5. Tendencies of New English Language Development.
Development of the National Literary English Language.
The formation of the national literary English language covers the Early NE period (1475-1660) and is due to the two major external factors: the unification of the country and the progress of culture.
Flourishing of literature in Early NE.
The development of the national literary English language is inseparable from the flourishing of literature known as the English Literary Renaissance or the Age of Shakespeare. The most notable forerunners of the literary Renaissance were the great English humanist Thomas More (the author of Utopia) and William Tyndale, the translator of the Bible.
W. Shakespeare was the chief of the Elizabethan dramatists. His plays were greatly admired in the theatres but less than half of them were printed in his lifetime.
Establishment of the written standard.
The written standard of English had been established by the end of early NE.
The written standard of English arose from the London dialect which was a mixture of South-Western and East Midland dialects. Later the speech of Londoners became even more mixed because of the growing intermixture of the population: the capital attracted newcomers from different regions of the country.
The written standard of the early 17th c. was far less stabilized than the literary standards of later ages. The writings of the Renaissance display a wide range of variation at all linguistic levels: in spelling, grammatical forms, word-building devices, etc.
The 18th c. is remarkable for attempts to fix the language. The English writer J. Swift published his first article on language, which was called “A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue”. In it Swift protested against careless and deliberate contractions and elisions in formal and informal speech and proposed that a body of scholars should be set up in order to fix the correct rules of usage.
Geographical expansion of the English language.
In the last 300 years English has extended to all the continents of the world. England’s colonial expansion to the New World began in the late 16th c. But the real start came later: in 1607 the first permanent settlements were founded in Jamestown and in 1620 the famous ship “Mayflower” brought a group of English settlers to New England. These Puritans came from the London area, East Anglia and Yorkshire; later colonists came from other regions, including Scotland and Ireland. Many immigrants from GB settled in the West Indies which became a part of British Empire in the 17th c. The colonists spoke different dialect of English. In North America these dialects gradually blended into American English.
Also we should mention the expansion of English to India, Australia, New Zealand, Africa.
The Great Vowel Shift. Growth of long monophthongs and diphthongs due to vocalization of consonants. Loss of consonants.
The Great Vowel Shift is the name given to a series of changes of long vowels (all monophthongs and some diphthongs) between the 14th and the 18th c. During this period all the long vowels became closer or were diphthongized:
i: - ai (time)
e: - i: (kepen – keep)
є:, e: - i: (east)
a: - ei (table)
o: - ou (open)
o: - u: (moon)
u: - au (mous – mouse)
au – o: (drawen – draw)
Growth of long monophthongs and diphthongs due to vocalization of consonants
We may regard three main cases of the loss of consonants:
Historical foundations of Modern English spelling.
OE spelling was phonetic. A separate letter was used for each sound, the sound values being for the most part the same as in Latin. However, already in OE some letters indicated two or more sounds: the letter c stood for 2 different phonemes.
In ME the one-to-one correspondence of letter and sound was lost in many cases. More letters than before had two sound values: o stood for [o] and [u], c – for [s] and [k], u could indicate even 3 sounds – the vowels [u] and [y] and the consonant [v].
Spelling reformers of the 16th c. made an effort to improve English orthography. For example, they insisted upon a strict distinction between u and v. Early NE loue was later spelt as love. The use of double consonants became less frequent, except in traditional spellings like kiss, sell. In the 17th and 18th c. the dictionaries and grammars fixed the written forms of the words as obligatory standards; numerous variants of spelling went out of use.
In ME and in NE only 2 grammatical categories of noun were preserved compared with the three of OE. These are the categories of number and case, the category of gender having been lost at the beginning of the ME period.
There are two number forms in ME and NE: Singular and Plural, and two methods of indicating the Plural form:
OE stān, ME stōn, NE stone – OE stānas, ME stōnes, NE stones
The number of cases in ME and consequently in NE is reduced to Common and Genitive case. The OE Nominative, Accusative and Dative cases merged into one case – the Common case at the beginning of ME.
OE ME NE
Nom. stān Common case stōn stone
Acc. stān Genitive case stōnes stone’s
In NE mainly the nouns denoting living beings are used in the Genetive (Possessive) case.
In ME we may find only two grammatical categories of OE: declension and the category of number. The category of gender was lost.
The difference between strong and weak declension is shown by the zero ending for the former and the ending –e for the latter, but only in the Singular. The forms of the strong and weak declension in the Plural have similar endings (-e): yong, yonge (Sg.), yonge (Pl.).
The difference between number forms is only in the strong declension: yong – yonge.
In NE these grammatical categories do not exist any more.
Degrees of comparison
Contrary to the mentioned above grammatical categories, degrees of comparison of the adjective were not only preserved but also developed in ME and NE: heard, hard, hard – heardra, hardre, harder – heardost, hardest, hardest.
Besides the suffixation as the most productive way of forming degrees, a new analytical method appeared (more, most comfortable).
Simplifying changes in the verb conjugation.
The decay of OE inflections is also apparent in the conjugation of the verb.
Number inflections. In the 13th and 14th c. the ending –en turned into the main marker of the pl forms of the verb. But in the late 14th c. it was often missed out and was dropped in the 15th c.
Person inflections. The OE endings of the 3 p. sg - -þ, -eþ, -iaþ – merged into a single ending –(e)th and later –(e)s. The ending –(e)st of the 2 p. sg became obsolete together with the pronoun thou.
In ME homonymy of the mood forms also grew. E.g.: the Indicative and Subjunctive moods could no longer be distinguished in the pl.
The distinction of tenses was preserved in the verb paradigm through all historical periods.
Development of new grammatical forms and categories of the verb
In OE the verb had four categories: person, number, tense and mood. In ME and NE there gradually developed three more grammatical categories – order, voice and aspect.
These grammatical categories used new analytical forms, developed from free word combinations of the OE verbs habban, beon/wesan + infinitive (or participle). The first element of this combination lost its lexical meaning, and the second – its grammatical one.
The category of order was the oldest, formed already in ME from the OE free combination habban + past participle (I have done).
The category of voice appeared out of the free combination of beon + past participle (he was killed).
The category of aspect was formed on the basis of the free combination of beon + present participle (she was singing).
The grammatical categories of tense and mood which existed in OE acquired new categorical forms.
In ME there appeared the form of future tense, developed out of the free combination of the OE modal verbs ‘sculan’ and ‘willan’ with the infinitive. This free combination of words was split into two groups:
In Early Modern English negatives could be formed either with or without do, post-auxiliary negation becoming more and more common until about 1700, when it was the standard:
I doubt it not (Romeo and Juliet, III.v.52)
I do not doubt you (2 Henry IV, IV.ii.77)
We must also note here that multiple negation, common both in Old English and in Chaucer's day, was proclaimed taboo in the eighteenth century.
In Shakespeare's time yes-no questions could be formed either by subject-verb inversion, as in other European languages, or by subject-auxiliary inversion. WH-questions patterned the same way:
Came he not home tonight? (Romeo and Juliet, II.iv.2)
Do you not love me? (Much Ado about Nothing, V.iv.74)
Progressive forms increased slowly throughout Middle English. Their use has generally expanded mainly since the sixteenth century.
The passives are a rather recent innovation. Like the progressives above, they are examples of the shift towards analytic formulations.
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