By Kamil Wiśniewski Sep 10th, 2007

Modern English language had been subdivided into Early Modern English which was used from the fifteenth century, more or less up to end of the seventeenth century, or according to some scholars even in the eighteenth century, and Modern English was used from that time till now. Only recently was this division renewed as with the end of the twentieth century the time perspective enabled linguists to look at the English language (learn English 🙂 from a different angle and thus nowadays Modern English is subdivided into Early Modern English and Late Modern English (more or less 1700-1900), while the language used in the twentieth and twenty first century is called Contemporary English, or sometimes Present Day English.

There are numerous factors influencing the development of the English language in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The technological advances enabled faster travels, therefore people started visiting different parts of Britain more often and so the dialects blended. At that time in America sound voices supported the division between British and American English. Dictionaries were published in the USA which provided deliberately distinct norms of spelling to make the American variety more distinguishable. In addition to that many new words came from the British colonies with the new concepts, inventions customs and scientific discoveries.

The grammatical peculiarities of the Late Modern English are divided into two types: changes in syntax which begun in Early Modern English and continued till that time, and totally new aspects introduced in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The former include the use of ‘do’ in questions and negatives which became a standard at that time. Moreover, the rules regarding the use of wh-relatives: who, whom, whose, which became standardized and more stable. Innovations introduced in the Late Modern English include the ‘be + -ing’ construction not only in Present Continuous tense, but also in passives. Also at that time the two schools of approaching grammar emerged. According to some linguists grammarians should only describe the language as it is actually used, while others provided rules that should be obeyed in the ‘correct’ English. The long discussion between the representatives of the two different schools of thought is still serious.

In the period of Late Modern English the standard of pronunciation which is aimed at by all the contemporary learners of English as a foreign language, namely Received Pronunciation (RP), emerged. Since that time Received Pronunciation has been a standard for noblemen and upper class of society in Great Britain. However, unlike nowadays in the Late Modern English RP the phoneme <r> was pronounced in all positions.

When it comes to the sources of Early Modern English loanwords what is interesting is the fact that at that time the Englishmen opposed the influx of French words to their language. Thus the major sources of lexis were Latin and Greek. According to current estimates about two thirds of loanword of Late Middle English have either Latin or Greek etymology.

Brown K. (Editor) 2005. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics – 2nd Edition. Oxford: Elsevier.

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