Episode 165: Glamorous Grammar

William Bullokar composed the first formal grammar of the English language in 1586. Prior to that point, the concept of grammar had been largely restricted to Latin. Bullokar’s work extended the concept to English, but it did so by employing the Latin grammatical framework. This approach was followed by subsequent grammarians, and it has shaped the way scholars think about English grammar to this day.

Episode 164: Somewhere in the Middle

Throughout her long reign, Queen Elizabeth I was faced with many difficult decisions, and she often chose a middle path when she could. In this episode, we explore the middle paths taken during her reign, and the consequences of those decisions. In the New World, Elizabeth decided to let Walter Raleigh establish an English colony along the Mid-Atlantic coast of North America – between Florida and Newfoundland. That middle path soon came to be known as ‘Virginia’ in her honor. It was the first English-speaking settlement in the New World, and it laid the foundation for the spread of the English language across the continent.

TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 164

Episode 163: An Elementary Education

By the second half of the Elizabethan period, the perception of English had changed significantly in England. It was increasingly perceived as a sophisticated language capable of matching the refinement of other European languages. One of the language’s most vocal advocates was a schoolmaster named Richard Mulcaster. His ‘Elementarie’ argued for the standardization of English spelling and established the foundation of many common spelling conventions used in Modern English.

TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 163

Episode 162: The Pirate Queen

In the 1570s, Francis Drake plundered Spanish ships throughout the New World with the private permission of Elizabeth I. His actions marked the first direct challenge to Spanish naval supremacy in the region, and also marked the beginning the English embrace of empire. In this episode, we explore those developments and examine the impact they had on the English language. We also examine the first novel composed in English and the first permanent theater built in London.

TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 162

Episode 161: Y U and I Have a Problem

In this episode, we explore the complicated history of the letters Y, U and I, and we examine how they gave birth to the letters W, V and J. We also look at the Gothic script of the Middle Ages which influenced how those letters were used in English spelling.

TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 161

Episode 160: Approximant-ly English

In this episode, we explore the sounds represented by the letters L and R. Linguists refer to these sounds as ‘approximants,’ and they are some of the most challenging sounds in the English language. They are consonants with vowel-like qualities. Over time, they have shown a tendency to disappear and reappear, and even switch places in words. They also have a history of altering the vowel sounds that appear before them. In this episode, we explore the evolution of the ‘L’ and ‘R’ sounds in the English language.

TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 160

Episode 159: Elizabethan Voices

In 1569, an English scholar named John Hart published a manuscript called ‘An Orthographie.’ The text argued for a phonetic spelling system, and it provided one of the earliest detailed descriptions of the sounds of English. In this episode, we explore the difference between voiced and voiceless consonants, and we examine how changes in voicing shaped the English language. We also examine how these sounds were utilized during the Elizabethan period according to Hart’s manuscript.

TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 159

Episode 158: Planting Seeds

In the mid-1500s, England attempted to expand its influence in Ireland by establishing plantations there. This same process would soon be applied to North America. In this episode, we explore those early attempts at Irish colonization and England’s first encounters with the region of Florida. We also examine the connection between these events and efforts during this period to make English spelling more phonetic and consistent.

Transcript: Episode 158

Episode 157: Highlands, Lowlands and Netherlands

During the first decade of the reign of Elizabeth I, Protestants in Scotland and the Netherlands rebelled against the Catholic authorities who controlled those countries. Those rebellions were supported by England, and eventually Scotland and the Netherlands joined England as Protestant countries. In this episode, we’ll explore how those developments shaped the languages in all three regions, including the decline of Scots and the continued borrowing of Dutch loanwords into English.

TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 157

Episode 156: Beggars, Cheats and Thieves

In the 1500s, England saw a significant rise in the number of beggars and vagabonds. Those who couldn’t survive by begging often turned to thievery, gambling and fraud. By the mid-1500s, books and pamphlets were being published that highlighted the language and scams of the criminal subculture of England. In this episode, we explore the criminal slang and jargon of Tudor England, and we examine the first years of the reign of Elizabeth I.

TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 156