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COUCH, M.A., Litt.D., King 
Edward VII Professor of 
English Literature in the 
University of Cambridge. 
Demy 8vo, cloth. 153. net. 
(Third Impression.) 

4 Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's analy- 
sis of Shakespeare's craftsmanship 
goes direct to the principles of drama- 
tic construction ; and if ever the poetic 
drama seriously revives in England it 
is more than likely that this book will 
be found to have had a hand in the 
revival.' Westminster Gazette. 







First published in 1920 



THE collection of the material upon which this book is based, the 
arrangement of this, and the writing of the book itself have occupied 
about five years, during which I have also had many other distractions 
and occupations. Whatever may be the shortcomings and defects of 
the present treatment, it is vain to attempt to extenuate or excuse them 
in a short preface. On the other hand, such merits and new informa- 
tion as the book may possess may be left for the discriminating reader 
to discover for himself. 

I offer no apology for having omitted any specific treatment of the 
history of the English Vocabulary, and of English Syntax, during the 
centuries between Chaucer's day and our own. Nor do I conceive that 
those who have a first-hand acquaintance with the subject will make it 
a ground of reproach to the author, that having, after all, done some- 
thing, he has not attempted to do everything. It seems reasonable that 
a writer should select for himself the aspects of a subject with which he 
will deal. As I have myself not been altogether idle, during the last 
twenty years or so, in attempting to add to knowledge in various 
domains of the history of our language, I think I am entitled to invite 
others to give the world systematic treatises, even if these should be no 
more exhaustive than the treatment of other aspects in the present 
volume, upon historical English Syntax, and upon English Semantics. 
I have observed that these are branches of English studies which many 
people consider important for somebody else to tackle. 

With regard to the present work, the facts here stated are with very few 
exceptions derived direct from the sources, that is from the documents 
themselves. The conclusions drawn from these, both the larger 
generalizations and the more minute points, are independently arrived 
at, and represent my own interpretation of the facts. I have not looked 
up specially everything that has previously been written upon the 
innumerable questions here discussed, but have preferred to make my 
own inferences from my own material. In all cases where I have taken 
facts or conclusions from others, I hope and believe that I have made 
full acknowledgement. 

In the slight sketch of Middle English dialectal features given in 


Chapter II, I have made use to some extent of the well-known mono- 
graphs of Morsbach, Lekebusch, Dolle, and Frieshammer, but most of 
the statements are based upon my own observations. As regards the 
Modern Period, the credit due to a pioneer belongs to Dr. R. E. 
Zachrisson, who in Chapter II of his important work on The Pronuncia- 
tion of English Vowels ', from 1400 to 1700, has emphasized the impor- 
tance of what I have called occasional spellings, in the writings of the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Dr. Zachrisson's collection of these 
spellings, and his method of dealing with them, have resulted in the 
need for a modification of the views previously held concerning the 
chronology of sound changes characteristic of the Modern period. My 
own treatment of the vowels in accented syllables is based primarily 
upon the spellings of the kind referred to, and I am personally con- 
vinced that further investigations, over a wider period of time, will 
vindicate more and more, in the main, the views first stated by 
Dr. Zachrisson. I believe I differ from some of his conclusions I have 
not compared my results point by point with his but it appears to me 
incontestable that we must put the * vowel shift ' much further back than 
we were formerly accustomed to do. Future research into the history 
of English pronunciation will, I think, concern itself rather with the 
testimony of the unconsciously phonetic spellings in the documents of 
the past, and with that of rhymes, than with the writings of the old 
grammarians. It is often said that great caution is needed in using 
rhymes to establish the existence of this or that pronunciation. This is 
perfectly true, and the same might be said of every other source of 
information concerning the speech of earlier generations. Great caution 
is necessary in all research, and so are courage and imagination. 

I have utilized the phonetic spellings of the earlier documents in an 
attempt at the history of the pronunciation of vowels in unaccentuated 
syllables, see Chapter VII, and in dealing with the changes under- 
gone by consonantal sounds, see Chapter VIII. 

It is satisfactory to find that many features of pronunciation hinted 
at by the writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are often 
expressed by the occasional spellings much earlier. The writers on 
pronunciation not infrequently adopt, as a phonetic spelling to express 
their meaning, forms practically identical with those occasional spellings, 
into which writers of letters and other documents quoted below so often 
slip unconsciously. Thus it is rather striking to find for instance 
Porchmouth for c Portsmouth ' mentioned by Elphinston as a vulgarism 
in his day, to find the name spelt a hundred years earlier with -ch-, in 
the Verney Memoirs, and again more than a hundred years earlier still 
by Admiral Sir Thomas Howard (cf. p. 292, below). In the face of this 


evidence, it is hardly possible to doubt that the pronunciation referred to 
by Elphinston existed about two and a half centuries before his day. 

The references to the old orthoepists and grammarians in this book 
are taken either from my own notes, made some years ago from the copies 
of these works in the Bodleian, from modern reprints, or, in a few cases, 
from copies of the originals in my possession. The quotations from 
Mulcaster's Elementarie are in all cases from a photographic repro- 
duction of the Bodleian copy which my colleague Professor Campagnac 
kindly lent me. 

Books and collections of documents written in the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries, from which forms are taken, are included in the 
short Bibliography at the beginning of the book. I have not thought 
it worth while to draw up a list of works belonging to the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries, as it seemed most probable that all of these 
would be known and accessible to readers of this book. 

My gratitude is due to various friends who have helped me in 
different ways. Dr. John Sampson read the first four chapters in manu- 
script and gave me the advantage of his advice on many important 
points. His kindly interest in the work, continually displayed, and his 
friendly encouragement, are not the least considerable benefits I have 
received from him. 

Professor Elton was so kind as to read the proofs of Chapters IV and 
V, and to make many valuable criticisms and comments. I regret very 
much that I was unable, owing to the stage which the work had reached, 
to adopt many of his suggestions, or to develop further several interest- 
ing lines of investigation which he indicated. I can assure him that 
I am none the less grateful to him, and that his informing remarks will 
not be wasted. 

To Professor R. H. Case I owe a peculiar debt. Not only have 
I consulted him constantly on all kinds of minor points, chronological, 
biographical, textual, and never in vain, but I have derived enduring 
pleasure and inspiration, and much valuable information, from our fre- 
quent discussions concerning all manner of literary questions, both of 
a general and special character. Mr. Case most generously placed not 
only his stores of knowledge and the benefit of his highly cultivated taste, 
but also his library at my disposal. To him I owe my acquaintance 
with several important sixteenth- and seventeenth-century works, notably 
Laneham's Letter, and the Comparison of the Stages ; he also lent me 
copies of these and several other rare books and tracts. 

I offer my best thanks to Professor Campagnac for lending me his 
photographs of Mulcaster, to Professor Foster Watson for bringing the 
Correspondence of Dr. Basire to my knowledge, and for the loan of 


the volume, and to Professor C. H. Firth for calling my attention to, 
and lending me, vol. i of the Verney Papers, and for pointing out the 
importance of the State Papers of Henry VIII. I tackled the latter too 
late in the day to do more than skim a few forms from the surface of 
a single volume. The references to the passages from BoswelPs Life of 
Johnson on pp. 167 and 212 were most obligingly sent me by 
Mr. A. Okey Belfour of Belfast. 

Miss Serjeantson of the University of Liverpool has helped me in 
many ways : in verifying and checking a large number of references, 
in copying out several rather long extracts from seventeenth- and eigh- 
teenth-century sources, and in some cases, by supplying me with actual 
forms for instance a 3rd Pers. Sing, in -s in Bokenam which I had 
overlooked. For these not unimportant services, promptly and cheer- 
fully rendered, my gratitude is now expressed. 

In conclusion, I feel that if this book succeeds, on the one hand, in 
so interesting the general reader that he is impelled to study the subject 
for himself in the sources, and if, on the other, the special student of 
English should find in it such a collection of facts and inferences, and 
such a mapping-out of the ground as shall serve as the basis for further 
discussion and investigation, then the volume will have justified its 








CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY . . . . . . . i 





ELIZABETH . . . , . . .99 





IX. NOTES ON INFLEXIONS . . . . . .314 




Alleyn, Edward, Memoirs of (1593-1626). Ed. Payne Collier, Shake- 
speare Society, 1843. 
Alley ne Papers (1580-1661). Ed. Payne Collier, Shakespeare Society, 


Aragon, see Catherine. 

Ascham, Roger. Toxophilus, 1545 ; The Scholemaster, 1563. 

Audelay, John. Poems, 1426. Percy Soc., 1844. 

Bath, Earl of. Letters, 1540, in Ellis' Orig. Letters, ser. 2, vol. ii, 157. 

Beaufort, Margaret (1443-1509). Ellis' Letters, i. I. 46, &c. 

Berners,Jttliana. A Treatyse of Fysshynge, 1496. Wynkyn de Worde. 

Berners, Lord. Translation of Froissart, 1520. Ed. W. P. Ker. 

Bokenam, Osbern. Lives of Saints, 1443. 

Boleyn, Anne, Queen. Letters, 1528, in Ellis, i. I ; i. 2 ; ii. 2. 

Booke of Quinte Essence, 1460-70. 

Bttckhurst, Thomas Sackville, Lord. Works. Ed. R. W. Sackville West. 
London, 1859. 

Burghley, William Cecil, Lord. Letters in Ellis (cit. ser. vol. and p.), and 
in Bardon Papers. 

Burial of Edward 1 'V, 1483. In Letters and Papers, vol. i. 

Capgrave, John. Chronicle 14. Ed. Hingeston, Rolls Series, 1858. 

Catherine of Aragon, Reception of, 1501. In Letters and Papers, vol. i, 
pp. 404, &c. 

Cavendish. Life of Cardinal Wolsey, 1577. Kelmscott Press, 1893 
(reprinted from Author's MS.). 

Caxton, William. Life of Jason, 1477. Ed. Munro, E.E.T.S., 1913. 

Celibacy, Vows of, 1459-1527. In Lincoln Diocesan Documents, q.v. 

Cely Papers, 1473-88 ; Ed. Maldon, Camden Soc., 1900. 

Chetwynd Chartulary, 1490-4. Wm. Salt, Archaeol. Soc., xii, 1891. 

Constable of Dynevor Castle (temp. Hen. IV). Letter in Ellis, ii. I. 

Coventry Leet Book, from 1421 . Ed. Reader Harris, E.E.T.S., 1901. 

Cranmer, Archbishop. Letters (1533-7), in Ellis, ser. I, vol. ii ; and 
ser. 3, vol. iii. 

Creation of Henry, Duke of York a Knight of the Bath, 1494. In Letters 
and Papers, vol. i, pp. 388, &c. 

Dives Pragmaticus, A booke in Englyshe metre, of the great Marchaunt- 
man called, 1563. Reprinted Univ. Press, Manchester, 1910. [Remarks 
on Dialect, &c., and a Glossary by H. C. Wyld.] 

Editha, Life of Saint, 1420. Ed. Horstmann. 

Edward VTs First Prayer Book, 1549; Second Prayer Book, 1552. 

Elizabeth, Queen, (i) Letters, in Ellis; (2) Letters to James I, Camden 
Soc., 1849 ; (3) Letters in Bardon Papers, Camden Soc., 1909 ; (4) Eng- 
lishings (translations of Boethius, &c.), 1593. Ed. Pemberton, E.E.T.S., 1899. 

Ellis, Sir Henry, Original Letters Illustrative of English History ; 3 series 
of 3 vols. each. Cit. ser., vol., and p. 

Elyott, Sir Thomas. The Booke of the Gouernour, 1531. Ed. Croft, 
2 vols., 1880. 


Exeter Tailors' Gild, Ordinances of, 1466. Ed. Toulmin Smith, in 
English Gilds, E.E.T.S., 1870. 

Fisher, John, Bishop of Rochester (fl. 1459-1535)- English Works, ed. 
Mayor, E.E.T.S., 1876 ; and Letter in Ellis, iii. 2. 289. 

Fortescue, Sir John. Governance of England, 1471-6. Ed. Plummer, 
Oxford, 1885. 

Godstow, English Register of, 1450. Ed. A. Clark, E.E.T.S., 1905. 

Googe, Barnabe. Eglogs, Epytaphes, and Sonnettes, 1563. Ed. Arber. 

Gosson, Stephen. The Schoole of Abuse, 1579. Ed. Arber. 

Gregory, William. Chronicle, in Historical Collections of a Citizen of 
London. Gairdner, Camden Soc., 1876. 

Harvey, Gabriel, Letter Book of (1573-80). Ed. C J. L. Scott, Camden 
Soc., 1884. 

Henry VIII, King. Letters, 1515 and 1544. In Ellis' Orig. Letters, 
ser. I, vols. i and ii. 

Hoccleve. Regiment of Princes ; Minor Poems, 1413, 1414. Ed. Furnivall, 
E.E.T.S., 1899 and 1892. 

Howard, Lord Admiral Sir Edward. Letter to Henry VIII, 1513, in 
Ellis, ii. I. 213, &c. 

Instructions given to Lord Mont joie, 1483. In Letters and Papers, vol. i. 

Ireland, Conquest of, 1450. Ed. Furnivall, E.E.T.S. 

Ireland, State of, 151$- In State Papers of Henry VIII, Pt. Ill, 1834. 

Irish Documents, 1489-93. In Letters and Papers, vol. i. 

Knaresborough Wills, from 1512. Surtees Soc., vol. civ, 1902. 

Knight, Dr. (Bishop of Bath and Wells). Letters, 1512. Ellis, ser. 2. i 
and ser. 3. i. 

Laneham, Robert. Letter from, 1575, in Captain Cox his Ballads and 
Books. Ed. Furnivall, Ballad Society, 1871. 

Latimer, Bishop Hugh, (i) Seven Sermons ; (2) The Sermon of the 
Plough, 1549. Arber's Reprints. 

Lay ton, Richard, Dean of York. Letter to Lord Cromwell, 1535. Ellis, 2. 2, 
pp. 60, &c. 

Lever, Thomas. Sermons, 1550. Ed. Arber, 1895. 

Lily, John. Euphues Anatomy of Wit, 1579 ; Euphues and his England, 
1580. Ed., one vol., Arber, 1895. Cit. * Euphues p.'; Dramatic Works, 
2 vols. Ed. Fairholt, 1892. 

Lincoln Diocesan Documents, 1451, &c. (Wills, Leases, Vows, &c.). 
E.E.T.S., 1914. Cit. L.D.D., name of Doc., date, and p. 

Lydgate. London Lyckpenny ; Extracts from Story of Thebes, in Skeat's 
Specimens of Eng. Lit. 

Machyn, Henry. Diary, 1550-3. Camden Soc. 

Margaret, Queen, of Anjou, and Bishop Bekinton. Letters, 1420-42. 
Camden Soc. 

Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Letters, 1503, in Ellis, i. I, p. 42. 

Mary, Queen of Scots. Letters to Knollys, 1568. Ellis, i. 2. 253. 

Mason, John. Letter, 1535, in Ellis, ii. 2. 54, &c. 

Monk of Evesham, Revelation of (1482). Ed. Arber. 

More, Sir Thomas. Letters, 1523-9, in Ellis, i. i and i. 2. Cit. p. See 
also Robynson and Roper. 

Mulcaster, Richard. Elementarie, 1581. [Quoted from photographic 
copy of original in Bodleian.] 

Oseney Abbey, Register of, 1460. Ed. A. Clark, E.E.T.S., 1907. 

Palladiuson Husbandry, 1421. Ed. Lodge, E.E.T.S., 1873. Cit. p. and line. 

Paston, Margaret. Letters in vols. i, ii, iii of Paston Letters, 1440-70. 
Ed. Gairdner. 

Paston, William (the Judge). Letters, 1425-30, in P.L., vol. i. 

Pecock, Bishop Reginald (< Chichester). The Represser, c. 1449. 2 vols. 
Ed. Babington, Rolls Series, 1860. 


Peele, George. Edward II. Malone Society. 

Pery, Thomas. Letter to Mr. Ralph Vane, 1539. Ellis, ii. 2, pp. 140, &c. 

Puttenham, Richard (or George). The Arte of English Poesie, 1589. 
Ed. Arber. 

Raleigh, Sir Walter. Selections from his Historic of the World, his 
Letters, &c. Ed. G. E. Hadow, Oxford, 1917 ; also Works, 8 vols., Oxford, 

Rede me and be not wroth, 1 528. Ed. Arber. 

Rewle of Su stris Menouresses, c. 1450. E.E.T.S., 1914. 

Robert the Devil, fifteenth century. 

Robynson, Raphe. English Translation of Sir Thomas More's Utopia, 
1556. Ed. J. R. Lumby, Cambridge, 1891. 

Roper, William. Life of Sir Thomas More. Prefixed to Lumby's edition 
of Utopia. 

Sackville, Thomas. See Buckhurst. 

Seymour, Sir Thomas. Letters, 1544. State Papers of Henry VIII, vol. i. 

Shakespeare, William. Various Plays from facsimile of First Folio of 
1623, cit. play, act, and sc. Reprinted L. Booth, 1864. 

Shillingford, John, Mayor of Exeter. Letters and Papers, 1447-50. 
Camden Soc., 1871. 

Short English Chronicle, 1464. Ed. Gairdner, Camden Soc., 1880. 

Shrewsbury i Countess of. Letters, 1581-2, in Ellis, ii. 2. 63, &c. ; 
ii. 3. 60, &c. 

Sidney, Sir Philip, Miscellaneous Works. Ed. W. Gray, 1893 ; Complete 
Poems. Ed. A. B. Grosart. 2 vols., 1873. 

Siege of Rouen (in Short Eng. Chron.), c. 1420. 

Skelton,John. Magnyfycence, c. 1516. Ed. Ramsay, E.E.T.S., 1908. 

Smith, Sir Thomas, (i) De Republica Anglorum (in English), 1565 ; 
(2) Letters (1572-6), in Ellis, ii. 3 ; iii. 3. 

Spenser, Edmund. Works. Ed. Hales. Globe edition. 

State of Ireland (see Ireland). 

Suffolk Wills (Bury Wills and Inventories), 1463-1569. Camden Soc. 

Surrey, Thos., Earl of. Letters to Wolsey, 1520; State Papers, Hen. VI 1 1, 
Pt. Ill ; Henry, E. of. Poems in Tottel's Miscellany. Ed. Arber. 

Udall, Nicholas. Roister Doister, 1553-66. Ed. Arber. 

Verney Family. Letters and Papers of fifteenth century to 1639. Ed. 
Bruce, Camden Soc., 1853. Cit. Verney P. 

Watson, Thomas. 1582-93. Edited Arber, 1870. 

Webbe, William. A Discourse of English Poetrie, 1586. Ed. Arber. 

Wilson, Thomas. The Arte of Rhetorique, 1585 (3rd ed.). Ed. Mair, 
Oxford, 1909. 

Wingfield, Sir Robert. Letter to Henry VIII, 1513. Ellis, ii. i. 210, &c. 

Worcester, Ordinances of, 1467. In Toulmin Smith's English Gilds. 


It has not been thought necessary to make a list of the various works 
referred to in the later chapters, belonging to the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, as when these are not well known, sufficient references are given 
in the text. 


I* a book fike the present, winch deals with a large number of questions 
connected with prommciation and its changes, it is abfiotetdjmdispciisablc 
that we should be able to express rapidly, accurately, and tmambigtioaily 
the precise sounds we arc dealing with. This cannot be seemed without: 
the aid of Phonetic Notation. 

The main essentials of a Phonetic Notation are : that there shall be 
a separate symbol for each separate sound; that no symbol should be 
written if there is no sound to be expressed e. g. no r is required in 

to fiiBtn* the prommciation of tfKMt educated V-tigHyKiiKn at the 
present day; we therefore write [pot]; that the same symbol should 
always express one and the same sound thus [s] is always the initial 
sound in soap, [z] always the final sound in &KCK, Ac. 

When it is remembered, for instance, that the official speffing takes no 
cognizance of the many sound changes discussed in Chapters VI, VII, 
Vm, it is evident that < spdtoig' has nothing to do with the various 
problems involved, and that since we are dealing with so**ds, we must 

are considering. Thus the word jfc* although often so spelt in the 

fifteenth and i*ni^^n|ii centuries, may have, at a given tin>f, inf^^ HiflSpfTpM^ 

of speakers. In 

these we can express the various sounds quite dearly by writing [0,0, a], 
but not by speaking about the '-' 

If die simple principles just enumerated be borne in mmA anH if the 
reader does not associate the symbols in [ ] with the sounds which they 
express, often very inconsistently, in the traditional speffing, he wifl find 
very little difficulty in making out what sound is referred to. Even if he 
does experience some trouble at first in getting a dear idea of the sound 
intended, he may comfort himself by remembering, that if a phonetic 
notation were not used, he would be unable to gain any idea on the 
subject at aH 


Note that whenever phonetic symbols are used in the text they are 
enclosed in [} 


Symbol Soumdexpresud. 

[0 = English i as in **. 

[i] = English as in ue\ or French i in ri. The vowel of the 
latter is short.) 


[e] = English e in bet] when long [g] the French e before r as in fire. 
[e] = French / in df; when long [e] = German e in hhnen. 
[ael = English ' short a ' as in had] [se] = the same sound long. 
[u 1 = English oo as in hoot. 
[] = English u in />/. 
[61 = German o as in Bohne. 
[0] = French o mfol. 
[5] = English <zz0 as in Z<n0, or a in ^a//. 
[:?] = English o in w/. 

[j] = French u in fo ; when long [y] = French u in ^vr?. 
[<] = French eu as in ceux. 
[ce] = French * as before rpeur. 
[a] = German short a in hass when long, [d] = English a in &zr/ 

or in father. 

[a] = English vowel in cut, &c. 
[9] = unstressed vowel in zi-a/<?r. &c. This is one of the commonest 

vowel sounds in English ; it occurs only in unaccented 


[A] = the vowel in the English words, curd, term, heard, worm, bird. 
The diphthongs [ai, ot, e;', au, ou, 9, ] are simply combinations of 
certain of the sounds mentioned in the table ; they are heard in bite, 
boy, cake, how, note, hare, here, &c., respectively. 

Definitions. The following technical terms for different kinds of 
sounds are often used : Back Vowel = a vowel made with the back of 
tongue as [a] ; Fr-ynt Vowel, one made in the front or middle of tongue 
as [i] ; Rounded Vowel, one in which the lips play a part, as [u, y], &c. ; 
Tense Vowel, one made with the tongue, hard, braced, and muscularly 
i] ; Slack Vowel, one made with the tongue soft, and muscularly 
slack, as [i] ; High, Mid, Low Vowels : these terms refer to the 
different degrees of height of the tongue in articulation ; [i, e, ae] are 
respectively High, Mid, and Low, Front, Slack vowels. Raising refers 
to the movement of the tongue in passing, e. g. from [e] to [i]. 


[xl = sound of ch in Scotch loch. 
[j] = sound of g in German sagen. 
[j] = sound of^ w yacht, or/ in German jagen, &c. 
[j] = sound of ch in German -ich. 
[w] = sound of w in English wall, &c. 
[w] = sound of wh in Scotch or Irish white, &c. 
[k] = sound of k as in king. 
[g] = sound of^ as in good. 
[g] sound of ng as in sing. 


[J] = sound of sh as in shoot, &c. 
[z] = sound of ge in French rouge, or of/ mjamai's. 
[t, d, b, p, n, m, 1, r, f, v] express the same sounds as in ordinary 


[]}] = sound of English th in think. 
[tS] = sound of English th in this. 
[s] = sound of s in so, or of c in city. 
[z] = sound of z in haze, or of s in w, ze;0 j, easy. 

Definitions. A Stop, or Stop Consonant, is one in the pronunciation 
of which the air-passage is completely closed, or stopped, for a moment 
p, t, k. These are sometimes called explosives. An Open Consonant 
is one in the articulation of which the air-passage is only narrowed, so 
as to allow a continual stream of air to pass [f, s, lp, /], &c. A Voiced 
Consonant is one during the articulation of which the vocal chords 
vibrate and produce a kind of ' buzz ' [z, v, t$, z], &c., which may be 
contrasted with the Voiceless, or Un-voiced, corresponding sounds 
[s,f, }>,/], &c. 


WRITERS upon the history of language are very careful to insist that the 
process of development or evolution of speech takes place in the living, 
spoken language, and not in written documents. It is pointed out that 
language changes in the very act of speaking, that changes in pronuncia- 
tion, accidence, and the rest come about gradually, and by imperceptible 
degrees, within the lifetime of a single generation, and in transmission 
from one generation to another. A history of a language is an account 
of these slight and gradual changes, the cumulative results of which, in 
the course of several generations, may be very remarkable. In a primitive 
age, the written form of a language is, in the main, a reproduction of the 
spoken form, and follows as nearly as may be, though often lagging 
somewhat behind, the changing fortunes of the latter. If a language 
ceases to be spoken as a normal, living means of intercourse between 
man and man, the written form can no longer change, but must remain 
fixed, since it must consist merely of a reproduction of ancient models ; 
there is no longer a living, changing speech to mould its character and 
keep it up to date. 

It is an unfortunate circumstance for students of the history of a lan- 
guage, but one from which there is no escape, that they are dependent 
upon written documents for a knowledge of all but the most recent 
developments, since, in the nature of things, they can gain no direct and 
personal access to the spoken language earlier than the speech of the 
oldest living person they may know. We are bound, therefore, to make 
the best use we can of the written records of the past, always bearing in 
mind that our question in respect to the writers of these documents is 
ever How did they speak ? What fact of pronunciation is revealed by, 
or concealed beneath, this or that spelling? 

Our business in this book is mainly concerned with English as it has 
been spoken during the last four or five centuries ; we are not attempting 
a history of literary form, and our interest in written documents, whether 
they rise to the dignity of works of literature, or be of a humbler 
character, is primarily in proportion to the light these compositions throw 
upon the spoken English of the period in which they were written. At 
the same time, in the course of our inquiry, we are bound to deal with 
the origin and character of the English of Literature and its historical 
relation to the spoken English of the various periods. If we turn for 
a moment to consider quite briefly the linguistic conditions in our own 
country at the present time, there are several outstanding facts which at 
once arrest attention. On the one hand, we have a written form of English 
which is common to all literary productions, and which is invariable as 



regards spelling and grammar, both in books and private documents. 
Written English is fixed and uniform. On the other hand, we find almost 
endless variety in the spoken language. If we call up for a moment, in 
no matter how hazy a manner, two or three different types of English 
which we have heard spoken in as many widely separated areas in this 
country, it is apparent at once that these types differ very much from each 
other in almost every respect. Their sounds that is, the ways in which 
they are pronounced are different ; so, too, in many respects, are the 
grammatical forms, and there are differences often in the names of quite 
common objects. If we think of these different types of uttered speech 
in relation to the written language we should perhaps find it difficult to 
say which of them appeared to be least effectually expressed by our 
present system of spelling. In any case it must be obvious to every one 
that Literary English at the present time cannot be intended to repre- 
sent equally the language as spoken locally, let us say in Devonshire, 
Oxfordshire, or Yorkshire. Perhaps it was never intended to represent 
any of these types, and, if not, it may well be asked, To what spoken type 
does it correspond ? Again, it is quite possible for an educated person 
to speak with a very marked provincial accent, and yet to write perfectly 
good English. In such a case the man may be said to speak one dialect 
and to write another, and the character of his spoken dialect need not 
influence his manner of writing to the smallest degree. Certainly no 
indication of his peculiarities of pronunciation will be traceable in his 
spelling. It is necessary to consider rather more closely the varieties 
which exist in present-day Spoken English. 

As a rule when we speak of the English Dialects we mean varieties ot 
English which are associated with particular geographical areas or counties. 
Many of these types of English at the present time are distinguished, 
according to the popular view, chiefly by possessing a more or less strange 
pronunciation, and certain elements in their vocabulary which are not 
current coin in every part of the country, and especially not among the 
more educated portion of the community. Speech varieties of this kind, 
confined to particular areas, it is proposed to call Begional Dialects. 

By the side of these, there are numerous other types of English which 
are not characteristic of any special geographical area, but rather of social 
divisions or sections of the population. Of these the chief is the type 
which most well-bred people think of when they speak of ' English '. At 
the risk of offending certain susceptibilities this type of English must be 
further described and particularized. As regards its name, it may be 
called Good English, Well-bred English, Upper-class English, and it is 
sometimes, too vaguely, referred to as Standard English. For reasons 
which will soon appear, it is proposed here to call it Received Standard 
English. This form of speech differs from the various Regional Dialects 
in many ways, but most remarkably in this, that it is not confined to any 
locality, nor associated in any one's mind with any special geographical 
area ; it is in origin, as we shall see, the product of social conditions, and is 
essentially a Class Dialect. Received Standard is spoken, within certain 
social boundaries, with an extraordinary degree of uniformity, all over the 
country. It is not any more the English of London, as is sometimes 
mistakenly maintained, than it is that of York, or Exeter, or Cirencester, 


or Oxford, or Chester, or Leicester. In each and all of these places, and 
in many others throughout the length and breadth of England, Received 
Standard is spoken among the same kind of people, and it is spoken 
everywhere, allowing for individual idiosyncrasies, to all intents and pur- 
poses, in precisely the same way. It has been suggested that perhaps 
the main factor in this singular degree of uniformity is the custom of 
sending youths from certain social strata to the great public schools. If 
we were to say that Received English at the present day is Public School 
English, we should not be far wrong. 

It has been said that Received Standard is one from among many forms 
of English which must be grouped under Class Dialects. By the side of 
this type there exist innumerable varieties, all more or less resembling 
Received Standard, but differing from it in all sorts of subtle ways, which 
the speaker of the latter might find it hard to analyse and specify, unless 
he happened to be a practised phonetician, but which he perceives easily 
enough. These varieties are certainly not Regional Dialects, and, just as 
certainly, they are not Received Standard. Until recently it has been 
usual to regard them as so far identical with this, that the differences 
might be ignored, and what we here call Received Standard, and a large 
part of these variants that we are now considering, were all grouped 
together under the general title of Standard English, or Educated English. 
This old classification of English Speech, as it now exists, into Provincial 
(Regional) Dialects, and Standard or Educated English, was very inadequate, 
since it ignored the existence of Class Dialects, or perhaps it would be 
more accurate to say that it ignored the existence of more than one Class 
Dialect, and included under a single title many varieties which differ as 
much from what we now call Received Standard as this does from the 
Regional Dialects. The fact is that these types of English, which are not 
Provincial or Regional Dialects, and which are also not Received Standard, 
are in reality offshoots or variants from the latter, which have sprung up 
through the factors of social isolation among classes of the community 
who formerly spoke, in most cases, some form of Regional Dialect. It is 
proposed to call these variants Modified Standard, in order to dis- 
tinguish them from the genuine article. This additional term is a great 
gain to clear thinking, and it enables us to state briefly the fact that there 
are a large number of Social or Class Dialects, sprung from what is now 
Received Standard, and variously modified through the influence of 
Regional speech on the one hand, or, on the other, by tendencies which 
have arisen within certain social groups. 

These forms of Modified Standard may, in some cases, differ but 
slightly from Received Standard, so that at the worst they are felt merely 
as eccentricities by speakers of the latter ; in others they differ very 
considerably, and in several ways, from this type, and are regarded as 
vulgarisms. It is a grave error to assume that what are known as 
'educated' people, meaning thereby highly trained, instructed, and 
learned persons, invariably speak Received Standard. Naturally, such 
speakers do not make ' mistakes ' in grammar, they may have a high and 
keen perception of the right uses of words, but with all this they may, 
and often do, use a type of pronunciation which is quite alien to Received 
Standard, either in isolated words or in whole groups. These deviations 

B 2 


from the habits of Received Standard may be shown just as readily in 
over-careful pronunciation, which aims at great ' correctness ' or elegance 
as when / is pronounced in often, or when initial h is scrupulously 
uttered (wherever written) before all personal pronouns, even when these 
are quite unemphasized in the sentence as in a too careless and slipshod 
pronunciation as when buttered toast is pronounced butterd tose, or 
object is called objic, and so on. 

Again, the deviation from Received Standard may be in the direction 
neither of over-carefulness nor of over-slovenliness. There may be simply 
a difference of sound, as when clerk is made to rhyme with shirk, or laugh 
with gaff, or valet is pronounced without a -/, as if it were a French word. 
Or the difference may not have to do with pronunciation at all, but may 
consist in the inappropriate use of a word say of lady or gentleman, 
or some other simple * derangement of epitaphs '. 

Different social grades have different standards of what is becoming in 
speech, as they have in dress and manners, or other questions of taste 
and fashion. Thus, for example, while some habitually use 'em, ain't, 
broke (past participle), shillin, others would regard such usage with 

All these things and countless others of like nature are in no wise 
determined by ' education ' in the sense of a knowledge of books, but by 
quite other factors. The manner of a man's speech from the point of 
view we are considering is not a matter of intellectual training, but of 
social opportunity and experience. It is of great importance for our 
purpose in this book that the distinction between Regional and Class 
Dialects should be clearly grasped, and also that the existence of Modified 
Standard, by the side of Received Standard, should be fully recognized. 
The very nature and origin of the English of Literature and of Received 
Standard Spoken English cannot be understood unless these facts be 
clearly before us. Both the latter and Literary English derive their origin 
from several Regional types, and have from time to time been influenced 
by others in minor respects. But, during the last two centuries at least, 
the modifications which have come about in the spoken language are the 
result of the influence not primarily of Regional but of Class Dialects. 

Upon these influences, and their effects, it will be our business in this 
book to attempt to throw some light. 

But the question will be asked, Where does Received Standard English 
come from ? This question must be answered, at least in outline, at once. 

It is evident that any form of language, whatever may be its subsequent 
history, must, in the beginning, have had a local habitation, an area over 
which it was Jiabitually spoken, a community of actual speakers among 
whom it grew up and developed. In other words, if Received Standard 
is now a Class Dialect, and the starting-point of other Class Dialects, it 
must once have been a Regional Dialect. 

If we examine the records of our language in the past, it appears that 
from the thirteenth century onwards a large number of writings exist 
which were produced in London, and apparently in the dialect of the 
capital. These documents are of various kinds, and include proclama- 
tions, charters, wills, parliamentary records, poems, and treatises. Among 
the latter we may reckon the works of Chaucer. The language of these 


London writings agrees more closely with the form of English which 
was later recognized as the exclusive form for literary purposes than 
does the language of any other mediaeval English documents. So far, 
then, it appears that Chaucer used the dialect spoken in London for his 
prose and poetry ; this is proved by the agreement of his language with 
that of other documents of a literary or an official character, written in 
London before, during, and after his time. When, after the introduction 
of printing, a definite form of English becomes the only one used in 
literary composition, that form is on the whole, and in essential respects, 
the normal descendant of Chaucer's dialect, and of Caxton's. The latter 
writer specifically states that he uses the type of English spoken in London, 
and in the following century, Puttenham, to whom we shall again refer 
later, recommends, as the proper English for the writer, that which is 
spoken in London. London speech then, or one type of it, as it existed in 
the fourteenth century, is the ancestor of Literary English, and it is also 
the ancestor of our present-day Received Standard. Written Standard 
may be said to have existed from the end of the fourteenth century, 
although it was not used to the complete exclusion of other forms for 
another hundred years or so. It is more difficult to date the beginning 
of the existence of a spoken standard. It is certain that educated people 
continued to use local dialects long after they had given up attempt- 
ing to put these local, forms down on paper. This is true of the upper 
classes no less than of the humbler. As we shall see, there are plenty of 
proofs of this in literature. The question is, How soon did men begin to 
feel that such and such forms were ' right ' in the spoken language, and 
that others should be avoided ? for it is the existence of this feeling that 
constitutes the emergence of a favoured or standard dialect. The exis- 
tence gf such a standard of Spoken English is certainly established by 
remarks of grammarians and others in the sixteenth century, and it is 
highly probable that the first recognition of the superiority of one type 
over the others must be placed at least as early as the fifteenth century, 
and perhaps earlier still. 

A further question, closely related to the above, but not quite identical 
with it, is, When did the ancestor of our present Received Standard become 
a Class Dialect ? Another way of putting this question is to inquire how 
early do appreciable and recognized divergences appear between the 
speech of the upper and lower classes in London. There are general 
reasons for believing that social dialects would arise quite early in a large 
community ; it may be possible, though not easy, to establish from docu- 
mentary evidence a probability that they actually did exist in the fifteenth 
century ; it is quite certain that in the sixteenth century a difference was 
recognized between upper-class English and the language of the humbler 
order of the people, and we have the perfectly definite statement of 
Puttenham that this was the case. 

A simpler problem, but one which must be touched upon here, is the 
diffusion of the common literary type of the written language on the one 
hand, and of the Spoken Standard English upon the other. 

As we shall see, before the middle of the fifteenth century, long before 
printing was introduced, we find that the local dialects are [less and less 
used in writing, whether in private more or less official documents, 


such as wills and letters, or in what we must regard as literary works 
in the special sense. This is due partly to the study of London official 
documents by scribes and lawyers and other officials, partly, in the case 
of literature proper, to the immense vogue of Chaucer. 

With the advent of Caxton and his successors the spread of a know- 
ledge of the English in which he wrote became easy and natural. 

The diffusion of the Spoken Standard was a much slower process. It 
is not complete at the present time, as we see from the fact that more or 
less pure Regional Dialects still linger on. The first classes, outside the 
metropolis, to acquire the Spoken Standard would be those representa- 
tives of the nobility and gentry who visited the Court for longer or 
shorter periods, and the higher officials : the great lawyers, statesmen, and 
ecclesiastics whose business brought them into contact with the King and 
his courtiers. Another influence was that of the Universities, who sent out 
the clergy into country parishes, and masters into the schools. The influ- 
ence of printed books was no doubt considerable, even in modifying actual 
speech, for although these could not affect pronunciation to any great 
extent, they made an ever-increasing public acquainted with the gram- 
matical forms and general structure of a dialect which had these features 
in common with what was becoming more and more the standard 
medium of intercourse in polite society. 

Not less important than the above, in spreading the current coin of the 
form of English which has gradually taken the place of the old Regional 
Dialects nearly everywhere, are the activities of trade and commerce. 

The necessity for intercourse between the great provincial centres of 
industry and the metropolis, and the extraordinary development of means 
of locomotion during the nineteenth century, which facilitated travel, 
have carried the speech of London into all parts of the country and made 
it the current form. 

On the other hand, while the geographical diffusion of some form of 
Standard English has thus grown apace, its spread among all classes of 
the population has been secured by the breaking down of social boundaries 
and intermingling of classes, as well as by the development of education. 
In all the schools, in no matter what geographical area, or among what 
social grade, an attempt is made to eliminate the most marked pro- 
vincialisms and vulgarisms. Thus gradually the Regional Dialects are 
being extirpated, the coarser features of the vulgarer forms of Class 
Dialect are being softened, and the speech of the rising generation is 
being brought up to a certain pitch of refinement or so it is believed. 
At any rate a process of modification is always going on. 

Thus a form of speech which began as a Regional Dialect has become 
at once the sole recognized form used in writing, and has gradually 
extended its sway in colloquial use not merely all over the country, but 
among all classes. 

But this latter process could not happen without a loss of uniformity, 
and thus a fresh differentiation has taken place, resulting in the large 
number of forms of Modified Standard which now exist. 

