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Vowel Changes from Old to Modern English

  • Date Submitted: 09/28/2010 03:24 AM
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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 with the new Anglo-Saxon power the Celtic language was replaced by what we now call Old English. The first manuscript written in Old English dates back to 700.[1]   But the problem with Old English is that it was not known how the words were pronounced exactly. There are no native speakers left to tell how Old English was pronounced. Much research has gone into trying to figure out how the language was pronounced. There are four main types of evidence of how Old English was spoken. The first type of evidence is alphabetical logic. Much is known about the pronunciation of the Roman alphabet, and it is very likely that the missionaries that came to Britain adapted their Roman alphabet to Old English.[2] The second type of evidence is comparative reconstruction. With working back from later stages of English the sounds of Old English can be somewhat reconstructed.[3] The third type of evidence is sound changes, there is much known about sound changes that happen progressively in a language. With the knowledge of language change explanations for pronunciation can be given. The last type of evidence is poetic evidence, the use of alliteration and word rhyme can provide clues of how Old English words were pronounced. Because of all the research the pronunciation of Old English is quite...


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