Semantic Change in the Early Modern English Period

Semantic Change in the Early Modern English Period

Latin Influences on the English Language

eBook - 2014
Rate this:
Throughout the history, English was changing steadily. Not only was the English grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary being altered over the centuries but also the semantics of lexemes. A major factor that has a considerable impact on the semantics of words is the influence of foreign languages. This study deals with semantic changes due to the Latin influence on the English language in the Early Modern English period. The aim of the analysis is - with the help of the Oxford English Dictionary Online - to determine potential patterns of meaning alterations of English lexemes that were caused by the influx of Latin-derived equivalents, especially on the field of human anatomy, and between the 15th and the 18th century. Moreover, the Early Modern English period is portrayed as well as the roles of Latin and English during that time, also considering the integration of Latin loanwords into English. In order to discuss meaning changes due to Latin influences, a closer look will be taken at language modifications in general, at lexical change and at the various types of semantic change by which English words might have been affected.   Auszug aus dem Text Text Sample: Chapter 2.4, Standardisation: Old and Middle English orthography and grammar might appear to be rather arbitrary to speakers of Modern English. The spelling of words differed from writer to writer and may even have differed in works by one and the same author. There were no English dictionaries or grammars yet, which would have contributed to the standardisation process and, thus, which could have regulated and fixed the language. However, in the Early Modern English period English was gaining more and more prestige and was becoming increasingly eloquent (Jucker 2000: 44). As illustrated in section 2.2, important works were then written in English, the vocabulary was expanded, for example
due to borrowing and compounding, and devices of classical rhetoric were used to adorn literary pieces (Barber 1997: 52). The English language was simply in need of being fixed and regulated. As explained above, the attitudes towards English were changing at that time. Due to the new 'linguistic awareness" in the Early Modern English period, the standardisation processes began (cf. Crystal 2005: 286). Additionally, Lass (cf. 1999: 8) points out that there was a general desire in late Renaissance and Enlightenment England for 'linguistic 'normalisation' and 'stabilisation'." As a consequence, the first English grammars, spelling guides and dictionaries were produced and published, even faster and in huge amounts now that the printing press had been introduced. They were cheaper and, hence, affordable for a great number of people, which also led to the demand for learning and the growth of the reading population (Lass 1999: 6). Thus, dictionaries and grammars could be spread all over the country and expedited the standardisation of written English: the orthography was further regulated with the emergence of the 'one word: one spelling' principle; the punctuation was stabilised to some extent as well (cf. Lass 1999: 10). 'For a long time," Lass explains, 'public writing was much more bound by these developing conventions than private writing [...], but they gradually penetrated the private sphere as well" (ibid). Concerning spelling conventions, some basic changes have been illustrated by Roger Lass (cf. 1999: 10-11), which will be explained briefly in the following paragraph. As an example, the use of the consonants (u) and (v) was regulated. Before this time (v) had been used word-initially and (u) within words regardless of whether a writer meant a vowel or a consonant (for example vpon, ouerspread from Spenser). From Early Modern English times
onwards, the modern, unambiguous way of using these letters became standard. Similarly, the use of double consonants, which was still rather arbitrary in Middle English times, became standardised, too: from then on a double consonant usually indicated, as it is today, that a vowel preceding it is short in quality. A double consonant as mere typographic decoration was abolished (for example Spenser's mortall). Word-final (-e) was dropped in that time (cf. Spenser taile) as well. As could be shown in this section, the English language was on its way to become the language as we know it today. The Early Modern English period can, hence, be regarded as the precursor of Modern English. The language was standardised and regularised in terms of orthography and grammar, which was also due to the introduction of the printing press, the growing literacy connected to that, and the publications of the first grammar books and English dictionaries. The impact of Latin and the role of English during these developments is described in the following sections.   Biographische Informationen David Stehling was born in 1986. In 2011, he received the first state examination ('erstes Staatsexamen') in English and Latin from the Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena, Germany. Following a 2-year period as a trainee teacher, he passed his second state examination in 2013. He is currently working at a German secondary school. His great interest in the history of the English language and the impact of Latin encouraged his decision to write this study.
Publisher: Hamburg : Diplomica Verlag, 2014
Edition: 1st ed
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9783954896042
Branch Call Number: Electronic book
Characteristics: 1 online resource (69 pages)
Additional Contributors: ProQuest (Firm)


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

There are no comments for this title yet.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at MCL

To Top