The Great Shift

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During the 14th Century the English language was mainly spoken by the uneducated lower classes and the language began to see some of the grammatical complexities and inflections gradually disappear. The many genders that were used for nouns had almost entirely vanished. Adjectives that once had as many as eleven different inflections were reduced to just two used for singular and plural. However, in modern English today adjectives will often perform just one. Also pronunciation stresses gradually shifted toward the beginning of words instead, of on the lexical root as in Old English. Many vowels acquired unstressed “schwa” or symbols used today in Standard American English, “these symbols are not the same as letters in English rather, they represent the sounds of the language.” (43) Examples of these sound symbols are “e” as in “taken” and “i” as in “pencil”. For some these sounds are hard to hear and distinguish the different sounds. Also, unlike the Old English where word order did not matter in Middle English as the inflections disappeared word order became very important for …show more content…
The seven long vowels transformed by “the high vowel [i:] and [u:] became the diphthongs [ɑɪ] and [aʊ], while the long vowels underwent an increase in tongue height… in addition [a:] was fronted to become [e:]”.(343) These examples are some of the most important and extraordinary regular sound shifts as the phonemic representation of thousands of word changes. The vowel shift occurred within a relatively short span of time. The Great Vowel Shift also, lead to many of the oddities and spelling inconsistencies of English due to the relationship between many newer words and their foreign counterparts. Many of these words still reflected the same pronunciation as before the vowel shift

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