Among the forms we may distinguish two main kinds one kind which 
is definitely modified by some existing Regional Dialect, and another 
which seems to be more purely a Class Dialect with no characteristic 


Regional influence that can be discovered. Of the former kind there are 
innumerable varieties, and they may be heard in the larger towns such 
as York, Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham, &c. The other kind 
of Modified Standard seems to exist chiefly among the more or less 
educated Middle Class of the South, especially within fifty miles or so 
of London, and, of course, in London itself. The distinctive character 
of the Modified Standard of the big towns remote from London consists 
chiefly in certain approximations in the pronunciation of vowel, and, to 
a lesser degree, of the consonantal sounds to those of the nearest Regional 
Dialect. This kind of English is often described as ' a provincial accent '. 
We ought probably to reckon the typical Cockney English of London, as 
spoken by educated Middle Class people, in the same class as the above, 
only here we should not speak of a ' provincial accent ', but of a ' Cockney 
accent '. The peculiarities of this kind of London English, which dis- 
tinguish it from Received Standard, are doubtless as much Regional in 
origin as are those of Liverpool or Manchester. 

Much below these types in the social scale we have, both in London 
and in the big towns of the Midlands, other forms of Modified Standard, 
also influenced by the Regional Dialect, only more strongly so than the 
educated speech just referred to, various other Class Dialects which we 
should not hesitate to describe as vulgar. The London Cockney of the 
streets is an example of this genre. 

The special type of Modified Standard spoken in such a centre as 
Liverpool or Manchester may become so well established that each of 
these and similar cities may form a starting-point whence linguistic influence 
spreads over an area coextensive with their social and economic influence. 

Thus the process of differentiation is almost infinite, and the tendency 
of language is not, as it has sometimes been wrongly said, in the 
direction of uniformity, but of variety. The former view, which arose 
from a realization that the old Regional Dialects of England were dis- 
appearing, lost sight of the fact that their place was being taken by a 
totally different form of English, not developed normally from the several 
Regional Dialects, but one of different origin, acquired through external 
channels. The old dialects were not growing like each other, but were 
vanishing. In their places various forms of Modified Standard have 

We may now briefly consider the dialectal character of the London 
English from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Already in 
Henry Ill's Proclamation of 1258 we find that the dialect has both 
Southern and East Midland features, while Davie, about half a century 
later, and the fourteenth-century London Charters show the same 
mingling of type, and also have some specifically South-Eastern or 
Kentish forms. The East Midland characteristics become more marked, 
and the purely Southern less so. Chaucer's poetry shows a slight 
increase of the East Midland element, and a corresponding diminution 
of the Southern, and in his prose the Southern element is weaker still. 
Fifteenth-century official London documents and the language of Caxton 
have very largely lost the purely Southern features, and henceforth the 
English of Literature and Standard Spoken English display less and less 
the characteristics of the old Southern Dialect, and an ever-growing 


proportion of typical East Midland peculiarities. Thus London English 
has ever been a combination of elements characteristic of at least three 
Regional Dialect types, and while all three are still clearly traceable 
to-day, present-day English is very largely descended from the old East 
Midland type. Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, how- 
ever, purely Southern features, since discarded, crop up, here and there, 
in the published works and in the private correspondence of the best 

The history of London English since Davie, and later of Received 
Standard, has been a gradual shifting of the relative preponderance in the 
various Regional elements of which it is composed. The influence of 
the Class Dialects probably began in the sixteenth century. 

The mixed character of the dialect of London in the Middle Ages is 
not to be wondered at, having regard to the geographical position of the 
city. Further, the growing importance of London as a market brought 
traders into it from all parts of the country, and the strong East Midland 
influence probably came from the great business centre of Norwich. 

A great deal has been said about different types of dialect, and it is 
well to be quite clear as to the nature of the distinctions which separate 
these. It will be convenient to deal with these under the three main 
heads of Pronunciation, Accidence, or Grammatical forms, and Vocabulary. 

Perhaps the most important characteristic of dialect is its pronunciation. 
At the present time, it is certainly this feature which chiefly distinguishes 
Received Standard from the different kinds of Modified Standard, 
especially when the latter, as so often happens, is spoken by persons who 
are more or less highly educated. Such people will hardly differ in their 
grammar from Received Standard, and as regards Vocabulary, except 
in a limited number of .familiar colloquialisms and slang which certainly 
do vary from class to class, it may be said that, on the whole, persons of 
the same kind or degree of instruction possess approximately the same range 
of words. This is largely determined by general culture and habits of 
reading. It is of course obvious that every occupation or profession 
has technical words of its own, which, while habitual to its members, are 
unfamiliar or perhaps unknown to those outside. These technical * trade 
terms ' are not under consideration for the moment. 

To return to Pronunciation. In the older dialects, where conditions 
are less complex, the question resolves itself very largely into the special 
treatment, within a certain speech area, of an original sound. We must 
illustrate this point briefly. In Old English there was a diphthong 
(i.e. a combination of two vowel sounds) eo which, according to its 
origin, was long in some words and short in others. The dialects of the 
South- West, and West Midlands, by the middle of the thirteenth century 
at any rate, had altered this sound into one closely resembling the present 
French vowel in du. This vowel is written u t after the French method, 
in Middle English. On the other hand, the dialects of the East, especially 
the East Midlands (East Anglia), changed this old diphthong into a sound 
which was written e, which, when it represented the old long eo, was 
pronounced like Mod. French em de, and, when it corresponded to the 
old short eo, was pronounced like e as in bete. 

Examples of these two types are : -O.E. eorfc (/ = <//$ '), M.E. on the 


one hand urpe, and on the other erfie ' earth '; O.E. ceorl, M.E. churl(e) 
and cherl(e) 'churl'; O.E. deorc Mark', M.E. durk and derk\ O.E. ceosan 
(inf.) ' choose ', M.E. chilsen and chesen ; O.E. hod ' people ', M.E. lude 
and /<?<&. It is probable that the Mod. Eng. spelling churl and the now 
obsolete spelling chuse are survivals of the old w-type. 

One other example of an old vowel, developed on different lines in 
different dialects, is the O.E. sounds (pronounced like the vowel in hard), 
which in the M.E. dialects of the South and Midlands is written o, oo, oa, 
representing no doubt some kind of long ' o '-sound, but in the Northern 
and Scotch M.E. dialects is still written a (or at) and rhymes with an 
V-sound. We find these differences preserved to-day when we compare 
stone, foe, hot, O.E. stan, fa, hat, with the Scotch stane, fae, het. In the 
latter word the vowel has been shortened, just as it has been in hot, earlier 
written hoate, &c. These are examples of old differences which distinguish 
different Regional Dialects. 

Now in dealing with a mixed dialect like that of London in the 
thirteenth century, the written and spoken forms of which later became 
respectively the common literary language and Received Standard, the 
problem arises of disentangling the various Regional types of which 
these forms of English are composed. The variegated character of the 
old London dialect is well exhibited in the developments therein found 
of the Old English sound which was written j;, but pronounced like 
French u in bu, lune, &c. There are three possibilities. 

In the larger part of the country, the South-West, the Central and 
West Midlands as far north as Lancashire and Derbyshire, the old sound 
remained apparently unaltered in the M.E. period, and was written with 
the French symbol for this sound u. In the South-East, Kent, Essex, 
and a large part of East Anglia, the old sound appears in M.E. as e, 
indeed it had taken this form already in the ninth century in Kent; 
but in the North, and in the East Midlands, including parts of Nor- 
folk and Suffolk, O.E. y appears as z in Middle English. Now the 
London Dialect of the fourteenth century has all three developments of 
this sound ; indeed the same word may occur in more than one type, 
showing that all three types were current in the London area. Examples 
are : O.E. synne ' sin ', M.E. sinne, silnne, senne ; O.E. byrian ' to bury ', 
M.E. birie(n), burie(ri), berie(n) ; O.E. brycg ' bridge ', M.E. brigge, brugge, 
bregge ; O.E. cyssan ' to kiss ', M.E. kt'sse(n), kiisse(n), kesse(n). 

In Present-day English we preserve all three types, although we do not 
admit more than one form of any given word: thus kiss, sin, hill, 
bridge, ridge, list (vb.), &c., belong to the E. Midland type ; bundle, rush 
(the plant), thrush, clutch, cudgel, and some others, are derived from the 
type having the French #-sound in Old and Middle English, though this 
has changed since the latter period into quite a different sound; while fledge, 
knell, merry represent the Kentish, South-Eastern, and East Anglian type. 
It should be noted that our bury is spelt according to M.E. w-type, and 
pronounced according to the South-Eastern type, while busy is also spelt 
according to the former type, but our pronunciation of it is derived from 
the E. Midland bisy, very commonly found in M.E. and Early Modern. 
All the above words have the vowel y in Old English. 

It is quite possible, though at present difficult to establish, . that the 


distribution of types in the above words depended originally upon Class 
Dialects. In any case the usage fluctuates, even in good writers, during the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and does not altogether agree with our 
present habits. One of the things which complicates our problems is that 
it is possible for a peculiarity which is Regional in origin to pass into 
London speech and Early Standard English through the channel of 
a particular class, so that so far as this particular form of English is con- 
cerned the feature begins as a characteristic of Class Dialect. From this 
starting-point it may gain wider and finally, perhaps, almost universal 
currency. An apparent example of this is the pronunciation of t as e, 
e. g. tell for ////, sence for since, cetezen for citizen, and so on. This pecu- 
liarity, to judge by the occasional spellings, gains ground gradually in 
London English from the late fifteenth century onwards. These ^-spellings 
appear to be more numerous among the middle-class writers, in private 
letters, &c., than among the more distinguished members of society, 
though the latter are by no means free from them. In the eighteenth 
century tell, &c., is distinctly mentioned as a London vulgarism. So far 
as our evidence goes, these ^-spellings, in words that originally had /', 
appear earliest, and are most frequent, in documents written in the 
extreme East Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk. If this is correct, then we 
have here a Regional character which was given currency through the 
lower and middle classes of the metropolis, and later, to judge from the 
spellings in the Verneys'and Lady Wentworth's Letters (cf. p. 229), must 
have been fairly widespread in the speech of the upper classes of that 
period. This peculiarity has apparently disappeared entirely from decent 
English, though a pronunciation something like/><? for />?>/, &c., is common 
among vulgar speakers. 

A rather more difficult problem is presented when in Received Standard 
two different types are found side by side, one of which is of compara- 
tively late appearance, when this later type, being at one time exhibited 
by a large number of words, has at the present time become restricted to 
a much smaller group when in fact the distribution of the types among 
words of one and the same original class has gradually been altered. 
A case in point is seen in the history of a large group of words which in 
Middle English contained the combination -er- 9 the original pronunciation 
of which was approximately that of the Mod. German er 'he'. As 
regards the spelling of these words, present-day English writes sometimes 
-er-, as in certain, servant, &c., sometimes -ear-, as in learn, heard, &c., 
sometimes -ar-, as in star, far, dark, &c. We have two distinct vowel 
sounds in the above words, one that of the vowel in bird, the other that 
of the first vowel in father. All the words spelt -ar- are pronounced with 
this latter sound, and also some spelt -er- t as clerk, Derby, &c., and a 
certain number spelt -ear-, as heart, hearth. The rest, whether spelt -ear- 
or -er-, are pronounced with the sound heard in bird. Now all these 
words and many others were originally written with -er- in M.E. Why 
this diversity in pronunciation at the present time, a diversity which has 
actually to some extent been crystallized in the spelling ? How has it 
come about that many of these words are now pronounced with the vowel 
as in bird, which in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries 
were pronounced, by good speakers, according to the ' -ar- ' type ? That 


this was so is proved not only by the statements of writers on pronuncia- 
tion, but by the spelling in private and published documents. Thus, to 
mention a few sixteenth-century instances, Bishop Latimer writes swarving 
( swerving ', faruentlye, clargie, hard ' heard '; Ascham has hard ' heard '; 
Queen Elizabeth writes harde and parson 'person'; Thomas Wilson 
writes darth ' dearth '. (For a fuller treatment of this point, and evidence 
of -ar- pronunciations in the following centuries, see pp. 212-22, below.) 

At the present time the distribution of the -er- (vowel as in bird] and 
-ar- (vowel as in father} types is perfectly fixed in Received Standard, and 
none of the above pronunciations would be considered polite, though the 
list of -ar- pronunciations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
which differ from our own is even longer than that for the sixteenth 
(see pp. 165; 21 7-21). Between the last quarter of the eighteenth and the 
first quarter of the nineteenth century, it is evident that a very great shifting 
took place in Received Standard, in the distribution of the two types of 
pronunciation in words of this class. What is the reason for this ? 

I think it is difficult, if not impossible, to suggest any other cause than 
the influence of Class dialect. The history of this question is very curious, 
and the details must be left for a later chapter, but it may be stated here 
in outline, and without proofs. The change of -er- to -ar- seems to have 
started in the dialects of the S. East (a few spellings occur in the thirteenth 
century),and to have spread to East Anglia; from 1460 onwards these forms 
are pretty numerous in the Regional dialect of Essex and Suffolk. The 
London Official dialect and the Literary dialect had but few -ar- forms 
before the fifteenth century, and they are rare before the end of this or the 
beginning of the following century. Their number increases with the 
advance of the century, and they are most numerous in the private 
documents of Middle Class writers down to the middle of the sixteenth 
century. The facts seem to point to the -ar- forms being importations 
from below into Upper Class English. They become increasingly 
fashionable until the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when they 
recede before the other type, leaving comparatively few survivors, and 
those chiefly, though not entirely, such words as dark, &c., where the -ar- 
spelling was by this time traditional and fixed. I believe that the explana- 
tion must be sought in the influence of cultivated Middle Class speakers, 
who were not content to abide by the now traditional pronunciation 
' service ', ' virtue ', ' sermon ', but preferred to adopt what they conceived 
to be the more * correct ' and ' refined ' pronunciation suggested by the 
spelling, which by that time had long been fixed. If this view is the 
right one, and the facts seem to establish it, then we have here a linguistic 
feature which found its way from a Regional dialect into Middle Class 
London speech, passed thence into Received Standard, only to be 
ousted later by a fresh wave of Middle Class influence, this time in the 
direction of a deliberate attempt at elegance. In its inception, this 
innovation was probably considered as vulgar and finnicky, as we still 
consider ' fore-head ' instead of ' forrid ', or ' of/en ' instead of ' offen ', 
which last, by the way, Queen Elizabeth herself wrote, and doubtless 

While so many words formerly pronounced according to the -ar- 
lype are now pronounced according to the -er- type, the former is still 


adhered to in clerk, heart, and in the proper names Berkshire, Berkley, 
Bertie, Derby, &c., and this in spite of the spelling. To pronounce these 
as with the vowel heard in bird is a vulgarism from the point of view 
of Received Standard, and in heart this pronunciation is probably never 

We may now pass to illustrate variations in Accidence associated with 
different dialect types. Good examples, of old standing, are the forms 
of the 3rd pers. Pres. Indie, sing., and the pi. of the same tense in verbs. 
In M.E. all the Southern and most of the Midland dialects used a 3rd 
pers. sing, in -eth, cumeth, &c., until we get pretty far north, to Lincoln- 
shire, where forms in -es, -is, cumes, cumis, &c., were almost equally 
common. The Northern dialects always use cumis, cums, &c. At the 
present day the -eth forms are Unknown in colloquial English anywhere, 
but are often used in poetry, chiefly because they provide an additional 
syllable for purposes of metre, and they are familiar to all through the 
Bible and the Prayer Book. These forms are, then, survivors of the old 
Southern and Midland usage. The -s forms, now universal, are originally 
Northern, but from the point of Modern English they may be regarded 
as Midland, since it is pretty clear that they have come into the language 
of everyday life from East Anglian sources. (On this point, however, 
see pp. 334-7, below.) Now these -s forms are practically unknown in 
London English, official, literary, and colloquial, during the whole of 
the fifteenth and the early part of the sixteenth century. In East 
Anglia, however, they appear, even in prose, during the latter part of 
the fifteenth century, and are found occasionally much earlier. They are 
very^ rare in Literary English prose or in private letters until quite 
late in the sixteenth century, though they are commoner in some writers, 
e. g. Latimer, Ascham, Wilson, than in others, and it may be noted that 
these three were all Cambridge men, and belonged respectively to 
Leicestershire, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire. The -s forms are very 
common in Queen Elizabeth's letters written during the last twenty 
years of her life, but much rarer in the earlier ones, written when 
she was a girl. In poetry, in the first half of the sixteenth century, 3rd 
persons in -s are commoner than in the prose of the same period, 
showing that their use here at a time when they were not in common 
and familiar use is due to metrical reasons. It seems that by the begin- 
ning of the seventeenth century, however, these forms had become 
usual in familiar speech and private letters, though the -eth forms con- 
tinued to be used not only in poetry, but in the more elevated prose 
style. This is well seen in the Authorized Version, and in such writers 
as Raleigh and Browne. The auxiliaries hath and doth continued in 
literary, and perhaps also in occasional colloquial, use throughout the 
eighteenth century. 

The old M.E. Pres. Indie, plurals are as follows : in the South -eth, 
we cumej>, or cumeth, &c. ; in the Midlands -en, we cumen, &c. ; in the 
North -es, or -is, we cumis, &c. The earliest London documents have 
the Southern forms exclusively, but as early as 1258 the Midland forms 
predominate (Hen. Ill's Proclamation), and Davie'in 1327 has only one 
example of an -eth ending. 

The later fourteenth-century documents, including the works of 


Chaucer, have very many forms in -en or -e, and very few in -cth. 
Caxton's typical form is -en. Henceforth we may say that -en or the 
e with the loss of -n is the characteristic form of Literary English, and 
this is the ancestor of our present form without ending. The - is 
found only sporadically during the sixteenth century. By the side of 
these Midland forms, the Southern -eth occurs in private letters, and 
even in published literary works here and there throughout the sixteenth 
century, being found, for instance, occasionally in Euphues. (For details 
on the Pres. Indie. Sing, and PI., see pp. 334-41, below.) 

In the history of these verbal forms we see the gradual displacement 
and finally the complete elimination, in Literary and Standard Spoken 
English, of one dialectal type by another. 

Turning now to Vocabulary as a feature of dialectal type, we find that 
in the older works on Modern Regional Dialect this is almost the only 
aspect dealt with; indeed most of these works are, in the main, mere 
glossaries of the various dialects. It is a fact that the present-day 
provincial dialects between them possess a very large number of words 
which either (a) are not used at all in Received Standard, or (t>) which 
express different ideas in the dialects from those which they express in 
Received Standard. On the other hand, nearly all dialect glossaries 
contain numbers of words, assigned to the dialect, which are perfectly 
current in the best spoken and Literary English, and used everywhere in 
precisely the same sense. For an element of vocabulary to rank as 
a characteristic dialect feature, this element, or word, must be either 
unknown altogether in Literary and Received Standard English, or else 
must be used in different sense, with a different idiomatic value from 
those given to it in Spoken or Literary Standard. Such Scotch words 
as neave ' fist ', steek ' to close ', ashet ' dish ', jaw-box * sink ', amongst 
thousands of others, fulfil the first of the above conditions all of them 
would be entirely outlandish and incomprehensible to English people of the 
South while Irish-English after in he 's after doing it = ' he 's just done 
it ', Scotch and North of Ireland to think long meaning ' to feel lonely ', 
Irish-English to knock in the horse knocked him at the stone gap = ' threw 
him at the stone wall ', and bold in the sense of ' naughty ', said of 
a child, fulfil the second condition. 

As regards the earlier periods of English, a minute analysis of the 
characteristic regional distribution of vocabulary has yet to be made for 
Middle English. It is, however, a well-ascertained fact that in certain 
districts of the Midlands and North very large numbers of Scandinavian 
words were in use which were unknown in the South, and the occurrence 
of these in a text would be a safe test, apart from other considerations, 
by which to rule out a southern origin. 

In Middle English it would seem that words often had a comparatively 
limited diffusion, if we may judge of this from the rarity of their occur- 
rence. In such texts as the West Midland Alliterative Poems (Pearl, 
Patience, Cleanness, &c.) and Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight, there 
are dozens of words which seem to be peculiar to these texts, and to have 
died out of all dialects at the present time. The history of a very large 
part of the vocabulary of the present-day English dialects is still very 
obscure, and it is doubtful whether much of it is of any antiquity. So 


far very little attempt has been made to sift the chaff from the grain in 
that vast receptacle the English Dialect Dictionary, and to decide which 
elements are really genuine ' corruptions ' of words which the yokel has 
heard from educated speakers, or read, misheard, or misread, and 
ignorantly altered, and adopted, often with a slightly twisted significance. 
Probably many hundreds of 'dialect' words are of this origin, and have 
no historical value whatever, except inasmuch as they illustrate a general 
principle in the modification of speech. Such words are not, as a rule, 
characteristic of any Regional Dialect, although they may be ascribed 
to one of these, simply because some collector of dialect forms has 
happened to hear them in a particular area. They belong rather to 
the category of 'mistakes' which any ignorant speaker may make, 
and which such persons do make, again and again, in every part of 
the country. 

The question which chiefly concerns us here with regard to vocabulary 
is how far Standard English, written and spoken, has been influenced by 
provincial vocabulary during the last four or five hundred years. This 
is a very difficult question to answer with any degree of certainty, but the 
probability is that such influence has been very slight. After all, the 
essentials of our vocabulary are pretty much the same as they are in 
Chaucer or Caxton. Certain terms and idioms have become obsolete ; 
certain affectations and preciosities which occur in Caxton have perished 
if indeed they ever lived in English, outside his works ; many new words 
of learned origin, or learned concoctions, such as terms from Greek 
elements to designate new scientific discoveries, many words from foreign 
tongues, have become current in our speech since the beginning of the 
fifteenth century ; but has there been any great influx of plain English 
words from English provincial dialects ? Such words would necessarily 
be terms connected with the simplest and most ordinary experiences of 
everyday life, and life on rather a humble plane. But words of this kind 
have not been renewed since the fifteenth century to any great extent, 
and it is certain that it is not from the uncouth Regional dialects, already 
falling into disrepute among both the learned and the polite, that the 
rising Standard English would derive the means for a completer and subtler 

When at the present time we find that some word or expression, 
claimed as a characteristic of some Regional dialect, is in ordinary use 
either in good colloquial or Literary English, we shall probably do well 
to believe, unless the contrary is proved, that the so-called 'dialectal' 
term has been borrowed from one or other of the latter sources, rather 
than that the reverse process has happened. 

If we consider contemporary English, whether written or spoken, it 
does not appear that the Regional dialects are exerting any appreciable 
influence upon our vocabulary. It is certain that no one picks dialect 
words and expressions out of a dictionary to introduce them into his 
speech or his writings. There is the novel which contains large portions 
of dialogue in dialect sometimes genuine, perhaps oftener fictitious 
but the sporadic appearance of such works is not sufficient to give a wide 
currency to new elements of vocabulary. It is doubtful whether even 
Mr. Thomas Hardy, in spite of the considerable vogue of the Wessex 


Novels, has imposed a new word from the West Country upon Literature, 
outside the circle of his imitators. It may be that here and there a 
writer deliberately uses a dialect word which he has learnt either from 
Mr. Hardy or Louis Stevenson, for the sake qf novelty or picturesqueness, 
but the occasional occurrence of such a word in a novel or a poem, 
a word which perhaps nine readers out of ten do not understand, is 
hardly sufficient to establish the claim if indeed such a claim be made 
that our present-day Literary English is being influenced as regards 
vocabulary by Regional dialect. 

The great factor which nowadays destroys the value of Vocabulary as 
a specific characteristic of a given Regional dialect, is the migratory 
habits of the population. Almost every village, even in districts remote 
from London or other great centres of population, contains several 
inhabitants who have come into it from some more or less distant 
county, either because they have married natives of the village, because 
they are in the service of local farmers or gentry, or the railway company, 
or because they were employed in the construction of the local railway 
line, and stayed on after this was completed. These persons bring with 
them alien habits of speech, and their families form so many nuclei 
whence these spread to a wider circle. This is certainly true of pro- 
nunciation and accidence, but probably to a lesser extent than of 
vocabulary, for this is far more readily acquired than new vowel sounds 
or a fresh grammatical system. 

The influence of one Regional dialect upon another, brought about 
by the migration of individuals from one area to another, would be a 
curious chapter in the study of local dialect, which some day perhaps 
may be written. So far nothing has been attempted upon this aspect of 
the subject, and it seems to be assumed, for the most part, that a Regional 
dialect is a pure dialect, except in so far as it is influenced by some form 
of Standard English. The fact that this is far from being the case will 
become more and more apparent after the War. When the soldiers 
return to their villages they will undoubtedly bring a greatly enlarged 
vocabulary, consisting partly of new technical terms, partly of the current 
slang of the Army, partly also of words picked up from their mates in 
the Regiment, who represent often a great variety of linguistic types. 
These returned heroes will naturally and properly enjoy a considerable 
prestige among their fellow villagers, and it would seem inevitable that 
much of their new jargon will become part and parcel of the speech of 
the rising generation. It is thus not improbable that the War will have 
destroyed, in many areas, the last frail claims of Vocabulary to be con- 
sidered a specific characteristic of the dialect. 

But if the vocabulary of Regional dialects has not greatly influenced 
the English of Literature, neither has it fait fortune in Received Standard 
Spoken English. 

Among speakers of this form of English, country dwellers alone have 
any direct contact with local dialect in the strict sense. It is impossible 
to lead the life of the country, and to share its sports and interests, without 
coming into more or less close relations with persons whose normal 
speech is the Regional dialect of the place. In this way, most speakers 
of Received Standard who live in the country gain, involuntarily, a very 


fair knowledge of the local dialect in all its aspects. They can imitate 
the pronunciation, they know the characteristic grammatical ' mistakes ', 
and they know a considerable number of the typical words and idioms. 
Yet, in the South and South Midlands at any rate, most persons whose 
natural speech is Received Standard would not dream of attempting to 
use the local dialect, pronunciation, and accidence in speaking with their 
humbler friends. If they did so it would be felt as an insult by the latter. 
The superior classes keep their excursions into dialect for occasions 
when they wish to reproduce an amusing thing that some villager has 
said, for the entertainment of their equals. On the other hand, while 
retaining his own mode of pronunciation and his own grammar, a speaker 
of Received Standard may employ, without offence, in his intercourse 
with all classes, a considerable number of words and expressions, relating 
to the everyday life of the country, drawn from the local dialect. Such 
words will for the most part be of a more or less technical character, and 
connected with agriculture, horses, cattle, and sport. But these terms 
will hardly be used apart from the scenes and occupations to which they 
naturally belong, and a man who might quite naturally speak in his own 
village of selling tegs, of finding & yaffle's nest, or, if he were an Irishman, 
of leaping a horse, would probably use the ordinary words sheep, wood- 
pecker, jump, at a London dinner-table. 

In such a case as this the knowledge and occasional use of dialect 
words could not be said to affect in any way the normal vocabulary of 
the speaker, any more than would the knowledge of the words of a foreign 
language, and the proper use of them when speaking that language. Of 
course if a speaker were unacquainted with the words current in Received 
Standard, and habitually made use of large numbers of dialect words, in 
all companies and places, it must be admitted that, even if he spoke ' good ' 
grammar and had the normal pronunciation, his speech had so far been 
modified by the Regional form. But, as a matter of fact, such a case is 
hardly conceivable. The exclusive use of a typical Regional dialect 
vocabulary, a use not confined to a few categories of words, but em- 
bracing expressions indispensable in every aspect of life, would not exist 
apart from the employment also of the typical pronunciation and gram- 
matical forms of the dialect in fact a speaker whose vocabulary is of 
this character will not be a speaker of Received Standard at all, but of 
Regional dialect pure and simple. To sum up, it is difficult to see how, 
in recent times. Regional dialect can exercise any considerable direct 
influence upon the vocabulary of Received Standard English. Such influ- 
ence, in so far as it exists at all, must be indirect, an i exerted through the 
medium of Class dialect that is, through the various forms of Modified 
Standard. Just as we have seen that the other Class dialects have 
reacted and are continually reacting upon Received Standard, and thence 
upon the language of Literature, in respect of pronunciation and gram- 
matical forms, so this is also true of Vocabulary. This brings us to a brief 
consideration of Vocabulary as a distinguishing and typical feature in 
Class Dialect. 

We have already touched, in passing, upon this point (see p. 4, above). 
It is desirable to illustrate it rather more fully. It is a curious fact that 
the characteristic features of the colloquial vocabulary of Received 


Standard at any given period consist rather in what is omitted than in 
what actually occurs. There exists a set of prohibitions and taboos 
which are quite rigidly, though unconsciously, observed by certain circles, 
just as in others they are quite as naturally and innocently ignored. We 
may begin from the point of view of Received Standard, and with this 
negative side of the case. It must be clearly borne in mind that, in the 
following and all remarks upon the subject of contemporary Received 
Standard, no attempt is made to dictate upon ' correctness ' in speech, to 
set up canons of propriety, or to give instruction as to how people 
' ought ' to speak. We approach the subject merely as students and 
observers of linguistic facts, which happen to be closely related to social 
phenomena. We neither blame nor praise ; we are indifferent to what 
this or that authority may censure or approve. We are simply concerned 
with what exists among different sections of speakers, and our business is 
to record faithfully certain habits of speech, and not to exhibit our own 

With these prefatory remarks we may begin our brief catalogue of 
curiosities, and we thus designate them not because of any inherent 
strangeness or eccentricity in the words themselves, but on account of 
the curious fact that what are normal and natural elements of speech in 
some circles, are regarded in others as * vulgar ' and laughable. 

We may begin with what have been called ' shopwalker words ', such 
as vest for waistcoat, singlet for vest, neckwear for ties, footwear for boots 
and shoes. It is possible that some regard all these terms as graceful and 
elegant modes of expression, far superior to the homelier words which 
they displace. On the other hand, there are many speakers who would 
as soon think of uttering horrible oaths before ladies, as of using such 
words seriously. Another word, less ' shoppy ' and technical than the 
above, but used by some with a sense of refinement, is serviette instead of 
napkin, whereas others hardly know the word and would be slightly 
startled if one of their friends were to use it. A very curious usage 
belongs to that of the definite article before the names of complaints and 
maladies. The same speakers who might say ' the influenza ', ' the 
measles ', ' the cholera ', ' the stomach-ache ', ' the scarlet fever ', would 
never dream of saying ' the bronchitis ', ' the headache ', ' the appendicitis ', 
' the cough ', ' the cold ', ' the kidney disease ', while they might omit the 
article altogether before the entire list of aches and ills just enumerated. 
The use of the definite article before the names of diseases, &c., was 
formerly the fashion, and so great an authority on social propriety as 
Lord Chesterfield said ' the head-ach '. Again, other speakers would use 
the article before the name of every ill to which human flesh is heir. A 
word which many reprehended when the present writer was young is gentle- 
manly, gentlemanlike being considered the proper word. The latter is now 
apparently obsolescent in wide circles of speakers, and the former has 
nearly won the day. The censure formerly directed against gentlemanly 
arose solely from the feeling right or wrong that it belonged to the 
vocabulary of a lower social stratum and was therefore a vulgarism. An 
interesting reference occurs in a letter of Lord Macaulay of May 28, 1831, 
in which he records that Lady Holland objected to certain words, 
saying ' Then there is talented, influential, and gentlemanly. I never 


could break Sheridan of saying "gentlemanly " though he allowed it was 
wrong.' (See Life and Letters of Macaulay, Popular ed., pp. 150, 151.) 
Reference has already been made to the discrete and restricted use of the 
words gentleman and lady which many practise, preferring the terms man 
and woman in referring to the human male and female. On the other hand, 
many sections of the population now give to the former words an appli- 
cation so universal that more fastidious persons regard these as possessing 
distressing associations. Thus many would put quite differently the 
statement ' The party consisted only of my wife and one of her lady 
friends, myself and another gentleman/ A certain experience and 
dexterity, if instinct be lacking, are required in the use of the two words. 
If it were necessary to attempt to formulate the general tendencies 
which have been discernible in Received Standard English during the 
last three centuries and a half, and which have been increasingly potent 
during the last hundred and fifty years, we should name two, which are 
to some extent opposed, but both of which are attributable to social 
causes. The first is the gradual decay of ceremoniousness and formality 
which has overtaken the speech and modes of address, no less than the 
manners, of good society. The second is the effort sometimes conscious 
and deliberate, sometimes unconscious after ' correctness ' or correcti- 
tude, which, on the one hand, has almost eliminated the use of oaths and 
has softened away many coarsenesses and crudities of expression as 
we should now feel them to be, however little squeamish we may be 
while on the other it has, by a rigid appeal to the spelling the very worst 
and most unreliable court for the purpose definitely ruled out, as 
1 incorrect ' or ' slipshod ' or ' vulgar ', many pronunciations and gram- 
matical constructions which had arisen in the natural course of the 
development of English, and were formerly universal among the best 
speakers. Both of these tendencies are due primarily to the social, 
political, and economic events in our history which have resulted in 
bringing different classes of the population into positions of prominence 
and power in the State, and the consequent reduction in the influence of 
the older governing classes. Among these events, which we can only 
glance at here, are the break-up of the feudal system, which upset tempo- 
rarily the old social conditions and relations ; the extinction of most of the 
ancient baronial families in the Wars of the Roses ; the disendowment of 
the monasteries, and the enriching of the king's tools and agents, which 
produced an entirely new class of territorial magnates in Henry VIII's 
time ; the rise of the great merchants in the towns in the late Middle Ages, 
and the further growth of this class, which under Henry and Elizabeth pro- 
duced men of the type of Gresham ; the Parliamentary Wars and the social 
upheaval of the Protectorate ; the enormous growth of commerce and 
industry, and the rise of banking during the eighteenth and early nine- 
teenth centuries; and especially, perhaps, the development of s*eam in 
manufactures, and the building of railways. By these means many families, 
in the course of two generations, passed from the shop, the hand-loom, the 
plough-tail, or from trundling the wheelbarrow, into the great land-owning 
classes, and became endowed with political influence and even, occasion- 
ally, with political insight, one or both of which often rapidly led them to the 
peerage. In quite recent times the judicious exploitation of the gold 


and diamonds of South Africa has brought men from the meanest 
fortunes to great wealth, and therefore to positions of social prestige, 
within a few years. Such are a few of the factors which have brought 
about a continual recruitment of the upper classes from below often 
from the very depths. We may add to these the growth of educational 
facilities very much enhanced of late years which increasingly through- 
out the last few centuries have enabled the young man of talent to carve 
for himself a way to fortune and importance, and to reach positions 
where he could be useful to the State or to the Church. While the 
skeleton of the fabric of English society has remained the same since the 
break-up of the feudal system, the actual human elements in every section 
are being continually modified. Applied to the time of Edward IV such 
phrases as ' baronial class ', or Tenants in Chief, imply generally, the 
descendants of the companions of the Conqueror. We still have a 
baronial class, but its members are not all the sons of these men. 
Every class is for ever being renewed from below, and though the 
old labels remain, they have largely lost their significance. 

These social changes have inevitably brought with them corresponding 
changes in manners and in speech. It may be said that the new arrivals 
within each social group would assimilate the speech and manners of 
those among whom they came, and this is no doubt largely true, but the 
speech and habits of a lifetime are not changed in a moment, as a vesture. 
Much of the old remains, and slowly and imperceptibly the new-comers 
react upon their environment, almost as much as they are influenced by 
it. Thus, for instance, it is suggested that the Middle Class Puritan ideals 
have gradually brought about a greater reticence of expression and a more 
temperate use of expletives, and also a greater simplicity of manners, 
from which many of the airs and graces of the older order were eliminated. 
Again, a highly cultivated and intellectual section of the Middle Class 
have played a prominent part in Church and State since the time of 
Elizabeth. We see, under that monarch, a generation of courtiers, states- 
men, and prelates, who were also scholars, and even some who, like 
Sir Thomas Smith, were educational reformers and writers upon language, 
as well as statesmen. The influence of these learned courtiers would be 
in the direction of correctness and elegance of utterance, in opposition to 
the more careless and unstudied speech of the mere man of fashion. It is 
not forgotten that the English aristocracy of the older kind has always pro- 
duced from time to time its Surreys, Sidneys, and Sackvilles. There can be 
no better conditions for the formation of colloquial speech than a society in 
which the graces and lightness of the courtier are united to the good taste 
and sound knowledge of the scholar. From such a circle we might 
expect a mode of speech as far removed from the mere frivolities ot 
fashion, the careless and half-incoherent babble of the fop, as from the 
tedious preciousness of the pedant, or the lumbering and uncouth utterance 
of the boor. Such a speech would be worthy to become the common 
standard of a great people, and the conditions under which it could arise 
existed, if anywhere, at the Court of Elizabeth. Lord Chesterfield, with 
his usual sound sense, remarks in one of his letters : ^ The common 
people of every country speak their own language very ill ; the people of 
fashion (as they are called) speak it better, but not always correctly, 

C 2 


because they are not always people of letters. Those who speak their 
own language the most accurately are those who have learning and are at 
the same time in the polite world ; at least their language will be reckoned 
the standard of the language of that country ' (Letter 103). 

We have described one kind of result, of the mingling of classes, upon 
English manners and speech, but there is another which is less happy 
in its manifestations. It is one thing to bring naturalness to the manners 
of an age which has too many artificial airs and graces, by introducing an 
honest, independent simplicity of bearing; it is quite another thing to 
supplant a gay geniality, or a courtly and gracious ceremoniousness, by a 
loutish awkwardness which springs from an ignorance of how to behave, 
by a blatant and vulgar familiarity of address which knows no discrimina- 
tion, or by a stiff-backed pomposity that ill conceals an uneasy self- 
conceit. These things neither attach nor charm. 

Similarly, in the matter of speech, it is good to contribute a nice and 
accurate sense in the use of words, a clearness and precision of construc- 
tion, a definite and unambiguous enunciation, when all these are com- 
bined with the ease, the lightness, the swiftness, and the complete absence 
of deliberately studied utterance which are the essentials of civilized 
colloquial speech. 

It is quite another thing to be so haunted by the fear of not being 
' correct ' as to attempt an over-precise pronunciation based for the most 
part upon the supposed force of the spelling which departs so far from 
established usage as to suggest that the speaker is ignorant of this ; to 
adopt words and locutions derived from books and in their place there, 
but unusual and misplaced in colloquial English; to aim at a sham 
refinement in pronunciation and vocabulary, to shun what is familial- 
through fear of being vulgar in a word to be either artificial or pedantic. 

Such are among the chief vices of Middle Class English at the present 
time, and such they have always been. These traits at first strike speakers 
who are unaccustomed to them as ridiculous and vulgar, but by force of 
habit, many of them gain, first tolerance, and then even acceptance, 
and the history of English, during the last couple of centuries at any rate, 
shows that many of these features have been imposed upon Received 
Standard and have taken the place of the old traditional forms, while 
others are in process of becoming accepted despite the contempt of the 
older generation. This is perhaps the natural result of the shifting 
standards of taste, manners, and speech which were inseparable from the 
social movements referred to. It is significant that while the Middle 
Classes used to insist upon being 'genteel ', the very word has now fallen 
into disrepute, and is held to express a false ideal of breeding, a bogus 
refinement, far more vulgar than downright coarseness. 

We may illustrate, in passing, the decay of ceremoniousness as exhibited 
in language, in the modes of address. It is certain that the plays, novels, as 
well as the private letters, diaries, and memoirs of the sixteenth, seven- 
teenth, and eighteenth centuries reveal a state of manners and address 
among the superior classes far more stately and elaborate than anything 
that now obtains ; even Miss Austen's novels occasionally exhibit a style of 
colloquial English which would now be felt as stilted and high-flown. 

Taking the mode of addressing and referring to people, whether in 


conversation or in letters, we need only consider here the use of Sir 
and Madam, My Lord, My Lady, Your Lordship, and so on. 

