Talk:Early Modern English

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Anyone wants to add an IPA chart?[edit]

Because that would be really helpful.

Spanish and Early Modern English?[edit]

Is there a good web page to find out about the similarities between Early Modern English and modern Spanish? (For example, "Have you a pen?" (as in Spanish) instead of "Do you have a pen?"

My guess is it would be more similar to German, being they are both Germanic languages; the earlier forms of both closing in on each becoming ever more identified as analogous to eachother before any romance languages. 22:34, 5 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I honestly didn't quite catch that last bit of the response before mine, but I have the following to say. In regard to question-formation, the resemblance of English to German is clear, inverting the usual subject-verb order as likewise in the imperative. However (and this was not mentioned above) the formal distinction between thou/you is actually closer to that of the Romance languages than to that of German, since it was consciously modeled on that of French, specifically, the distinction between tu and vous. That is, English, French (and Spanish) all make use of the second person plural form rather than the singular when speaking formally. While in Romance languages, the formal is used less and less frequently, in English, the formal form has virtually replaced the informal entirely. In contrast, when speaking formally, modern German speakers will use forms derived from the third-person plural. ( 06:04, 27 July 2007 (UTC))Reply[reply]
Modern Spanish actually uses third-person forms for formality. —RuakhTALK 15:10, 27 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The comments made above about English not following the Germanic usage of the second-person plural for formal usage as the second-person singular are incorrect, and probably based on confusion between the German 2nd Person Plural "Sie" and the 3rd Person Plural "sie", which is a different word altogether. For the assistance of non-German speakers, the correct German 2nd Person pronouns are

Familiar: Singular du   Plural   ihr
Formal:   Singular Sie  Plural   Sie

The words "du" and "ihr" are capitalised in correspondence where the use of du/ihr is appropriate, ie, with family or friends. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:33, August 25, 2007 (UTC)

I think you must have misread one of the above comments, as nothing in your comment seems to disagree with anything in any of them. —RuakhTALK 19:03, 25 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

References on T-V distinction[edit]

Does anyone have any references to the use of T-V distinction in Early Modern English? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, its usage was irregular (and only for superiors, not everyone) and had fallen out of use by this time. If none can be produced, I recommend removing it from the article. Rt66lt 21:13, 18 September 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Umm, clearly T-V distinction was widespread in literature throughout the Early Modern period. Have you ever read anything by, uh, a fellow named Shakespeare? ( 06:12, 27 July 2007 (UTC))Reply[reply]

Birth of EME[edit]

I don't like the article stating 1485 as the start of Early Modern English. Middle English is much fuzzier on the date of ending, saying "the mid-to-late 15th century, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London-based English, began to become widespread, a process aided by the introduction of the printing press into England by William Caxton in the 1470s", and there is no bright linguistic line between Early Modern English and Middle English.--Prosfilaes 19:51, 27 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Whether there is a bright line or a fuzzy line, Chaucer antedates it. The reference to the EME texts of Geoffrey Chaucer should come out. (talk) 05:49, 13 January 2009 (UTC)Larry SiegelReply[reply]
The heading paragraph uses Le Morte d'Arthur as an example of EME but this was written in about 1470 and this is normally seen as an example of Middle English, and is also not in Tudor times as cited in this article. I propose to remove this statement as EME is generally always comprehensible to mother-tongue English speakers--Mevagiss (talk) 13:31, 30 April 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]


"...was used in the later half of the 1400s, and 1650."

Could someone please clarify this piece of information? It's not clear if it was used within that time period or not. - Zerida 09:17, 11 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I for J, a request[edit]

I've been doing some work on the etymology of Jury rig and am referring to works by Captain John Smith from the 1620s. In these works "I" is being used in place of "J" (i.e. "Iury mast"). I'd like to be able to point to this article by way of explanation, however I don't have any refs handy to add an authoritative bullet point to the list here. Could someone more familiar with the history of English orthography please add some content regarding the use of I for J? Thanks! --Dfred (talk) 15:31, 2 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In the Latin alphabet, I and J, and U and V are entirely interchangeable since they were thought of as the same letter. Thus, since rules of English orthography derive from those of Latin, it was not until relatively recently that these letters became fully differentiated in the minds of English-language writers. ( 06:09, 27 July 2007 (UTC))Reply[reply]

July 11, 2007 edit and removal[edit]

The following edit was added on this date, "It has been found that early modern English started in the area of Leicester, England (1)"

When I read the reference, it referred to Leicester being the place where Anglo Saxons and Vikings put down their weapons and shared their language, something that happened hundreds of years before the development of Early Modern English. Because of this, I have removed this addition from this article. The information should be added to the Old English language article rather than here. Additions to this article should reflect Early Modern English or how Middle English transformed into Early Modern English. Cynrin 14:14, 11 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Differences from Modern English[edit]

