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Language Change

4. The Emergence of Standard Written English

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About this Lecture

Lecture

In this module, we think about the emergence of standard written English, focusing in particular on: (i) the emergence of dominant, standardised version of Old English – Late West Saxon – towards the end of the Old English period (650-1100); (ii) the disruption of this development by the Norman Conquest, and the replacement of Old English with Norman French in a range of contexts; (iii) the contexts in which the use of English continued, e.g. everyday conversation, local writing, etc.; (iv) the huge variation in the written form of the language in the Middle English period; (v) the re-emergence of English as an important language towards the end of the 14th century, and the reasons for this change, including the Black Death (1346-53), the Peasants' Revolt (1381), and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1387-1400); (vi) the simultaneous decline in Anglo-Norman in this period, and the reason for this change; (vi) the development of a more regularised form of English in the late 14th and early 15th centuries; (vii) the impact of the printing press (brought to England by William Caxton in 1476) on the standardisation of written English; and (viii) the linguistic variety in non-printed written texts (e.g. journals, letters, etc.) even as recently as the 19th century.

Course

In this course, Professor Simon Horobin (University of Oxford) explores language change in the English language. In the first module, we think about why we should study language change at all. In the second module we provide an introduction to the history of the English language, from Old English (650-1100) to Late Modern English (1750-present). In the third module, we think about one of the most important structural changes in the history of the English language – the shift from inflection to non-inflection – and why it happened when it did. In the fourth module, we think about the emergence of standard written English, before turning in the fifth module to the concept of semantic change – focusing in particular on the word 'literally'. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about some issue relating to spelling in modern English.

Lecturer

Simon Horobin is Professor of English Language and Literature and Tutorial Fellow at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford. He specialises in the history of the English language, especially in the Medieval period. Some of his recent publications include How English Became English: A Short History of a Global Language (2016), The English Language: A Very Short Introduction (2018), and Bagels, Bumf, and Buses: A Day in the Life of the English Language (2019).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Horobin, S. (2022, April 11). Language Change - The Emergence of Standard Written English [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/language-change-in-the-english-language/the-emergence-of-standard-written-english

MLA style

Horobin, S. "Language Change – The Emergence of Standard Written English." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Apr 2022, https://massolit.io/courses/language-change-in-the-english-language/the-emergence-of-standard-written-english

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