How many sons and daughters would now use any of these forms to 
their parents? We may say that among persons who, without being 
intimate, meet or correspond on terms of anything like equality, and still 
more so among relations and intimate friends, all these modes of address 
are obsolete in private life, and survive only in formal letters to strangers, 
or, in uttered speech, only from the public platform, in courts of justice, 
and upon official ceremonial occasions. 

How different was the custom in the eighteenth century may be 
gathered from one of Lord Chesterfield's letters, in which he says ' It is 
extremely rude to answer only Yes or No to anybody, without adding Sir, 
My Lord, Madam, according to the quality of the person you speak to.' 
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, writing to her intimate friend Lady 
Bristol, makes constant use of polite formulas ' You'll wonder, Madam,' 
&c., ' I received your Ladyship's letter ' ; to Lady Rich she writes 
' I have just received at Vienna your Ladyship's compliments ' ; again 
* you see, Madam/ and so on. Lady Lucy Wentworth, writing as a child, 
in 1739, to her 'Dear Papa', Lord StrafFord, signs herself 'Your Lord- 
ship's most dutifull and most affectionet daughter ', and adds a postscript, 
referring to her sister ' Lady Hariot beggs her duty to your Lordship/ 
Such graces of address have vanished from the friendly intercourse of 
intimates and relations, apparently with the triumph of ' the genteel thing ', 
and it can hardly be temerarious to connect the modern off-hand style, 
and the decline in the external forms of politeness, which has been going 
on for a hundred years or more, with the rapid rise of a wealthy 
bourgeoisie and industrial class, who were perhaps inclined to attach 
too little value to externals. The social movements which have so 
profoundly affected Received Standard English, have changed it also 
in that aspect which is the outward expression of manners, and nowadays 
an off-hand informality and familiarity of address are considered a part 
of the natural and inevitable equipment of good breeding. No part of 
a language is perhaps more difficult for a stranger to acquire, and to 
apply with propriety, than the polite formulas which are current at 
a given moment in a particular society ; nothing in speech is more inti- 
mately related than these to the social, moral, and cultural state of which 
language is the most vital expression. 

With regard to the second tendency, that at its best towards greater 
decorum and less crudity in expression, or in its less admirable light 
towards ' gentility ', sham refinement, and a mincing utterance, it has 
already been said that the Middle Class has so far won the day, for 
good or for ill, that that outspokenness which characterized the familiar 
speech of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has been considerably 
toned down. While among both the upper and the lower classes, as 
distinct from those which intervene, a freedom and frankness of thought 
and expression have always prevailed which differ widely from what the 
author of The Decay in the Art of Lying called 'the kind of conversation 
that goes on at a meat-tea in the house of a serious non-conformist 
family ', it would be easy to cull from the plays and letters of the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries words and expressions placed in the 


mouths of well-bred ladies, or coming naturally from their pen in corre- 
spondence, which women of equal breeding nowadays would consider 
coarse and indelicate. Not many women at the present time would 
write if they could some of the poems of Lady Mary Montagu. We 
may take examples almost at random from the dramatists. ' I wonder, 
Sir Francis/ says Lady Heartfree in Vanbrugh's Journey to London ' I 
wonder you will allow the lad to swill his guts with such beastly lubberly 
liquour.' If the genuineness of this as a picture of the speech of a ' woman 
of quality ' in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century be doubted, 
we have ample confirmation in the Wentworth Papers of the first third of 
the latter century. ' My father is laid up with the gout ; ' writes young 
Lady Strafford, ' I believe I shall jumble my guts out between this and 
Russell Street, for since my father has been ill, I have gon every day.' 
Again, the same lady says, speaking of the abode of Prince Eugene in 
London ' I wonder Mons. Marshall can talk of his great liveing here, 
for they had a very indifferent lodging in St. James Street, and the house 
was keept the nastiest I ever see a house, and used to stink of you* 
favorite dish onions, ready to kill me/ This is not elegant diction 
according to our present views, and few great ladies would now speak 
or write thus. (See further examples in Chap. X.) 

Still more remote is all this from the speech of a bourgeoisie which, if 
it cannot aspire to the fine manners of its betters, dare not cultivate their 
freedom of expression, as it is not always sure of being able to distinguish 
true refinement from mere sque^mishmess. People who are anxious 
above all to be ' genteel ' dare not run risks or play pranks in conversa- 
tion. A very shrewd hit at the flimsy sham refinement, which was current 
already in the eighteenth century, is made by Goldsmith in the immortal 
dialogue of the alehouse revellers in She Stoops to Conquer, and the satire 
is all the more telling and laughable by reason of the incongruity of the 
fine sentiments expressed, and the vulgarity of the language in which 
they are couched. 

Squire Lumpkin has just sung the stirring ballad of ' The Three Jolly 
Pigeons ', which is greeted with great enthusiasm. When this has subsided 
the following comments are made by those present : 

'I loves to hear him sink, bekeays he never gives us nothing that's 

'O damn anything that's low, I cannot bear it 

' The genteel thing is the genteel thing any time : if so be that a gentle- 
man is in a concatenation accordingly. 

I like the maxum of it master Muggins. What though I am obligated 
to dance a bear, a man may be a gentleman for all that May this poison 
me if my bear ever dances but to the very genteelest tunes : " Water 
Parted", or "The minuet in Ariadne".' 

' The genteel thing is the genteel thing ' ' Damn anything that 's low ' 
there is the whole gospel of a certain class of speakers. It may be put 
into any terms you please, but the sentiment is the same. The difficulty 
for them is just this, to be quite sure what is ' genteel ' and what is ' low '. 

Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Hotspur, in Henry IV, a protest 
against a particular form of 'gentility' which has completely triumphed 
in our day, namely, the use of mild expressions of asseveration instead of 


oaths of a more lurid character. While the following is directed specific- 
ally at the bourgeois habit of avoiding strong expressions of a particular 
kind, its wider applicability to mincing and over-niceness in general can 
hardly be doubted. 

(The text and spelling are those of the First Folio.) 

Hotspur. Come He haue your song too. 
Lady. Not mine in good sooth. 

Hotspur. Not yours in good sooth ? 

You sweare like a Comfit-makers Wife: 

Not yours in good sooth ; and, as true as I Hue ; 

And, as God shall mend me ; and, as sure as day : 

And giuest such Sarcenet-suretie Oathes, 

As if thou neuer walk'st further then Finsbury. 

Sweare me, Kate, like a Lady as thou art, 

A good mouth-filling Oath: and leaue in sooth, 

And such protest of Pepper Ginger-bread, 

To veluet- Guards, and Sunday-Citizens. 

Act in, sc. i. 

* Like a Comfit-maker's Wife ' ! ' Sunday-Citizens ' ; there is the whole 
matter in a nutshell. ' Swear me like a Lady as thou art a good mouth- 
filling oath' a very different school of manners this from that which 
demands ' the genteel thing '. We shall return later to the subject of 
fashionable oaths and expletives, the use and character of which varies 
from age to age, and to some extent from individual to individual. 

We may note here, by way of contrast with the above, that that very 
great gentleman Lord Chesterfield, while admitting that ' you may some- 
times hear some people, in good company, interlard their discourse with 
oaths, by way of embellishment, as they think ', adds ' but you must 
observe, too, that those who do so are never those who contribute, in any 
degree, to give that company the denomination of good company. They 
are always subalterns, or people of low education ; for that practice, 
besides that it has no one temptation to plead, is as silly, and as illiberal, 
as it is wicked' (Letter 166). 

This pronouncement is at the other extreme from that of Hotspur. 
It has a certain historical interest both on account of its author and of the 
date at which it was written 1748. Even allowing for the century and 
a quarter since Shakespeare, and the undoubted reaction in speech and 
manners from the licence of the Restoration, there are reasons for thinking 
that Lord Chesterfield, in this particular respect, was decidedly ahead of 
the society or, as he would have said, the ' company ' in which he lived. 

One of the greatest charms of the historical study of a language lies 
in the picture which it exhibits of the kaleidoscopic changes in the 
standards of taste which prevail in civilized society from age to age. 
Rightly interpreted, language is a mirror of the minds and manners of 
those who speak it. It is at this point, perhaps, that the two studies of 
' language ', in the technical sense in which universities are apt to use 
the term, and ' literature ' seem most to meet and merge, so much so 
that for a moment the interests appear one and the same. And yet, in 
general, the aims, methods, and point of view of the pure philologist are 
so different from those of the pure student of literature, that a foolish and 


mischievous belief has arisen that these two great studies are in hostile 
opposition to each other. This view naturally finds most adherents 
among those who know least, or at any rate understand least, of either 
Literature or Philology. It is perfectly true that there is a conception of 
literature which seems remote from all human life and activity, and it is 
difficult to believe that such a conception, or the kind of study which is 
naturally based upon it, can appeal to, or interest any healthy and normal 
mind. It is unfortunately also true that there is an equally dismal and 
sinister hobgoblin which masquerades under the title of English Philology, 
and from this bogey, ' holy souls ' at all times recoil with loathing and 
abhorrence. These two monsters, sham ' Literature ' and dead ' Philo- 
logy ', may well be opposed to each other very likely they are but then 
they are equally unrelated to, and out of touch with, everything else in 
the world of realities, except the dreary minds which have conjured them 
up, and find therein a melancholy pleasure. 

The invitation which a student of the history of a language utters to 
the companions of his voyage of discovery should be : 

'Together let us beat this ample field, 
Try what the open, what the covert yield ; 
The latent tracts, the giddy heights explore, 
Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar ; 
Eye nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies, 
And catch the manners living as they rise/ 

This is a terribly high ideal to aim at, and one most difficult of attain- 
ment, but it is the true one. It means that the study of language is one 
line of approach to the knowledge of Man, and that fact is one we must 
never lose sight of. 

It cannot be denied that, even in a more or less light-hearted study 
such as the present work, there is a certain amount of dry detail to be 
gone through, which many may find very dull. But let these believe 
that * even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea ', and that the 
1 horrible pit, the mire and clay ', through which for a time they must pass, 
is only as a Wilderness in which they wander awhile not for forty 
years but which leads to the promised land, ' a good land and a large, 
a land flowing with milk and honey '. This is the reward of a first-hand 
study of the subject itself. It is not always given to those who merely 
read books written about it. 

To 'catch the manners living as they rise' is not easy when we 
attempt to do so through the language of generations which are dead 
and gone. Language as a whole, in all its aspects, its words and idioms, 
its coarseness and reticences, its pronunciation, and the very tones of 
voice, language in its completeness, is the most perfect mirror of the 
manners of the age. But how difficult to call up all this from the printed 
page, how more than difficult to convey to others some impression of 
those fragments which it may have been our good fortune to discover. 

As we steep ourselves in the English of successive ages, we may gradu- 
ally gain a sense of the spirit and genius of each, and feel the slow, almost 
imperceptible change which creeps on from age to age. Wherein pre- 
cisely do the peculiar spirit and genius of each generation consist ? We 


may set forth the vocabulary, the turns of phrase, the cliches in vogue ; 
\ve may give an account of the inflexions, and describe the pronunciation 
of each period ; but in none of these things severally or combined does the 
genius of the age completely reside. Of course, it is too subtle for our 
analysis, and if we can dimly perceive it, we cannot, so to speak, decant 
it, and say ' here it is for all to taste '. All we can do is to select some of 
the most obvious and least subtle aspects of language, the mere husks which 
contain part of the vital principle, and attempt to bring them before the 



ALTHOUGH this book is concerned primarily with Modern English, and 
more particularly with the colloquial forms of speech, it is necessary to 
the intelligibility of the rather complex questions arising out of the com- 
posite character at once of Modern Literary English, and of Received 
Spoken English, to take a preliminary survey of the main types of English 
which were spoken and written prior to the establishment of one of these 
as the sole medium of literary expression, and the recognition of the same 
type as the Received Standard of the Spoken Language. 

And first it is desirable to understand what we mean by the chrono- 
logical labels which, for the sake of convenience, we attach to the lan- 
guage of different periods. When we speak of Old, Middle, and Modern 
periods, we must not be understood to imply that each of these has a 
perfectly clear-cut boundary which demarcates the English of each from 
that which goes before, and that which follows. Such sharp divisions do 
not occur in the history of a language. 

Language is always changing, always in process of becoming different 
from what it was before. Just as the succeeding generations of mankind 
overlap, so that at any given moment there may exist, side by side, the 
old, the middle-aged, and the young, so do the characteristic features in 
the speech of each generation overlap and intermingle. Thus, at any 
given moment, we have the speech of the mature and effective generation, 
the central type which represents the average for the time being ; but 
there is also heard the old generation which is passing away ; and, further, 
that of the rising youth who hold the promise of the future. There are 
no sudden breaks with the old tradition, but a gradual, continuous, and 
unperceived passage from what was to what is, and yet again foreshadow- 
ings of what is to be. We speak habitually of, periods of Transition, as 
wheji the English of the twelfth century is called First Transition, that is 
from Old to Middle English, or when that of the fifteenth is thought of as the 
transition from Middle to Modern English. But in reality each period is 
one of transition, and if, in looking into the language of the past, we seem 
at times to get an impression of an abrupt and sudden change, it is 
because our record is imperfect, and our analysis not subtle enough, so 
that the sense of gradual development is lost. 

As a matter of fact, the more minutely we study the documents from 
which our knowledge of the history of English is gained, the greater 
becomes our feeling of continuous development, and, consequently, the 
more reluctant are we to chop English up into periods, and affix labels to 


each. It should be understood that whatever test we may take in decid- 
ing such a question as when does the Modern period of English begin, 
and the Middle English period end ? and however we may answer the 
question, there is always this mental reserve, that, so far as our available 
evidence goes, this or that feature, which we choose to take as characteristic 
of Modern English, is not proved from the written documents to have 
existed before such and such a date. That it may have existed in actual 
speech much earlier, no sane person will deny ; that it must have existed 
some time before it was sufficiently recognized to be recorded by the 
scribes, is certain. 

Bearing these considerations in mind we shall realize that the chrono- 
logical divisions which it is convenient, and indeed essential, to make 
are merely rough approximations to the actual fact. We may make 
such a rough-and-ready division as the following : Old English, 
from the earliest period down to about 1150; Middle English, which 
we may further subdivide into the Early, Central, and Late periods, from 
1150 or so down to about 1400; Modern English, from the early 
fifteenth century to the present day. We should further distinguish Early 
Modern, from 1 400 or so to the middle of the sixteenth century ; and 
after that it is often convenient to distinguish late sixteenth-century, seven- 
teenth-century, eighteenth-century English, and in the same rough way 
we may consider Present-day English to begin towards the end of the 
eighteenth century. 

It is proposed to give, as briefly as possible, an account of the main 
characteristics of those dialectal types which are represented in varying 
degrees in the London English of the fourteenth century, more especially 
the language of Chaucer. We shall then examine the leading features of 
fourteenth-century London English, emphasizing the different Regional 
constituents of this dialect. 

The Middle English Dialects. 

Considering the speech of England as a whole, from the twelfth to the 
fourteenth centuries inclusive, we are able to distinguish four main types, 
clearly separated from each other by different treatment of the older 
system of vowel sounds, and by different developments in the accidence, 
principally in connexion with the inflexion of verbs and pronouns. 

The roughest and most general classification of the M.E. dialects is 
into Northern including the speech of the Scottish Lowlands Midland, 
South- Western, and South-Eastern, of which the Kentish dialect is the most 
marked and best represented in written documents. Midland may be 
further divided into East and West Midland, and each of these again 
varies in the northern and more southerly areas. The Southern group of 
dialects, while they all possess certain characteristics in common, are 
divided by definitely marked features according to their easterly or 
westerly situation, and we should further distinguish the central Southern 
dialects of Berkshire and Hampshire. The speech of the latter county, 
about which we know something in the M.E. period, shows on the whole 
the features of the west, but shares with the more easterly areas certain 
characteristics not possessed by the former. The dialects of Hereford- 


shire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, and Oxfordshire seem to have been 
mainly Southern in character, but to have had also certain traits which we 
generally associate with Midland. This group is best regarded as South- 
West Midland. 

The most important dialects for our present purpose the making of 
Standard English are those of the South (Central and Western), the 
South-Eastern (Kent and Essex), and the East Midland, especially the 
southern parts of this area Suffolk and Norfolk. The Northern dialects 
have had very little direct influence upon Standard English, and those of 
the West Midlands still less. 

(A list of some representative M,E. texts, arranged according to 
dialect, will be found in the Bibliography, p. 61.) 

A few words are necessary concerning the pronunciation of M.E. It 
must ever be borne in mind that we are dealing primarily with sounds 
and not with letters. The Old English system of expressing vowel sounds 
was considerably modified by the Norman scribes. Sometimes sounds 
which had undergone little or no change since the O.E. period were 
expressed by a different spelling in M.E. Other sounds which had 
changed considerably were still written in the same way. Finally, some 
sounds which had come to be pronounced quite differently were gradually 
expressed by a new spelling, which shows that a change has taken place 
in the pronunciation. 

M.E. spelling, though used according to method and custom, is not by 
any means perfectly consistent. It is to a certain extent phonetic, in 
that there is often a genuine attempt to express the sound as accurately 
as possible, but scribal custom soon hardens, and we must not expect to 
find minute shades of sound carefully distinguished. On the other hand, 
occasional lapses of the scribes from fixed habit may give us a valuable 
revelation of a change of sound. We may lay it down as a general 
principle that the alphabet as used by M.E. writers has what is called the 
1 continental values ' that is, the letter a (in the South and Midlands) 
represents roughly the same sound as in Italian or French, long or short 
as the case may be ; e represents either the sound of e in French de', or 
that in bete ; / represents the vowel in French vite ; o sometimes the vowel 
in French beau, sometimes approximately that in French corps ; // never 
by any chance stands for the vowel in the Mod. Eng. tune, nor for that in 
English but, but either for the vowel in Mod. French lune, but, &c., or for the 
long vowel in Mod. Eng. spoon. This latter sound is more often written 
ou after the middle of the thirteenth century, according to the French 
habit. As a rule such combinations as eu, et, at, au, and sometimes ou, 
represent real diphthongs, that is two distinct vowel sounds, those which the 
letters of the combinations severally express. 

Length of vowel is often expressed by doubling the symbol, as goode, 
saaf, and, by a few scribes, by marking the length above the letter. In 
this book long vowels in Old and Middle English words will always be 
marked in the usual way a, J, &c. 

As regards consonantal symbols, #and>, both inherited from O.E., repre- 
sent indifferently the l th '-sound in Mis or that in Mink ; u and v are used 
indifferently for the ' v '-sound ; gh t h, and sometimes g, represent either 
the sound of ch in German ach, or that in ich ; 3, a modification of an O.E. 


letter, generally stands for the sound of^> in yacht, but in many texts in the 
fourteenth century y is used for this sound ; r is to be pronounced pretty 
much as in present-day Scotch wherever it is written ; wh represents the 
sound of voiceless w, as in the Scotch pronunciation of which, white, &c. 

We now proceed to indicate the chief characteristics of the various 
M.E. dialects both as regards sounds and accidence. 

East Midland. 

1. O.E. x becomes , or when lengthened, a : Q.JL.g/xd, M.TL.glad, 
O.E, sxt, M.E. sat, &c. ; lengthened in : O.E. /xd-er, M.E. fader 

2. O.E. de becomes, according to its origin, either [e] with sound of 
Mod. French ete, or [e] with sound of Mod. Fr. bete. The former occurs 
in M.E. seed, side; O.E. sxd 'seed', the latter in M.E. tcchen, teachen, 
O.E. tdecan i teach '. 

Note. The O.E. symbol de represented the same vowel as the Mod. Eng. 
sound in hat, mad, &c. It occurred in O.E. both long and short. 

The O.E. long de, had two distinct origins, (a) x represents a Primitive 
O.E. vowel of very frequent occurrence. This vowel remained practically 
unchanged in the West Saxon dialects until the close of the O.E. period. 
In all the other dialects, North, Midland, and Kentish or S. Western, it 
became <? and is so written in the earliest records. We may refer to this 
sound as &. 

Examples of this are: W. Saxon sxd 'seed', non-W.S, sed\ W.S. 
Fret. PL sxton ' they sat ', bxron ' they bore ', sprxcon ' they spoke ', &c., 
non-W.S. seton, beron, sprecon, &c. The existence of the latter type in 
words of this class in a M.E. text shows that it is not in an ideally pure 
W.S. dialect, though it does not fix it as definitely E. Midland, without 
other considerations. The proof of whether the Sthn. [e] or the non- 
Sthn. [e] exists in any given text cannot always be established with 
perfect certainty. The best proofs are (i) rhymes in which words which 
had this x in O.E. rhyme with other words of a different class which are 
known to have either one or other of the two ^-sounds; or (2) the occurrence 
of the spelling ea which is never used for the tense [e]. Thus if rede 
' council ' should rhyme with bede, ' prayer ', it would establish the Southern 
type of pronunciation of rede, O.E. rsed, as bede, O.E. (ge)bedu t had the 
long slack [e] in all dialects. Again, such a spelling as weaden ' weeds, 
garments ', O.E. gewxde, which occurs in Ancren Riwle, also proves the 
Southern type of pronunciation. Such a rhyme as dlde with jede, see 
extract B (rf) below, shows Midland type, asjeJe, O.E. ge-eode, has always 
a tense e. 

(b} The other O.E. x sound had a different origin, and a different fate. 
As regards its origin, it was developed in O.E. itself, before the historical 
period, from a long a vowel, when this was followed by either -z'-, or -j- 
in the next syllable, Thus O.E. txcan ' teach ', fr. *takjan, cf. O.E. tacn 
' sign ' ; O.E. dxlan ' to divide ', dxl ' a part ', fr. *daljan, *dati, cf. the 
unaltered O.E. dal 'a part' (our dole)] O.E. Ixdan 'lead/ fr. * lad/an, cf. 


lad 'path', 'course ' ; Ixran ' to teach ', fr. *larjan, cf. O.E. Idr < doctrine, 
lore ', &c., &c. The de of this origin we may refer to as 2 . This % 
remains in every O.E. dialect except Kentish, where it is early, though 
subsequently to the change of the former de just considered, changed to e. 
In M.E. this characteristic difference between Kentish and the other 
dialects is preserved, and while the latter have the slack [e] in words of 
this class, Kentish and South-Eastern have [e]. This is well shown in 
the late fourteenth-century writings of Gower, a Kentishman. This 
writer, who, as we shall see, is on the whole remarkably free from pro- 
vincialisms, habitually expresses the tense [e], whatever its origin, by ^'e, 
and very conveniently for us, frequently writes diel ' past ' ; he also 
rhymes techen ' teach ', with sechen ' seek ', where it is certain that tense 
e is intended, as the latter word could have no other pronunciation. 

East Midland, then, agrees with all M.E. dialects except the Southern, 
Saxon dialects in having the tense sound for de 1 , and with all the dialects 
except Kentish in having the slack sound for ?. 

(3) O.E. J^, which had the sound of French in tune, &c., becomes z in 
East Midland as in the Northern dialects. Examples : (short y) O.E. 
hyll, M.E. hill, O.E. brycg ' bridge ', M.E. brigge, O.E. synn ' sin ', M.E. 
swne,&c.; (longj?) O.E. fyr 'five', M.E. /fr, O.E. hydan 'to hide', 
M.E. hiden, O.E. (ge)mynd 'mind, memory', M.E. mind. Note that the 
letter^ is often used in M.E. for long or short i, and occurs often in 
the above words, but it never implies anything but the i sound. Note 
also that in some areas of the E. Midlands the old J> sound appears as e. 
See further on this below, under Kentish and South-Eastern. 

(4) O.E. eo becomes I, always tense when it represents O.E. eo in East 
Midland. Examples : O.E. eorfie ' earth ', M.E. erfie, O.E. heorte ' heart ', 
M.E. herte ; O.E. ceosan ' choose ', M.E. chesen, O.E. Jiedld Fret. Sing, of 
healdan 'hold', M.E. held, O.E./^// Fret. Sing, tifeallan 'fall', M.E. 
fell, &c., &c. 

(5) O.E. ea before r and another cons, becomes de in late O.E. and in 
M.E. appears in E. Midlands as ar-. Examples: O.E. earm 'poor', 
later derm, M.E. arm, O.E. heard, hderd ' hard, bold ', M.E. hard, &c. ; 
ea before // becomes all, O.E. eall ' all ', M.E. all. Bokenam, however, 
still has such belated forms as sherp ' sharp ', yerd ' yard ', perhaps 
through Essex influence. 

(6) Southern O.E. eald, Late O.E. (Sthn.) field, appears as did in the 
Midland and Northern dialects already in O.E. This form becomes old 
in M.E. in the Midlands, through the change of a to 5. Examples : 
O.E. (Sthn.) eald, deld, Midland aid 'old', O.E. Southern beald, bdeld 
'bold', Midland bald, M.E. Midland bold, O.E. Southern teald, cxld 
'cold', Midland cald, M.E. Midland cold, &c. Norf. Guilds have 
the exceptional helden, inf. and Bokenam held imperat. See the 
Southern and Kentish treatment of this sound below. 

(7) O.E. ie. This diphthong, both long and short, is typical of the 
Southern, West Saxon dialects in O.E. In all the other dialects it 
appears as e in the corresponding words already in the OE. period. From 
the point of view of the Midland and other non-Saxon dialects, therefore, 
including Kentish and South-Eastern, the starling-point is e. This e 
remains in Midland in M.E. See, however, under Southern below, the 


fate of Old English (W. Saxon) ie. Examples of this in Midland M.E. 
are : O.E. (non-Sax.) ermpu, West Saxon iermfru ' misery ', M.E. Midland 
ermfie; O.E. (non-Sax.) herein 'hear', West Saxon hieran, M.E. Midland 
heren, O.E. (non-Sax.) lesan ' release, redeem', West Saxon lusan, M.E. 
Midland lesen. 

Points affecting the Accidence in East Midlands. 

(8) Pres. Indie. 3rd Pers. Sing, ends in -ep comep 'comes', tdkep 
' takes ', fienchep ' thinks '. In the more northerly area (Lincolnshire, 
and even in Norfolk) the Northern ending -es often occurs, and this form 
gains ground, so that in the fifteenth century Bokenam, who wrote in 
the Suffolk dialect, often uses -es. 

(9) Pres. Indie. PI. ends in -en, or -ewe hope(ii) ' hope ', we seye(n) 
' say ', we mdke(ti) ' make '. 

(10) Imperat. PI. ends in -ep come}> 'come', lokej> 'look', &c. 

(n) Pres. Participle ends in -end(e) rennend(e) 'running', touchend(e) 
1 touching '. In the northerly area of Lincolnshire, the typical Northern 
-and often occurs (Handlyng Synne). Even Norf. Guilds have -and at 
least once, by the side of the usual -end, and occasional -yng. The ending 
-ing, -yng is found occasionally quite early in the fourteenth century, 
and finally becomes the sole form. 

(12) The Fern. Pers. Pron. sche, she, scho, &c., is found quite early 
even Peterborough Chron. (c. 1154) has sex. This form is Northern 
in origin, and usurps the place of the O.E. heo, M.E. he, heo, &c., &c. ; 
cf. the Fern. Pron. in South- West and Kent below. 

(13) The Pers. Pronouns in the PI. are he t and the Scandinavian /* 
' they ', and gradually, though later, freir, &c., 'their ', and/i?)# 'them', take 
the place of the O.E. hie, heora, heom, &c., M.E. hi, he, here, hem. The 
Scandinavian forms apparently pass into Midland fr. the North, and 
the Nom. comes first. With the exception of Orm (1200), however, who 
has /<??, even this form is not much in use before 1300, after which date 
it apparently becomes almost, though not entirely, the only form in use. 
Norf. Guilds still have he by the side of the usual fiey, &c. Orm 
has Dat. PI. }>e%m by the side of the old Aemm, and hem seems to 
be the typical form until the fifteenth century (Bokenam). The typical 
Possessive PI. is here, only Orm having fieftre (by the side of heore] before 
the fourteenth century. Early in this century Robt. of Brunne has 
occasional peyr, by the side of the much more frequent here', Norfolk 
Guilds (1389) appear only to have here, but Bokenam in the next century 
has both the English and Scandinavian forms. Compare this with the 
state of things in South- West and South-East. 

(14) Pres. PI. are, aren of Verb * to be' ; also ben. 

(15) Loss of O.E. prefix -, M.E. i->y-, in Past Participles, and reten- 
tion of - at the end of strong P. P.'s. This latter, however, is not 
universal: cumen, for body n 'forbidden', tolde 'told'; cf. Southern icume, 
itold, &c. 

The following short extracts from E. Midland texts give some idea 
of the dialect. The numbers attached to certain forms refer to the above 


statements of the dialect features, and the words so numbered illustrate 
the feature described in the paragraph with the corresponding number. 

It will be seen that in most cases there is a certain admixture of forms 
which do not belong strictly nor solely to E. Midland. This is rather 
disappointing and disconcerting to the student, who must remember that 
the speech of one area dovetails into that of another, as do the areas 

Specimens of E. Midland. 

(a) Wiles at weder is s5 ille at times the weather 

|i 14 2. b. 15 

$e sipes ftat arn on se fordriven ships that are driven about on the 

i 3 4 sea 

15$ hem is de, and lef to liven hateful to them is death, and dear 

9 13 9 to live 

biloken hem, and sen is fis ; they look around 

"*i3 9 

an eilond he wenen it is they think (* ween *) it is an island 

*3 14 i 

'Serof he aren swr& fagen, they are very glad thereof, 

13 13 9 

And mid here migt ar to he dragen with their might towards it they 


Sipes on festen at anchor 


And alle up gangen go 

(b) Dis devel is mikel wr8 wil and magt 

So wicches haven in here craft their 

9 3 

He doS men hungren and haven Srist he causes men to hunger and to 

3 3 have thirst 

And mani o^er sinful list. many other sinful desires 


(a) Fro }>at tyme ]>an wax Pers 
A man of so feyre manors 

pat no man my^t yn hym fynde 

But to t>e pdre boj>e meke & kynde ; 
A mylder man ne myjt nat be 

Ne to J>e pore more of almes fre 
And reuful of herte also he was, 

2. b. 

pat may si )>ou here lere yn j>ys pas. learn 

(b) Pers stode and dyd beholde 
How }>e man J>e kyrtyl solde 

And was |>arwith ferly wrdpe wrapped up 

i 6 

pat he solde s5 sone hys clo))e ; 
He my^t no lenger for sorow stande, 

4 II 

But ^ede home ful sore gretand. weeping 


(c] Blessyd be alle pore men 

8 13 

For God almy^ty loue}> hem ; 

13 i H 

And weyl ys hem |>at pore are here well 

13 14 44 

pey are with God bo}>e lefe and dere 


And y shal fonde, by ny;t and day endeavour 

To be pore, 5yf )>at y may. 

J 3 4 

{d) Vnto a cherche boj>e )>ey 3ede 

3 aa 

For to fulfylle hys wil yn dede. 

i 2 a 15 

(*) pe porter had hys speche lore lost 

7 i 15 

And heryng also, syn he was bore. 

Characteristics of Central Southern and South- Western 
Dialects in M.E. 

(1) O.E. X remains as a front vowel, written x, ea, or e in the M.E. 
texts of the South, of the twelfth century and in those of the first half of 
the thirteenth, a being written only occasionplly ; from the beginning of 
the fourteenth century we find either a exclusively, or ^-spellings with 
a certain sprinkling of ^-spellings. This means that the original Southern 
type was gradually eliminated, even in the West, and its place taken by 
Midland forms. Thus Holy Rood Tree (c. 1170) generally has x, occa- 
sionally e, once ea t and there is no doubt that all these spellings imply the 
same sound, probably something between [g] and [x]. This text only has 
a after w in water. The Lambeth Homilies (c. 1190) has always e 
efter, wes, feder, cweti, O.E. defter, wxs, fxder, cwxfi ' said ' ; Moral Poem 
(Egerton M.S.), c. 1200, has e-, the Metrical Life of St. Juliana (Glos. 
1 300) has a few ^-forms, spek 'spoke', O.E. sprxc,je/'ga.vG', but mostly a 
wat ' what ', O.E. hwxt, quad, jaf 1 gave ', O.E. g&f> was, glade > O.E. glded 
'glad', &c.; Robt. of Glos. (c. 1330) writes both a and e', Trevisa 
(1387) nearly always a, pat, blak 'black', O.E. bldec, schal 'shall', Late 
O.E. scxl, &c., but creftes, O.E. crxftas. St. Editha (Wilts., c. 1420) has 
a alone. 

This test is therefore only applicable to the early M.E. period, and 
then needs to be used with caution and combined with other tests. See 
the treatment of O.E. x in Kentish below. We may note here, as we 
shall not devote a special section to the dialect, that the texts written in 
the Southern part of the W. Midland area Oxfordshire, Worcestershire 
St. Katherine, St. Juliana (prose), Lajamon, Harleian Lyrics (Heref. 
1 300), and Piers Plowman, which all have many typical Southern traits, 
as well as other more typical Midland features, frequently have e as well 
as a. This may be owing to the Southerly situation of the counties 
whence these texts emanate, but it may also be an inheritance from O.E., 
since in a portion of the Mercian area x had become e already in that 

(2) (a) O.E. x l , which normally remains in W. Saxon alone of all the 


O.E. dialects, or in those areas over which this speech-influence extended, 
becomes [e] when it survives into M.E., and is written either de (in very 
early texts only), e or ea. The best proofs of the existence of this type 
in M.E. are the spelling ea, and rhymes of words of this class, with words 
whose vowel was of a different origin, but which are known to have had 
the [e] sound. 

It is pretty certain that the area over which the Southern type of this 
sound extended in Late O.E. and in M.E. was far wider than the original 
South- Western area of Wessex. On the other hand, the so-called de- area 
seems later to have been restricted, and whereas, for instance, there are 
apparent traces of this sound in Southern West Midlands (St. Jul. Prose 
Life, Ancren Riwle, Harleian Lyrics, &c.), yet the evidence, even of the 
true Southern texts of the later period, shows that the other type with tense 
[<?] was also in use. Thus Metr. St. Jul. by the side of brep rhyming 
with de}>, rede with lede ' lead ' the metal, O.E. 6rxJ>, deaj>, rxd, lead, also 
rhymes rede, O.E. rOed, with sede ' said ', and drede, O.E. drM, with neode 
where in each case the rhyming word must have had tense <?, and St. 
Editha rhymes/^, O.E.fixr ' there' withy/ere, Adv. ' together '. Cf. O.E. 
gefera ; bere ' bier ', O.E. bxr, with here ( here ', O.E. her. On the other 
hand, Metr. St. Jul. rhymes brej> 'breath' with de]> 'death', O.E. brxp, 
deap, rede with lede ' lead * vb., O.E. Idedan, where the x = He* (see under 
E. Midlands above, 2 (6)). 

() O.E. de z remained as the slack long vowel [e] throughout the 
Central Southern and South-Western areas. (See remarks under E. Mid- 
land 2 (d) above, and under Kentish, &c,, 2 (b) below.) 

(3) O.E. $ remains and is written u, or when long sometimes ui, or 
uy. In part of the Southern area O.E. y becomes i already in the O.E. 
period before the c front-consonants ', O.E. cc, eg, and perhaps sc, written 
c h> g e > sc h m M.E. The present writer showed that this tendency was 
particularly strong in Devon, Dorset, Somerset, and Wilts., weaker in 
Hants, weaker still in Glos. See Short History of Eng., 158 (/). 
There is also a strong probability that O.E.^/ was unrounded to i in part 
of Devon, independent of the influence of following consonants. The 
occurrence of i- forms in Southern texts, therefore, does not necessarily 
show impurity of dialect. The Southern area of the W. Midlands, whose 
dialect is represented in such texts as La5amon, Ancren Riwle (' Morton's 
text'), St. Jul. (Metr.), St. Katherine, Harl. Lyrics, and Piers Plowman, 
preserves the sound [y], both long and short, with great fidelity and con- 
sistency huyden ' hide ', fur, fuyr ' fire ', murhde ' mirth ', cunne ' kin ', 
luper ' wicked ', sunne * sin ', rug ' back, ridge ', &c. &c. 

(4) O.E. eb seems to have become first of all [<] in German sMn, 
and then [y] in a very large area of the South, South- West, and West 
Midlands. The sound, in texts from this wide area, is at first written eo, 
according to the O.E. scribal tradition, and then u, ue, or o. There are 
traces of this as far East as Surrey (Owl and Nightingale) and Hampshire, 
and Moral Ode (Egerton MS., Hants) writes duere ' dearly', suelfer 'silver'; 
Usages of Winchester (1389) still writes/r>, O.E./eorj>a ' fourth ' ; four- 
teenth-century forms of Hants Place Names in Hundred Rlls. have Dupe 
' deep ', O.E. deop, and NutherQ.E. neoper 'lower'. The u, o, or eo forms 
are further found in St. Jul. Metr. Life (only eo, generally e, never u), Robt. 


of Glos., Trevisa, St. Editha, and as late as 1447-50, in the letters of 
Shillingford, Mayor of Exeter. The texts from the South- West Midlands, 
La^amon, St. Jul. (Prose), Harl. Lyrics, &c., all have these forms in vary- 
ing degrees of frequency. The development of O.E. eo into e on one 
hand, or into u on the other, is one of the great dialectal tests between 
East and West (not between South and Midlands), and it would be rash 
to assign any text which has only e in words which had this diphthong in 
O.E., to an area farther west than the borders of Hampshire. Examples 
are horte ' heart ' ; Horned, O.E. geleorned ' learnt ' ; bon inf. ' be ', O.E. bean ; 
swore, O.E. sweor 'neck', &c., &c., Owl and Nightingale; clupep 'calls', 
O.E. cleopep, fame 'limbs', O.E. leomu, brust 'breast', O.E. breast, 
in Robt. of Glos. ; suppe ' after ', O.E. seoppan, luver, O.E. leofor 
'dearer', //"' dear', O.E. leaf, pueves 'thieves', O.E. peofas, &c., in 
Trevisa ; vrthe = urthe ' earth ', O.E. eorpe, dure ' dear ', O.E. deor, 
bude 'to offer', O.E. bJddan, in St. Editha. None of these texts is 
perfectly consistent, however, and ^-spellings are fairly frequent in all, 
which perhaps shows that the easterly type was coming in, at any rate 
in the written language. 

(5) O.E. ea followed by r-f another consonant. The earliest South- 
western texts, such as the Lambeth Homilies and others down to and 
into the thirteenth century, preserve the typical Southern erm, herm, O.E. 
earm, derm, hearm, hxrm, but the Midland type arm, harm, &c., takes the 
place of these later. In this particular, as in so many others, the South- 
West Midland texts adhere to the Southern type. Similarly, before -// 
we find all instead of Southern dell or ell very early. Thus, for instance, 
St. Jul. (Metr.) has hard, harm, warm, uallep ' falls ', alle. The South- 
Eastern translation of Palladius, however (Essex c, 1420), still preserves 
e in hervest, herd ' hard ' ,yerdes, &c. 

(6) The O.E. combination eald in O.E. eald ' old ', beald ' bold ', ceald 
' cold ', wealdan ' to rule, wield ', healdan ' hold ', appears in the early 
Southern texts in the typical forms -eald-, -deld-, -eld-, &c., which all = [e/</], 
but the Anglian type, O.E. did, M.E. old, gets in very early, and as early 
as the twelfth century this substitution is beginning. In the thirteenth 
century and later there are only a few scattered survivals of the Southern 
type, such as wdelde in Moral Ode, welde in Prov. of Alfred, and so on. 
St. Jul. (Metr.) has only old, holde, &c. The South-Eastern dialects 
preserve the Southern form later, on which see below. 

