Early Modern English
Early Modern English refers to the English language as it was from about the end of the fifteenth century until around the middle of the eighteenth century.
Modern English is often dated from the Great Vowel Shift which took place mainly during the 15th century. English was further transformed by the spread of a standardised London-based dialect in government and administration, and by the standardising effect of printing. By the time of William Shakespeare (mid-late 16th century) the language had become clearly recognizable as Modern English. The year 1500 is often given as the cutoff date between later Middle English and Early Modern English.
Having already in the Middle English period acquired numerous French loanwords. English in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries added a still larger number from Latin and Greek. The process has continued, albeit more gradually, since then, with both new loanwords from numerous modern spoken languages, as well as new coinages from Latin and Greek roots, particularly in the area of technical innovations (e.g. "telephone," "photograph," and "panorama"). It has also added new and variant forms via compounding, clipping, blending, and back-formation of existing words.
Due largely to the retention of now-silent letters, as well as the agglomeration of different spelling conventions from Germanic and Romance conventions, English spelling is largely systematic but variable. English also possesses several grammatical and syntactical features, such as a highly irregular verb for "to be," a cadre of surviving "strong" verbs with different past and preterite forms, and irregular plural nouns.
Modern English text samples
Early Modern English
From Paradise Lost by John Milton, 1667
- Of man's disobedience, and the fruit
- of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
- Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
- With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
- Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
- Sing, Heavenly Muse, that on the secret top
- Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst ispire
- That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
- In the beginning how the Heavens and Earth
- Rose out of chaos: or if Sion hill
- Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
- Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
- Invoke thy aid to my adventures song,
- That with no middle Flight intends to soar
- Above the Aonian mount, whyle it pursues
- Things unattempted yet in prose of rhyme.
From the United States Declaration of Independence, 1776, by Thomas Jefferson
- IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
- The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,
- When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
- dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
- assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which
- the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the
- opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
- them to the separation.