I'm a bit confused, since as far as I can tell there are no distinctions given here between "Early Modern English" and "Modern English," other than the more widespread existance of the second-person singular pronoun "thou" and an already highly limited subjunctive mood, both of which after all continue to exist today, if perhaps they seem a bit archaic and are frequently misunderstood; and in any case they were commonly used in formal writing through the last century. I'm left to wonder if these are more linguistic changes or simply stylistic ones. Either the article needs to be greatly lengthened or greatly shortened, for it to make sense. ( 05:53, 27 July 2007 (UTC))Reply[reply]

Bogus spelling section[edit]

A lot of stuff about spelling differences was added on 13 May 2007 by User: None of it was sourced. Some of it was wrong. I plan to remove anything that I don't find obviously correct, and let people add it back if it turns out to have been true.

The obvious falsehood was the spelling *happinesſe for happineſse. "SS" becomes "ſs" in German, and a quick Google Books search reveals[1] that the same rule applies in English. --Quuxplusone 04:05, 3 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Adding" N[edit]

The article says,

In other respects, the pronouns were much the same as today. One difference is that, much as a becomes an before a vowel, my and thy became mine and thine before vowels as well; hence, mine eyes, thine uncle, and so on.

Historically speaking, "a" does not become "an" before a vowel: "an" (="one") becomes "a" before a consonant. The dropping of terminal "n" is quite common in English, and has been since Chaucer's time. Compare "afire" for "on fire" and analogues. I suspect that the same principle applies with "mine" --> "my" and "thine" --> "thy", since the equivalent pronouns in Dutch (mijn, zijn) and German (mein, dein) all end in "n". Can somebody familiar with the literature correct the article and cite some authority? --Jdcrutch (talk) 20:14, 25 September 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Doesn't site any references of sources?[edit]

It's english... (talk) 21:25, 14 November 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The second paragraph in the Verbs section implies that the past participle has been standardized to only use forms of 'have' as the helping verb. This is not true, forms of 'be' and 'have' are both current e.g. "He is done with it" but also sometimes "He has done with it". The most that can be said is that forms of 'be' were more wide spread in that era.-- (talk) 01:25, 1 January 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

EME in America[edit]

Shouldn't there be a mention of words surviving in America from Early Modern English in the "Development to Modern English" section?USMonarchist2008 (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 19:30, 24 March 2009 (UTC).Reply[reply]

I doubt that it would hurt.

Plural inflection: clarification needed[edit]

The following text appears in the section #Marking tense and number:

During the Early Modern period, English verb inflections became simplified as they evolved towards their modern forms: ....

* The plural present form became uninflected. Present plurals had been marked with -en, -th, or -s (-th and -s survived the longest, especially with the plural use of is, hath, and doth). Marked present plurals were rare throughout the Early Modern period, though, and -en was probably only used as a stylistic affectation to indicate rural or old-fashioned speech.

The term "the plural present form" is unclear. Do you mean the third-person plural present form? Or does this refer to the first, second, and third person present forms? — Lawrence King (talk) 01:01, 26 October 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thou vs ye?[edit]

The article says:

In Early Modern English, there were two second person personal pronouns: thou, the informal singular pronoun, and ye, which was both the plural pronoun and the formal singular pronoun, (like modern French tu and vous and modern German du and Sie). (Thou was already falling out of use in the Early Modern English period, but remained customary for addressing God and certain other solemn occasions and sometimes for addressing inferiors.)

This seems confusing. Why would the informal singular be used for addressing God, while the formal one would be used in everyday life, instead of the reverse? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:28, 6 December 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Are you confused about the facts as described in the article, or are you confused about why English speakers in the 17th and 18th centuries would use these words in this way? If you mean the latter, a Wikipedia language article doesn't attempt to explain "why" certain words are used the way they are, it just says what the words are. In this case, the claim is correct. If you have a copy of the King James Bible or Shakespeare's plays, look through them and you will see that "thou / thee" is used for singular informal and also when addressing God, while "ye / you" is used for plural and also for singular formal. Or if you know French, you will know that this is exactly how it works in French -- "tu / te" is used for singular informal and also when addressing God, while "vous" is used for plural and also for singular formal.
I suspect that the reason has to do ultimately with Christian theology. Ancient pagans probably used a formal version of the second-person pronoun when addressing their gods. But Jesus called his Father in heaven "Abba", which is Aramaic for "Dad" or "Papa" (rather than the more formal "Father"). The Christian teaching about a God who has a personal relationship with his people on Earth led them to address God in a familiar way. By the early modern period, this feature was embedded in the European languages, and no longer had any theological import -- it was just how the words were used. — Lawrence King (talk) 15:09, 6 December 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Perhaps someone somewhere has published a paper or written a thesis on the use of second-person familiar pronouns to address God. It does seem to be widespread. If anyone knows of research on it, a reference (and perhaps even a Wikipedia article) would be a useful addition.