(7) O.E. u in the Southern M.E. dialects. Already in O.E. we can 
distinguish, in the various Saxon texts, two dialectal types in the treat- 
ment of this old diphthong. In the later language some texts write y as 
hyrde ' shepherd ', earlier hierde, sylf ' self, earlier sielf, scyld ' shield ', 
earlier scield, hyran ' hear ', earlier hteran, &c. Others write i : hirde, silf, 
said, hiran. The former type appears as with u or ui, uy when long ; 
in M.E. when retained the latter is written i. Thus M.E. hurde and 
hirde, sulfa.nd silf, schuld and schild, huyre(n), hmre(n), or hure(n) by the 
side of htre(n), are all typical Southern forms, as distinct from herde,scheld, 
heren, &c., which occur in all the dialects other than the South- Western. 

The Southern conditions are more faithfully preserved in the treatment 
of the original short diphthong than in that of the long, and many texts, 
which in other respects are quite South- Western in type, have only traces 

D 2 


of ui in the verb 'to hear', and many more examples of <?. St. Jul. 
(Metr.), Robt. of Glos., and Trevisa adhere most faithfully to the Saxon 
types both in long and short, though all have some e- forms. St. Editha 
has only e, though otherwise very Southern in character. St. Jul. (Metr.) 
has hurde (Pret.), but bileue from O.E. Re/an] bizite 'obtaine', but jelde 
1 pay ' Inf., W. Saxon gieldan. 

The South- West Midland texts of the thirteenth century have certain 
traces of the u- forms. 

Points connected with the Inflexions. 

(8) The 3rd Pers. Sing, of the Pres. Indie, of verbs is universally <?/, 
-ip, or -p, and we do not find the -es, -s endings as we do in E. Midland 
texts. A very curious exception, louys ' loves ', occurs in St. Editha (2228), 
and there are a few other -s forms in this text. 

(9) The Pres. PI. Indie, normally ends in -ej> or -ip. 

This Southern peculiarity is shared by the dialect of the Prose St. Jul., 
and also by the Herefordshire (Harleian) Lyrics, though the latter has 
some examples of the Midland -en. 

(ro) The Imperat. PI. ends in -ep and -ip, as in E. Midland. 

(n) The Pres. Participle ends in -ind(e). The later -ing participles 
develop rather later than in E. Midland. The South- West Midland 
texts, while exhibiting examples of the Southern -inde, have also the 
Midland -ende. 

(12) The Fern. Pers. Pron. Norn, is always, in the South, some form 
derived from O.E. hed. 

The E. Midland and Northern she, sche forms are unknown, except for 
the quite exceptional sse in Robt. of Glos., and a few examples in Trevisa, 
who generally uses the typical heo, hue. Robt. of Glos. has 30 frequently, 
also heo, and St. Jul. (Metr.) has he, heo. Other forms of these in Southern 
texts are the unstressed ha, while he, hee, hoe appear in St. Editha. 

(13) The Pers. Pronouns of the PI. are Norn. ///', heo, the unstressed 
ha and a (Lamb. Horns., Moral Ode, Saules Warde, Owl and Nightin- 
gale, Robt. of Glos.), and the weak a in Trevisa. St. Editha seems to 
have only the Scandinavian forms, pey, pai, pay, and this is the first 
appearance of these forms in the South. The Possessives are hor(e) (God 
Ureisun, St. Jul. (Metr.), and Robt. of Glos.), keore (Lamb. Horns., Moral 
Ode), the weak eore (O. and N.), here (Robt. of Glos., Trevisa, and St. 
Editha), her, hure, hurre (St. Editha). Ace. and Dative heom (Lamb. 
Horns., Moral Ode, O. and N.) ; hem (St. Jul. (Metr.), Robt. of Glos., 
St. Editha); horn (Robt. of Glos., St. Editha); ham (Lamb. Horns., God 
Ur., and Trevisa). 

( 1 4) The Pres. PI. of Verb ' to be ' is normally leap, bep, bup. Usages 
of Winchester has the two last, Robt. of Glos. has bep, Trevisa the last. 
St. Editha has the Midland ben and arne. The South- West Midland 
Harleian Lyrics has both Southern bup, and Midland aren. 

(15) In O.E. the particle ge- is prefixed commonly to the P. P. of 
verbs, both strong and weak, when uncompounded. The P. P. of Strong 
Verbs ends in -. In M.E. in the South and South- West Midlands the 
prefix is generally retained, being written i- my-. All Southern texts 


from the earliest - M.E. to St. Editha write ychose, yslawe ' slain ', 
yfounde, &c., &c., with loss of final -. Ancren Riwle, St. Jul. (Prose), 
St. Katherine, and Harl. Lyrics generally retain the prefix y-, but adhere 
to the Midland type in conserving also the -n in strong P. P.'s, e.g. 
tkumen, &c. The prefix is often used in the Pret. in O.E. and in Southern 
M.E., and indeed may be used before any part of a verb, often with no 
particular force, though it also has the function of making intransitive 
verbs transitive. 

(16) Infinitives end in -an and -ian in O.E. In M.E. these become -en, 
or -e, and -z'en, ie respectively. The latter type is often written merely -y, 
or -i. It is typical of the South, both East and West, but disappears 
before the encroachments of the -an type in E. Midlands. Examples : 
O.E. lokian ' look ', M.E. lokie, lokt, loky ; to susteni, and somony ' to 
summon ' both occur in Robt. of Glos. This suffix is also used with 
Vbs. of French origin. The loss of the final -n in the Inf. is a typical 
Southern feature. 

Extracts illustrative of Southern Dialect. 

* Note that in the South and South-Western area, initial /- is often, 
though not with complete consistency, written v or u, implying a voiced 

(a) From Moral Ode (Egerton MS.) (Hants, circa 1200). 
Muchele luwe he us cudde, wolde we it understonde 


pat vre eldrene misduden we habbet vuele on honde 


Die^ com in J)is middenerd )>urh }>e calde deofles onde 
And synne and sor^e and jeswinch a watere and ec a londe 

3 3 9 

Vres formes faderes gult we abigget alle 

1 5 15 

Al his ofsprung after him in herme is bifalle. 

3 7 2 a 2 a 

purst and hunger, chule and hete, eche and al unel)>e 
purh died com in bis middenerd and ober vnisalbe. 

Notes, vuele = uvele, ' evil ', O.IL.yfet. middenerd = O.E. (W. Sax.) middangeard 
'earth' (late O.E. -gerd). The ending -ej> is written -et in this text in habbet, abigget 
' purchase '. chule = W. Sax. tide ' cold ' (late O.E. cyle, whence chule). Died, 
instead of dej>, as the other MSS. have, may be the result of Kentish influence in the 
scribe, v and u are interchangeable, hence vre = ure 'our'; vres -= tires, gen. 
Line 5. 'the guilt of our first father'. Note the loss of h in unelj>e, lit. 'unhealth', 
' sickness '. 

(b) From Proverbs of Alfred (1200). 

X I 

pus queb Alured: 
Wis child is fader blisse. 


If hit so bitydeb 
pat bu bern ibidest 
pe hwile hit is lytel 


ler him mon-bewes 

panne hit is wexynde 


hit schal wende }>ar o. 

i iS 4 

pe betere hit schal iwur)>e 


euer buuen eor))e. 

Notes. Line i. u written for v in Alured, O.K. Alfred. 
4. bern = O.E. beam ' child '; ibidest await, expect '. 

7. = O.E. weaxan ' grow ' (Late W. Sax. wexari). 

8. = ' it shall turn then to '. 

N.B. In late W. Sax. weorfian often becomes wurfian, but this could not rhyme 
with eorj>e. iwurfie is from O.E. gewcorlan, and the spelling shows the M.E. change of 
eo to [yj. This rhymes with eorfe, which shows that this word, too, had undergone 
the change in spite of the old spelling. 

(c) From Robert of Gloucester (c, 1298). 

i 4 S 4 

(1) po }>is child was an vr)>e ibore, his freond nome }>erto hede, 

13 16 

Hi lete hit do to Glastnebury to norichi and to fede 
To teche him eke his bileue, pater-noster and crede. 

pe child wax and wel tye}, for hit moste nede. 

37 i 

Lute 3eme he nom to }>e wordle, to alle godnisse he drou3. 

(2) In chirche he was devout inow vor him ne ssolde no day abide 
pat he ne hurde masse and matines and euesong and ech tide. 

2 a 

(3) And )>e Normans ne cou)>e speke )>6 bote hor owe speche 

2 a 13 13 2 b 

And speke French as hii dude atom ana hor children dude also teche 

1 13 

So J>at heiemen of J>is lond J>at of hor blod come 

69 2 a 13 '13 

H6lde)> alle )>ulke speche }>a hii of horn nome 
Vor bote a man conne Frenss me telj> of him lute 

69 sa 7 

Ac lowe men holde)> to Engliss and to hor owe speche 5ute. 

(4) J>e gode quene Mold 

pat quene was of Engelond as me a)> er ytold 

12 15 I 

pa g5derhele al Engelond was heo euere yb5re 

Notes, (i) 1. 2. hi= 'they'. 1. 4. ifo, fr, O.E. ge)eah, gejxeh. 1. 5. 

wordle = ' world ' shows metathesis of Id. 

(2) 1. i. vor = 'for'. 

(3) 11. 1-2. Note rhyme. 1. 2. at6m = ' at home', still so pronounced by many 
good speakers. 1. 5. me, indef. Pron. = 'one'. 

(4) 1. 2. = 'as one has told before'. 1. 3. goderkele, adv.= 'fortunately 
for '. heo ~ ' she ' . 

(d) From the Metrical Life of St. Juliana 

(Gloucestershire c. 1300). 

1 3 i 

(i) Swl)>e sori was )>is lu)>er man J>at he ne mi:jte hire }>o}t wende 

1 ii 

To habbe conseil of hire fader after him he let sende. 

16 * 

And fondede hire clene )>o3t to chaunge J>oru vair biheste. 


13 # 13 

po hi speke uairest wi)> hire, )>is maide hem ;af answere : 

6 16 15 9 

Icholle holde }>a ichabbe itake ; 36 ne do]? me }>erof no dere ; 

9 9 sa 

At 6 word 36 ne turnej> me no}t, J>er aboute ^e spillej) bre)>; 

10 i 9 

Dob me wat pyne ;e wollej), uor I ne drede no^t J>en dej>. 

13 16 

pe hi seie )>at }>is maide hire }>o}t chaungi nolde, 

Hire fader bitok hire )>e justice to do wi)> hire wat he wolde. 


(2) We ne scholle ]>\s foule wiche ouercome wi}> no dede 

}if no fiir ne mai hire brenne, in lede we scholle hire brede 
A chetel he sette ouer }>e fur and fulde it uol of lede 

16 12 

pis maide isei bis led boili, heo nas nobing in drede. 

12 15 

Anon so heo was )>erinne ido, )>at fur bigan to sprede. 
Fram )>e chetel it hupte aboute, in leng)>e and in brede. 
Sixti men and seuentene it barnde in )>e place 

Of luj>er men }>at stode J>er bl: |>er was godes grace. 
Amydde J>e chetel \>is maide stode, al hdl wi)>)>oute harm ; 

II 2 5 

pat led )>at bolynde was, vnne)>e it }n>3te hire warm. 

IO IO * 12 

(3) Ne spareb no^t he sede, ac heieb uaste bat heo of dawe be. 

I 10 Hi 

NabbeJ) of hire nam5re reu|>e )>en heo hadde of me. 

12 I 

Nolde heo noj>ing spare me of al j>at ich hire bad, 
Vnne)?e ich dar on hire loke, so sore icham adrad. 

7 12 

po YIS maide hurde J)is, hire eien up heo caste, 

6 10 * 

A, out ! out ! )>e deuel sede holdej) hire nou uaste. 

(e) From Treviscts translation of Higderi's Polychronicon (1387). 

(1) par ys gret plente of smal fysch and of eeles, so }>at cherles in som 

9 14 15 

place feede)> sowes wij> fysch. par buj> ofte ytake delphyns and 
se-calues and balenes (gret fysch as it were of whaales kunde) and 
dyuers maner schyl-fysch among J>e whoche schyl-fysch bu}> 

"9 J 3 

moskles J>at habbe}> wi})-ynne ham margery perles of a 
manere colour of hu}. 

(2) Lond, hony, mylk, chyse 
J>is Ilond schal bere }>e prise 

(3) Harold come vram werre of Noreganes and hurde 
ty|>ynges hereof, and hyede wel vast and hadde 

bote veaw kny^tes aboute hym; vor he 

hadde ylost meny stalword me in J>e ra)>er 

batayl and he had no^t ysent vor more help ; and jjey; 


a hadde, men were wrobe and wolde haue wy)>drawe, 
ham, vor hy moste haue no part of the prayes atte 

batayl of Noreganes. Bote Harold sent vor}> spies vor 

to aweyte and se J>e number and ]>e stringj>e of hys enymyes. Due 

William touk )>ues spyes and ladde ham aboute hys tentes 

and hys pauylons, and vedde ham ry;t realyche, and sent ham 
to Harold a3e. 

Notes, (i) 1. 4. schyl, fr. O.E. (W._Sax.) sciell ' shell ' ; this is the Southern z'-type. 

(2) 1. i. chyse, fr. O.E. (W. Sax.) ctese, later ctsi ' cheese' ; the other dialects had 
cese in O.E., chese in M.E. 

(3) 1. i. vram fram ' from '. 1. 3. veaw = O.E. feawe ' few '. 1. 6. 
a = he, weak form. ]>ey) - O.E. }eah ' though', atte = ' at the'. 1. 10. }ues, 
O. E. feds < these '. vedde =fedde ( fed '. 

(f) From St. Editha (Wilts, c. 1420). 


Bot he hurre-selff dwelte at Wylton stylle 

Wit hurre moder as y sayde $6we ere ; 

For hurre m5der to serue was holyche hurre wylle 


Wei leuer )>en ony other gret state to bere ; 
And a so for he was norysshut vp in bat place 


And furste y-6rdryd he was bere berto, 
And many miracles )>orow goddus grace 
For hurre werone done bere also. 

When he hadde regnyd here syxtene 3ere 

Fullyche complete wit somewhat more 

And syxtene ^ere holde and somewhat m5re y trowe he were 

When he was kyng furst y-k5re 
Bote of his deth and also his burynge 

Ychaue y-writon ^owe herebyfore 

And somewhat of his gode gouernynge ; 

And J>at is cause |?at y wryte here nomore. 

Note. 1. i. he ( she '. 1. u. holde = ( old'. 

Dialect Features of Kentish and South-Eastern. 

( i) O.E. is retained as a fronted [e] sound longer and more consistently 
in Kentish than in the more Westerly Southern dialects. But even here, and 
that as early as 1150 (Vespas. Homilies), the Anglian a appears. Vesp. 
Horns, has cweS, O.E. c WK}> ; fedme 'bosom ', O.E.feffm; weter ' water', 
but also was, fader. Laud Sermons (c. 1250) has efter, O.E. defter; pet, 
O.E./ae/, but spac, O.E. sprxc 'spoke'; hedde 'had', O.E. h*fde, but 
habbej), hap, O.E. hxf]> ; wat, O.E. hwxt ' what ' ; water, O.E. wxter, 
and so on. Will, of Shoreham (1320) has a good number of e spellings : 
wet, O.E. hwxt] M schal < shall', creft, O.E. crxft, hep 'hath', wetere, 
&c. ; on the other hand wat, schal, water, glas, &c. The total number of 


a spellings is greater than those with e. Ayenbite (1340), the latest and 
on the whole the most typical example of Kentish, has eppel, O.E. deppel 
' apple ', huet { what ', gled ' glad ', gles ' glass ', &c., but also occasionally 
a as in uader. 

(2) O.E. se 1 and %P have both the same (tense) <f-sound in Kentish. See 
remarks on this sound under the E. Midland characteristics above. The 
spellings with ie seem to prove tenseness in both original sounds : Will, 
of Shoreham has jzir * year ', Prim. O.E.gxr, O. Kentish ger, and Ayenbite 
has diem 'clean' which has O.E. v? (see E. Midlands 2). 

(3) O.E. j>, as has already been mentioned (pp. 9, 30, 34, above), appears 
I in Kentish and South-Eastern. There is further reason to believe that 
this peculiarity occurred also in a large area of the E. Midlands. It is found 
in Suffolk Charters in the late tenth century, cf. also p. 78, below. Examples 
from Kentish texts: senne ' sin \fefye or velf>e ' filth ', O.E. (Sax. and Angl.) 
fylfie ke)?}>e ' family ', &c., O.E. cyj>j>e t were hen ' work ', O.E. wyrcan, 
merie 'merry', O.E. myrig, &c., &c. 

(4) O.E. eo never appears in Kentish as a rounded vowel (u, oe, &c.), 
as in the West and South- West, but, especially the long eo, is either written 
* e >ye> i) yo> or e - I* is rather doubtful whether the ie,ye spellings imply 
a diphthongal sound or whether they merely represent a tense I. The 
Vesp. Horns, writes bien, O. W. Sax. bebn ( be ' ; chiesen inf. ' choose ', O.E. 
ceosan, dier-, O.E. dear ' animal ', diofles, O.E. deoflas ' devils '. Laud 
Homilies has biep ' are ', bien (inf.), but sterre ' star ', O.E. sleorra ; herte, 
O.E. heorte ' heart '. Will, of Shoreham nearly always writes ee or e for eo : 
depe, crepe, feende 'enemy', but has also soefi, O.E. seoj> ' see ' (Western 
influence ?), by = beon (inf.). Ayenbite writes herte, erfie, 2\&Q yer the, y erne 
'run', O.E. eornan. For the long, dyeule, O.E. deofle, uryend, uriend 'friend ', 
Q.lL.freond, uyend, Q.lL.feond ' enemy' ; diere, dyere ' dear', O.E. deora, 
&c. By the side of these usual spellings, e and ee are also written occa- 
sionally. In view of the fact that most of the Kentish texts write ie for 
tense /, as in hier, O.E. her ' here ', and hieren ' to hear ', Old Kentish heren, 
and also that they all often write ee for O.E. eo, it seems not improbable 
that the spelling means no more than tense [e]. In the writings of Gower 
ie is a recognized symbol for [e]. See remarks on p. 57. 

(5) O.E. -call-, -earm-, -eard- are written with ea, x, or e, longer than in 
the South- Western. Vesp. Horns, has xlra, delmihli', Will, of Shoreham 
earmes ' arms ', pou ert ' art ', her my inf. ' to harm ', but also scharpe, harde\ 
Ayenbite seems to have the Anglian -arm-, -ard-. 

(6) O.E. -eald- retains the front vowel of the old Southern type in 
Kentish, as against the Anglian -old- type, still more thoroughly than the 
combinations -earm-, -ea!/-, &c. Vesp. Horns, has sselde ' gave ', ' sold ', 
O.E. sealde ; healde, inf. ' hold ', O.E. healdan ; Will, of Shoreham has 
fA?/</'cold', O.E. ceald, cxld; tealde Pret., andj-&/</, p.p. 'told', Late O.E. 
tdelde, &c. ; to helde ' to hold ', elde ' old ', Late O.E. xld, &c., &c. ; Ayenbite 
has ealde and yealde 'old', chealde 'cold', tealde 'told', healde 'hold'. 
The typical Anglian forms with -old- do not seem to occur in the last 
text, nor are they at all frequent in any Kentish text. 

(7) O.E. ea in Kentish. The late treatment, at least in spelling, of this 
long diphthong deserves a few words, as it is typical. In most dialects 
O.E. ed became x in the Late O.E. period, and this e [e] in M.E., when 


it is often written ea deafi = [defi], &c. In Ayenbite, however, we get 
dyaf 1 deaf ', O.E. dedf\ dyap and dyeafi ' death ', dyed ' dead '; lyaf ' leaf, 
O.E. leaf] lyas pret. ' lost ', O.E. -leas, &c. Will, of Shoreham has traces 
of these spellings in lias pret. * lost ', senne-lyas ' sinless ', O.E. leas, 
but otherwise writes ea deapes, reaue, &c. The Laud Horns, has diad- 
lich ' deadly ', diath ' death ', be-liane ' faith ', O.E. ge-ledfa, all of which 
occur frequently, by the side of occasional be-leaue, &c. Vesp. Horns, has 
deddlic, eadinesse, O.E. eddig-, xac, O.E. eac ' also ', but also gecas ' chose ', 
O.E. ceas] brad 'bread', O.E. bread] admodi-, O.E. eddmodig 'humble', 
&c. Whether ea, ia, ya all represent some sound like [ae] or [], or 
whether they really represent a combination such as [j], it seems impossible 
to say. a in brad can hardly represent anything but [ge] or [s], and this 
may well have been the sound in all these words. If this were so, Kentish 
would only differ from the other dialects in employing a special graphic 

(8) Initial s- and/" often appear voiced in Kentish. This is particularly 
systematic in Ayenbite, where u (for v) is regularly written at the begin- 
ning of English words uolc i people ', uor ' for ', uoul ' foul ', &c., &c., also 
before cons, uram, uryend, &c., &c. In French words f- is written : 

fauour ' figure ', flour ' flower \frut ' fruit ', &c., &c. Note uals ' false ', 
&c., however. Initial s- is written z in English words, only before vowels, 

except in the old combination sw-, which is written zu zuyn, O.E. 

swin ' swine ', zuete ' sweet ', O.E. swete, &c., also zeche, O.E. sedan 
1 seek ', zenne ' sin ', &c., &c. Before consonants s is written in English 
words : streme ' stream ', strengfri ' strengthen ', and in French words s is 
written everywhere. All the earlier Kentish texts write s- ; as regards 
O.E. initial y-, Vesp. Horns, seems always to write f-, Laud Horns, has 
occasional v vaire ' fair ', QJL.fdeger ; uuluelden lit. * fulfilled, filled full ', 
but more often f-, while Will, of Shoreham generally writes /-, but has 
also uader ' father ', vedefi ' feeds ', velj> ' filth ', &c. Thus Kentish, apart 
from Ayenbite, does not use the voiced sound for initial f- nearly so 
commonly as South- Western, while the latter is far behind Ayenbite in 
the use of the voiced sound for s-. 

Points connected with the Inflexions in Kentish. 

(9) The 3rd Pers. Sing. Pres. Indie, ends in -^, -> as in the rest of 
the Southern area. An exceptional -s form, leles, occurs in Vespas. Horns, 

(10) The PI. Pres. Indie, ends in -ej> as in Southern generally. 

(n) The Imperat. PI. ends in -ej>, -j> as in Southern generally, and 
E. Midlands. 

(12) The Pres. Part, ends in -mde (with occasional -ende) as in South- 

(13) The Fem. Pron. Nom. is usually hi, never sche, &c. 

(14) PI. of 3rd Pers. Pronoun. Kentish agrees with the rest of the 
Southern in having no /- or th~ forms. A characteristic Kentish or 
South-Eastern form his is in the Ace. PI. (= ' them ') in Vesp. Horns., 
Shoreham, and Ayenbite. This is also found in some of the earlier 
E. Midland texts, e.g. Genesis and Exodus. 


(15) The characteristic biefi, PI. Pres. Indie, of bien ' to be ', is found in 

(16) The statements concerning the prefix i- in verbs, especially the 
P. P., and the termination -e, without -n, which are made above with 
regard to South- Western, apply on the whole to Kentish. 

(17) The -te, -y endings in Inf. of Vbs. are very frequent in Kentish 
as in South- Western. 

Illustrative Extracts from M.E. Kentish Texts. 
(a) From the (Vespasian A. 22) Kentish Sermons (c. 1150). 

(1) An )>esser becvS bedeles and la^ieres to berie archebiscopes 

and biscopes, prestes and hare 5egeng. Ac J>ah we fif naemmie 

6 , 1 4 39 

alle hit on godes wille, and elc of ham ^estrenS and fulfele}> 

3 14 3 i 10 

o^re. Of Besses fif ce)>en and of hare bedeles we habbe)> ^eu 

16 10 i i 

3esed. Of }>e folce we siggej) J>at hit cum|> fastlice, fram midden- 

ardes anginn alse fele alse deade beoS alse fele beoS to berie 
i(> i i i 

icome, wat frend, wat fa, and elce de3ie )>icce ^ringeS. 

14 3 3 

(2) pan seied ham god )>e gelty mannen 36 sene^den an }eur 

ecenesse, and 36 scule birne an mire ecenisse. ^e sene3den 
alse lange alse 36 lefede and 36 scule birne alse longe as ic 

lefie. Wite^ into ece fer, be is 3aearcod mine fo, and his 3egeng. 
Son hi wrSe'S abroden of his 3esec)>e. 

(b) From the Laud Homilies (c. 1250). 

(1) Nu lordinges }>is is )>e miracle J>et J>et godspel of te dai us telj>. ac 
great is )>e tokeningge. Se leprus signifie)> }>o senuulle me ; 3! lepre 

3193 9 

)>o sennen. pet scab bitokne}> ]>o litle sennen, si lepre bitoknej) J>o 

7 r 4 15 7 10 16 

grete sennen }>et biedh diadliche. . . . Nu ye habbeft iherd 

i 9 4 15 2 [c] 

)>e miracle and wet hit bitokned:. No loke we yef we blej> clene of 
)>ise lepre, J>at is to siggen of diadliche senne. 

(2) And bi J>et hi offrede gold )>et is cuuenable yeftte to kinge, 

i i 14 

scawede bet he was sothfast Kink. And bi bet hi offrede 

i 6 14 

Stor bet me offrede wylem be bo ialde laghe to here godes 
i| i 14 

sacrefise, seawede }>et he was verray prest. And be )>et hi 

i 9 i 14 i 7 

offrede Mirre bet is biter bing, signifieth bet hi hedde beliaue 

1 7 J 7 i 

J>et he was diadlich |>et diath solde suffri for man-ken. 


(c) From William of Shoreham (1310-20). 

i z 

(i) OnneJ>e creft eny J>at stat 

Ac some crefte}> }>at halue 
And for siknesse leche creft 

And for J>e goute sealue 
Me make)). 


For wanne man drawij) into Sideward 


Wei oft his bones akej>. 

And be a man neuer so sprind . 


3ef he schel libbe to elde 

Be him wel siker )>erto he schal 

And his dej>es dette 

To gile. 

3et meni song man wenej) longe Hue 

And leue}> wel litle wyle. 


(2) Leue dame, say me now 

Wy he)> god forbSde hyt }ow 


pet 56 ne m6te 

i i 

Eten of al J>at frut )>at hys 


Here growynde in paradys 
To joure b6te? 


We etej> y-nou quaj> cue, ywis 
Of alle )>e trSwes of paradys 

*5 i 

And be)> wel gled; 
Bote ]>ys tr6w m5te we nau^t take, 
For boj>e me and mynne make 
God hyt forbede. 

(d) From the Ayfabtte (1340). 

48 i 8 8 

Aye J>e uondingges of )>e dyeule : zay )>is J>et uol^e)) : Zuete 
iesu |In h6ly blod/j>et )>ou sseddest ane )>e rSd/uor me 
and uor mankende: Ich bidde )>e hit by my sseld/auoreye 
)>e wycked uend: al to mi lyues ende. zuS by hit. 

)>is boc is dan Michelis of Nothgate, y- write an englis 

of his Ojene hand ; )>et hatte Ayenbyte of Inwyt. And is of 

J>e bSchouse of saynt Austines of Canterberie. 

Holy archangle Michael 
Saynt gabriel and Raphael 
Ye brenge me to J>5 castel 

58 8 10 

per alle zaulen vare}> wel. 


i 5 

Lhord ihesu almtyi Kyng, J>et madest and 16kest alle )>yng, 
Me )>et am )>i makyng to )nne blisse me }>ou bryng. Amen. 

7 858 

Blind and dyaf and alsuo domb, of zeuenty yer al uol rond. 

88 8, 

Ne ssolle by draje to )>e gr5nd, uor peny, uor mark ne uor p5nd. 

We have now concluded our brief survey of the principal distinguishing 
features which characterize the Regional types that go to the composition 
of the dialect of London during the M.E. period, that is to say, the South- 
Eastern (especially Kent and Essex), the Central and more Westerly 
Southern, and the East Midland. The illustrative extracts from texts 
written in the various dialects furnish examples, in the actual living 
sentence, of most of our points, though possibly not of all. Outside the 
distinguishing marks of dialect, which are here selected as most typical, it 
will be observed that there is much that is common to all, and which belongs 
to the whole of English south of the Thames, and north, at least as far as 
Lincolnshire, in the East. We have omitted from our survey the Northern 
English, and Scotch dialects, and that large area, to the West, rather vaguely 
known as ' West Midland ' among students of Middle English. It is 
obvious that the dialects of these regions can have had no direct influence 
upon the speech of London, and as a matter of fact there are no typically 
Northern or West Midland elements in Literary or Standard Spoken 
English at the present day, nor were there any in the M.E. dialect from 
which these have sprung. It is hardly necessary to say that there are 
many features of grammar, sounds, and vocabulary which belong to 
English as a whole, which therefore occur in North, South, South-Eastern, 
East, and West Midland alike. There are also certain features, such as 
-j in the 3rd Pers. Sing. Present of verbs, which were originally Northern, 
but which subsequently passed into the North Midland English as a whole, 
in the first place, and later, from East Midland, probably through Essex, 
into London English. But, so far as the latter is concerned, these 
features are to be regarded as East Midland. See, however, pp. 334-7. 

There are many other points of considerable importance, besides 
those above discussed under the various dialect headings, which arise in 
the detailed and minute study of the texts from which our illustrative 
extracts are drawn, but are passed over in silence here, because they 
would take us further into the minutiae of Old and Middle English 
grammar than it would be permissible to go in a book of this kind. It 
is believed, however, that this omission will not impair the general argu- 
ment of the book, and the omission is deliberate. 

The Dialect of London down to the Death of Chaucer. 

We now pass to consider the dialect of London itself, down to the close 
of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth. 
It must be assumed that the reader has grasped the foregoing statement 


and enumeration of the various dialectal features of the different regions 
dealt with ; at any rate, the tables and examples can easily be referred 
to, and the references given to the various points dealt with will reduce 
the reader's labour to a minimum. The abbreviations E. Midi., Sthn., Kt., 
refer to the dialect areas as treated above, pp. 29-43, &c., and the numbers 
to the particular points. Thus E. Midi. 6 refers to the paragraph above 
under the heading E. Midi, in which the O.E. Midland combination 
-did-, which in the Southern O.E. dialects is represented by -eald-, later 
-xld-, is dealt with. 

We may first give some examples of documents written in London, 
from the time of the Conqueror down to Chaucer. 

Illustrative Specimens of the Dialect of London from the 
Conquest to Chaucer. 

(a) William the Conqueror's Charter (1066). From Liebermann's 
Gesetze d. Angelsachsen, vol. i, p. 486. 

Willelm Kyng gret Willelm bisceop and Gosfreg^ portirefan and ealle 
J>a burhwaru binnan Londone Frencisce and Englisce freondlice. And 
ic ky'Se eow )>aet ic wylle }>aet get beon eallra J>asra laga weorSe )>e gyt wseran 
on Eadwerdes daege Kynges. And ic wylle )>aet aelc cyld_beo his fseder 
yrfnume aefter his faeder dsege and ic nelle ge}>olian }>aet asnig man eow 
senig J>rang beode. God eow gehealde. 

(b) Proclamation of Henry III (1258). From Patent Rolls. Printed 
Ellis, Early English Pronunciation, Pt. II, pp. 501, &c., and 
Emerson's M.E. Reader. 

Henri Jmr^ godes fultume King on Engleneloand, Lhoauerd on Yrloand, 
Duk on Norm' on Aquitain* and eorl on Aniow Send igretinge to alle hise 
holde, ilaerde and ileawede on Huntendonschir' }>aet witen 36 wel alle j>aet we 
willen and unnen J>ast, }>aet vre raedesmen alle o)>er )>e moare dasl of heom 
baet be5j> ichosen jmrj us and jmrj }>ast loandes folk on vre Kuneriche 
habbej) idon and schullen don in'}>e wor}>nesse of gode and on vre treow)>e, 
for )>e freme of J>e loande, Jmr} )?e besi3te of )>an toforen iseide redesmen. 
beo stedefaest and ilestinde in alle J>inge abuten asnde. And we hoaten alle 
vre treowe in }>e treow)>e j>aet heo vs ogen )>aet heo stedefasstliche healden 
and swerien to healden and to werien )>o isetnesses J>ast beon imakede and 
beon to makien J>ur^ )>an to foreniseide raadesmen 6J>er )>ur3 )>e moare dael of 
heom alswo alse hit is biforen iseid. And )>ast aehc o^er helpe J>aet for to 
done bi |>an ilche 5}>e a3enes alle men. Ri^t for to done and to foangen. And 
noan ne nime of loande ne of e3te wherj>ur3 J)is besi^te mu3e beon ilet 6J>er 
iwersed on onie wise. And ^if oni, 5)>er onie cumen her on^enes, we willen 
and hoaten J>aat alle vre treowe heom healden deadliche ifoan. And for )>aet 
we willen J>ast ]>isbeo stedefaest and lestinde, we senden ;ew }>is writ open 
iseined wi^ vre seel, to halden amanges ;ew ine hord. Witnesse vs seluen 
set Lunden' }>ane EjtetenJ)e day on J?e m5nj>e of Octobr'. In J>e two and 
fowerti3j>e jeare of vre cruninge. And in jns wes idon aetforen vre isworene 
redesmen. And al on )>o ilche worden is isend into aevriche 6|>re schlre over 
al baere kuneriche on Engleneloande, and ek intel Irelonde. 

(N.B. PI. Name, Hwrtford (Earl of) among signatories.) - 


(c) Adam Davy (c. 1307-27). 

(1) His name is ihote Sir Edward )>e Kyng 
Prince of Wales, Engelonde |>e faire Jnng. 1 
Me mette 2 )>at he was armed wel 

B6J>e wij> yrne and wi}> stel, 
And on his helme bat was of stel 
A coroune of gold bicom hym wel. 
Bifore J>e shryne of Seint Edward he stood 
Myd glad chere and mylde of mood, 
Mid two Kni^ttes armed on etyer side 
pat he ne mi^t }>ennes goo ne ride 
Hetilich hii leiden hym upon 3 
Als hii mi^tten myd swerde don. 

(2) pe pursday next j>e beryng of our Lefdy 
Me }>ou3ht an aungel com Sir Edward by ; 
pe aungel bitook Sir Edward on honde 

Al bledyng |>e foure former clawes so were of jje LSmbe. 

At Caunterbiry, bifore e heije autere, }>e Kyng stood, 

YcloJ>ed al in rede murre ; he was of }>at blee red as blood. 

God, )>at was on gode Friday don on )>e rode 

So turne my swevene night and day to mychel gode. 

Tweye poynts j>ere ben fat ben unschewed 

For me ne worj>e to clerk ne lewed ; 

Bot to Sir Edward oure Kyng 

Hym wil iche shewe J>ilk metyng. 

1 J>* n g ~ ' creature '. a Me mette = ' I dreamt '. 

3 This phrase is very like our c laid into him '. 

(d) Extract from ' A petition from the folk of Mercerye' (1386). 
Rolls of Parliament, vol. iii, p. 225, &c. ; Morsbach, Engl. Schriftspr., p. 171. 

And yif in general his falsenesse were ayeinsaide as of vs togydre of the 
Mercerye or othere craftes or ony conseille wolde haue taken to ayeinstande 
it, or as tyme out of mynde hath be vsed, we wolden companye togydre how 
lawful so it were for owre nede or profite were anon apeched for arrysers 
ayeins the pees, and falsly many of vs that yet stonden endited and we ben 
openlich disclaundred, holden vntrewe and traitours to owre Kyng. for the 
same Nichol said bifor Mair Aldermen and owre craft bifor hem gadred in 
place of recorde that xx or xxx of vs were worthy to be drawen and hanged, 
the which thyng lyke to yowre worthy lordship by and euen Juge to be 
proued or disproued the whether that trowthe may shewe for trowthe 
amonges vs of fewe or elles no man many day dorst be shewed. And nought 
oonlich vnshewed or hidde it hath be by no man now, but also of bifore tyme, 
the moost profitable poyntes of trewe gouernaunce of the citee compiled to- 
gidre bi longe labour of discrete and wyse men wythout conseille of trewe 
men : for thei sholde nought be knowen ne contynued in the tyme of Nichol 
Exton outerliche were brent. 

(e) From Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale. 

'Ye, goddes armes,' quod this ryotour, 
'Is it swich peril with him for to mete? 
I shal him seke by wey and eek by strete, 
I make avow to goddes digne bones ! 
Herkneth, felawes, we three been al ones ; 


Lat ech of us hSlde up his bond til other, 

And ech of us bicomen Stheres brSther, 

And we wol sleen this false traytour Deeth ; 

He shal be slayn, which that so many sleeth, 

By goddes dignitee, er it be night.' 

Togidres han thise three her trouthes plight, 

To live and dyen ech of hem for other, 

As though he were his owene yboren brother. 

And up they sterte al dronken, in this rage, 

And forth they goon towardes that village, 

Of which the taverner had spoke biforn, 

And many a grisly ooth than han they sworn, 

And Crlstes blessed body they to-rente 

* Deeth shal be deed, if that they may him hente.' 

Whan they han goon nat fully half a myle 

Right as they wolde han trod en over a style, 

An old man and a povre with hem mette. 

This olde man ful mekely hem grette, 

And seyde thus, * now, lordes, god yow see ! ' 

The proudest of thise ryotoures three 

Answerde agayn, 'what? carl, with sory grace, 

Why artow al forwrapped save thy face ? 

Why livestow so longe in so greet age ? ' 

This Side man gan loke in his visage, 

And seyde thus, 'for I ne can nat finde 

A man, though that I walked into Inde 

Neither in citee nor in n5 village, 

That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age; 

And therfore moot I han myn age stille, 

As longe time as it is goddes wille. 

Ne deeth, alias ! ne wol nat han^ my lyf ; 

Thus walke I, lyk a restelees caityf, 

And on the ground, which is my modres gate, 

I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late, 

And seye, u leve moder, leet me in! 

Lo how I vanish, flesh, and blood, and skin ! 

Alias whan shul my bones been at reste ? 

Moder with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste, 

That in my chambre longe tyme hath be, 

Ye ! for an heyre clout to wrappe me ! " 

But yet to me she wol nat do that grace, 

For which ful pale and welked is my face. 

But, sirs, to yow it is nS^curteisye 

To speken to an old man vileinye, 

But he trespasse in worde, or elles in dede. 

In holy writ ye may your-self wel rede, 

"Agayns an old man, hoor upon his heed, 

Ye sholde aryse;" wherfor I yeve yow reed, 

Ne dooth unto an old man noon harm now, 

NamSre than ye w51de men dide to yow 

In age, if that ye s5 long abyde; 

And god be with yow, wher ye go or ryde. 

I moot go thider as I have to go.' 

(f) From Chaucer's Persones Tale. 

Wherfore as seith Seint Anselm : ' ful gret angwissh shul the sinful folk 
have at that tyme ; ther shal the sterne and wrothe juge sitte above, and 


under him the horrible put of helle open to destroyen him that moot 
biknowen hise sinnes, which sinnes openly been shewed biforn god and 
biforn every creature. And on the left syde mo develes than herte may 
bithinke, for to harie and drawe the sinful soules to the pyne of helle. 
And with-inne the hertes of folk shal be the bytinge conscience and with- 
outeforth shal be the world al brenninge. 

