This is the longest stage in the economics of the language history and it has witnessed inventions and innovations, historical, political, military and cultural events of paramount importance in the progress of humankind which inevitably have left their imprint on the English language.

By the end of this study you will be conversant with:

- The factors which further influenced the progress of the English language;

- Attitudes towards language which stood for a matter of national interest;

- Changes in the vocabulary and grammar of English before and after the 19th century;

- The cosmopolitan character of the 20th century English vocabulary.

22. Socio-historical Background.

The beginning of the Shakespearean English is conveniently placed at the beginning of the 16th century.

A chronology of the Shakespearean English major historical events

1475 - 1650 Renaissance loan words into English

1510 - 1514 Erasmus of Rotterdam teaches Greek at Cambridge

1516 Thomas More – Utopia – written in Latin

1535 English church abjures papal authority

1549 England declares war on France

1549 Book of Common Prayer written

1584 Roanoke settlement in America

1590 -1616 Shakespeare’s main works written

1604 Publication of Robert Cawdrey’s A Table Alphabeticall

1611 Authorized Version of the Bible

1712 Jonathan’s Swift’s proposal for an English Academy

1721 Publication of Nathaniel’s Bailey’s Universal Etymological English Dictionary

1755 Publication of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language

1762 Publication of Robert Lowth’s Short Introduction to English Language

1794 Publication of Lindley Murray’s English Grammar

1828 Publication of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language

1884 - 1928 Publication of the Oxford English Dictionary

New factors, peculiar to this epoch influenced the development of the English language along lines which are different from those that had characterized its previous history. Among the new factors historian linguists usually include:

- the invention, adoption and the more and more extensive use of the printing press;

- the rapid spread of popular education;

- the increased communication and means of communication;

- the birth and growth of social consciousness.

Not all of the factors mentioned in the foregoing exercised the same degree of influence on the evolution of the English language.

The invention of the printing press and its having been introduced into the British culture had a first impact on manuscripts: they were more and more seldom seen and almost never sold. Instead, books were brought to the reach of all the people, ceasing, thus, to constitute the expensive luxury of very few people (as they were in Chaucer’s time). The possibility to reproduce a book in one thousand or one hundred thousand copies had an overwhelming consequence upon the life of the British society: it contributed to the rapid spread of popular education. The Paston Letters say that in the later Middle Ages a large number of the middle-class population could read and write. In Shakespeare’s London almost a third or probably half of the people could at least read.

Linguistically, the importance of the printing press lay in its having constituted a means to promote a standard or uniform language thought the territory in which it was understood.

The introduction in the printing press closely intermingled with the rapid development of education. In the 17th and 18th centuries a prosperous class of the tradesmen appeared and they not only had the means to obtain an education but also had the leisure to enjoy it. The concern for education was attested by (1) the great increase in the number of schools, (2) the tremendous journalistic output of an author like Defoe and by (3) the rapid rise of the novel stand as proof for the social interest in education. As a result of popular education the printing press was able to exert its influence upon language as upon thought.

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