The Oxford History of the English Language

By Lynda Mugglestone | Go to book overview
Save to active project


April McMahon

EARLY modern English (a convenient if slightly amorphous term which covers at least 1500–1700, the two centuries focused on in this chapter) is a period of paradox. It is during early modern English that many features of present-day English were developed and consolidated: caricaturing slightly, this period is a bridge between the dialectal diversity which, as Chapter 4 has indicated, is widely apparent in Middle English, and the striving for order and regularity which, as Chapter 9 will explore, is often seen to be characteristic of the eighteenth-century grammarians and codifiers. However, this same period involves very considerable structural and systemic change.

In this chapter, I shall concentrate on just these structural changes and specifically on phonology—the sound system of English, where we see some of the most significant developments of the period. Of course, as earlier chapters in this volume have illustrated, there are many different ways of doing linguistic history, and of finding out just what the important changes were. As in Chapter 5, we can look at the practice of individuals which, for this period, will mean examining written documents to see what ‘speakers’ were doing from generation to generation. We can, as the next chapter will show, bring together documents written by a larger number of individuals for the same period into corpora or, in other words, into substantial collections of electronically available and searchable materials. These can then be examined, for example, to assess whether there were linguistic differences within a period depending on whether the ‘speaker’ was male or female, was writing for a personal or a public audience, or was communicating about a particular topic. However, in this chapter I shall, for the most


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Oxford History of the English Language


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 485

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?