Whider shal thanne the wrecched sinful man flee to hyden him ? Certes, 
he may nat hyden him ; he moste come forth and shewen him. . . . Now 
sothly, who-so wel remembreth him of thise thinges, I gesse that his sinne 
shal nat turne him into delyt, but to greet sorwe, for drede of the peyne of 
helle. And therfore seith lob to god: 'suffre, lord, that I may a whyle 
biwaille and wcpe, er I go with-oute returning to the derke lond, covered 
with the derknesse of deeth ; to the lond of misese and of derknesse, where- 
as is the shadwe of deeth ; where-as ther is noon ordre or ordinance, but 
grisly drede that evere shal laste.' . . . 

. . . And therfore seith Seint lohn the Evangelist: 'they shullen folwe 
deeth, and they shul nat finde him, and they shul desyren to dye, and deeth 
shal fle fro hem.' . . . For as seith seint Basilic : ' the brenninge of the fyr 
of this world shal god yeven in helle to hem that been dampned ; but the 
light and the cleernesse shal be yeven in hevene to hise children ; right as 
the gode man yeveth flesh to hise children, and bones to his houndes.' 

The first document is given here chiefly on account of its intrinsic 
historical interest. It does not prove very much from a linguistic point 
of view. The form is to all intents and purposes Old English, and, like 
most other documents written in the eleventh century, is no doubt 
very archaic from the point of view of the English then spoken. It is the 
conventional Late Old English of the scribes, showing, it is true, some 
signs of departure from that of the classical period, but still giving no 
true picture of the changes which time must already have wrought in 
uttered speech. As regards dialect, the charter is certainly Southern 
English, and such forms as yt/-(nume) and wseran (Sthn. 2 a) are charac- 
teristic of what we are accustomed to call West Saxon. We have, 
unfortunately, no reliable knowledge of the differences and points of 
agreement between the English of Wessex and that of Middlesex. 
Probably there were more of the former than of the latter. The forms 
ealle, eaUre, and gehealde could not occur in a Northern or Midland 
dialect, though they might just as well be Kentish as ' Saxon ' (Sthn. 6, 
Kt. 6). The fact is that all O.E. documents of the later period, with 
very few exceptions, are written in a common form which in all essential 
features is W. Saxon though this particular charter has only two abso- 
lutely test forms -yrf-, wxran so much so that it is now commonly 
assumed that after Alfred's time the prestige of Wessex in Government, 
Arms, and Letters, was such that the dialect of that area became a 
literary Kotvfj in universal use in written documents. That this was true 
of official London documents this charter, so far as it goes, is a proof. 
The fact that x is retained in fxder, p&t, ddege, &c., tends to show 
a W. Saxon character, since e was typical in these words in Kent (Kt. i) 
and in part of the Mercian area. On the other hand, Late Kentish 
scribes often write the letter K for the <?-sound. But the form kyfo is 
certainly not Kentish, for this dialect would have kef>e (Kt. 3). 

The written dialect of London, then, in the eleventh century was 
definitely Southern in character, and South -Western, rather than South- 


Eastern. It may be asked whether the actual speech of the metropolis at 
this period is represented by this charter. It is largely a question of 
probabilities, but it is highly probable, if not absolutely certain, that this 
document apart from chronological inconsistencies with the spoken 
language, to which allusion has already been made does represent the 
type of dialect which was actually spoken in London when it was written. 
If that be so, the speech of London in the eleventh century was Southern 
in character, and, more exactly, approximated to South- Western, having 
as yet, so far as our evidence goes, no purely South-Eastern features. 

Passing now to extract (b), the Proclamation of Henry III, which 
is nearly two hundred years later than the above charter, we notice a con- 
siderable difference in its dialect constituents, as compared with the latter. 
We now observe the characteristic blending of Midland elements with 
those which are typically Southern, and in some cases the Southern and 
Midland forms of the same word or grammatical ending both occur. 

Among the characteristically Southern forms are the following : O.E. 
x preserved as e or de in xt, fiset, wes (Sthn. i) ; O.E. & written x in 
rxdesmen 'councillors ' (Sthn. 2 a) ; O.E. y preserved in sound, and written 
u in Kuneriche ' kingdom' (Sthn. 3); O.E. -eald- written -eald- as dis- 
tinct from Midland -old- in to healden = [helden]. This belongs to the 
South-East and Kent as well (see Sthn. 6 and Kt. 6). Its survival 
here may be due to Kentish influence. The frequent eo as in hed, beofi, 
treawe, &c., may be more than a traditional spelling, which, indeed, is 
unlikely so long after the Conquest, and may represent the Western 
rounded vowel often written u (Sthn. 4). It is possible that this sound 
never reached, in London, the stage represented by South- Western u, but 
was simply unrounded to e previously. 

The spelling Huriford ' Hertford ', O.E. Heor(p)t-, occurs among the 
signatures to the document, which is clearly a South- West or South- West 
Midland form, but this proves nothing concerning London speech. 

Other Southern features are the common use of the prefix i- in imakede 
'made' (Pret.), -tseid(e) 'said' P.P., ilet 'hindered' P.P... iseened 'signed' 
P.P., igretinge ' greeting ', idon ' done ', ichosen ' chosen ', ilestinde 
' lasting ', &c. (Sthn. 15); the Pres. Indie. PI. in -fi as in blop, habbefi 
(Sthn. 9 and 14); the Pres. Part, in-mde, ilestinde (Sthn. u); the Inf. in 
-ten, to mdkien (Sthn. 16). This last may also be Kentish (Kt. 17). The 
Southern PI. Pronouns heo, heom, are not decisive as to dialect at this 
period, since even in E. Midland texts the /Morms are not found so 
early as this. (See E. Midi. 13.) 

The Midland forms in the Proclamation are alle, halden (we should 
expect holder see E. Midi. 5) ; the Pres. Indie. PI. in -en, beon, cumen, 
willen, halden, hoaten ' command ', unnen l grant ', senden (E. Midi. 9) ; 
the P.P. of the Strong Vbs. chesen ' chose ', sweren ' swear ', and of the 
anomalous don ' do ' ichosen, isworene, idon retain the final -n (E. Midi. 
15), though all these forms also agree with the Southern type in preserv- 
ing the prefix i-. The spelling wherfiurj, where Southern texts very 
frequently write wer- (w- for O.E. hw) and Midland texts more often 
wh-, seems characteristic of London documents, both official and literary, 
during the whole M.E. period, though, as we shall see, the spelling w- is 
fairly common later on. 


The only Kentish or South-Eastern elements in this text appear to be 
iwersed ' worsened ', O.E. gewyrsed, where y is best explained as the 
original O.E. sound from earliest *wurst-, and xnd ' end ', where x is 
a curious scribal survival of a Kentish spelling not infrequent in some 
O.E. texts which show Kentish influence in other respects also. Other 
O.E. dialects usually write ende. 

There seems no reason to doubt that this interesting document repre- 
sents pretty fairly the London dialect of the period, allowing for the 
scribal archaisms of spelling. 

We now come to a specimen of London English written during the 
first quarter of the fourteenth century, taken from the so-called Five 
Dreams of the monk Adam Davie. From a literary point of view these 
'poems' are of small interest, and they show no poetical talent of any 
kind. For the purposes of the student of the history of our language, 
however, they are of the greatest value, far more so indeed than many of 
the M.E. ' Set Books ' often prescribed for young persons at our univer- 
sities, and certainly the literary interest is hardly less. 

The Southern element is still considerable, but the Midland element is 
larger than in either of the texts hitherto examined by us here. 

It was impossible to choose short extracts which should show all the 
dialectal features contained in the poems, and we shall therefore base our 
statement upon an examination of the work as a whole and not confine 
ourselves to the forms in the extracts given above. The most typical 
Southern phonological feature is perhaps the retention of the long 
'slack' [i] for O.E. x l , which is proved by the rhymes weren (O.E. 
wxrori) with eren ' ears ', O.E. earan, and of drede, O.E. drxd, ' doubt, 
fear ' with rede ' red ', O.E. read. On the other hand the spelling Slret- 
ford, where the first element can only represent a non-W. Saxon or non- 
Central Southern stret ' street ' (W. Saxon strxt\ and the rhyme drede with 
mede ' meed, reward ', which points to the E. Midland or South-Eastern 
\_dred~]. This shows, as we have seen before, that the same word was 
current in both types. Another very typical South- Westernism is the i in 
the verb shilde (Sthn. 7) ' to shield ', instead of the Midland or S.E. shelde, 
and this type is represented more frequently than the former, as in stel 
'steel', heren 'hear', tfldc vb. 'yield', W.S. gieldan. O.E. y in Davie 
shows apparently only the E. Midland type : synne ' sin ', Caunter&ry 
(O.E. byrig\ yuel 'evil', O.E. y/el JE. Midi. 3). O.E. eo is always 
written^ e, except the S.E. form to bun (Kt. 4). Otherwise leue ' dear ', 
O.E. ledfa, derworp ' precious ', O.E. deor. 

The Pres. PI. has the Southern -e]} in wilhp (Sthn. 9), but the verb 
' to be ' has ben (E. Midi. 9). 

The Pers. Pron. PI. hij, hit is the only form of the Nom., and this is 
about the last time we meet it in London documents. (See the forms of 
Pers. Pron. PI. in E. Midland and Southern.) The form ich instead of E. 
Midland ic or i ' I ' is typical of the Southern dialect at this period. The 
characteristic Southern p.p. with i-, or_>/-, occurs yknowe, ihote.ychosen, 
ywonden ' wound ', and the first two of these are specially Southern in the 
omission of final -n. This feature is also found in bore, write ' written ', 
where, however, the prefix is lost, and in awreke ' avenged '. 

We see, then, that in Davie's time the Midland elements were gaining 

E 2 


ground, though many purely Southern features still lingered which, as we 
shall see, disappear later on, or are reduced to a minimum. 

The next specimen, which was written in Chaucer's lifetime, shows 
a form of English practically identical with that of the poet. The general 
appearance of the document (Petition from the folk of Mercerye) is 
very much more modern and familiar to the average reader of the present 
day than anything we have so far discussed. The reason is that London 
English had by this time practically settled down into a definite blending 
of the various dialectal elements, and these (that is, the Regional elements) 
have not altered much since in their distribution. 

Compared with Davie, the most striking points are perhaps the use of 
thei instead of hij, the consistent Pers. PI. in -en (no forms in -th\ the loss 
of j- in the P.P.; the usual retention of final ~n in this part of the verb 
ben, stonden, &c., though be is used instead of ben. Compared with the 
English of to-day, putting aside differences due to normal sound changes, 
there is very little difference to indicate we have here, to all intents and 
purposes, the exact ancestor of Modern Standard English. The form 
shewe is a different type from that which has produced Mod. show, but 
this is probably not a regional feature, and the same is true of togydrc 
compared with together, and ayein compared with again. Incidentally, 
we may note how near the spelling is to that of the present day, but we 
must not be deceived into supposing that it represented the same pro- 
nunciation as our own. The similarity merely shows that it was really 
the M.E. official scribes who fixed the chief features of English spelling 
which have lasted down to our own day. It cannot be too often insisted 
that the English fourteenth-century spelling of the official documents, and 
of the Chaucer MSS., which was virtually continued into the next century, 
and taken over with no vital changes by Caxton, and so handed on to us, 
was already unphonetic, and no longer represented adequately the facts 
of pronunciation in Chaucer's day. 

We now pass to the language of Chaucer himself, and this, from the 
importance of the subject, will demand a rather special treatment, though 
we shall endeavour to make our remarks as brief as possible. 

We may say generally that the dialectal type found in Chaucer's 
writings, especially in his prose works, agrees very closely with that of 
the official London documents of his day. 

The dialect of the poetry contains more purely Southern and South- 
Eastern elements than that of the prose works. The language of the 
latter, therefore, presents a greater contrast to that of the earlier London 
documents than does the language of the poetry, and, consequently, 
Chaucer's prose is nearer in actual dialect to Caxton, and to the English 
of a still later date, than his poetry. 

It need not surprise us that there should be this difference between 
the prose and poetry of the same writer at this period. In the first 
place, the language of English poetry is always slightly archaic at any 
rate it has always been so until quite recently. Now, to be archaic in 
speech in Chaucer's day meant that the writer or speaker made use of 
more Southern elements than was the actual contemporary usage in either 
spelling or writing business documents. We must take it that many 
Southern forms still lingered on in the speech of the older generation, 


and though obsolescent, they were perfectly familiar to every one. A 
freedom in the use of dialectal variants was obviously a great convenience 
to a poet, since it increased the number of his rhymes, and sometimes 
made his versification more supple and varied. It is also probable that 
the actual Court speech of Chaucer's time was rather more Southern in 
type than that of the people, or than that of the official scribes. It is 
certain that various Southernisms crop up from time to time in private 
letters, and even in literature, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, 
which shows that this element lingered on in the usage of many who 
spoke and wrote Standard English. 

Another point is that Chaucer's poetry shows a far larger number of 
Kenticisms especially in the use of e instead of E. Midland i for O.E.jy, 
in such words as kesse ' kiss \fest ' fist ', berie ' bury ' (verb),/##W/ ' fulfil ', 
fery 'fiery ','&c. than is found either in the London documents of all 
kinds before his day, or in the official documents written during his life- 
time. This may be explained to some extent by the fact that Chaucer 
lived for several years at Greenwich, but also perhaps from these 
Kenticisms being in vogue in Court English. At any rate the use of 
^-forrns by the side of /-forms in the above and many other words was 
tolerated in the best English throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries. Many of these forms are fixed in our language to-day, but 
many others, now no longer used, are continually cropping up, as occa- 
sional variants, in writings for nearly two centuries after Chaucer's death. 
This feature need not therefore be considered a personal peculiarity of the 
poet. When it is remembered that the ^-forms obtained not only in Kent, 
but also in part of Essex, and Suffolk, and, to judge by the Norfolk Guild 
Records of 1387, also to some extent in Norfolk, it is not surprising that 
they should gain ground at a time when the Regional influence upon 
Standard English was predominatingly Eastern. It is curious that in the 
word bury we write the Southern but pronounce the S.E. type, and this 
latter form seems to preponderate greatly even in official documents. 

In Chaucer's poetry a considerable number of words of this class occur 
at least once in the ^-forrn, some with e and *', some with e, i, and u. 
The /-forms taken all round are the most frequent, the -forms the least ; 
indeed there are fewer of these than in the official documents. 

Among the ^-forms, now lost, which occur in Chaucer's poetry are 
besie * busy ' (we still write the Southern type and pronounce the E. Mid- 
land), also bisie ; sheite ' shut ', also an z-form ; thenne ' thin ', also tkinne ; 
dreye ' dry ', and drye ; kesse ' to kiss ', and kisse ; lest ' list ', vb. (over 
thirty times), and list ' desire ', vb. (over fifty times) ; men, myrie, and 
murk ; melle ' mill ', and mille ; knette and knitte ; fulfelle 2cn.&fulfille ; fer, 
fery ( fire, fiery '; fest ' fist ', and/.?/. Among the w-forms which are now 
lost are burth 'birth', and birth ; bulde, and Hide 'build'; murthe 
1 mirth ', also mirthe ; put ' pit ', and pit (three times each) ; furst and first. 
Evel, O.E.J//W, 'evil' (' Kentish '), the prevailing form in Chaucer, is not 
necessarily lost, see p. 207. This list is given with some fullness 
because we shall find nearly all these forms occurring much later. 

Besides the Southern features already alluded to, we must note the 
extremely frequent retention of the prefix y- in Past Participles. 

We pass now to the E. Midland features of Chaucer's dialect. 


(1) The O.E. combination -eald- always appears as -old-, except in 
three cases helde inf., helde Pres. Ind. PI., and behelde inf. We should 
probably put these very exceptional forms down to Kentish influence, as 
it seems very doubtful from the evidence of the purely Southern texts 
whether they would survive anywhere but in Kent at this period. 

(2) O.E. (Sax.) ie, non-Sax, e (see above, Sthn. 7), is often e by the 
side of i, so that we get sheld (n.) and shelde (vb.) ' shield ', and shilde, 
her en 'hear' (always), herde 'shepherd' (always), _>>#<&# 'yield, pay', and 
yilden, yeve ' give ', and^tttf ; yf and yif ' if, yit ' yet ', appear still only 
with the Southern forms. Yelpe f boast ', W. Sax. gielpan, appears only 
in the non-Southern form. 

(3) O.E. (Sthn.) ed + g or h becomes e in Anglian in O.E., and this is 
later raised to i before g (later_>>) and h. In Chaucer we get eyen ' eyes ', 
O.E. eagan, egan, as the usual written form, but occasionally yen, and the 
rhymes show that the latter was the form intended ; similarly, in spite of the 
spelling heighe, O.E. hedh, ' high ', heye, &c., we also find hye, and the rhymes 
generally point to this as the pronunciation ; O.E. nedh ' near ' is written 
neye, neyh, and ny(e\ but the word does not occur in rhyme. Our present 
forms are derived from M.E. jfc, hye, nye, and these can only be Midland 

(4) O.E. de l is shown by the rhymes to have had both the Southern pro- 
nunciation [g] and the Midland and Kentish [/]. Chaucer, therefore, used 
both types, and, as it happens, the Southern type predominates in rhyme. 
This does not necessarily prove that Chaucer heard or used this type 
in ordinary speech more than the non-Southern type. The frequency 
of its occurrence may be due to the exigencies of rhyme, or at least to 

(5) Another test of the original type in use is found in the spelling of the 
shortened form of this vowel. The shortening of Southern x produced 
&, which, together with all as-sounds, later took the Midland form a 
and was so spelt, whereas the Old non-Southern /-type when shortened 
underwent no essential change in spelling. The word dradde, p.p., &c., is 
frequent in rhymes by the side of dredde, the former being more frequent. 
Therefore Chaucer used both forms, and, while still retaining the original 
Southern, occasionally at least employed the non-Southern form. 

The following are chief words with the unshortened vowel : (a) those 
which rhyme both with [e] and [e] dede ' deed ', drede, &c., vb. and n., 
' doubt ', &c., euen ' evening ', rede vb. ' counsel ' ; (b) those which rhyme 
always wfchJ*]&&sriSw, seed, threed ' thread ', weete ' wet', where. 

(6) O.E. eo always appears as e. There is no trace of a rounded vowel. 

(7) The Pers. Pronoun PI. thei is the only form of the Norn. The old 
Southern hij, &c., has disappeared. 

(8) The Fern. Pronoun she is the only form used. 

(9) The Pres. Indie. PI. usually ends in -e or -en, very rarely in the 
Southern -eth. 

(TO) The P.P. of Strong Vbs. usually retains the -n of the ending. 
e is rarer. 

(n) The PI. Pres. Indie, of Vb. 'to be' is usually been, more rarely 
be, occasionally am. The Southern beth also occurs occasionally. 

A word or two upon Chaucer's position in regard to Literary English 


may not be out of place. This is frequently misconceived, though less 
so now, even among those who are not professional students of English, 
than formerly. To put it briefly and bluntly, Chaucer did not create the 
English of Literature, he found it ready to his hand and used it. He used 
it far better than any English poet before him had ever done, and than 
any who came after him before Sackville and Spenser, for the simple 
reason that he was the first English poet of real genius who ever wrote. 
In saying this we are considering only poets since the Conquest, and 
will not discuss the intrinsic value, as literature, of Old English poetry. 
Chaucer was hailed with one voice by his contemporaries, as the supreme 
singer of all who had yet appeared in English ; and by his immediate 
followers he was worshipped 'on this side of idolatry'. Except for 
a period during part of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when 
men were so rash as to attempt to patronize him, all true lovers of 
poetry have turned to Chaucer again and again, with a delight which 
is ever renewed, for they find in him a gaiety, a tenderness, and a 
humanity which have never been surpassed, the fragrance of the wood- 
land in spring, and a magic which resides only in the music of the 
greatest poets. In this sense Chaucer was, as the discerning, if dis- 
reputable, Hoccleve said, ' the firste finder of oure faire langage '- 
not that he invented or created it, but that he did with it what no one had 
ever done before. There is no mystery in the instrument which Chaucer 
uses that had been gradually becoming what it was in his day, during 
the centuries of law-giving, and preaching, and chaffering, and gossiping, 
in court, church, and palace, in market and tavern, which had passed in 
London since the Conquest. The only mystery is that which surrounds 
every great poet. Who shall say why this particular kind of genius 
should arise just when and where it does ? No amount of grammatical 
investigation will explain Chaucer, any more than it will explain Spenser, 
or Milton, or Keats, or Swinburne. Neither literary historians, nor gram- 
marians, have yet explained why such a poet is just what he is, nor, 
probably, will the students of the japes and pranks which heredity plays 
upon mankind be able to do so. But if Chaucer neither created the 
English of Literature by vamping diverse dialectal elements together, as 
some have thought, to make himself more widely intelligible, nor yet per- 
verted it, as others have maintained, by introducing new and foreign 
elements into its vocabulary, it may be asserted that, without any question, 
he certainly did give to that mixed dialect in which he wrote a prestige, 
a glory, a vogue, as a literary medium, which neither the most industrious 
of versifiers devoid of genius, nor the most punctiliously exact scribe in 
a Government office, could ever have given it. The dialect of London 
would, in any case, have become, nay, it was already becoming, the chief 
form of English used in writings of every kind, and that from the pressure 
of political, economic, and social factors; but there can be no doubt that the 
process was greatly hastened, so far as pure literature is concerned, by 
the popularity of Chaucer as shown by the number of MSS. of his 
writings in existence, and, afterwards, by the number of printed editions, 
as well as by the frequent expressions of reverence for him scattered 
through literature, and by the irresistible impulse among poets to' imitate 
his style, his turns of phrase, and his actual grammatical forms. 


But we must return from this digression to the immediate and more 
prosaic business before us, and sum up briefly the main purport of our 
narrative in this chapter. We have attempted to set forth first some of 
the main distinguishing features of the chief dialectal types of Middle 
English which are found blended in the dialect of London during the 
same period. We have illustrated each type by short extracts from repre- 
sentative works covering between three and four hundred years. We then 
approached the language of London itself, through the rather scrappy 
remains of the earliest period after the Conquest, and examined the 
dialectal features of a few documents written in London from the time of 
the Conqueror down to Chaucer. We found that London English was, 
in its earlier phases, of a definitely Southern type, and more particularly 
of a Central, rather than an East Southern type. We witnessed the 
gradual appearance of more and more East Midland elements, and of 
some South Eastern, or Kentish, peculiarities. The E. Midland ele- 
ments gain ground more and more, sometimes being used alongside of 
the corresponding Southern elements, sometimes exclusively, instead of the 
latter. By the end of the fourteenth century we found that London 
speech had become predominantly E. Midland in character, and that the 
purely Central Southern elements were very greatly reduced, though still 
in excess of what they are in Standard or Written English at the present 
time. We noticed further that certain Kentish features had become more 
frequent than in the earlier documents, and that in some cases Chaucer 
makes greater use of these than we do at the present time. There we 
leave London English then, at the end of the fourteenth century, rapidly 
approaching to our own speech so far as the general character of the 
dialectal elements is concerned, which make it up. But it still differs 
from our own usage, not only in the relative proportion of the different 
elements, but also as to the specific distribution of the types among 
particular words. 

We cannot close this brief survey of the English dialects of the South 
and of the E. Midlands down to the close of the fourteenth century with- 
out glancing at the language of the three best-known writers among 
Chaucer's contemporaries Gower, Wyclif, and the author of Piers 
Plowman. Each of these men has strong claims upon our interest. 
Each wrote voluminously and each exhibits in his writings different 
phases of the social or religious life of his age. They come from three 
widely separated areas of England, and their training and experience of 
life was different. Gower was a native of Kent, Wyclif of Yorkshire, 
William Langland of Shropshire. It is natural to inquire how far the 
language of these writers shows signs of conforming to a common literary 
type, or how far each preserves a strictly Regional dialect. The position 
of Gower in this respect is particularly interesting. If the reader 
compares the language of Gower's Confessio Amantis with that of the 
Ayenbite, written in Kent about fifty or sixty years earlier, he will at once 
note the absence from the former of most of the typical Kenticisms. 
Gower, born c. 1325, died 1408, was a Kentish country gentleman, 
a member of a Kentish territorial family, but the dialect of his gigantic 
English poem, with a few notable exceptions which we shall note directly, 
is practically that of Chaucer, that is to say, the London dialect. One 


feature, the ending -ende, which is his chief form of the Pres. Participle, is 
distinctly E. Midland, the Kentish form and Southern form generally 
being -inde, which was also the London form before Chaucer. (Cf. 
remarks on Davy above.) Chaucer, however, has given up this in favour 
of the new forms in -ing. Gower is in this respect archaic. The forms 
of the Pers. Pronouns are not those of Ayenbite (see p. 44, ante), but sche 
(occasionally scheo) for the Fern., and J>ei in the Nom. PI., while the typical 
Kent hise y Ace. PL ' them ', is not found, hem being used as by Chaucer. 
The Pres. PI. Indie, of verbs ends in -en as in London, instead of the 
Kent and Southern -e]>. Gower has no trace of the Kent spelling dyafo, 
&c., with^z for O.E. ea (see above, Kt. 7). For old eo he often writes 
ie, which, however, is not altogether on a footing with earlier Kent ie, ye 
(see Kt. 4), but quite clearly implies simply a long tense [e] sound. 
This spelling, therefore, though hitherto chiefly found in Kentish, as a re- 
presentative of old eo, is in Gower merely a convenient graphic device, 
which in words like driest, O.E. breost, 'breast', behield 'behold', O.E. 
behxld, represents a typical E. Midland type, possibly by this lime current 
also in Kent, but quite in accordance with the London type. Short ed as 
in O.E. heorte, &c., is always written e, herte, &c., as in E. Midland and 
in the London dialect. The spelling dradde ' feared ' instead of Kent or 
E. Midland dredde is Southern and has the retention of the shortened 
form of W. Saxon & rather than of the Anglian * ; and the rhyme brep, 
O.E. briiep ' breath ' with dep proves quite clearly that the former word 
retained the Southern type of the long vowel, and ladde 'led', by the side 
of the Kent ledde, Late Saxon Isedde, shows the non-Kentish a for earlier x. 
This Midland a is the regular form in Gower, in all words which formerly 
had se. All these are non-Kentish features, whether they be Saxon or 
E. Midland, and they are shared by Chaucer and the London documents. 
Gower has no trace of the typical initial z- and v-, for s-,f-, which are so 
characteristic of Ayenbite. Now for the other side of the picture, the 
purely Kentish features ol Gower's dialect. We must not attach too 
much weight to the fact that the poet has many examples of e for O.E.^y, 
since, as we have seen above, these are very common in Chaucer's verse, 
and fairly frequent in other London documents. Besides, Gower has 
both i and u forms as well asyjr ' fire ', pitt, gilt ' guilt ', hide ' hide ' vb., 
O.E. hydan, sinne 'sm',jHle ( M',J>mne 'thin',//; also gulte, guileless, hull 
'hill', O.E. hyll,purst ' thirst', O.E./yrst. The <?-forms, however, appear to 
predominate in words having the short vowel besie, bregge ' bridge ', hell 
' hill ', kertell, O.E. cyrtel, ' kirtle ', keste ' kissed ', merie ' merry ', pet ' pit ', 
O.E. pytt, senne ' sin ', ferst. Most of these forms occur, however, in 
Chaucer, several are found, much later, in the writings of persons who 
apparently spoke the Standard English of their day, and some survive at 
the present time. Much more important than these forms is the un- 
doubted use by Gower of the specifically Kentish tense [e] in words 
containing O.E. %? (see above, Kt. 2). This is proved both by rhymes 
and by the spelling of these words with ie e.g. tec he from O.E. txcan 
1 teach ' from *takjan } rhyming with beseche, and diel ' part ', O.E. dxl, from 
*ddli. Thus those essentially typical Kenticisms in Gower, which are not 
found also, to some extent at least, in London speech of the fourteenth 
century, are reducible to this simple peculiarity. 


The results of this brief examination are remarkable, since they prove 
that in the fourteenth century already, a Kentishman did not necessarily 
write in his native dialect, but adopted the London form of English. 
This fact is capable of two interpretations. One is that people of a certain 
social standing in the shires in the neighbourhood of London already 
spoke, with certain provincial modifications, the Court dialect, and there- 
fore used it in their writings. The other is that the literary use of the 
London written form was already becoming established among the better 
educated, although they still retained their provincial forms in actual 

Possibly the truth, in the case of Gower, lies between these two 

Concerning the author of the remarkable work known as the Vision 
of Piers Plowman much has been conjectured, where nothing is known 
with certainty. Such details of his life as are asserted by recent writers, 
even his name William Langland are based upon statements which 
occur scattered through the poem itself, and are believed to be of an 
autobiographical character. How far they are really intended to refer to 
the author, and, if they do, how far they are reliable, is a pure matter of 
conjecture, like much else in the so-called literary history of the early 
period. That the poet lived in the South- West Midlands seems certain 
apart from other arguments from the dialect of his work ; that he had 
been bred up as an ecclesiastic, and knew the ins and outs of the lives of 
the monks and clerics of his day, seems equally certain from the character 
of the poem itself. Who his father was, whether he was married, whether 
he was a priest or only in minor orders, or not in orders at all, and other 
details regarding which many cobwebs have been spun, are speculations 
which have engaged many earnest minds, but they seem to have no 
bearing upon the literary merit of his work, and they certainly have still 
less from our present point of view. That he spent some part of his life 
in London, if we could be sure of it, would be of importance for us, and 
still more so to know in what world he lived. When we turn to the poem 
itself, which exists in three versions and innumerable manuscripts, we find 
small traces of any London influence upon the language. The dialect is 
rustic and archaic, and the metre is alliterative, and unrhymed. The main 
dialectal features allowing for differences between the versions and 
manuscripts are distinctly Western, and are coloured with that suggestion 
of Southernism which we are apcustomed to find in texts written in 
Shropshire or Worcestershire. O.E. y very commonly appears as u or 
uibuggen < buy', huiden hide '. O.E. eo is still so written as in eorpe 
by the side of erthe, beoth by the side of beth. The old Fern. Pronoun 
he ' she ' is still used by the side of she, and the PI. Pronoun heo ' they ' 
occurs as well as they and pey. In the Possess, and Dat. only here 
and hem are found. In verbs the prefix i- is often retained in P.P.'s ; 
the Pres. Indie. PL, while generally ending in -en, often has the 
Southern -eth. The_Pres. Part, is always in -yng. The PI. Pres. of 
' to be ' is ben, beth, beoth, and aren. The old combination -an- usually 
appears as -on- after the Western manner. The blend of Southern 
elements with those of Midland character is typical of the dialect of the 
area from which the poem emanates, and there appears to be no reason 


for supposing that this apparent mixture does not represent a genuine 
spoken dialect. 

A thorough investigation of all the manuscripts of the three versions of 
Piers Plowman would be a long and tedious task, but it is one which 
ought to be undertaken. It is probable that from such an examination 
a pretty clear view of the precise dialect of the original would emerge, 
and further that this dialect would be found to show the characteristic 
blending of Southern with W. Midland features which is sometimes 
mistakenly supposed to be due to the influence of various scribes, but 
which is none the less a genuine dialectal type, just as much as in the 
mixed dialect of London itself. Probably, if Worcester or Shrewsbury 
or Oxford had been the capital of England, Piers Plowman would play 
the same important part in the history of English that the works of 
Chaucer actually do : it would represent what would in this case be the 
ancestral dialect of Standard Spoken and Literary English. As it is, 
however, the language of Langland has no historical relation with these 
types, is quite unaffected by the London English of his day, and agrees 
with this only in such features as have a wide Regional distribution. 

Wyclif, who was born circa 1320, died in 1385. He was, therefore, 
a contemporary of Chaucer, though rather older than the poet. A North- 
countryman by birth, Wyclif lived many years in Oxford, where he was 
Fellow of Balliol in c. 1345, and Master of Balliol 1361. From 1374 to 
1384 he was Rector of Lutterworth in Leicestershire. 

His writings, apart from the translation of the Bible which bears his 
name, are very voluminous. A large collection of sermons and contro- 
versial treatises is edited by Thomas Arnold, Oxford, 1871, under the 
title Select English Works of John Wyclif (3 vols.). A very brief account 
of the language of this remarkable man must suffice here. The following 
remarks are based upon an examination of Vol. Ill of the Select Works. 
The first thing to say is that on the whole the language is very Midland 
in character, and has hardly any purely Southern, and apparently no 
Kentish features. The reader should compare the language of these 
tracts with that of Chaucer's prose. Although the treatises in Arnold's 
edition are taken from various manuscripts, written no doubt at different 
periods and in different places, and possibly in no case giving Wyclif's 
own dialect with perfect fidelity, the various treatises seem all to agree to 
a remarkable extent in the main characteristics. Perhaps the first thing 
that strikes the student is the extreme frequency of i in suffixes, -is, -ip y 
-id, and occasionally -in, where Chaucer usually has -es t -ej>> &c. With the 
exception of -m, these forms of the suffixes enormously predominate over 
any others, though -es, &c., and more rarely -us do occur. So far as our 
evidence goes, therefore, we are apparently justified in assuming that 
Wyclif said byndifi, &c. The vowel system on the whole agrees with 
that of Chaucer, except that whereas the latter has all three forms , z', e, 
representing O.E.^, Wyclif, in the volume under consideration, seems to 
have , and this East Midland or Northern form only synne, birien 
* bury ', bisi, gilti,fulfilli}>, siche ' such ', and so on. The only exception 
appears to be werse, but this pay be otherwise explained than as corre- 
sponding to W. Saxon wyrse ' worse '. O.E. eo is always I, and there 
seems to be no example of hurte ' heart', or huld ' held', O.E. hedld. 


These two points alone seem to rule out much South- West Midland 
influence, such as we might expect to find from a residence in Oxford. 
On the other hand the Southern i for O.E. ie occurs in jt'tte, O.E. jief, 
J>ei sillen 'sell', O.E. siellan, sillan, stlf, O.E. sielf, st'l/'self 1 . The 
Inf. of the verb ' to give ' is jeve, which is Midland or S. Eastern or 
Northern, in place of the Southern zt've ; in 3rd Sing, both $iuip 

occur. Mon ' man ' and con ' can are rather Western than Eastern. 

Turning to the accidence, we find }>ei always for the 3rd Pers. PI. 
Nom. ; in the Possess, here, hore, hor, which are the usual forms, but 
occasionally per ; in the Dat. Ace. hem and horn. Thus Wyclif agrees 
with Chaucer in having pet, but differs from him in having per. This 
must be put down either to E. Midland or Northern influence. The Fern. 
Sing, is always sche, and incidentally we may note the interesting Possess. 
hern ' hers ', used absolutely ' f>e child was hern pat wolde have it on lyve, 
and not hern pat wolde have it deed', p. 310. The verbal endings are : 
3rd Pers. Sing. Pres. Indie, in some of the pieces -ip, -ep, in others -is, -s, 
&c. ; for instance Fifty Heresies, Twenty-five Articles, and Seven Deadly 
Sins all have the latter type, while the Church and her Members, and 
Wedded Men have the former. The -s forms point to the North or 
North-East Midland; the PI. Pres. ends in -en with extraordinary regularity, 
the -n being very rarely omitted. A few examples of -ep occur in 
Tract XXI 'pay lovep Goddis care', &c., p. 247. The P.P. of Strong 
Verbs is generally -n after the Midland fashion. The prefix^- does not 
occur. The PI. Pres. of 'to be* is almost invariably ben or been, bep 
being very rare (see p. 247, Tract XXI). The Pres. Part, of verbs 
ends in -ynge. 

There are certain indications of Northern influence. A rather 
striking one is the writing of u and oi for O.E. 5, both common Northern 
spellings indicating a quite different development from that which this 
sound had in the South and Midlands, .namely, towards a sound closely 
resembling, if not identical with, French il the sound in fact which in the 
South is generally expressed by u or uf. The examples I have noted in 
Wyclif are mut, O.E. mot, ' must ', pp. 342, 343 ; sunner < sooner ', p. 344 ; 
and soip 'true', O.E. sop, pp. 343 and 345. 

The Pres. PI. schewis 'shows' her werkes shewis pis wel, p. 175, and 
doubtless there are other examples is a striking Northern feature, espe- 
cially as it is surrounded on the same page by Midland Pis. in -en. The 
Scznd.jduen P. P. ofjiuen occurs, rather pointing to Northern or E. Mid- 
land, though the form occurs in Gower. To sum up this very brief 
sketch of Wyclif s literary dialect : he adopted, no doubt, the form of 
English current in the University of Oxford in his day, a form which 
differed from the surrounding Regional dialect to some extent, in that the 
most typical provincialisms were eliminated in favour of a more Easterly 
type approximating more to that of London. At the same time certain 
Northern peculiarities certainly clung to his speech, as they do to that of 
certain members of Oxford University in our own day, and some of these 
occasionally slip out in his writings. In point of prose style we must 
count Wyclif among the great masters perhaps the greatest of his day 
and before it. There is nothing stilted or creaking in his sentences, 
which are those of a skilful and competent writer, with an instrument 


that he thoroughly understands, adequate for all his wants. He reminds 
one of Latimer by the nature and force of his prejudices, but he is a more 
polished writer, without that excellent bishop's violence, and occasional 
vulgarity of thought and expression. 

Cristes lore and his apostles twelve 

He taughte, and first he folwed it himselve. 

Thus the fourteenth century closes without anything like a general 
acceptance of a uniform type of English among writers whose native 
dialect was not that of the metropolis or of the surrounding shires. It 
appears, however, from the works of Wyclif, that the type of speech, 
uttered and written, in vogue in the University of Oxford was definitely 
influenced by a more Easterly dialect, and we must suppose that this 
influence was exerted through the medium of London. 


East Midland. 

Peterborough Chronicle (Laud MS.), 1121-54. Ed. Plummer. 

Ormulum, c. 1200. Ed. Holt, 1878. 

Bestiary, c. 1250. See O.E. Miscellany, Ed. Morris, E.E.T.S., 1872. 

Genesis and Exodus, c. 1250. Morris, E.E.T.S., 1873. 

Robt. of Brunne's Handlyng Synne, c. 1300. Furnivall, Pt. 1, 1901 ; Pt. II, 

Norfolk Gilds, 1389. L. Toulmin Smith, E.E.T.S., 1870 (in English 

(Bokenanfs Lives of Saints, c. 1430, is chiefly dealt with as Early Modern 

English in this book. It was edited by Horstmann, Heilbronn, 1883.) 

Lambeth Homilies, before I2co. Morris, in O.E. Homilies, E.E.E.S., 

1868, Pt. I. 
Moral Ode, Trinity MS. before 1200 ; Jesus MS. 1250 (both in O.E. Misc.) ; 

Egerton MS. 1200, in Morris's O.E. Horns., I. 
Wooing of Our Lord, c. 1200; also God Ureisun and Sawles Ward of 

same date, all in O.E. Horns., I. 
Owl and Nightingale, 1246-50. In O.E. Misc. 
Proverbs of Alfred, 1250. O.E. Misc. 

Robt. of Gloucester, 1298. Wright, Rolls Series, 2 vols., 1887. 
St. Juliana (Metrical Life of), 1300. Cockayne, E.E.T.S., 1872. 
Trevisa (Translation of Higden's Polychronicon), 1387. Vols. I and II, 

Babington; III and IV, Lumley, 1865-86. Rolls Series. Extracts are 

given in Morris and Skeat's Specimens, II. 

Usages of Winchester, 1389. In Toulmin Smith's English Gilds. 
(The Life of St. Editha, c. 1420, is regarded in this book as Early Modern 

English. It was edited by Horstmann, in 1883.) 


