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.
The period of European exploration and discovery began in the 1400s as part of an effort to find new trading routes to Africa and Asia. In this episode, we look at how European sailors and merchants began to think of the ocean as an international highway rather than a barrier to travel. We also examine the naval accounts of Henry VII’s ships to reveal a variety of words recorded for the first time in English.
In the second half of the 1400s, there is written evidence of word play and new word formations within English. These new terms included words for the sounds made by animals and collective nouns for various groups of animals and people. This was also a period when the Plantagenet era came to an end, and the first Tudor monarch seized the throne. In this episode, we examine those linguistic and historical developments.
In this bonus episode of the regular podcast, we explore the effects of the Great Vowel Shift on the pronunciation of English by reading Geoffrey Chaucer’s last known poem in Middle English, early Modern English and contemporary English.
In this final episode about the sound changes associated with the Great Vowel Shift, we explore the vowel shifts that took place in the back of the mouth. We also explore how these changes impacted the way words are spelled in Modern English.
In this second part of our look at the Great Vowel Shift, we explore the movement of the vowel sounds located in the bottom front part of the mouth. We also examine how these sounds were traditionally spelled and how the merger of those sounds produced many homonyms within Modern English.
The term ‘Great Vowel Shift’ was coined in the early 1900s by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen to describe a systematic change in the long vowel sounds of English. The changes help to mark the transition from Middle English to Modern English. In this episode, we explore the specific changes that took place in the upper front part of the mouth. We also examine the impact of those changes on Modern English spellings.