In the 1553, Mary Tudor became the first queen to rule England as the head of the government. She promptly turned back the clock on the religious reforms that had taken place over the prior few years. Meanwhile, scholars of English were also trying to turn back the clock. They wanted to return the language to its roots and eliminate the so-called ‘inkhorn’ terms which were so common at the time. In this episode, we explore those parallel attempts to go ‘back to basics.’
By the mid-1500s, scholars were becoming more confident in the ability of English to express sophisticated ideas and concepts associated with classical learning. Writers began to use English beside Latin and Greek in many scholarly works during this period. English also replaced Latin in the regular services of the Church of England. Some people embraced these changes, but others vehemently opposed them. In this episode, we explore the changing perception of English during the reign of Edward VI, and the major events of his reign that shaped the English language.
In early Modern English, writers and printers began to revise the spelling of many English words to reflect their etymological origins. Old letters were revived from the dead to reflect sounds that had disappeared over time in those words. This fad reached its height in the mid-1500s, and it wreaked havoc on Modern English spelling and pronunciation. In this episode, we explore that phenomenon and see how it impacted Modern English.
John Heywood was a playwright and poet who made two important contributions to the history of English. He was a key figure in the emergence of modern English drama which led directly to William Shakespeare at the end of the century. He was also a proverb collector who assembled most of the common proverbs in English into a popular poem that serves as an important resource for modern historians of the language. In this episode, we examine English proverbs, the emergence of modern English drama, and words associated with comedy and humor in Tudor England.
During the reign of Henry VIII, medical books and herbals proved to be some of the most popular publications in England. The people of England wanted medical books that they could read in the own language. The largely unregulated medical marketplace meant that people often had to find a way to treat diseases on their own. In this episode, we explore the nature and terminology of disease in early Tudor England, and we examine the many illnesses that plagued the people of England, including Henry VIII and his family. We also examine how the diagnosis and treatment of disease took the first steps toward a modern scientific approach during this period.
In the 1530s, Henry VIII declared himself to be the ‘Supreme Head’ of the Church of England, and he demanded absolute loyalty from his subjects. Those who crossed him risked the loss of their heads. Meanwhile, the modern punctuation system started to emerge with the introduction of the comma and other punctuation marks. In this episode, we look at the intersection of ‘capital’ offenses, ‘capital’ letters, and the origin of modern punctuation.
In the years following Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic Church, small fractures soon turned into a major rift. The Protestant Reformation led to the break-up of the Western Church. Meanwhile in England, the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was also coming to an end. Those two events came together in the 1520s to set the stage for the permanent break between the Church of England and the Catholic Church. This break-up also created an environment in which William Tyndale could produce an English translation of the Bible that served as the foundation of the King James Bible. It was a translation that coined many common words and idioms that are still used in Modern English.
In the early 1500s, a series of marriages between European royal families re-shaped the face of Europe and brought together separate regions under the leadership of a single ruler. This led to creation of modern Spain and the formation of a massive European empire ruled by the Habsburg family. It also secured the position of the Tudors in England, and laid the foundation for the union of England and Scotland as Great Britain. In this episode, we explore those developments and examine the poetry of Middle Scots, the creation of the first modern postal system, and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
The European Renaissance provided a transition to the early modern era by looking back to the culture of classical Greece and Rome. It led to a renewed interest in ancient Greek and Latin and a new world view known as humanism. But scholars in England doubted the ability of English to handle the new learning associated with this cultural movement. They felt that English was ‘rude’ and ‘rusty,’ and could only convey the new ideas and concepts by borrowing words from Greek and Latin. In this episode, we examine how the Renaissance fundamentally changed the English language by expanding its vocabulary and by giving it a new register of scholarly and technical synonyms.
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The voyage marked the beginning of the European discovery of the Americas. Columbus encountered natives in the Caribbean who spoke a Native American dialect called Arawakan. As the Europeans encountered the native culture of the region, several Arawakan words passed into Spanish and then into English. In this episode, we look at what happened when these separate ecosystems began to mix together in the late 1400s.