Vespasian Homilies, c. 1150. Morris, O.E. Horns., I. 
Kentish Sermons (MS. Laud), before 1250. Morris, O.E. Miscellany. 
William ofShoreham's Poems, 1307. Conrath, E.E.T.S., 1902. 
Ayenbite of Inwyt ('Remorse of Conscience'), 1340. Morris, E.E.T.S., 


Some of the chief texts in the London Dialect before Chaucer are 
illustrated above, pp. 46-9, with references for each extract. 


THE student of English literature, and the student of the history of our 
language, will naturally take very different views of the fifteenth century. 
For the former, at least as regards poetry, this age will appear one of the 
dreariest in our annals ' The builders were with want of genius cursed' 
and from the conventional dullness of Hoccleve and Lydgate he turns to 
Scotland, and finds something to cherish in the very genuine poetic gift 
of the versatile and humorous, if rather sumptuous, Dunbar. In prose 
there are competent and solid, if hardly entertaining, writers, such as 
Bishop Pecok, Sir John Fortescue, and Capgrave, and there is Sir Thomas 
Malory, the glowing pages of whose Morte d* Arthur redeem the century 
from the chill dullness which generally surrounds its literature. This 
noble work, which breathes the spirit and fragrance of Romance, makes 
alive the Knights and Ladies of the age of Chivalry which had already 
faded, and by the side of this world of heroes and champions, the figures 
of the earlier romances seem mere puppets and shadows. Caxton, the 
first English printer, occupies of right a place apart in the literary history 
of his day. His fame rests upon his activities as a printer, and the 
sound sense which he showed in the selection of books to print, rather 
than upon his productions as a writer and translator, though these are by 
no means contemptible. Much nonsense has been written about Caxton's 
creation of a dialect, and still more about his creation of a prose style. 
After what has been said in the former chapter it is unnecessary to explain 
here that Caxton did not concoct an artificial medley of dialects in which 
to clothe his translations. Language does not grow up in that way. As 
to the other claim, it could hardly be made by those who were acquainted 
with Caxton's writings, and with those of some of his predecessors and 
contemporaries. In point of beauty and dignity of style, Malory is incom- 
parably Caxton's superior, while in ease and raciness the latter is at least 
equalled by some of the anonymous writers of what are practically official 
documents, such as the directions for the funeral of an English king, of 
which we give a specimen below (p. 89), and the account of the creation 
of the Duke of York (afterwards Henry VIII) a Knight of the Bath. 
Both of these entertaining, and often picturesque, pieces of English prose 
are contained in Vol. I of Letters and Papers, &c., edited by Gairdner. 

We shall have more to say later on concerning Caxton, from the point 
of view which more immediately concerns us here. 

For the student of the development of the English language, apart 
from its use as a means of literary expression, the fifteenth century is one 
of extraordinary interest. 


The reasons for this are chiefly the following : 

(1) There is a large increase in the number of persons who can write, 
and therefore in the number of purely private documents which have 
come down to us. As a result of writing being more widespread, and 
consequently, freed from the shackles of the professional scribe, we seem 
during this century, almost for the first time, to overhear, as it were, real 
people actually speaking. That is to say, we find a great variety of spell- 
ing, and, what is more, new varieties of this, which often show such 
divergence from the convention of the scribes that it becomes plain that 
what we are accustomed to regard as the Middle English system of 
pronunciation has undergone, or is undergoing, very remarkable changes. 

(2) On account of the sound changes whose existence is indicated by 
these occasional departures from the old spelling, on account of the modi- 
fication in the inflexional system which the written documents show, and 
by reason of the whole complexion of the sentence, we are constantly 
forced to admit, in reading fifteenth-century documents, that Modern 
English has begun. 

(3) During this century the use of Regional dialect in writing, both in 
private and public documents official and purely literary gradually dies 
out, and that variety of English whose rise we discussed in the last chap- 
ter, comes slowly but surely into practically universal currency. This is 
traceable before the introduction of printing. 

(4) Lastly, printing is introduced, and a new era opens, bringing con- 
ditions hitherto unknown, and providing facilities for the spread of London 
English, whose predominance, if it were not so already, is henceforth 
absolutely assured. 

These are important points, and must be dealt with successively in 
some detail. They may serve us as headings for our present treatment 
of the subject of this chapter. We must first, however, say something 
concerning the general character of the various classes of documents upon 
which our knowledge of fifteenth-century English is based. We may dis- 
tinguish (i) official documents; (2) works which have some pretensions 
to be literature ; and (3) private letters. The first may again be divided 
into Public documents Records, Instructions to Ministers, &c., De- 
scriptions of Historical Events, like those just alluded to in Gairdner's 
Letters and Papers, &c. ; and Private documents such as Wills, and 
Inventories of Property. English Rules for Monastic Orders and 
Monastic Chartularies should, perhaps, be ranked as Private Official 

In works of literature proper, we naturally distinguish between com- 
position in Prose and Verse. Passing to the Private Letters, which in 
many respects are the most valuable of all for our purpose, we may 
distinguish between the more conventionally written missives of highly 
educated persons, such as Bishop Bekinton, Judge Paston, and John 
Shillingford, and those of comparatively uneducated people such as the 
Cely family (Cely Papers), Edmond de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk (in Ellis's 
Letters Illustrative of Eng. Hist., Ser. Ill, Vol. I), and Margaret Paston, 
the judge's daughter-in-law. 

It is rather difficult to classify Gregory's Chronicle (late fifteenth 
century), which is hardly a work of literature, aed not quite a private 



A further division is necessary according to dialect. From this 
point of view we may distinguish : documents written in the London or 
Literary dialect ; those, at the other extreme, written in a more or less 
pure form of Regional dialect ; and those which are, in the main, in the 
London dialect, but which show some provincial influence. 

A classification of this kind cuts right across the other, based upon the 
nature of the documents. It would be easy to select writings of each 
genre in all of the three dialectal categories just given. 

The poems of Hoccleve and the prose of Caxton represent the London 
dialect among works of literature proper ; so do not only, as we might 
expect, the official documents written in London, but also many from 
widely separated parts of the country e.g. the English Registers of the 
Abbeys of Godstow (1450) and Oseney (1460), both near Oxford ; 
the English Wills and Charters in the Chetwynd Chartulary (Staffs, 
c. 1440-90); the Coventry Leet Book (from 1420); the Ordinances 
of Worcester (1467); Ordinances of the Gild of Tailors of Exeter 
(1466); various documents of an official nature, written in Ireland by 
Irish Lords to Henry VII (1484-93). All these appear to be written 
in a form of English hardly distinguishable, on the whole, from that in use 
in London at this period. Among private letters written in this common 
form, may be mentioned those of Bishop Bekinton (1442), of Sir William 
Paston the judge (1425-30), and many others from Kings, Queens, 
Princes, and Ministers of State, printed by Ellis. Coming to writings in 
various more or less pure Regional dialects, we may mention here the 
Life of St. Editha (Wilts, c. 1420, in verse), the English version of Palla- 
dius on Husbandry (Essex c. 1420), the poems of Bokenam (Suffolk 
c - I 443)> Awdeley's Poems (Shropshire c. 1420). In prose, literary 
writings in pure dialect are rare in this century, but in the private letters 
of the Cely family (1475-88), a wealthy middle-class family, we 
apparently have a pretty pure example of the Essex dialect ; and the 
fifteenth-century Bury Wills are in many cases fairly close to the language 
of Bokenam. The Letters of Margaret Paston (1440-70), which I have 
examined in detail, are also, on the whole, in the dialect of Suffolk. 

Finally, we come to the large class of writings, very fully represented in 
fifteenth-century English, which are, to all intents and purposes, in 
Common English, as we may perhaps now call it, but which, nevertheless, 
show certain deviations from it, due to the influence of Regional dialect. 
This influence varies very much in extent, and some of the works men- 
tioned in the preceding group might perhaps be included here, such as 
the Letters of Margaret Paston and some of the Bury Wills. 

Among poets Lydgate, 'the Monk of Bury', though undoubtedly 
a highly cultivated person, shows distinct E. Midland, we might say East 
Coast, influence. This Eastern influence from Norfolk and Suffolkis 
traceable in a certain number of prose writers of this period who belong 
by birth to these counties. Thus it occurs in the language of Capgrave 
(died 1464), who lived most of his life at Lynn, and in Thomas Gregory's 
Chronicle, the author of which was Lord Mayor of London in 1451-2, 
and died in 1467. He was a native of Mildenhall in Suffolk, and of an 
armigerous family. In the language of Sir John Fortescue (supposed to 
have died 1476) we may perhaps note slight traces of South- Western 


influence. Sir John was the son of a gentleman of Devonshire, and was 
at one time Lord Chief Justice of England. The Regional influence in 
his Governaunce of England'^ so slight, however, that he would perhaps be 
more suitably included among the writers of Common Literary English. 
Rather more definite in his divergence from the London type is Bishop 
Pecok, whose Represser (1449) is sometimes said to represent the 'Oxford 
type ' of English. Reginald Pecok was a Welshman by birth, was 
a Fellow of Oriel in 1417, Bishop of St. Asaph in 1444, and of 
Chichester in 1450. 

Passing to private letters, the most remarkable are perhaps those of John 
Shillingford, Mayor of Exeter in 1447-50. He fought the Bishop and 
Chapter of Exeter in the interests of his city, and his letters are written 
to his friends at home, describing his fortunes on a visit which he paid to 
London, to urge his case with the Chancellor in person. He was of gentle 
birth, had evidently received an excellent education, and was a man of 
self-possession and breeding. He was able to crack jokes and cap Latin 
quotations with the Chancellor, and he writes a style at once shrewd and 
humorous. His letters are remarkable as showing the spread of the 
Literary Standard in his day among persons of education and standing, 
for they approach very closely to that Standard, and exhibit but few 
provincialisms. A number of Lincolnshire Wills of this period show 
strong Regional influence in vocabulary, verbal forms, and occasionally also 
in the sounds, so far as these can be inferred from the spelling. 

Such are a few of the sources of our knowledge of the various forms of 
English current in the fifteenth century. 

We now pass to consider in order, and in more detail, those general 
characteristics indicated above, of the language of the period, and also 
the documents from which our knowledge of it is based. 

(1) Deviations in Spelling from the Scribal Tradition which 
throw light upon Pronunciation. 

The comparative frequency with which these occasional spellings occur 
in the fifteenth century is, no doubt, primarily due, as has been pointed 
out, to the spread of the art of writing beyond the circle of the profes- 
sional scribe, and the increasing habit of using the art in familiar private 
correspondence. On the other hand, while these ' lapses ' in spelling are 
commoner in documents of this latter class, where the writers are more off 
their guard than they would be in inditing works of more formal and 
permanent character, these occasional ' phonetic ' spellings are by no 
means confined to private letters, but occur to a greater or less degree in 
writings of all kinds official records, wills, and even in literary com- 
positions in both prose and verse. 

Even in the printed books of Caxton, usually so conservative and con- 
ventional, certain peculiarities creep in, here and there, which are certainly 
unconscious adaptations of spelling to suit the sound. 

The question arises how far these indications of pronunciation imply 
that this, which, to judge from the ordinary scribal spelling, has shown but 
little sign of change for several centuries, has just begun now to move in 
the direction of Modern English. How far are we entitled to regard the 


fifteenth century as a great landmark in our linguistic history, a period of 
transition and change ? 

This question needs great caution in answering. A very large number 
of the spellings which appear to herald a new speech-era can, as a matter 
of fact, be shown to occur, here and there, several centuries earlier, 
in the full M.E. period, though they are far rarer and much harder to 
find. In such cases, the new pronunciation can hardly be claimed to 
have only just begun at the moment when we first find frequent instances 
of its expression, in the spelling, in the fifteenth century. 

It is probable that a more thorough and minute examination of the 
varieties in M.E. spelling would reveal stronger proof than we have at 
present, of the existence in this period, of the development of certain sound 
changes which we have up to now assumed to be much later. 

It is wiser, therefore, in those cases where we are not sure, to leave the 
question of the period at which the change began open, and content our- 
selves with the knowledge that it is at least as early as the date at which 
the spelling gives sure and frequent indication that such and such a new 
sound is intended. 

It may, of course, be argued quite reasonably, that if a spelling occurs 
only once or twice in M.E. records, whereas it is comparatively common 
in the fifteenth century, this shows that in the latter period the sound 
change had been completed, and a definite new development reached, 
while in the former period the change was only beginning, and the un- 
easiness shown by the varieties of spelling merely indicates that the old 
sound had begun to be modified in the new direction, so that the scribe 
felt that the old spelling was no longer adequate. 

It is true that the M.E. scribal vagaries suggest rather a more or less 
deliberate and tentative groping after a phonetic rendering, than the 
unconscious and spontaneous rendering of a specific sound in a more or* 
less natural way, which is the impression very often made by the fifteenth- 
century departures from tradition. 

On the whole, therefore, it is probable that the appearance of so many 
graphic expressions of a new form of pronunciation in the fifteenth 
century is misleading in so far as it suggests a sudden development. 
The fifteenth century is probably no more an age of transition than every 
age is such. Many sound changes had already come about, or at least 
had begun long before. By the fifteenth century the new sounds were 
definitely established, their incompatibility with the old spelling was obvious, 
and the fact that a larger number of writers were endeavouring to put down 
their thoughts upon paper or parchment, writers unshackled by tradition, 
leads to the new pronunciation being more often expressed in the spelling 
than heretofore. 

To come now to closer quarters with the facts, we may say generally, 
that light is thrown by the occasional spellings of the fifteenth century, 
and, as we shall see later, also by those of the sixteenth century, upon the 
following points of pronunciation:^) (i) the quality, and (2) quan- 
tity, of vowel sounds in stressed (' accented ') syllables ; (B] upon the 
treatment of old vowels and diphthongs in unstressed syllables ; (C) upon 
the loss of consonants when final, or before other consonants, in cases 
where several consonants occur in a group ; (D) upon the development 


of so-called parasitic consonants, after others, chiefly at the end of words; 
(E) upon many other consonant pronunciations. 

We shall briefly illustrate each of these points here ; the fuller treat- 
ment and illustrations will come in their proper place in the chapter 
which deals with Changes in Pronunciation. 

A (i) Indications as to the Quality of Vowels. 

(a) M.E. tense e is often written with i or y, which had the sound [i] 
of Mod. Eng. <ee 'in meet: Shillingford : myte 'meet', dyme 'deem', 
&c. ; Margaret Paston : agryed ' agreed ', symed ' seemed ', wypyng 
' weeping ', &c., &c. ; Gregory's Chron. : slyves ' sleeves ', slypylle * steeple ', 
&c. These spellings show that the Mod. sound had already developed 
out of the old <?, which had the sound of French /in e'te. 

(6) O.E. tense 5 is occasionally written u or ou, implying the sound 
[u] as in Mod. boot: Palladius: must, M.E. moste\ Margaret Paston: 
must, Munday ; Pecok : muste ; Bokenam : suthly ' truly ', forsuk, stude 
'stood', &c.; Cely Papers: mwste, tuk 'took'. These spellings show 
that [u], or this sound shortened, was already pronounced. 

A (2) Indications of Quantity. 

Short vowels are often indicated by doubling the following consonant 
symbol : Bokenam : clennere ' cleaner ' compar. ; St. Editha : gretter 
'greater'; flodde 'flood', delle 'part'; Palladius: woddes 'woods', 
waiter ' to water ', sonner ' sooner ' ; Cely Papers : breckefaste. 

B. The Treatment of Vowels and Diphthongs in 
Unstressed Syllables. 

This is a rather intricate subject and will demand later a chapter to 
itself. The habit of pronouncing vowels differently, and more shortly, 
where they occur in unaccented syllables than when in fully stressed sylla- 
bles is firmly engrained in English, though at the present time many 
people are in favour of pronouncing ' full ' vowels in unaccented syllables. 
That this is against the genius of English is shown by ordinary, natural 
speech ; that the habit is an old one the following examples will show. 
To pronounce the second syllable of Oxford like the word ford, and the 
second syllable of porpoise like the word poise, may be agreeable or the re- 
verse, but it is certainly an eccentric novelty. Already in very Early Middle 
English we find that O.E. a, u, o, e were all pronounced alike when not 
accented, and are written e. O.E. long vowels were shortened in M.E. 
when unstressed, and short or shortened vowels often disappeared from 
pronunciation altogether. Thus, for instance, as early as St. Juliana 
(Prose, thirteenth century), we find O.E. * J?ser fter ' thereafter ' written 
prefter, when the old de has first been shortened and then eliminated. 
This process of 'reduction' of the vowels in unstressed syllables con- 
tinued during the whole M.E. period, and in the fifteenth century we find 
numerous spellings which suggest a pronunciation not very unlike that of 
the present day. Indeed, in some cases a form, apparently from an 
unreduced type, is now pronounced habitually, through the influence of 

F 2 


the desire to speak ' correctly ' and ' according to the spelling ' so common 
since the early nineteenth century. The M.E. process of 'reduction* 
whose results are reflected in the fifteenth-century spellings included 
the unstressed vowels in Scandinavian and Norman-French words, and 
affected every vowel and diphthong in this position. The following are 
a few examples which illustrate (a) mere uncertainty how to write the 
vowel of the unstressed syllable, (6) more or less definite methods of 
recording a specific sound. 

(a) The following examples of indecision in writing the vowel in 
an unstressed syllable are all taken from the Cely Papers, but the same 
thing is found more or less in all the fifteenth-century texts. 

Middle English -en : (i) Written -en '.taken, wretten P.P.; (2) 
Written -yn : wryttyn, lynyn ' linen ',gevyn P. P., hosyn, Sec. ; (3) Written 
, on : happon, hofton ' often '. 

Middle English -<?/: (i) Written -el -.fardel, stapel\ (2) Written 
-yl\ myddyl, saddyl, cradyll, stapyl\ Written (3) -al\ stapal; (4) 
Written -ul : stapuL 

Middle English -er : (i) Written -er : better, fader ' father ', mother, 
&c. ; (2) Written -yr : bettyr, nwmbyr, ovyr, dowtyr, &c., &c. ; (3) 
Written -or : manner ' manner ', sumor, octobor, &c. ; (4) Written -ar : 
dynar ' dinner ', manar ' manner ', finar ' finer ' ; (5) Written -ur : brocur 

This variety and hesitation point to an ' indeterminate ' vowel, as it is 
often falsely called ; that is, the sound [9], which we now have in the 
second syllable of father, and in many thousands of unstressed syllables, 
whatever is written. 

(l>) As illustrations of the treatment of unstressed vowels which appears 
to be quite clearly and definitely expressed by occasional spellings from 
several sources, we take two points. 

(1) Rounded Vowels are unrounded. French u [y] as in Mod. French 
lune is written i, y t or e, implying probably a sound closely resembling 
our vowel in the second syllable of pity. Examples : Palladius : moister 
' moisture ' ; Shillingfoi d : commyne ' common ', fr. commune ; M. Paston : 
repetadon ' reputation ' ; Cely Papers : aventer ' adventure ', the venter 
' venture ', condyte < conduit ', by skill ' biscuit ' ; Gregory : condytte, 
comyners, comeners ; Letters and Papers (1501): mynite 'minute' in 
sense of a ' note '. The above spellings represent a pronunciation 
pretty much the same as our own in the words conduit, biscuit, minute. 

M.E. o and u unstressed written a : Cely Papers : abedyensses 
1 obedience ', sapose ' suppose ', apon, appon ' upon ' ; Shillingford : apon 
(also Letters and Papers, Gregory, Fortescue, &c.). 

(2) Diphthongs are simplified, oi and ei often written e, y : porpys 
'porpoise', Gregory; loorkes 'turquoise', Bury Wills (1501); Synt 
Stevyn, Sent Fault, curtessy, certyn, Shillingford ; M.E. seinl, curteisie, 
certein ; Syn Lenarde, Syn John, w^wtayne, M.E. meynteyne, &c. ; Sent 
Stephin, Rewle of Sustris Menouresses. 

The examples are enough to establish the reality of the sound changes 
suggested^ by the spellings, and in the following century indications 
pointing in the same direction become still commoner in unstudied 
writing. Present-day pronunciation confirms the indications of these 


early spellings as regards et\ though oi is sometimes restored in unstressed 
syllables through the influence of the conventional spelling which later 
became fixed. 

C. Occasional Spellings which reveal Losses of Consonants. 

(1) Loss of final consonant. M. Paston : nex ' next ', husbon ( hus- 
band ', hunder ' hundred ' ; Cely Papers : My Lor ; Gregory : Braban ; 
Official account of entry of Catherine of Aragon (1503): uprigh. 

(2) Loss of consonants in groups, before one or more consonants. Archbp. 
Chichele (1418) \-Lamhyth ' Lambeth ' ; St. Editha \-twolthe ' twelfth ', 
twolmonth ' twelvemonth ', bleynasse ' blindness ', whyssonweke ; Shilling- 
ford : myssomer ' midsummer ', Crichurch ' Christchurch ' ; M. Paston : 
Wensday, morgage, Quessontyde ' Whitsuntide ' ; Gregory : Wanysday 
' Wednesday ', halpeny, sepukyr ' sepulchre '. 

(3) Loss of consonants between vowels. St. Editha : senty ( seventy ', 
swene ' dream ', earlier sweven, pament ' pavement ' ; Caxton : pament. 

D. Addition of Consonants. 

(1) Finally, generally after 1, r, n ; also after s. 

Palladius : Spaniald 'Spaniard', cf. Fr. Espagnol\ St. Editha: 
jaylardes ' jailors ' ; Margaret Paston : wyld ' will ' ; Short Eng. Chron. 
(1464) : Lymoste ' Lymehouse ' ; Gregory : loste ' loss ' ; Capgrave : 
ylde ' isle ', lynand * linen '. 

(2) Development of parasitic consonant between other consonants. St. 
Editha : sump tyme for sum tyme ' some time ' ; Cely Papers : Mon- 
gwmbre for Mongumry ' Montgomery ', rembnant ' remnant '. 

Some of the tendencies expressed in these examples have left survivals 
at the present day : e. g. the loss of final -d in law , earlier laund ; accre- 
tion of final -/ after -n, margent, a poetical variant of margin. Both loss 
and addition are very common in Vulgar Speech (Modified Standard). 
We shall see most of these forms in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, in use in the English of the politest persons. 

The loss of consonants in groups still belongs to the best speech ; thus 
[wenzdi, wsskat] are more common among good speakers than the 
rococco [we/'stko#t, wednzdz'J. We shall find many examples of such 
losses or assimilations of consonants in groups in the sixteenth, seven- 
teenth, and eighteenth centuries. 

E. Various Consonant Pronunciations. 

(1) The combination written -si-, -sci-, or -ti- pronounced l -sh- ' [J] as 
at present. 

Margaret Paston : sesschons ' sessions *, conschens ' conscience ; Cely 
Papers :prosesschon ' procession ', fessychens ' physicians ', restytuschon 
'restitution', &c., &c. ; Letters and Papers (1501) \-huisshers, French 
huissiers l ushers '. In the last instance we actually retain a phonetic 
spelling of the word. 

(2) Final -ing pronounced -in, as with many speakers at present. 
Margaret Paston : wrytyn (Noun), kepyn (N.), gidyn l guiding ' (N.), 


hangyn (Pres. Part.); Gregory \-blasyn 'blazing' (Pres. Part.), hayryn 
1 herring '. 

(3) Miscellaneous, -b- for -p- between vowels : Jubiter, Bk. of Quinte 
Essence (1460-70); jeberdy 'jeopardy', Cely Papers; juberte, Cr. of 
Knt. of Bth. 

-/- lost before -f- : behaf ' behalf, Bp. Bekynton (1442) ; before -k- : 
fawkyner ' falconer 5 , Cely Papers ; Fauconbryge, Gregory. 

-r- lost in combination -rs- : wosied qwischons l worsted cushions ', Will 
of Joan Buckland (Lines. 1440) ; passe!/, Cely Papers. 

-gh- not pronounced in middle of word before -/- or finally ; this is 
shown in Margaret Paston's omission of any symbol for the original 
sound in myt ' might ', kawt ' caught ', and also by such spellings as 
howghe ' how ', wright ' write ', ought c out ', &c., &c., when she would not 
have written the letters -gh- if they had represented any sound. Further, 
smyht ' smite ', Rle. of Sustris Menouresses. 

h- initially where it does not historically belong : herand ' errand ', 
hought ' ought ', hese ' ease ', Margaret Paston ; hasche ' ash tree ', 
Gregory. (On all these points see Ch. VIII below.) 

We have now illustrated some of the principal spellings found in 
fifteenth-century, or very early sixteenth-century documents, which are 
new departures, and suggest a different pronunciation from that usually 
held to be normal in M.E. These spellings are scattered through dozens 
of letters and other documents, and some of them might pass for slips 
of the pen, were they isolated. Many of them occur, however, in 
several documents of this period, and all of them are found with much 
greater frequency in writings of the sixteenth century, and are further 
confirmed much later, either by writers on pronunciation, by later 
(seventeenth and eighteenth century) spellings, or by survivals in our 
own day. When a writer departs from the traditional spelling in the 
manner shown by the above examples, we can hardly doubt that this 
eccentricity records some fact of pronunciation ; when we get confirmation 
of the kind just stated, we do not doubt at all. 

Many of the pronunciations thus expressed are now obsolete, old- 
fashioned, or vulgar. The influence of the archaic system of spelling, 
insisted upon by the early printers and by their successors, has been too 
strong. We shall have occasion to see later how comparatively recent 
many of our present-day ' restored ' pronunciations are. Other pro- 
nunciations again, such as the loss of -/- before certain consonants, as in 
half, walk, &c., are accepted facts, and at present no one has ventured 
upon a restoration ; perhaps the lettered democracy of the future, seeking 
' the genteel thing ', will introduce this, among other novelties, into our 

(2) Modern English begins at least as early as the second 
half of the fifteenth century. 

Nothing is more difficult, as has already been urged repeatedly, than 
to fix upon a date for the beginning of a new era in speech ; indeed this 
can only be done approximately. All we shall endeavour to show here 
is that although some of the points of development adduced in support 
of the view may be considerably older, the net result of an examination 


of English speech as a whole during the fifteenth century leads us to the 
conclusion that before the close of that century, not to attempt more 
particular definition, the Modern Period of our language had begun. 
One of the surprises of a close study of the history of a language is the 
early date at which certain features occur in the texts often far earlier 
than we should expect. Another surprise is the lateness of the occur- 
rence of certain other features, which survive, here and there, much 
longer than we perhaps thought possible. In order to enjoy both kinds 
of astonishment it is clearly necessary to make not only a fairly minute 
study since what is new in speech and just coming in is but infrequently, 
and only by scattered examples, discoverable in the written records, while 
the obsolescent is often equally hard to come by but we must also take 
a rather wide survey in point of time, and roam over the written records 
of several centuries. The rewards of such a labour are the pleasant 
surprises just referred to, and a gradual gain of a sense of the continuity 
between the earlier and later periods. For the purpose which we have 
in view to establish the modernity of fifteenth-century English it is 
useful to take present-day English as a point of comparison, and to 
inquire how far some of the most characteristic features of our actual 
language are found already in the century we are now considering. It 
is also useful to indicate the points in which present-day English differs 
from that of the fifteenth century, since it is by no means suggested that 
the two forms are identical in all respects. In our brief analysis of Early 
Modern English, we confine ourselves primarily to London writings, and 
to those works produced either in the East Midlands or the South of 

Our examination will deal chiefly with the Pronunciation ; the Acci- 
dence during the greater part of the century is still rather M.E. in 
character, and only a few points are here dealt with. 

English Pronunciation in the Fifteenth Century. 

The following are some of the chief differences between the pronuncia- 
tion of vowels in the M.E. period and that of the present day : 

(1) M.E. a, in bdke(n) 'to',/ame 'fame', &c., &c., has become 


(2) M.E. a which had the sound of French a mpatte, &c., has become 
[ae] as in M.E. bak, present-day back, fat, adj., &c. &c. 

(3) M.E. e l = [e] tense has become [i] as in M.E. felenfeel, seed, 
sede seed, &c., &c. 

(4) M.E. e 2 = [s] has also become [i], M.E. hete heat, mete meat, 
&c., &c. 

(5) M.E. I has been diphthongized to \_ai\, M.E. wif- wife, blind 
blind, &c., &c. 

(6) M.E. u has been diphthongized to [aw], M.E. hous = [hus] house, 
M.E. foule foul, &c., &c. 

(7) M.E. u has been unrounded to [a] as in M.E. dust = [dwst] 
present-day dust = [dast], &c., &c. 

(8) M.E. o tense has become [u] as in M.E. mone moon = [mun], 
M.E. fode food = [fad], &c. 


(9) M.E. au, which was a genuine diph thong [au], has been monoph- 
thongized to [5] written au or aw, as in cause, hawk, &c., &c. 

(10) M.E. at, ei, both pronounced [at] in the later period, have 
become first [ae], then [i], then [e], and finally, in Standard English [e/] 
rain, day, vein, &c., &c. 

(n) M.E. [y] written u or ui has become [m, ju], e.g. tune, fume, 
suit', after /, r, the older [ju] has generally become [u], e.g. lute (also 
[\jHi]),/rui/, rude, &c., &c. 

(12) M.E. [ y] has been retracted to [u] and then unrounded like other 
short w-sounds to [a], e.g. judge, bundle, rush (the plant), cudgel, &c., &c. 

(13) M.E. -er has become [fl(r)J, M.E. herte heart, M.E. fer far, 
&c., &c. 

(14) M.E. wa- has become [w^-] in was, swan, swallow, &c., &c. 
The above list of changes is formidable enough, but it makes no 

pretence at completeness. It will, however, serve our turn for the 

Of the above changes, Nos. 3, 8, and 13 were shown, p. 67, above, 
to be expressed in fifteenth-century spellings. In 3 and 8 it seems 
certain that the full present-day stage had already been reached. As 
regards 14, wosse 'was ' in Cely Papers leaves small room for doubt. 
It is extremely probable that the same may be said of Nos. i, 2 
such spellings as begen for began, &&& fend * found ', M.E. fand (Paston 
Letters), point to a fronting in the former case, while credyl ' cradle ' in 
Bokenam, teke = take,feder M.TL. fader 'father' in Paston Letters, and 
ceme ' came ' in Cely Papers seem to indicate the same process for the 
long vowel. 

The process involving M.E. e* (No. 4) began very shortly the shifting 
of the vowel in No. 3. Cf. p. 209, below. 

The spelYmg gannes ' guns ' in Paston Letters seems to show that short 
u, No. 7, had at least started upon the path which was to lead to the present 
sound, if it had not fully attained it ; the spelling sadanly ' suddenly ' in 
Fortescue points in the same direction. If this be so, then No. 7 must 
have taken place still earlier. No. 5, the diphthonging of long i is more 
than hinted at by the spellings bleynd ' blind ', myeld ( mild ', in St. Editha, 
though it is improbable that the present sound had been reached. 

The diphthonging of , No. 6, is suggested by the spelling sauthe ' south', 
Reg. of Godstow, Zachrisson, E. St. 52. 309. The spelling awffer * offer ' 
in Cely Papers is sometimes regarded as an inverted spelling showing 
that aw no longer necessarily indicated a diphthong, which would be 
impossible in this word. The only sound apparently which it could 
represent here is [5]. If this is so then No. 9 also is a process already 
complete among some speakers in the fifteenth century. The monoph- 
thonging of ai (No. 10) is suggested in an undated letter of Marg. 
Beaufort (1443-1509), who writes sa for say. This lady was the mother 
of Henry VII. Apart from spellings in regard to Nos. 5 and 6, it must 
further be pointed out that if we once admit that old [e] had become 
[i], and that [6] had become [u], we must perforce assume that some 
change had affected the old [i] and [u], since if these had remained 
unaltered down to the period by which the new [i, u] developed, the 
latter would have been identical with them, and the subsequent history 


of both would have been the same. This, however, has not happened. 
Hence we must suppose that the change of [i and u] was actually earlier 
than the change of [fed] to [fid] and of [mone] to [mun(e)]. But 
while this is certain, we have no definite evidence as to how far the 
diphthonging had gone, nor what was its precise character in the fifteenth 
century. The certainty is merely that these sounds had changed from 
their original form and started upon their new career. 

Thus of the fourteen typical vowel changes which distinguish present- 
day English from that of the M.E. period, all but one are shown, by the 
direct evidence of occasional spellings, by inference drawn from other 
facts, or from both sources, either to have been completed, or at least to 
have begun, before the close of the fifteenth century. 

The change in No. n, so far as our evidence goes at present, cannot 
be proved to have started. On this point see p. 244, below. 

It must be insisted upon that it is by no means proved, because a pro- 
nunciation is shown with considerable probability, or in some cases with 
certainty, to have existed at a given period among certain groups of 
speakers, that this pronunciation was universal. On the contrary, a 
change generally starts in one area, or among a class of speakers, and 
spreads to other areas and classes. Many of the above changes had 
probably not yet spread, in the fifteenth century, to the Court dialect, 
that is, to the ancestor of present-day Received Standard ; others certainly 
had not. In most cases the novelties of pronunciation are made probable 
by forms taken from the Paston Letters, or the Cely Papers, and though this 
may be a coincidence due to our possessing in these documents a consider- 
able body of more or less phonetically-written English, which it is difficult 
to match in documents known to have been written in London, the fact 
remains that our earliest evidence for many of the modern sound changes, 
or their inception, comes from the East Midlands or South-East. We 
shall see, however, that London English and Standard English show 
increasingly this Eastern influence, and we are entitled to say that in the 
popular speech of the South-East and South-East Midlands we find in 
the fifteenth century the germ of those changes which we regard as 
characteristic of Modern English, although, in some respects, the best 
London English was rather more archaic, so far as our evidence goes. 
This may, however, be illusory, and the more faithful adherents of scribal 
tradition who are the writers of the official and literary documents in 
London English, being more lettered persons than the Celys, and even 
than most of the Pastons, may conceal beneath their conventional spelling 
with its infrequent lapses into phonetic rendering, changes as remarkable 
as those made manifest by the less careful writers of Essex and Suffolk, 
and as remarkable as some of those which they themselves do reveal to us 
in their weaker moments. 

It is significant that, in discussing the above changes, we are forced in 
each case to use a phonetic notation in order to make the sound change 
clear. In all the cases under review there has been practically no change 
in the received spelling since the M.E. period none at any rate which 
records the very considerable changes in pronunciation that have 
occurred. The only exceptions to this are a few words like far where 
the -ar- spelling has been fixed in place of M.E.fer. But even this 


class of words is not consistent, and we write Derby, hearth, &c. When 
we find the constant individual departures from the convention, in favour 
of a more phonetic rendering, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centu- 
ries, it is clear that the English persistence in clinging to an outworn 
system of spelling, one which private writers were constantly infringing, 
must be put to the credit, or the reverse, of the printers. For about 
450 years these worthies have dictated to us how we are to spell, in the 
same way that fashionable ladies are said to have their fashions prescribed 
for them by their dressmakers, who allow their customers small voice in 
the matter. Some may think that it is a good thing to have a thoroughly 
unphonetic spelling such as ours, and consider that any attempt to alter 
it would be a mistake. Others have an uneasy feeling that our system 
is inconsistent and misleading, and they therefore found societies for 
amending it according to principles which it is often difficult to under- 
stand. It is impossible to say at present whether any of the numerous 
groups of reformers will win, or whether we shall insist on sticking to our 
old and familiar muddle. No spelling reformers have hitherto succeeded 
in this country. Those of us, however, who prefer our present system, 
bad as it is, because we know it, rather than a new system which is only 
very faintly phonetic in character, would do well to remember that our 
bad old spelling is chiefly defensible on the ground of custom, and not for 
any pretended historical merit. We should remember that it is the 
printers who have imposed it upon us. Had Caxton and his followers 
been more enterprising, it is highly probable that our spelling would have 
been less widely divorced from the facts of pronunciation than is actually 
the case. 

The Vowels in Unstressed Syllables. 

We have already indicated (p. 67, &c.) some of the more remarkable 
facts under this head which are observable in the fifteenth century, and 
the whole subject will receive a fuller treatment later on (Chap. VII). 
Enough has perhaps been said, and sufficient examples have already been 
adduced, to show that by the fifteenth century at any rate, not only was 
the habit of reducing vowels in unstressed syllables fully developed, but 
in many cases it seems certain that the results were already practically 
identical with the state of things with which we are familiar at the present 

Changes in Consonant Sounds, Isolative, and in Combinations. 

The changes indicated on p.69,&c., above, are sufficiently striking, and it 
is unnecessary here to enter more fully into this matter, as the Consonants 
will be discussed in detail in their proper place (Chap. VIII below). It is 
enough to point out that such usages as the ' dropping ' of initial aspirates, 
the addition of these where they do not belong, the interchange of initial 
w and v t the loss of / before -k, &c., the pronunciation of ' sh* in such 
words as procession, the loss of d in Wednesday, the addition of a final 
consonant in such forms %s> ylde for isle, and a dozen other practices 
which are proved by abundant evidence to have existed in the fifteenth 
century, are all very modern in character. Some of these are now 


vulgarisms, but none the less real for that ; others have been lost, even 
among vulgar speakers, through the influence of ' education ' ; others may 
now be regarded as slipshod, though not vulgar, by the precise ; many 
are part and parcel of the natural speech of the most meticulous. 

Points in English Accidence of the Fifteenth Century. 

(1) Nouns. The most modern feature in the inflexion of Nouns in 
this period is the use of such a construction z.$J>e erle of Wyltones wyf, 
which is found already in St. Editha, instead of the old form pe erles wyf 
of Wylton, which survives now in the well-known song The Bailiffs 
daughter of Islington. The ' group inflexion ', as it is called, is by no 
means common in the writings of the fifteenth century, but that it occurs 
at all proves that it was in use, though probably it was still felt as collo- 
quial, and it is usually avoided, often by omitting the possessive inflexion 
altogether, as in without my brother Roof assent (Ld. Hastings in Paston 
Letters, iii, p. 108, c. 1470). Even in the middle of the next century 
many writers dodge the ' group possessive ' in one way or another (see 
p. 318). There is a very modern-sounding construction in the Creation 
of Duke of York Knight of the Bath (1494) sett in like maner as therle 
of Suffokis, and in the account of the Reception of Catharine of Aragon 
(1501) we find the Archebishoppe of Cauntreburys barge. Other par- 
ticulars of the Inflexion of Nouns in fifteenth-century English will be 
recorded in due course (pp. 314-24). They are rather of the nature of 
survivals than of modernisms, such as the old uninflected Feminine 
Possessive Singulars ure ladye belle, &c. (Shillingford), the innumerable 
Pis. in -en (or -yn, &c.), and such a mutated PI. as geet ' goats '. 

(2) Personal Pronouns. Whereas Chaucer and those of his con- 
temporaries who write London English still adhere to the old, English her, 
hem, as the exclusive forms of the Possessive and Dative PL, the fifteenth- 
century literary and official writings in this dialect show an increasing 
use of their, ther in the Possessive and theim, them in the Dative. The 
former her is practically extinct in literary, and presumably in colloquial, 
use by the end of the century, though isolated instances occur as late as 
the middle of the next century. Hem, and the unstressed em, are far 
commoner, and indeed the latter under the disguise of 'em is very common 
indeed, even in the lofty style, far into the eighteenth century, and is in 
frequent colloquial use at the present day. The form hem is very rarely 
found with the initial aspirate after the end of the fifteenth century, except 
in the form 'hem, and it is pretty clear, as the subsequent writing with 
the apostrophe shows, that speakers and writers using em thought it was 
a reduced form of them. 