The question is much rather, why does the article present as a feature unique to Early Modern English something that survived perfectly intact into Modern English? We take Early Modern English to last until 1650. By this definition, Paradise Lost is a work in Modern English, not Early Modern English. Or, if that is too arbitrary, I hope we can agree that every work published in the 18th century falls securely within the Modern English period. I believe you will find it very difficult to argue that the pronouns thou and ye did not survive, alive and well, into the 18th century. --dab (𒁳) 09:12, 16 February 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I quite agree, the pairs, thee and thou, ye and you, long persisted. Not least in the early 18th century Revised King James Bible. But they also appear in many other later written works such as poetry, and in song, such as the early 20th century Yorkshire anthem Ilkley Moor Baht'at. Cassandra. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:35, 18 November 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Modern hangovers[edit]

The last paragraph (beginning "There are still elements of Early Modern English in some dialects") looks dubious to me. It's not wrong so much as in need of more rigorous treatment. There's no particular need to single out /u:/ in book, look, cook, as a hangover from EME as far as I can tell. I mean, mightn't we just as well mention rhoticity which has been lost from many varieties of English but retained in others? Or any of numerous features retained by some varieties and lost in others. Also, I haven't heard this particular pronunciation in the West Country as stated (but what do I know?). Probably more can be said about the exact distribution of modern thou-derivatives than mentioning some specific bit of Telford. There are bound to be studies tracking its decline in the younger generation, so we need something on this. It should probably go in the thou article, which is in need of expert attention, and just be summarised briefly here. The pronunciation of Yorkshire "thou" is also different to what will be imagined by readers unfamiliar (it's often rendered "tha" in eye dialect). As it stands I am tempted to take that whole last paragraph out. Beorhtwulf (talk) 22:28, 27 February 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Grammatical construction[edit]

I came to this article hoping to learn more about differences in grammar and sentence construction between modern English and that used by Shakespeare. If one wanted to "translate" modern English into something that looks like Shakespeare wrote it, it would involve far more than word substitution ("you" to "thou" and so forth). In Shakespeare, for example, I see instances of more German construction where the verb is at the end of the sentence.

Hmm, and I just noticed I can't find any Modern-to-Shakespeare converters online, only the reverse. ~Amatulić (talk) 21:54, 7 December 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

BCP 47 language tag[edit]

There is now a BCP 47 language tag for Early Modern English: en-emodeng. Doug Ewell 17:59, 20 November 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by DougEwell (talkcontribs)

'Orthography' confusing.[edit]

The current text reads : 'The orthography of Early Modern English was fairly similar to that of today, but spelling was unstable'.

This is slightly confusing because the word 'orthography' has two meanings (i) writing i.e. the shape of letters and the alphabet used, and (ii) the way words are spelled.

Might I suggest a change to something like :'As for orthography, the form of written letters and the alphabet were broadly similar to those of today, but as yet spelling had no agreed standard form.' Cassandra. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:49, 18 November 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Early English language" listed at Redirects for discussion[edit]


An editor has asked for a discussion to address the redirect Early English language. Please participate in the redirect discussion if you wish to do so. signed, Rosguill talk 19:41, 21 April 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This line about the subjunctive makes no sense[edit]


Line: The second-person singular indicative was marked in both the present and past tenses with -st or -est (for example, in the past tense, walkedst or gav'st).[25] Since the indicative past was not and still is not otherwise marked for person or number,[26] the loss of thou made the past subjunctive indistinguishable from the indicative past for all verbs except to be.

What is "past subjunctive" referring to? English does not have a subjunctive conjugation, never mind a past subjunctive. In fact, the subjunctive conjugation was already totally lost by Middle English. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

That is not correct. Even modern English has both a present and a past subjunctive, though there are only a few cases where it's morphologically different from the indicative.
An example of the present subjunctive is it is important that you be prompt (rather than indicative are).
The past subjunctive is distinct from the past indicative only for the verb "to be", and only for the first and third person singular. If I were a rich man.
Hope that clarifies. --Trovatore (talk) 19:25, 13 January 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The first shortening of (Early Modern English) seems to be (EModE) when was it coined?[edit]

Also, who coined “EModE” and why was “EModE” as an abbreviation firstly chosen and not “EME” and suchlike?

The older(?) ”EModE” abbreviation does seem to somewhat look more becoming also standout moreso than the likes of “EME”. 2A00:23C7:2B13:9001:A025:DCEE:FB20:7C87 (talk) 17:24, 29 September 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]