Lectures in history of the English language and method-guides for seminars

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Lectures in history of the English language
Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, The Bee & the Crown - The Road to Ascension in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath
Flexibility of function has grown over the last five centuries as a consequence of the loss of inflections. Words formerly distinguished as nouns or verbs by differences in their forms are now often used as both nouns and verbs. One can speak, for example, of planning a table or tabling a plan booking a place or placing a book lifting a thumb or thumbing a lift In the other Indo-European languages, apart from rare exceptions in Scandinavian, nouns and verbs are never identical because of the necessity of separate noun and verb endings. In English, forms for traditional pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs can also function as nouns adjectives and adverbs as verbs and nouns, pronouns, and adverbs as adjectives. One speaks in English of the Frankfurt Book Fair, but in German one must add the suffix -er to the place- name and put attributive and noun together as a compound, Frankfurter Buchmesse. In French one has no choice but to construct a phrase involving the use of two prepositions Foire du
Livre de Francfort. In English it is now possible to employ a plural noun as adjunct modifier, as in wages board and sports editor or even a conjunctional group, as in prices and incomes policy and parks and gardens committee
Openness of vocabulary implies both free admission of words from other languages and the ready creation of compounds and derivatives. English adopts (without change) or adapts (with slight change) any word really needed to name some new objector to denote some new process. Like French, Spanish, and Russian, English frequently forms scientific terms from Classical Greek word elements. English possesses a system of orthography that does not always accurately reflect the pronunciation of words.


The Latin alphabet originally had 20 letters, the present English alphabet minus J, K, V, WY, and Z. The Romans themselves added K for use in abbreviations and Y and Z in words transcribed from Greek. After its adoption by the English, this letter alphabet developed Was a ligatured doubling of U and later J and V as consonantal variants of I and U. The resultant alphabet of 26 letters has both uppercase, or capital, and lowercase, or small, letters. See also alphabet) English spelling is based for the most part on that of the 15th century, but pronunciation has changed considerably since then, especially that of long vowels and diphthongs. The extensive change in the pronunciation of vowels, known as the Great Vowel Shift, affected all of Geoffrey Chaucer's seven long vowels, and for centuries spelling remained untidy. If the meaning of the message was clear, the spelling of individual words seemed unimportant. In the 17th century during the English Civil War, compositors adopted fixed spellings for practical reasons, and in the order-loving 18th century uniformity became more and more fashionable. Since Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755), orthography has remained fairly stable. Numerous tacit changes, such as music for “musick” (c. 1880) and fantasy for “phantasy” (c. 1920), have been accepted, but spelling has nevertheless continued to be in part un phonetic. Attempts have been made at reform. Indeed, every century has had its reformers since the 13th, when an Augustinian canon named Orm devised his own method of differentiating short vowels from long by doubling the succeeding consonants or, when this was not feasible, by marking short vowels with a superimposed breve mark (˘). William Caxton, who setup his wooden printing press at Westminster in
1476, was much concerned with spelling problems throughout his working life. Noah Webster produced his Spelling Book, in 1783, as a precursor to the first edition (1828) of his American Dictionary of the English Language. The 20th century has produced many zealous reformers. Three systems, supplementary to traditional spelling, are actually in use for different purposes (1) the Initial Teaching (Augmented Roman) Alphabet (ITA) of 44 letters used by educationists in the teaching of children under seven (2) the Shaw alphabet of 48 letters, designed in implementation of the will of George Bernard Shaw and (3) the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA, constructed on the basis of one symbol for one individual sound and used by many trained linguists. Countless other systems have been worked out from time to

12 time, of which RE. Zachrisson's “Anglic” (1930) and Axel Wijk's Regularized English
(1959) maybe the best. Meanwhile, the great publishing houses continue unperturbed because drastic reform remains impracticable, undesirable, and unlikely. This is because there is no longer one criterion of correct pronunciation but several standards throughout the world regional standards are themselves not static, but changing with each new generation and, if spelling were changed drastically, all the books in English in the world's public and private libraries would become inaccessible to readers without special study.

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