Another modernism in the forms of Pronouns, though it occurs much 
earlier here and there, is the loss of the initial lip-consonant in who, which 
is found written ho and hoo in Siege of Rouen, Letters of Mary Paston, 
Gregory, Creation of Duke of York, &c. 

A very common survival from M.E. usage in the fifteenth century is 
tho, thoo, the old PI. Nom. of the Def. Art. used in the purely demon- 
strative sense ' those '. 

See, on all these and other points, the treatment of the Pronouns in 
Chap. IX. 


(3) Verbal Endings. In London documents of all kinds the 3rd 
Pers. S. Pres. Indie, ends in -eth, or -ith, almost without exception. The 
PI. usually has the typical Midland -en or -/, -yn, but towards the end 
of the century the final -n becomes more and more rare, so that we get 
our present flexionless form. The Southern PI. in -eth, -ith crops up 
with fair frequency apart from purely official documents, and indeed 
continues to be used occasionally far into the following century. The 
Pres. Part, is always either -ing, -yng, or occasionally -eng. 

The Southern prefix^- or i- falls into desuetude in the Past Part., and 
the Southern endings without, and the Midland ending with, the final -n 
both occur in Strong Vbs. as at present, though the distribution of these 
forms is not fixed. 

The distinction between Sing, and PI. Pret. of Strong Vbs. of certain 
classes is lost towards the end of the century, and whereas Chaucer has 
fond ' I found ', &c., -m&funden ' we found ', Caxton uses the Sing, type 
fond for both numbers. 

(3) The Passing of Regional Dialect in Written English. 

We have seen that it is still possible during the fifteenth century to 
find, both in works of literature proper, in private letters, wills, &c., 
and even in official documents, the influence of Regional dialect. 

As has been said, there are still a certain number of writings of this 
period which represent a more or less pure form of Regional dialect, 
and there are others which show traces of the author's native dialect 
while being, in the main, according to the London type of English. 

We must be careful not to over-estimate the rapidity of the spread 
of a common form of Literary English. Many dialect features may still 
be traced in works written in nearly pure London English, such as 
Shillingford's letters. Writers on Modern English dialects, therefore, will do 
well in future to search diligently in the documents of the fifteenth century, 
and even later, and not to give up all hope of finding, after the fourteenth 
century, ancestral forms of the dialect which they are describing. This 
habit, which is far too common, has the unfortunate result of leaving 
a gap in the history of the dialect of some five hundred years! 
It is true that by the fifteenth century, in the huge area covered by 
the Midlands as a whole, there was spoken, or at least written, a type 
of English which, apart from certain rather minute points, often rather 
scattered, and hard to discover without a painful examination of the docu- 
ments, was fairly uniform. This Midland type, in its broad outlines, agreed 
pretty much with London English, and when we consider more par- 
ticularly the very large body of documents of all kinds written in the 
East Midlands, the differences between the written speech of this area and 
that of London appear at first sight so trifling, that some recent writers 
have been, rather too hastily perhaps, led to believe and to teach that 
dialectal differences had disappeared from written English, at least by 
the middle of the fifteenth century. A more careful examination of the 
sources, however, shows that this is far from being the case, even in the 
East, and although it appears that the language of most of the documents 
which we possess from this period has been, to some degree at least, 


influenced by London English, a considerable amount of dialectal diver- 
gence exists in points of detail. 

In the following brief survey of the question, we shall attempt to 
show both the survivals of Regional dialect and the influence exerted by 
the London dialect. 

In considering London English at this period, it must be borne 
in mind that the distribution of the competing dialectal elements was 
not yet finally fixed. It is evident that many Southern features now 
lost co-existed in the speech of the metropolis with those of E. Midland 
and South-Eastern type. The appearance of such features in a docu- 
ment therefore does not necessarily show direct regional influence. The 
precise blend of the various dialect elements varies within certain limits 
from writer to writer, and each of these blends represents an existing 
mode of speech. 

Again, in examining E. Midland, or South-Eastern texts, we come 
across features which we are justified in considering as characteristic of 
these areas, although many or all of them may be found also in 
London English of the period. The differences between E. Midland 
and London English in the fifteenth century are comparatively slight, 
since the latter was becoming more and more E. Midland in character, 
and at this time was distinguished from pure E. Midland chiefly by the 
survival of certain purely Southern features which did not normally 
occur in the speech of Norfolk or Suffolk. We may put it in this 
way : there were few typically E. Midland features which did not occur 
in London speech, but this contained also many others (Sthn.) which 
were unknown to the E. Midlands. 

We begin with two texts in which the Regional dialect is pretty 
strongly marked, Bokenam's Lives of Saints (c. 1443), which the author 
definitely tells us is written in the speech of Suffolk, and the Life of 
St. Editha, written in the monastery of Wilton in Wiltshire about 1420. 

Bokenam's is naturally a typical E. Midland text, and, as in other 
texts from this area, we find several features which, absent from earlier 
London documents, gain more and more ground during the century in 
the speech of the capital. 

The combination -er- is generally so written, but a certain number of 
-ar- spellings are found, more than occur in the London documents of this 
period so early in the century : marcyfully, warkys, garlondys. O.E. 
slack de sometimes rhymes with tense e: teche with seche, dene with sene 
' seen ', and wene. This treatment of se 2 is regarded as typically Kentish 
or South-Eastern in O. and M.E. It is interesting to note its spread to 
Suffolk. There are indications, however, already in M.E. that this feature 
was shared by E. Midland. It is apparently still alien to London speech. 

Bokenam, like other E. Midland writers, often has e for old i. We 
must distinguish two classes of words : words of two or more syllables, 
where the sound occurs in ' open syllables ', that is at the end of a syllable, 
when a single consonant intervenes between the following syllable. In 
this class it is possible that lengthening has taken place, and that we 
should regard the vowel as <?, e. g. pete ' pity ', wretyn ' written ', queknyn, 
inf. The other case is where e for i occurs in ' close syllables ', that is 
before double consonants, or combinations of consonants, or in words of 


one syllable ending in a consonant, e. g. menstralsy, smet, &c. The first 
class offers some difficulties in interpretation, and views differ as to the 
origin of the change. (See discussion, p. 226, &c., below.) On the whole, 
it seems at present more likely that both classes can be brought under 
one heading the lowering of t to e. If this view be accepted, we may 
add flekerynge (where e should be short in any case), and merour ' mirror ', 
a common form in Early Mod. Eng. Both types of words occur with 
e frequently in E. Midlands in M.E., and become increasingly common 
in London English in the fifteenth and following centuries. Those words 
where the vowel was certainly short have now been eliminated from 
Standard English. Bokenam shares with other writers from Suffolk, 
Essex, and to some extent from Norfolk, the characteristic use of e for 
O.E. j/, generally considered South-Eastern, to which frequent reference has 
been made (see pp. 9, 41 (3), &c.). Examples of the long vowel are mende 
1 mind ', &c.,feer ' fire ' ; and of the short, berth, ' birth ', kechyn ' kitchen ', 
werst ' worst '. It may be noted that the spelling^? also occurs, but 
the word rhymes with chere, thus showing the pronunciation. The long e- 
forms are not common in London English, though as we have seen the 
-forms are very frequent. By the side of these, other spellings with i,y 
occur in Bokenam. 

The Pronouns do not differ from the usage of London English. The 
P. P.'s of Strong Verbs generally end in -yn (with -n according to 
Midland usage). 

Turning to St. Editha, we find, as might be expected, far more 
differences from London English. The very characteristic Western u 
for old eo is frequent vrthe ' earth ', hulte ' held ', O.E. heold, dure 
1 dear ', O.E. dear. A couple of examples occur of the typical South- 
western unrounding of o to a starm for ' storm ', and crasse for ' cross '. 
This South- Western feature penetrated into Received Standard English 
in the sixteenth century, and became for a time a fashionable habit in the 
seventeenth (see p. 240); it has left a few survivals in Mod. Eng., e.g. 
strap by the side of strop, &c. We find non-South- Western here ' hear ' 
instead of huire as we might expect, but this need not be attributed to 
the indirect influence of London English, as the form seems to have 
been characteristic of the South- West Midland speech of Oxfordshire, 
Worcestershire, Herefordshire, &c. The old Southern [] for %? has 
disappeared, as is shown by the rhymes pereyfere, bere ' bier' here, &c. 
Short e (or eT) for older j- in open syllables is fairly common leuynge, 
pety, cete ' city ', weke ' week ', theke ' thick ', &c. It is doubtful how these 
forms should be explained (see p. 207, &c.). Western on, om for an, am 
occur in nomlyche ' namely ', mon ' man ', bonk ' bank ', thonk ' thank '. Past 
Participles very commonly have the Southern ending without -n,ybroke, 
ychbse,ycore, &c., and, as we see from these examples, the Southern prefix 
y- was frequently preserved. The Southern inf. ending in -y is found in 
to correcty. The Pers. Pronouns preserve the old Southern formycfte 
' I ', and the archaic Southern forms of the Fern, he, hee for ' she '. The 
Midland Nom. \.pey, &c. seems the only form, and this may possibly 
be attributable to the influence of the predominating type, but in the 
other cases of the 3rd Pers. PI. the th- or /-forms are unknown in this 
text. The unstressed suffix -es, &c., often appears as -us, after the manner 


of South- West Midland, by the side of -ys and -es. In the Pres. PI. of 
Vbs. -yth occurs by the side of the Midland -e. 

St. Editha still retains the original distinction between Sing, and PI. 
in those classes of Strong Vbs. where this existed : dref drevyn 
(earlier drivon) ' drove ', satte seton { sat ', borst burst, brake brekon, 
&c., &c. 

These two texts illustrate respectively the Eastern and the Western 
types of English. 

There is a considerable group of Eastern documents belonging to the 
fifteenth century, of which some account may be given. 

The doggerel translation of Palladius on Husbandry possesses the 
characteristics of the Essex dialect. It resembles Kentish on the one 
hand, and E. Midland on the other. As regards the treatment of O.E. j>, 
this dialect normally has both u and e forms. Thus, in Palladius we 
find curnels ' kernels ', brustels ' bristles ', busely, &c., also bresid ' bruised', 
wermes ' worms ', bey ' buy '. By the side of these this text has many, 
perhaps a predominating number, of the /-forms, after the manner of the 
London dialect. Here, as in the Suffolk documents, e for i is frequent. Typi- 
cally South-Eastern is the preservation of (O.E. $e) in bledders l bladders', 
eddres ' adders ', wex ' wax ', sedness, yerd. The Pres. PI. generally has 
the Southern suffix -eth, and the prefix j/- occurs generally in Past Part. 
The Cely Papers, from which various examples have been taken to illus- 
trate fifteenth-century pronunciation, are also written by Essex people, 
but about fifty years later than Palladius. They are chiefly remarkable 
for the admirable freedom of the writers from scribal tradition, and give, 
on the whole, the impression of being the work of very uncultivated persons, 
and they perhaps illustrate Class, rather than a Regional dialect. They 
have several features which become increasingly common in the London 
dialect as the fifteenth century advances, and in the following century. 
Among these features, in addition to the numerous e for i spellings 
contenew, sweffte ' swift ', wettnes, medyll, &c. we find a large number of 
-ar- for -<?r-forms starlyng ' sterling ', sarten l certain ', desarve ' deserve ', 
hard ' heard ', &c. ; wo- for wa- y as in wos ' was ', &c. ; loss of r- before 
consonants, passel for ' parcel ' (see also p. 70, above) ; misplacing of 
initial h-> howllde ' old ', hayssched * asked ', &c. 

For the rest, the final -n of Strong P. P/s is often omitted wrete, spoke, 
undoe, &c. ; and the prefix y- is common -y-wreten^y-yeuen^ &c. The 
younger Celys constantly use -s in the 3rd Singular Present, but the 
father and uncle have -yth, &c., far more commonly. The -s suffix is 
coming in, presumably from the Midlands, in the more northerly areas of 
which it had long been in use. 

A typical letter from one of the Cely family will illustrate the general 
character of this collection of papers. 

From a letter of Richard Cely the younger (1481). Cely Papers, pp. $8, &c. 
Riught uterly whelbelovyd brother, I recomend me hartely onto you 
thankyng you of aull good brotherhod that ^e have scheuyd to me at all 
tymms. ... I met Roger Wyxton athysayd Northehamton and he desyryd 
me to do so myche as drynke w* hys whyfe at Laysetter and after that I met 
w* Wylliam Dalton and he gave me a tokyn to hys mother, and at Laysetter 
I met w* Rafe Daulton and he brahut me to hys mother and ther I delyvyrd 


my tokyn and sche prayd me to come to brekefast on the morow and so 
I ded, and Plomton both ; and ther whe had a gret whelfar, and ther whos 
feyr oste and I pray yow thanke them for me Syr and ^e be remembyrd whe 
thaulkyd togydyr in hour bed of Dawltonys syster, and je ferryd the con- 
dyscyons of father and brethyrn, byt je neyd not. I saw hyr, and sche 
whos at brekefaste w* hyr mother and ws sche ys as goodly a 3eung 
whomane as fayr as whelbodyd and as sad as I se hany thys vij jeyr, and 
a good haythe. And I pray God that hyt may be impryntyd in yur 
mynd to sette yovvr harte ther Syr. Hour father and I comende togydyr 
in new orchard on Fryday laste and a askyd me many qwestyonys of 
gyu, and I towlde hym aull as hyt whos . . . and of the good whyll that 
the Whegystons and Dawltons hows (= 'use'?) to yow and how I lykyd 
the jeunge gentyllwhoman and he comaunded me to whryte to yow, and 
he whowlde gladly that hyt whor brohut abohut and that je laborde hyt 
betymys. . . . No mor to yow at thys tyme. Jhesu kepe you. 
Wrytyn at London the iiij the day of Juyn. per yur brother. 

Rychard Cely. 

Margaret Fasten, whose letters cover the period from 1440 to 1470, 
thus ending about the time the Cely Papers begin, is a Norfolk lady, socially 
far above the Celys, but very much their equal in education ; she writes a 
slip-shod style, and evidently sets down as far as possible the forms of her 
ordinary speech. Her language has a curious resemblance to that of the 
Celys. One feature distinguishes her dialect both from theirs and from 
that of London, namely, that except in the word such, she seems to use 
no ^-spellings for old y, writing either i\ y lytil, hyrdyllys, gyrdill ; or 
e beryid, bey, mend ' mind '. A very large number of cases of e for old 
i are found in this lady's letters wete 'know', wretyn P.P., Trenyfe, 
chene ' chin ', Beshopys, Welyam ' William ', preson ' prison ', &c., &c. The 
spelling -ar- for old -er-, as has been already noted, becomes more fre- 
quent after the year 1461. These spellings are less frequent on the whole 
in the letters of Mistress Paston than in those of the Cely family. Margaret 
Paston uses -yn, ~e (Midi.), and occasionally the Southern -yth in the 
Pres. PL 

The language of the Suffolk Wills (Bury Wills and Inventories) of the 
last quarter of the fifteenth century calls for little remark from the point 
of view of Regional dialect. These documents present the typical 
E. Midland English of the foregoing, and it is hard to say that any 
features here observable are alien to London. 

The interesting collection of fifteenth-century Lincolnshire Wills and 
Vows of Celibacy (Line. Dioc. Documents) deserves to be mentioned, 
and demands a far closer study than is practicable here. The influence of 
Official London English is seen in the frequent use of -yth in the 3rd 
Sing. Present, by the side of the local -ys or -es, which occurs in ligges 
(Will of Richard Welby, 1465). The form/tint with u ' first ' must also 
be due to this influence (W. of Sir T. Comberworth, 1451). North 
Midland features are seen in awes ' owes ', sdwle ' soul ', the use of giff 
' give ' instead of geve or yeve, the spelling qwhite ' white ' and such ele- 
ments of vocabulary as at ' that ', to gar pray for, kirk ' church ', quye 
' cow ', all from Comberworth's Will. The Agreement between Barlings 
Abbey, Lines., and the Vicar of Reepham (1509) contains the Scandina- 
vian words laithe ' barn ', thack and thackyng ' thatch ', &c. It seems that 


the remoter a district from the metropolis, the weaker the influence of 
London English in written documents, even when these are based upon 
official models. The Lines, Wills really belong to that large class of 
documents surviving from this period, in which the intention is clearly to 
write the official dialect of London, but in which the lapses into the 
Regional dialect of the writer, in isolated forms, are fairly frequent. 

We may now leave the consideration of writings which possess a con- 
siderable provincial flavour, and pass to those where this occurs only here 
and there, in isolated words and forms. 

In the Ordinances of Worcester (1467) the lapses are very rare, and 
on that account we placed them in our general enumeration above (p. 64) 
among the documents in pure London Official English, but such forms 
as/uyre ' fire ', putts l pits ', brugge ' bridge ', huydes ' hides, skins ' all 
containing original O.E. j/ call for mention here, and we may perhaps 
regard hur ' their ', O.E. heora, as an example of a typical Western u for 
O.E. eo. 

Most remarkable, perhaps, of all the private letters of this period, in 
the fidelity with which they adhere to the London type, are those of John 
Shillingford (1447-50). Here, if anywhere, we might expect to find an 
almost pure Regional dialect. Shillingford had apparently lived in his 
native Devon continuously ; most of his letters were not official reports, 
but private missives written to his friends at home, and yet, on the whole, 
he consistently avoids the forms of his local dialect and writes Standard 
English. His vowel spellings, his verbal forms, and his Pers. Pronouns 
are generally those of London English. Fortunately, however, for our 
knowledge of his native speech, that is the Devonshire dialect, he lifts 
the veil occasionally and drops into provincialisms. The following are 
the chief: The retention of the old South- Western type in hurde 'heard', 
u for O.E. eo in durer ' dearer ', the shortened form of West Saxon x l in 
radde ' read ' ' advised ', unrounding of o in aftetymes * oft-times ' (see 
remarks on p. 78 in connexion with St. Editha), and the very frequent 
retention of the prefix y- in P. P/s, which, though common in Chaucer 
(see p. 53), was by this time dying out in London. The points noted 
concerning the vowels (except radde] are certainly pretty broad provin- 
cialisms, judged by the London Standard, and they, no doubt, indicate 
Shillingford's natural pronunciation, not only in the words quoted but in 
the whole of the classes to which they severally belong. We have, natur- 
ally, no means of knowing how far the excellent Mayor, having mastered 
another manner of writing, was able to adhere, in speaking, to the type 
which he records, on the whole so faithfully, on paper. We may, 
perhaps, conclude from the above forms that he spoke with a pretty 
strong Devonshire accent. 

Less provincial still, as we might expect, is the language of Bishop 
Pecok's Represser for over much blaming for the Clergy (c. 1449), which, 
written with the best intentions, led, together with other works from his 
pen, to its author being very much blamed by the clergy, and ultimately 
to his being tried and condemned for heresy. Pecok's style in the above 
book is clear and sound, although the philosophical argument which 
pervades it makes it rather tough reading. The dialect may be generally 
described as more or less colourless, and contains few deviations from the 


current London written English beyond the absence of the more character- 
istic Easternisms. For instance, Pecok has practically no f-forms (for 
O.E. j/) I have only noted ungerd ' ungirt ' in Vol. I he uses a prepon- 
derance of i- forms in this class of words wirche ' to work ', girdele 
1 girdle ', birthe, biried, kind, and a few w-forms such as buried, duller. 
The Verbal forms are the normal Midland type: he uses fill (as in 
Chaucer) for the Pret. of fa/I; he still distinguishes between the Sing, and 
PI. in Str. Vbs. brake breken, &c. ; he has no^- prefix in Past Par- 
ticiples, and these in Str. Vbs. sometimes end in -en, or occasionally -un 
sungun, foundun, writun, &c., though more commonly in -e. The 
Pronoun of the 3rd Person in the PI. is thei, her, hem. He differs from 
London English in having no their, them, &c. Among provincialisms we 
should probably reckon diphthonging before -sch waische ' wash ', aischis, 
fleisch ' flesh', and the interesting form swope ' soap ', O.E. sdpe waish- 
ing with oyle and swope. The form swope will occupy our attention 
again later on (p. 307). 

As last examples of the class of writers we are at present considering, 
that is those who use what is practically London official or literary English 
with a certain provincial flavouring, we will take the Monk of Bury (circa 
1370-1451) and a letter of Edmond de la Pole. The language of 
Lydgate is indeed hardly distinguishable from his contemporary Hoccleve, 
or from the official London Eng. of the period, except for the occurrence 
of rather more l-forms for O.E._y. Thus Lydgate, by the side of fyres, 
mirth, mynde, kynde, bysynesse, and fuyre ' fire ', writes also imkende 
' unkind \felthe ' filth ', sterid ( stirred ', besynesse. He also has a certain 
number of e for i spellings, which, as we have seen (pp. 77-78), are common 
in the Suffolk dialect of Bokenam, and in Essex velenye, merour, gkmer- 
yng, wedow. Like Chaucer, he uses both the Southern and E. Midland 
forms of O.E. & in his rhymes breth deth, but also drede spede (Vb.). 
Seeing the unsettled state of London English at this time, in the first and 
last of these particulars, it is rather doubtful whether they ought to be 
ascribed in Lydgate to special E. Midland influence, as both are found in 
Chaucer and other London writers though it should be noted that the 
Southern breth, &c., with [e] predominates in Chaucer's rhymes, whereas 
it is rarer in Lydgate and they were clearly current in London speech. 
The e for i forms are more doubtful so early in the century, and they 
seem to be absent from Chaucer's English. It may, perhaps, be said that 
Lydgate shows Eastern influence more by the absence of purely Southern 
forms which at this period still abounded in London English, than by 
the use of any typically E. Midland forms which are not found in the 

Bdmond de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, was born about 1473, an( * exe - 
cuted for high treason in 1513. This ill-starred and illiterate nobleman 
had the misfortune to spring from the ( sceptred race ' of York, his mother 
being the sister of King Edward IV. 

The following letter, written from the Continent to an unknown corre- 
spondent, in or before 1505, is a fitting close to our short survey of 
writers who depart from London English undefiled. Such definite 
dialectal peculiarities as it possesses are clearly E. Midland, but its chief 
interest lies in its illustration of how a man of the writer's quality might 


write his mother tongue at the beginning of the sixteenth century. If the 
Earl spoke at all as he wrote, his must have been a queer lingo, due, no 
doubt, partly to a residence of some years abroad, away from English 

' Cosen I deser yov to chohove (show) to my lord my cosen that yt void 
pies hem to remember I kame to hem for the lovef and strouste (trust) I had 
to hem a bovef (above) ale hedder (all other) prenses, ver for I povt (put) 
my boddy yn ys hand, ver apone he gavef me ys chavfcondet to com ynto 
ys land, as vane I spake with heme he promes me as he vas a nobovle mane 
ys land chovld be free fore me, and noe (now) I have bein here one yeer 
and a haalvf and hame as ner nove (now) of my departeng hennes as I vas 
the frerst dae. And also yov came to me and desored me to povt my 
matter yn my lord my cosen hand, and he void point me a dae ef he . . . 
a nend be teven (between) K. H. and me, vel ef nat my lord my Cosen 
promissed me be ys letters be sent John dae last passed he void geevf me 
lessens (license) to de parte ys land ver yt plessed me ; and thest have 
yov promes me for my lord my cosen wches (wishes) I have foufeled at 
the deser of my lord my cosen. Nove my day ys passed and a cordeng 
to my lord my cosen I deser of yov yovr lesens as yov be come of 
nobovele boveld (noble blood) and as yov be a trove jengtelman I deser 
yov to ch . . . yovr s . . . fochet to let me depart ascordeng to my lord 
my Coson letters and to yovr promes that yov have mad me. I strest 
(trust) my lord my Coson vele (will) nat beevef my her yn thest danger 
ef ys Heines come heyder; wches I thoke vele ef I vare yn ther handes 
I vare bovt as a mane hone done (undone). As ale (all) for be kaves 
(because) of my lord my Coson yn to hem for schol . . . (shelter ?) ys . . . 
And also has done at my cosen deser that I void nat do at ther der 
I strest my lord my cosen vele remember my goot hart that I have had 
and vele have to heme as nat to leev me her as a man leftf. Also ef yt 
pies hem to set me a dae of to ore iij monthes so I be yn some severte 
(surety) ver yt pies heme. I hame conten or and ef yt pies my lord my 
Coson that 1 mae be with hem and be at my lebertte I vel be glad to bed 
hes pleser. And to bed ys plas a yer or to thake chevf fortovn as pies 
God to send to heme, my parte I hame vele content to thake for Affter 
thest manner as I ame a cerstene man I vele nott bed to dee for yt, ver 
for Cossen as yov be a trove Jengtilmane do fore me as I hau geve yov 
kawes and thet I be not lost thovrt (through) the promes and chavef 
condded (safeconduct) of my lord my Coson and your profer for my good 
veil.' (Ellis's Letters, Ser. Ill, Vol. i, pp. 127, &c.) 

It cannot be denied that the Earl must have been a very tedious corre- 
spondent, that he lacked charm, and that he was not very successful in 
expressing his ideas on paper with complete clearness. The style and 
diction of the above is typical of the rest of his correspondence collected 
by Ellis. We notice e for O.E. y, e for *', initial v for w, and initial h- in- 
serted where it has no business, features which are fairly common in the 
other E. Midland writers we have considered. 

All these things are common in London English before the end of the 
century, and increasingly so in the next century. They are found among 
writers of all classes, but some, especially the misplacement of h-, and v 
for w, appear to be more frequent among the less cultivated and less 
highly placed. 

It must be admitted with regard to several of the sources considered 
above, as representing what we may call Modified London English, that 

G 2 


not a little doubt arises as to whether we should not be better advised to 
regard them as representing a definite type of London speech. The 
difficulty appears mainly in respect of those texts and documents which 
have a distinct E. Midland or South-Eastern tinge. We have more 
than once emphasized the fact that these elements occur in undoubted 
London English, and it is largely the degree to which they are 
present which inclines us to classify a document as pure London, or as 
Modified London. It seems likely that there were at least two types of 
English actually spoken in London, one strongly tinged with E. Midland 
and South-Eastern characteristics, the other possessing less of the former, 
at any rate, and more of purely Southern features. 

If this view were accepted we could regard all but the above documents, 
apart from the Western traits which some possess, and the North-East 
Midland of others, as representing actual types of Spoken London 
English, and group them as under the Eastern type of this dialect. The 
English of the official documents, and on the whole of Caxton, would 
occupy a central position between these two types, possessing several of 
the features of both, but in different relative proportion. 

I am inclined to hazard the hypothesis that the spoken language of the 
Court and upper classes belonged rather to the Southern type of London 
English, that of the lower, and to a slightly less extent perhaps, that of 
the middle classes, to the Eastern type. 

We turn now to consider some of the poetry, official records, and 
private documents actually written by Londoners in London during the 
fifteenth century, among which we include the writings of the Kentish 
Caxton who definitely adopted London speech as his basis. We begin 
with Hoccleve or Occleve, supposed to have been born about 1370 and to 
have died about 1 450. Hoccleve was a merry companion, given, according 
to his own account, to haunting ale-houses and frequenting more or less 
disreputable company. He was a clerk in the office of the Privy Seal 
'for his sustinaunce', and the money so earned he dispensed, like Villon, 
1 tout aux tavernes et aux filles '. As a poet he lacks inspiration, but 
is not without a versifying skill of an imitative kind, and here and 
there a robust animal vigour of character. He gives, besides, a valuable 
picture of certain phases of London life. But his best claim to be 
remembered is his piety for Chaucer's memory, and the fact that one of 
the MSS. of his works (Harleian 4866) contains what is considered the 
best portrait a kind of miniature of his great predecessor. The passages 
referring to Chaucer which are quoted below are not without a certain 
dignity, and a pathos which is not all convention. 

The spelling of the Hoccleve MSS. is very conventional, and there are 
but few spellings which indicate a change from the M.E. vowel system, 
though we may mention the form mus/en, which points to the important 
change of O.E. d to u. The language agrees in the main with that 
London type seen in Chaucer's writings, though there appear to be far 
fewer oforms for O.E.^. This class of words generally has the z-type 
bisynesse, knytte (Vb.), filthe, pities, schitte ' shut ', fist ; mankynde, fyre, 
mynde, dtye (Vb. Int.), kyj>e (Inf.), Hide, &c. By the side of these we 
have unschete (Inf.) < to open ', velthy < filthy ', mery, beried, themd 
1 thimble ' O.E. fiymel, and further suche, burden cusse (N.) on analogy 


of Vb. cusse, and thursteth. O.E. x l , to judge from the rhymes, occurs 
both in the Saxon and non- Saxon types : dede ' deed ' and rede ' coun- 
sel ' both rhyming with heed ' head ', rede (Vb.) with lede (Vb.) ; on the 
other hand, street and weet ' wet ' rhyme witn/fe/, and dede and rede with 
forbede (O.E. forbeodan). The rhyme speeche and /?^ is ambiguous, 
since ix? in riit/i ' breadth ' also rhymes with spede ' speed ', the vowel of 
which was certainly tense. This looks as if Hoccleve may have used the 
Kentish-South-Eastern tense pronunciation of de z (see p. 41, No. 2). 
The E. Midland merour and wretyn, lenage ' lineage* occur. M.E. -er- rarely 
occurs with the spelling -ar-. Note, however, astarte rhyming with herte, 
rnerte. The Pers. Pronouns in the PI. are/^y, thei, here, hir, &c., and hem 
usually, though I have noted Miozselfe. The Pres. Indie. PI. ends in - 
(never -th) ; the P. P/s of Strong Vbs. have both -e and -en knowe, and 
with the prefix^-, i-, itake, ifalle; but standen, wax en > &c. The prefix 
i- is used also in Wk. Vbs. ipynchid, yput. In unstressed syllables -j- 
(-y-) is very frequent before consonants puttith, tokyn, synkyn (Inf.), 
werkys ' works J which rhymes with derk is, felist, &c., &c. These -i- 
spellings become more and more common as the century advances. 

The following brief specimens, taken from the Regement of Princes, 
illustrate Hoccleve's language sufficiently, and contain the well-known 
references to Chaucer, so often quoted scrappily at second-hand. 

lines 1958-81. 

But weylaway! so is myn herte wo 
That }>e honour of englyssh tonge is deed 
Of which I wont was hav consail and reed. 
O maister deere and fader reuerent ! 
Mi maister Chaucer, flour of eloquence 
Mirour of fructuous entendement, 
O vniuersel fadir in science ! 
Alias ! J>at )>ou thyn excellent prudence 
In \\ bed mortal myhtist naght by-quethe ; 
What eyled deth? alias! whi wolde he sle the? 

O deth ! J>ou didest naght harme singuleer, 

In slaghtere of him ; but al )>is land it smertith ; 

But nathelees, yit has ]>ou no power 

His name sle ; his hy vertu astertith 

Vnslayn fro J)e, which ay vs lyfly hertyth 

With bookes of his ornat endytyng, 

That is to al J>is land enlumynyng. 

Hast }>ou nat eeke my maister Gower slayn, 

Whos vertu I am insufficient 

ffor to descryue? I wote wel in certayn, 

ffor to sleen all bis world )>ou haust yrnent ; 

But syn our lorde Crist was obedient 

To J>e, in feith I can no ferther seye ; 

His creatures mosten j?e obeye. 

4978 The firste fyndere of our faire langage 

4982 Alasse my fadir fro )>e world is goo 


On Chaucer's portrait. (Harl. MS. 4866 has the 
best portrait according to Furnival.) 

Al-j>ogh his lyfe be queynt, 1 )>e resemblaunce 

Of him ha)> in me so fressh lyflynesse, 

pat to put othir men in remembraunce 

Of his persone, I haue heere his lyknesse 

Do 2 make, to )>is ende in soth fastnesse 

pat )>ei )>at haue of him lest Bought and mynde, 

By )>is peynture may ageyn him fynde. 


The language of Sir John Fortescue would appear to be a model of 
propriety, and to be quite free from those occasional provincialisms which 
we observed in his fellow Devonian, Shillingford. His vowels are of 
the normal London type, and call for very little remark. O.E. y is repre- 
sented by both i and u, but f-forms are very scarce, meryer being the 
only one there noted. On the other hand, he has a few examples of e 
for i week ' which ', lemited, openion, contemially, &c. He usually retains 
the old spelling -er-, but has hartes, warre. He occasionally uses the old 
forms of the Pers. Pron. her, hem, but more commonly thair, thaim, and, 
of course, they always. In the Pres. PI. Indie, of Vbs. he has never -th, 
but always the Midland -en, -yn, or -<?. In the P. P. of Strong Vbs. -<?, 
&c., is more frequent than -e, and no Vbs. of this class have the prefix i- 
or y-, though I have noted iblissed. It would almost seem as if Fortescue 
had deliberately avoided even those Southernisms which were still in use 
in London, such as Pres. Pis. in -/, and affected rather the Eastern type 
of London English. 

A more Southern type is found in the Bewle of Sustris Menouresses 
(circa 1450). Here we find, alongside of pretty frequent -yn, &c., also 
very commonly -yth> &c., in the Pres. PI., and the prefix i- fairly often 
retained, though not generally in Str. Vbs. The PI. of the Pers. Pro- 
nouns is ]>ei in the Nom., but knows only her(e) and hem in the Possess, 
and Dat. 

We pass now to Caxton. The language of London was not wholly 
natural to Caxton, who was a Kentishman. Nor was he of the knightly 
class to which, in the previous century, the Kentish Gower had belonged, 
to whom the speech of the Court and its denizens was familiar. This is 
why, perhaps, we feel in reading Caxton a certain constraint and lack of 
ease. The style of the Prefaces is less high-flown than that of the trans- 
lations themselves, but it is wanting in fluency and elegance, while that of 
the latter is too often pompous when it is meant to be courtly, and merely 
stodgy where it should be magnificent. Caxton was not an innovator. 
He followed entirely the scribal tradition in spelling, so that a novice 
reading him and comparing his writings with the English of, say, Margaret 
Paston or Gregory, might gain the impression that the language had 
jumped back into Middle English again as regards pronunciation. Yet, 
as we have seen, in these writers and many others, earlier and contempo- 
raneous, the development of several new features since the M.E. period, 
in fact, the beginning of the Modern system of vowel pronunciation, 

1 quenched. 2 Do is P. P. = ' caused '. 


can be clearly traced. Of this Caxton lets us see next to nothing. His 
spelling, therefore, gives a very imperfect guide to the realities of English 
speech in his day, and conveys the impression that English was still 
much nearer to the M.E. stage than was actually the case. Even in 
the spelling of unstressed syllables, when the private documents of 
Shillingford a quarter of a century earlier and still more those of the 
Fastens and Celys, prove clearly by their spellings, that reduction of full 
vowels shortening of long vowels, unrounding of rounded sounds, 
simplification of diphthongs had already taken place, Caxton tells us 
practically nothing which we do not learn already from M.E. scribes, 
and though his varying spelling suggests, it is true, a hesitation how to ex- 
press the reduced unaccented vowel, it would be difficult, if not impossible, 
to formulate any definite laws for the treatment of unstressed syllables 
from his writings. The frequent spellings -id, -is, &c., in flexional sylla- 
bles may be noted. 

In regard to inflexional endings Caxton appears to be very much at the 
stage of Chaucer. Like Chaucer and other M.E. writers he has the Inf. 
in -en, though he omits the ending more often than is common in the full 
M.E. period ; he has the Midland -en PI. in Pres. Indie, of Verbs ; he 
has some very archaic forms of the Strong Verbs : e. g. bote, Pret. of to 
bite, and the P.P. seten of to sit\ he retains the old Pret. of find, fond 
(as in Chaucer), though he does not appear to distinguish any longer 
between the Sing, and PI. of the Pret. in Strong Verbs of this and other 
classes ; he uses, as does Chaucer, the archaic/iw^/ as the Pret. ot fight, 
which represents O.E. f&ht, Early M.E. faht, as distinct from the P. P. 
foughten from earlier fohten ; he uses, with remarkable consistency, the 
suffix -en in P. P.'s of Strong Verbs, and the prefix y- hardly occurs. By 
the side of gave he uses also the older gaf, and he agrees with Chaucer in 
using the difficult fill as the Pret. of fall. By the side of their and them 
Caxton has, though less frequently than these, her and hem for the Possess, 
and Dat. PI. of the Pers. Pronoun. 

Coming to the dialectal characteristics of vowels in Caxton's English, 
it is perhaps surprising that well-marked Kenticisms are not more fre- 
quent. The most characteristic feature of Kentish and the South- 
Eastern dialects is the appearance of e for O.E. y. Of these forms 
Caxton has not more than are commonly found in London speech, and 
those which he does use can all be found in other writers of Literary or 
Court English of this period. From our present point of view, among 
the most interesting are seche 'such', knette 'knit', and shette 'shut'. 

Like Chaucer, Caxton, and many writers at a later date, use the South- 
western -on- instead of the Eastern -an- in lond, understond, &c. Among 
other specifically South-Western forms, which earlier were more common 
in the London dialect, and many of which survived for a century after 
Caxton, we may note silfe ' self, and perhaps under this head would come 
the vowel in Inf. gyue, and P. P. gyuen, where Chaucer more commonly 
has the non-W. Saxon yeue,yeuen. There was a long hesitation regarding 
the forms of this word, the ^-forms being perhaps the most usual during 
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and lasting even into the early 
eighteenth among good speakers. The E. Midland e for i occurs in 
Phelip) wreion (P. P.), 1o wete ' to know ', euyll, &c. M.E. -er- is generally 


so written, but we find ivarres, smarting, parill l peril '. This feature, as 
has been said (p. n), is probably S.E. or E. Midland in origin, and 
probably got into London at this period, with increasing frequency, from 
the latter area. On the whole Caxton's English is distinctly more Midland 
in character than Chaucer's. We have unfortunately no means of testing 
whether O.E. x 1 had the Southern or Midland sound. His type of 
London English is distinctly of the Eastern brand, and nearer to that of 
Norfolk than of Kent or Essex, and still farther from the pure Southern 
of Surrey. 

With regard to Caxton's use of the London dialect, there are two 
interesting points to be noted. One is that he tells us in one of his 
Prefaces (to his translation of the Aeneid, 1482) that he hesitates, he 
' stands abasshed ' what form to use, which implies two things, first that 
Caxton did not naturally write without taking thought, as Fortescue or 
Shillingford did, in London English, and secondly, (and this follows 
from the first) that he. did not habitually use the type of English in 
ordinary speech. The other point is that in the Preface to the Histories 
of Troy, he tells us that when he had finished this translation, he showed 
it to ' my most redoubted Lady My Lady Margaret ' Duchess of Bur- 
gundy, ' sister unto the King of England and of France, my sovereign 
lord ' (Edward IV). ' Her good grace ' having seen the work l anon she 
found a default in my English which she commanded me to amend'. It 
would be interesting to know on what ground this ' right high excellent 
and right virtuous princess ' found fault. Was it that she objected to the 
style ? (as well she might if she wanted an easy and flowing narrative). Or 
did she disapprove of Caxton's dialect ? If the latter, it might mean 
either that he at first wrote in his native dialect, or that, having attempted 
the Court form of English, there were still too many broad provincialisms 
for a 'woman of her fashion*. This may well have been so, for in the 
same Preface Caxton says that he was born and learnt his English in 
Kent, in the Weald, ' where I doubt not is spoken as broad and rude 
English as in any place of England '. Another statement of Caxton's 
(Preface to Transl. of Aeneid] is worth recording. It is to the effect 
that the English used he does not say where when he wrote, was very 
different from that in use when he was born. Does this mean that 
English as a whole underwent a somewhat rapid change between 1422 
or so and 1475 or so ? Or does it refer only to the London dialect, and 
mean that the dialectal elements had come to be differently distributed, 
and in different relative proportion, during that period? We have no 
proof of the former ; in fact, there is every reason to think that English 
was developing then, as always, gradually and normally. As for the latter 
possibility, we do know that the E. Midland elements were gaining ground 
to the suppression of the Southern elements. 

The following dialogue from Jason is typical of the kind of talk which 
fills the volume. It is ' genteel ' to a fault, and so frigid and remote from 
reality, that it is quite unconvincing as a specimen of real colloquial 
English. It is certain that people did not speak to each other in this 
strain, even in the fifteenth century. Compare it with much of the 
dialogue in the Canterbury Tales, and the artificiality is felt to be not of 
an age only, but of all time. Caxton's style, when he tries the grand 


manner, is as bad as Euphues at its worst, except that Lyly sometimes drops 
his mannerisms, and makes his characters talk like human beings, which 
Caxton never does. Poor illiterate, stammering Edmond de la Pole, with 
his ' I strest my lord my cosen vele remember my goot hart that I have 
had as not to leev me her as a man leftf', touches us far more than 
the icy and mincing heroics of Caxton. 

From Caxton' s History of Jason, from the French of Raoul Le Fevre, p. 82 
(Furnival's Ed.), line 24, &c. 

Whan thenne she apperceyuyd that Jason retorned vn to his logyyng 
at this time she wente agaynst him and toke him by the hand and lad 
him into one of her chambres. where she shewd to him grete partie of 
her richesses and tresours. And after she saide to him in this manere 
Right noble and valiant knight all thise richesses ben alle onely at your 
commandement and also my body wyth all. wherof I make now to you 
the ghifte and present Ander furthermore I haue nothing of valeur but 
that ye shal haue at your abandon and will to thende that I may deserue 
honourably your grace. Thenne when the preu lason had vpderstande 
this that sayd is. he ansuerde to the lady sayng My dere lady I thanke 
you right humbly of your curtoysye And I declare vnto you that in no 
facion I haue deseruyd the hye honour that ye presente to me. Ha a 
gentill knight saide thenne the lady, hit is well in your power for to 
deserue all if it be your plaisir. In goode trouble madame ansuerde thenne 
lason if ther be ony seruice or plaisire that I may do vnto you I com- 
mande ye it and I shal accomplisshe hit frely and with goode herte. 
' How fair sire ' sayd she thenne. ' wil ye accomplisshe my commande- 
ment.' ' Certes madame * sayd he ' I shal not faile in no point if hit be 
to me possible. And ther fore declare ye to me your good playsyr and 
desire. And after that ye shall parceyue howe I shall employe my self 

But enough of this. 

The next document of which we give a specimen is an account of the 
way to carry an English king to his tomb. Its meaning is clear and 
unambiguous, and its style perfectly business-like. It is an admirable 
example of an official document of the period and of the type of London 
English in which these were written. The phonology and accidence are 
curiously like our own, and almost the only form which calls for remark 
is skilde ' shield ', which represents a Southern type as distinct from the 
Midland M.E. sheelde, from which our present form is derived. It will 
be noted that the -n of the Pres. PI. and of the Inf. of Verbs is entirely 

Funeral of Edward the Fourth (1483). 

Here foloith the Ordenances which shalbe done in the observaunce at the 
deth and buryall of a annoynted king. 

When that a king annoynted ys deceassed, after his body spurged, it 
most be washed and clensed by a bishop for his holy annoyntment. Then 
the body must be bamed if it may be goton, and wrapped in lawne or 
raynes, then hosen, shertes, and a pair of shone of redde lether, and do 
over hym his surcote of clothe, his cap of estate over his hede, and then 
laie hym on a faire burde covered with clothe of gold, his one hand upon 
his bely, and a septur in the other hand, and on his face a kerchief and so 
shewid to his nobles by the space of ij dayes and more if the weder will 
it sufFre. And when he may not goodly lenger endure, take hym away, 


and bowell hym and then eftsones bame hym, wrappe hym in raynes 
well trameled in cordis of silke, then in tartryne trameled, and then in 
velvet, and then in clothe of gold well trameled; and then lede hym 1 
and coffre hym, and in his lede with hym a plait of his still, name 
and date of our, &c. And if ye care 2 hym, make a ymage like hym, 
clothed in a surcote with mantil of estat, the laices goodly lyeng on his 
bely, his septur in his hand and his crown on his hede, and so carry him 
in a chair opon, with lightes and baners, accompanyed with lordys and 
estates as the counsaill can best devyse, havyng the horse of that chair 
traped with dyvers trapers, or els with blacke trapers with scochons 
richely beten and his officers of armes abowt hym in his cottes of 

And then a lord or a knyght with a courser traped of his armes upon 
hym, his salet or basnet on his hede crowned, a shilde, and a spere, tyll 
he come to his place of his entring. 3 And at masse the same to be offered 
by noble princes. 

[The rest of this very interesting document consists of an account of 
the rites observed at the funeral of King Edward IV.] 

Naturally, so brief an extract does not give quite a complete picture of 
the language of the period, and we will therefore conclude our examina- 
tion of official London English with some particulars of two documents 
already mentioned (i) the Creation of Henry Duke of York a Knight 
of the Bath (1494), and (2) the Reception of Catherine of Aragon 
(1501). In the following account notice is chiefly taken of points in which 
the above documents differ from present-day usage, or of those in which, 
while agreement exists wilh our present speech, it is interesting to find so 
early. As regards vowel sounds, M.E. -er- generally survives as such, 
even in cases where we now have the -ar- or some other type ; thus 
No. i has sergent, swerde, Served, kerver ' carved ', &c., werke, but No. 2 
has, on the other hand, Barmondsey, warning. O.E. j? is represented on 
the whole as at the present time, excepty^rj/ ' first ' (i), bruge ' bridge ' (2), 
and lift ' left ' (hand) (i). e for i is found in shreven P. P. (i). The early 
fronting of M.E. a to [ae] is perhaps indicated by the spellings iveshed 
' washed ' (i), and es for 'as for '(2). The rounding of a after w- is 
shown in the spelling wos * was' (i). Initial M.E. e [e] appears 2&ye- in 
yest 'east' (i). The name of our country was pronounced as at the 
present time, as is seen by the spelling Ingland (2), where e becomes 
i before -ng. M.E. tense e was probably already pronounced as at 
present, as is shown by the spellings sien ( seen ', indied ' indeed ', both 
in (i). 

In the combination -ns- n is dropped as in Westmester (i); -d is added 
finally after -l- t felde ' fell ' (i). Initial wh- was pronounced as at present 
all over the South of England wiche 'which', weroff 'whereof', wen 
'when' (i). The Pron. who was pronounced without w-, as at present, 
and is written hoo (i). One example of Group Possessives has already 
been quoted (p. 75), and another, the abbot of Westminsters barge, occurs 
in 2. The Possessive is found used absolutely j*// in like maner as 
therle of Suffolkis (i). The PI. forms of the Pers. Pronouns are thei t 
thaire^ thaim. Pres. Pis. in -th, geuythe, hathe, are found. The P. P.'s of 
Strong Verbs usually end in -#, and the prefix i-,y- is not used. The 

1 i. e. put him in a casket of lead. 2 carry. 3 internment. 


P. P. of 'be ' is been, and be, and the same forms also occur in the Pres. 
PI. Inflexional syllables very constantly have i or j/ kyngis (Possess.), 
actis (PL), purposithe, fairyst (Superl.), brokyn (P. P.). The consonant r 
was probably still strongly trilled in the middle of words before consonants, 
to judge by the spelling therell = ' the earl ', which suggests a pronuncia- 
tion like that heard from Scotchmen at the present day. 

Such are the main points which call for remark in these typical docu- 
ments, and we see that the distribution of dialect elements is approaching 
that of our own day. 

A few words should perhaps be said upon the language of literature 
proper at the close of the century, and we may take John Skelton's 
Magnyfycence as typical. Although Skelton lived until 1529, he must 
be regarded as a fifteenth-century poet. No one reads Skelton nowa- 
days except Professors of Literature, not even those who attend their 
lectures, nor probably ever will again ; and they will be right. ' Beastly 
Skelton Heads of Houses quote', said Pope, and this line probably 
untrue in Pope's day, and an absurdity in our own perhaps alone 
preserves the poet's very name from decent oblivion, though the curious 
may have noted, tucked away in histories of English poetry, the couplet 

For though the dayes be nevir so long 
At last the belles ringeth to evensong, 

which is worth remembering as expressing a thought that has been ex- 
pressed a hundred times in as many different ways, and also because it 
contains a Pres. PL in -th. Skelton's English as represented by Magny- 
fycence, written about 1516, is by no means uninteresting from our present 
point of view. It is of the Southern type of London English of the 
period, and exhibits that individuality in the use of dialectal elements 
which characterized the speech of cultivated persons, who were yet not 
provincials, at the end of the fifteenth century and much later. While in 
the main the language conforms pretty closely to the official London 
dialect, we find occasional divergencies from this. Thus praiy ' pretty ' 
preserves the Southern form of O.E. x l , shortened to , and then becom- 
ing a, instead of the Midland of South-East , the Southern wokys 'weeks' 
(W. Sax. wucu, fr. weocu), the Southern herdely ' hardly ' with e, fr. O.E. 
heard, hzerd, which in Midland became hard (cf. p. 33, No. i) ; the 
archaic Southern iche for 'I' Pers. Pron. ; the Southern prefix^- in the 
P. .ywet, storm ybeten, and the Pres. PL in -thyour clokes smelly th musty. 
On the other hand, the typical present-day distribution of i and e in mery, 
mirth, bysy (also besy), and i also in lyther O.E. lyj?er ' bad ' ; the Eastern 
e for i in glettering, and the occasional use of E. Midland -ys in the 3rd 
Sing. Pres. lokys 'looks', reeky s 'reeks', by the side of the usual -yth, 
&c. These -s forms, which were all but unknown among the best 
London writers and speakers for nearly another hundred years, 
except when used in mid-sixteenth century and after, to save a syllable in 
verse, may have got into the poet's language at Cambridge. Skelton has, 
for the time, a fair number of -ar- spellings for M.E. -er-, and rhymes 
which indicate that he pronounced -ar- sometimes when he does not 
write it harde ' heard ' P. P., harte, swarue ' swerve ', dark, barke Vb., 
but also herde,ferther, herke * hark ' ; further enferre ' infer ' rhyming with 


debarre, and herk rhyming with clarke. This peculiarity, already frequently 
alluded to as occurring in other writers, becomes more and more common 
in London English from the beginning of the second half of the century, 
and probably started in Kent and Essex. An interesting example of it in 
Magnyfycence occurs in the phrase All is out ofharre, where the last word 
is from O.E. heorra ' hinge ', M.E. herre. The phrase means ' the times 
are out of joint ', and the idiom is exactly equivalent to the French hors 
des gonds. In inflexional syllables Skelton makes frequent use of -ys, 
-yth, -yd, which, as we have seen, were before this time becoming 
characteristic of London English, as they have remained so of the 
Received Standard type of pronunciation to the present time. 

We shall conclude this survey of fifteenth-century English with an 
account of the language of Gregory's Chronicle. Some few particulars 
have already been given of William Gregory (p. 64). As to the work 
itself, it may have been completed somewhere about 1470, since it was 
continued after Gregory's death in 1467. The MS., according to 
Mr. Gairdner, is all in one hand, and that certainly of the fifteenth 
century. In some ways this work is the most interesting for our purpose 
of all those referred to in this chapter. It has an air of unstudied natural- 
ness about its forms and style, and we may take it to represent pretty 
faithfully the ordinary everyday speech of the better Middle Classes of 
London, comparable to that of Machyn about a hundred years later, but 
representing probably the English of a social couche superior to his, if 
distinctly below the standard of the Court. It is the most considerable 
document of its kind belonging to this age, and gives an extensive picture 
of colloquial speech in the Metropolis. 

The vowel system agrees on the whole with that of other London 
documents of the period, but certain features are more strongly marked 
than in other London documents. While from Gregory's origin we might 
expect the E. Midland elements to be very strongly represented, to the 
exclusion of most of the typically Southern, as a matter of fact, although 
the former element is quite definitely present, some very interesting 
Southern features also occur. This rather leads one to the opinion that 
the presence of the Eastern characteristics is not primarily due to 
Gregory's Suffolk birth, but to the fact that they were in use in the 
Middle Class London speech of the time, rather more frequently than in 
that of the superior ranks. In other words, Gregory wrote the genuine 
London English of the class among whom he lived, and not a form 
modified by Suffolk dialect. Had he done the latter, he would hardly 
have made use of Southernisms which he could not have known from his 
native dialect, but which were in use in London. 

To begin with O.E. j>, Gregory has comparatively few ^-forms, and 
these are all known to have been in use in genuine London English 
berriyd, steryd 'stirred', besely, and evylle, which, however, may be 
differently explained (p. 207). The *-forms greatly predominate 
first, bylde, lyfte ' left ' (hand), byryd, syche ' such ', schytte (Pret.) ' shut ', 
lytylle. There are but few w-forms buryd, suche, muche, brusyd ' bruised '. 
The M.E. combination -er- is written -ar- more frequently than in any 
other London text of this time, that I have examined warre 'war', 
Barkeky, sfarre, sargent, clargy, ?narcy, sartayne ' certain ', sarmon, 


sarvyce', but, on the other hand, -er- is also well represented werre 
war ', ferme ' farm ', sterre, erthe, derke, herte, Clerkynwelle, ferther, 
kervyr ' carver ', Colde Herborowe, person = ' parson '. We know that the 
-ar- forms were coming into official London English about the middle of 
the fifteenth century, and that nearly all writers have some, but even at 
the end of the century they are not so frequent in any other document, 
official or literary, as here, and the Suffolk Wills of the third quarter of 
the century have but few, which is evidently due to the influence of official 
London English. We find more in the Paston Letters and the Cely 
Papers, and we are justified, I think, in regarding sarmon^ &c., as having 
started in the South-East and E. Midlands, and having passed into London 
through Lower and Middle Class English, of which they became a 
characteristic feature. Another feature found in nearly all London docu- 
ments to some extent, but peculiarly typical of the East (see Bokenam, 
Marg. Paston, Cely Papers, &c.), is e for /, but probably no other London 
document has so many of these spellings as Gregory. Of those which 
may be long we have preson, levyd ' lived ', wete ' know ', lemytyd, levyn 
(Inf.) ' live ', letany, leverays ' liveries ', wedowe, petefullyste, rever ' river ' ; 
almost certainly short are schelyngys ' shillings ', pejon ' pigeon ', pelory, 
denyr. Chekyns may come under this group, but may also be differently 
explained. The following interesting Southern forms occur : dradde 
(P. P.), radde (Pret.), which are both found in Chaucer, praty ' pretty ', 
where a is a shortened O.E. x l (cf. p. 29 (i); 33 (2)). Further : schylde 
' shield \yldyste ' eldest ', sylle ' to sell ', where we have the representations 
of Southern scield, ieldest, siellan (cf. p. 35 (7)). Before -ng and -nch e 
becomes z: Inglond, Kyngs Bynche, both of which words, however, also 
occur written with the traditional e. A curious Westernism occurs in 
schute ' shoot' O.E. sceolan, which is found at least twice (cf. p. 34 (4)). 
The typical Eastern form is found in Scheter Hylle ' Shooter's Hill '. The 
combination -an- is often written -on-, not only before nd, mb, ng, which 
lengthenedt he vowel lond, stonde, lombe ' lamb ', stronge, hongyd, longage 
i language ', but also in thonke ' thanks ', thonkyd ' thanked '. The -an- 
spellings are also found hanggyd, lambe, and land. The new pronuncia- 
tion of M.E. e is expressed by i and y : hire ' hear ', hirde ' heard ', dyre 
' dear ', stypylle ' steeple ' (which may possibly be a Southernism for O.E. 
y (te)), slyvys ' sleeves '. It is possible that the spellings becheler 'bachelor', 
iesper 'jasper ', fefhem ' fathom ', indicate that M.E. a had already under- 
gone the modern shifting. 

Passing to consonants, we find loss of consonants in Braban for 
' Brabant ', Edwar the iiij for * Edward ', Wanysday ' Wednesday ', 
halpeny, sowdyer ' soldier ', Raffe ' Ralph ', Fauconbrygge, sepukyr 
' sepulchre ', and Westmyster, a very common form here, and in other 
documents. A final consonant is added in patent ' paten ', losste ' loss ' ; 
n is intercalated in massynger, earlier messager, where we have kept 
the n. Old -hi- has become -ft- in unsojfethe ' unsought '. Initial wh 
is written w- in were/ore, wete ( wheat ', wile ' while '. Final -th is once 
written/" in Lambeffe ' Lambeth '. The sound r was evidently lost before 
-J-, as is shown by the spellings mosselle ' morsel ', Ferys of Groby = 
' Ferrers '. Final -ng appears as -n in blasyn sterre ' comet ', hayryn 
1 herring '. Interchange of v and w occurs in wery ' very ', and Prynce 


of Valys = ' Wales '. The Southern initial v- for/"- occurs in a valle 
' a fall '. 

-/- between vowels is sometimes written -d- : radyfyde, depudyd, dal- 
madyke. This records a genuine pronunciation which we later find de- 
scribed by writers on pronunciation, and regarded as a Cockney vulgar- 
ism. Other instances of the same process voicing between vowels 
are given (pp. 312-13). Rounding of a after v occurs in Syn Volantynys. 

In unstressed syllables Gregory shows the same tendency to put 
i Q\ y in flexional syllables which we have noted in all the London 
writings of this period, and in many others as well. He also reduces 
vowels and diphthongs generally in this position. Thus, for M.E. ei 
in seint he writes Syn before a personal name Syn Lenarde, Syn 
John, where the stress falls on the name. He writes e in the second 
syllable of M.E. felow ' fellow ' in felechype. Unstressed syllables are 
sometimes lost altogether cytsyns ' citizens ', unt hym ' unto him '. 
French u or ui [j/J is unrounded when unstressed : comeners, corny ners, 
condyitt ' conduit ', contymacy ' contumacy '. 

Turning to the Accidence, Strong Nouns either take the PI. suffix 
-ys namys, howsys, eggys, treys^ &c., or merely -s strangers ; the only 
Wk. Pis. I have noted are oxyn and schone ' shoes '. Irregulars are kyne 
' cows ', wemmen, bretheryn ; mutated forms -fete, tethe. Nouns expressing 
measure in time and space are frequently unaltered in the PI. viij yere, 
iij fote, iiij fethem ; also some old Neuters hors, swyne, alle thynge, schippe, 
sheppe ' sheep'. The Possessive Sing, of Nouns is commonly formed with 
the suffix -ys kyngys, &c., or with -s alone waterberers ; another very 
common form in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, very frequent in 
Gregory, is the addition of the separate particle ys after the Noun Synt 
Edmonde ys Bury, &c. This was doubtless the ordinary Possessive suffix in 
origin, but was frequently (or always) identified with the weak (unstressed) 
form of the Possessive Pronoun, and indeed is often written hys< his just as 
we still have it in our Prayer Book for Jesus Christ his sake, &c. That 
this is a new formation, based upon the absolute identity in sound of the 
unstressed Possessive of the Pres. Pronoun (h}ys, and the Possessive 
suffix, is shown by such phrases very common in all colloquial writings 
as the queene ys moder, side by side with the Queenys party. In group 
constructions this detached ys is often used in the fifteenth century, and 
Gregory has my lorde of Warwycke ys brother. Note the phrase no schoo 
apon no manys fote. When we should now inflect the group by adding 
the Possessive 's to the last word, e. g. the Duke of Norfolk's daughter, 
Gregory uses such constructions as the dukys doughter of Northefolke, or 
the lordys wyffe Nevyle ' Lord Nevil's wife '. The Possessive in -ys can 
be used absolutely a cepture in hys hond of the quenys. 

Finally, we may mention the uninflected Possessives on which see at 
length p. 316-18 which may be old Feminines such as Mary Mavdelyn 
Evyn, or old weak Pis. in -n as in Alle Halowt day. A frequent con- 
struction at this period is the expression of quantity without either 
inflexion or preposition between the two nouns, as every sacke wolle, 
which is like the German ein sack wolle, ein glas wasser, &c 

The following forms of the Pers. Pronouns may be mentioned. The 
Possess. Sing, of the 3rd Pers. Sing. Masc. is very commonly written ys 


when unstressed the Prynce was jugge (judge) ys owne sylfe, which 
is the natural pronunciation to-day, and is found recorded as early as the 
thirteenth century at least. The Neut. Sing, is generally hit. The 3rd 
PI. is Nom. }>ey, they, and the unstressed form the] Possess, hir, hyr, 
here, and (rarely) there ; the Dat. and Ace. is generally -hem, with the 
weak form em ax of em that felde (felt) the strokys, and, rarely, them. 
In the PI. of the 2nd Pers.jye and you are kept distinct, the former being 
kept for the Nom., the latter for the oblique cases. The Relative Pronoun 
' who ' is occasionally written hoo, and the Dat. and Ace. home, showing 
that w was not pronounced ; the Gen., however, is written whos according 
to the traditional spelling. There is in Gregory, as in several other fifteenth- 
century texts, a Dat. wham which must be an unstressed form with early 
shortening of the vowel in O.E. hwdm. The now extinct PI. Demonstr. 
thoo ' those ', fr. O.E. pa the PI. of Def. Art., is frequent, also thosse. 
The Indef. Art. is a, which is often used in this century and later before 
words beginning with vowels a Englyssche squyer. The emphatic oon, 
and, before cons., oo ' a single, one ', are used as in M.E. The M.E. 
form everychone ' every one ' occurs, divided every chone. The now 
obsolete or vulgar who som evyr still survives. 

The Pres. Sing, of Vbs. ends in -yth\ the PI. has commonly -yn, 
belevyn, deputyn,folowyn, &c., occasionally -e as behote 'they promise', 
and at least once -yth(e), longythe. The Inf. very commonly retains the 
ending -en, or more usually -yn procedyn, ben, beryn, setten, settynne, &c., 
sometimes loses the -n as in to saye, to speke, &c. The forms answery, 
ymageny look rather like survivals of the old Southern Inf. (see p. 37 (16)). 
The prefix t- is occasionally used both in Weak and Strong P. P.'s 
i-callyd, i-halowyde, igeve ' given ', i-knowe ( known ', &c. The ending 
of the P. P. in Strong Vbs. has both -yn and -e, the latter being perhaps 
more frequent drawe and drawyn, geve and gevyn, smete and smetyn, 
founde and/oundyn, &c., &c. At least one use of the prefix t- occurs 
in the Pret. isong ' sang '. The old distinction between Pret. Sing, and 
PI. seems to have vanished with the exception offauht (Sing.) ' fought ', 
PI. fought. So far as I can see, the type of the Piet. used in both Sing, 
and PI. is that of the Singular, even more generally than at the present 
day, and not that of the P. P., so that Gregory and his contemporaries 
use bare, brake, bote ' bit ', and not bore, broke, bit, on the model of the 
P. P. As regards Auxiliary and Irregular Vbs., drust (with metathesis) 
is the Pret. of dare, ' shall ' has schalle in Sing., and both shulle and 
shalle in the PI. ; ar is used as well as ben(e) in the PL Pres. of ' to be ' ; 
may retains the old PL mowen as in Chaucer ; the Pret. of can is still 
couthe, the / not yet occurring in the spelling. The Pret. of ' to go ' is 
the archaic yede znAydde (O.E. ge-eode). 

A few phrases and constructions may be noted. ' On the morning of 
Candlemas day ' is rendered on Candylmasday in the mornynge, which 
to us is strongly reminiscent of the Christmas carol * There were three 
ships came sailing by '. 

The old habit of putting one adjective before a noun and the other 
after, where used predicatively, which with us survives only in a few 
fossilized phrases ' a good man and true ' is seen in a pesabylle yere and 
a plentefulle. 


I have gone thus into detail concerning the language of Gregory, 
because his Chronicle appears to be a very genuine record of how people 
actually spoke in the middle of the fifteenth century, more so than any 
other London document we possess. The picture gives rise in our 
minds to both kinds of surprise referred to on p. 71. We are alternately 
astonished at finding certain pronunciations and forms so early in use, 
and amazed at the survival of so many archaisms. Gregory may well 
be said to stand at the parting of the ways between the new and the old. 
In some ways he is more archaic than the classical language of Literature 
or of official writings, and in others he appears more modern. It is 
probable that the latter impression is largely due to the fact that his 
unstudied spelling and style reveal more of the truth regarding con- 
temporary speech. On the other hand, it must be remembered that he 
represents a different social class than any we have hitherto examined 
except the Celys, who are definitely provincials. It is often urged as 
a merit of popular and dialect speech at the present day by its votaries, 
that it is more conservative of ancient forms than Received Standard 
English, but this is a one-sided view. Vulgar, popular, and Regional 
speech may each and all preserve certain ancient features which Good 
English has lost, but that is not the whole truth. They have also lost 
other features which the latter has preserved. The fact is that innovations 
are found in all forms of English, but they are not the same innovations; 
all forms of English likewise preserve certain old features, but they have 
not all preserved the same features. Gregory's value for us is none the 
less that he is the chief example, in the fifteenth century, of the Middle 
Class English of the capital. Doubtless the 'redoubted princess' who 
found fault with Caxton's parts of speech would have been equally down 
on Gregory ; but whereas Caxton ' amended ' his English, Gregory did 
not, for which we may be duly thankful. Caxton's English is a less true 
picture of the speech of his time than Gregory's because he slavishly 
copied the scribes, and apparently the scribes of an earlier day than his 
own. The result is that Caxton is in many important respects farther 
from the Spoken English of to-day than Gregory. Many of the latter' s 
vulgarisms have become current even in the politest form of English, 
while much of Caxton's ' correctness ' was obsolete in his own day in 
any form of English whatsoever. 

We have now surveyed Literary English and London English from 
Chaucer to Skelton, and have glanced at some of the provincial forms 
during the same period. 

We may draw this long chapter to a close with an attempt to sum- 
marize the main general results which emerge from our examination. 

Already fairly early in the century, it is evident from the occasional 
spellings of the less conventional writers that the Middle English 
accented vowels have started upon that series of changes which has 
led to our present-day pronunciation. The 'vowels of unstressed 
syllables have been still further ' reduced ' since the weakenings which 
took place in Late O.E. and Early Middle English. We notice, on the 
one hand, a variety of tentative methods of expressing these vowels, which 
points at least to an obscuration of the earlier sound, and on the other 
a certain consistency, which points to ' reduction ' in a definite direction. 


Certain typical Modern alterations in the pronunciation of consonants 
are observable. Turning to the question of Regional dialect and the 
Standard Language, it is clear from many indications that Regional 
dialect was still spoken, more or less by all classes. In the written 
language, we find an extended use of the London dialect in both private 
and official documents ; but during the first three quarters of the century 
at least, the local and natural dialect of the writer breaks out here and 
there, in documents which conform on the whole to the London type. 

On the other hand, there is room for surprise that a quarter of a century 
before the introduction of printing, the Devonian Shillingford should 
allow his native speech to show itself so little in his letters, while the 
other and more important Devonian Sir John Fortescue has broken 
away completely from Regional dialect. In the early part of the 
century several works of Literature proper, both in prose and verse, 
preserve with very fair consistency the Regional dialect of the writers. 

As regards the character of the London dialect, fast becoming the 
recognized vehicle for all English which was written down, the South- 
Eastern, and especially the E. Midland, elements gain an increasing 
ascendancy, though many typically Southern features, or scattered forms 
derived from the purely Southern type of English, still linger. It seems 
that we can distinguish among the documents written in London at 
least two types of dialect an Easterly and a more Southerly type. It 
is evident that both types were accepted and recognized in the speech of 
London itself, and poets (e. g. Skelton) found it convenient to avail them- 
selves of a latitude in the distribution of forms from both of these types, 
fully as great as that enjoyed by Chaucer. This latitude makes it 
difficult to assert that a given form which is clearly E. Midland in origin 
was not current in some type of London speech, and it is probable that 
few of the typical Easternisms which we find in Lydgate would strike 
a Londoner of the period as strange. 

Thus the precise Regional dialect constituents of London English were 
not finally fixed in their present proportion and distribution during the 
fifteenth century, nor indeed for some time after the beginning of the 
following century. 

As regards social dialect, while it is pretty certain that an upper and 
a lower class type of English were recognized, it is very difficult to be 
sure exactly where to draw the line. Some of the peculiarities of Gregory's 
English are undoubtedly described as London vulgarisms at a later date, 
but we cannot be quite sure that they were so felt at the time in which 
he wrote, since most, if not all of them, can be paralleled from the 
writings of persons far more highly placed than he. It may be said, 
however, that in Gregory we have a combination of peculiarities, which 
probably do not occur in the same mass, and with the same frequency, 
in writers of higher social status. The letters of Edmond de la Pole 
are not a fair sample of the speech of the higher English Nobility of his 
age, since they produce the impression of being written not only by a 
very ignorant man, but by one who has largely forgotten his native 
tongue, at any rate any decent method of putting it down on paper. 

Finally, we recognize the unsettled state of Literary and Standard 
Spoken English in the curious individualism which makes it necessary 


to describe the peculiarities of so many separate writers. It is this, more 
than anything else, which makes us hesitate to claim for this century the 
existence of a definite Standard of Speech, or to say definitely where it is 
to be found. It would be interesting to know whether the conception of 
vulgarism in speech already existed, and if so, what particular vagaries 
were brought under this head, and by whom. No doubt there was 
a certain standard of ' correctness ', but this is quite different from the 
existence of an upper class dialect as distinct from a lower. We have 
quoted the rather vague statement of Caxton concerning the opinion 
which the Duchess of Burgundy took of his English, and have indicated 
that we may here have a hint of a social differentiation of speech, but this 
is quite uncertain. We have to wait till the following century for more 
definite evidence. After all, Gregory is our best hope if we ever expect 
to establish the existence of Class dialect at this period, meaning by the 
term a variety of London English, which may indeed have been partly 
Regional in origin, but which had come to be felt as an inferior variant 
of the language in vogue at the Court. 



THE sixteenth century is memorable for the student of the history of 
the language, not least, among many other reasons, because he now finds 
for the first time undoubted evidence, in specific statement, of the exis- 
tence of a standard of speech. The dialect of the Court is definitely 
stated to be the ' best ' form of English, the one to be acquired, and as 
far as possible to be used in the writing of poetry, that is, for the highest 
possible purpose to which language can be put. 

During this century, too, English people began to think and write 
about their native language as a vehicle for literary creation. They dis- 
cussed at great length such questions as the fitness of English to be used 
for poetry ; the proper kind of vocabulary for a writer to use whether 
' old and homely ' native terms, or words derived from Latin they dis- 
coursed much, and often tediously, upon the principles of English 
prosody ; they tried many experiments, some fortunate, such as those of 
Wyatt and Tusser, some dismal failures, such as those of Phaer or 
Stanyhurst, and some other ' painful furtherers of learning ' ; they thought 
much of prose style and played some strange pranks therewith ; they 
tried hard to amend and fix English spelling, and practically succeeded in 
the latter effort ; lastly, they examined and attempted to describe the 
sounds of English speech. 

The accounts of English pronunciation which begin in this century 
open a new chapter in our investigations of the past history of our 
language, and one which from this time onward has to be taken into 
account. For the present writer it is a question open to discussion, 
though many will think this an impiety, whether this new source of in- 
formation has not been rather a curse than a blessing to English Philology, 
and whether we have not been bamboozled for the last thirty or forty 
years by these early writers on English pronunciation, into all sorts of 
wrong ideas. But of this more later. 

We have said that definite references exist to a standard of English 
speech, to varieties, one of which is the best, while the others are to be 
avoided ; but this is not all, for it is distinctly suggested that there exist, 
and are recognized, not only Regional, but also Social varieties. And 
we are not left with mere statements of this fact ; we have a long docu- 
ment, the Diary of Henry Machyn, which is of priceless value in that it 
enshrines, not a counterfeit presentment, such as we might find in 
comedies, of lower class speech, but the genuine thing, naturally and un- 
consciously set down by a man who is obviously putting his own English 
on paper. We are fortunate in possessing many familiar letters of the 

H 2 


sixteenth century, which give a picture of colloquial speech so far as this 
is possible in a written document, but none is perhaps so individual, or 
so abundant in revelations of the habits of speech of the writer and his 
class, as Machyn's Diary. It is true that many, perhaps most of the 
occasional spellings which we find so instructive in the writings of the 
diarist, can be matched from the letters of this period of persons of far 
higher rank, but the most characteristic peculiarities occur nowhere else 
so frequently, and some are not found at all among persons of more 
refinement and breeding. At any rate, the cumulative effect is consider- 
able, and leaves the impression of a distinct social dialect. We have 
plenty of material from which to establish a comparison letters from 
Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queens Mary and Elizabeth ; from great nobles 
such as Norfolk and Somerset; from statesmen like Cromwell and 
Burghley; ecclesiastics such as Wolsey, Latimer, Cranmer, Warham, 
Lee, and many others ; from courtier scholars like More, Ascham, and 
Sir Thomas Smith; from great merchants and men of affairs like 
Gresham ; from admirals and soldiers whose very names are enough to 
make any age illustrious, and whose deeds are among the chief glories of 
our race, such as Howard and Drake, Sydney and Raleigh. All these 
famous persons reveal in their letters certain individualities of origin, 
while conforming, in the main features, to the common well-bred English 
of the time. They all had opportunities, in varying degree it is true, of 
acquiring the Court form of English of their age, and many of their 
varieties are due, doubtless, to the different native dialects upon which 
the Court English was grafted. Machyn, however, is in a class apart ; 
his English is almost as different from that of the Courtiers as is the dialect 
of Robert of Brunne from that of Trevisa. 

To come to closer quarters, we may ask, What are the chief general 
characteristics of sixteenth-century English ? 

The first point to be mentioned is that Regional dialect disappears 
completely from the written language of the South and Midlands ; both 
from Literature proper, and from private letters and documents. We 
shall look in vain in poetry for such distinctive Regional character as we 
saw in Bokenam in the preceding century, or in private letters, for even 
such slight traces of Regional influence as we found in Shillingford's 
letters. We are able at most to point here and there to a feature 
generally connected with grammatical forms which we may attribute to 
the writer's native county. 

On the other hand, while the literary dialect is in a fair way to being 
fixed, and while in private documents which reflect more faithfully the 
colloquial conditions, and in works of literature, both prose and verse, 
where the language is more studied and deliberate, considerable, though 
by no means absolute, uniformity in the distribution of dialect elements is 
found, we discover a host of those revealing occasional spellings which, 
as we saw, were fairly common in the fifteenth-century documents. 

Evidence of the sort which we exhibited in the previous chapter, for the 
occurrence of certain sound changes in the fifteenth century, is confirmed 
abundantly, and is much larger in quantity in the age of Henry VIII and 
Elizabeth. Almost every private letter, and many literary works, contain 
a certain number of spellings which throw light upon pronunciation, and 


it is evident that even at the Court such tendencies as that which added 
an ' excrescent ' consonant at the end of words, e. g. for the nonnest 
( nonce ', orphant ' orphan ', vilde ' vile ', and so on, were certainly current 
among all speakers, from Queen Elizabeth herself downwards. It is 
rather important to point out that the same variety of spellings, by which 
is meant spellings which throw light on actual pronunciation, the same kind 
of fluctuation in the distribution of dialect types, and the same diversity 
in grammatical forms are found in printed books, whether prose or 
poetry, and that in the works by the most accomplished writers, as are to 
be noted in private, familiar, and more or less hastily written letters. We 
might attribute these ' slips ' in the latter class of documents to the care- 
lessness of individual writers, but when the same kind of ' slip ' occurs 
again and again in letters written by very different kinds of persons, we 
are bound to infer that these ' slips ' in writing represent realities in 
uttered speech, and linguistic habits that were very widespread. When 
we further meet with the same peculiarities, both in spelling and in gram- 
matical forms, again and again in printed books, we must be convinced 
that the literary language is not a phenomenon apart, having an exis- 
tence independent of the spoken language, but that the former is in very 
deed identical with the latter, and reflects its various and changing 

This intimate relation between the highest type of colloquial English 
and the English of literature cannot be too strongly insisted upon. The 
* tongue which Shakespeare spake ' was the tongue which he wrote ; the 
makers of Elizabethan English as we know it in the imperishable literature 
of the period, were the men, illustrious and obscure, who were also 
making English history, that is, who were living and fighting; sailing 
strange seas, and discovering new worlds ; ruffling at Court, or deliberating 
in the councils of Church and of the State ; conferring and negotiating 
abroad with princes and prelates, and often, at the last, going ' darkling 
down the torrent of their fate', and dying joyfully and gaily, like 
Christian gentlemen, on the battle-field or ' the deck, which was their 
field of fame', or, by some strange reverse of fortune, by a no less 
splendid death upon the scaffold or at the stake. 

This unity of the colloquial language and the language of literature 
will be illustrated later on, but as immediate proof that features which we 
should now consider ' vulgarisms ', or too slipshod even for colloquial 
use, were in the sixteenth century current in Court English, and that they 
find ttteir way into works of first-rate literary importance, we may mention 
that such features occur in Lord Berners' translation of Froissart, in 
Sir Thos. Elyot's Gouernour, in Bp. Larimer's Sermons before Edward VI, 
in Edward VI's First Prayer Book, in the works of Roger Ascham, in 
Lyly, both in his dramas and in Euphues, that model of propriety in 
language, and in the First Folio of Shakespeare. These are the works 
of only a few writers from among the many that might be mentioned, but 
between them they cover practically the whole of the sixteenth century, and 
the authors must all be assumed to have been conversant with the English 
of the Court. These writers were all scholars as well as courtiers, but they 
are no less prone to introduce into their books, colloquialisms of the type of 
sarmont and orphant, and many others, than are the less bookish admirals 


and men of business of the period to put these things into their private 

It is thus clear that the standards of refinement which in a later day 
forbade such forms to speech and writing alike, were unknown to some 
of the best scholars well acquainted, between them, with the standards of 
speech at every Court from Henry VIII to Elizabeth. 

The English of the sixteenth century, both in the printed works and 
in private letters, still shows considerable dialectal individualism. The 
Standard, as we have said, is not yet completely fixed. While the more 
pronounced features of Regional dialect are absent, there remains con- 
siderable variety of usage among writers belonging approximately to the 
same social stratum. Since this variety is found both in published works 
of Literature and in private correspondence, we are entitled to argue that 
a rather large degree of latitude existed in the Standard Spoken English 
of the period, and that if we assume that the unstudied language of 
private letters gives a true picture of the actual speech of the writers, the 
variety in forms found in literary works is also an indication of the 
variety existing in speech, since the kind of variety found in Literary 
English is identical with that found in the private letters. When we are 
able to compare the private letters with the literary compositions of the 
same writer, as for instance is possible in the case of Queen Elizabeth 
herself, we find that the distinctive features are the same in both. This 
circumstance is a further proof of the identity of the English of Literature 
with the Spoken Standard of the Court. Considerable latitude of usage, 
we have said, is tolerated in both, and the same kind of latitude. We 
shall later study in more detail, the variety upon \vhich we are insisting, 
but we may briefly indicate some of the points at once. 

First, there are different types of pronunciation in the same words : 
e.g. bisie, besie; than and then] whan and when", geve and giv(e] ; sowne 
and sound; bankette and banquet '; fader and father ; moder and mother ; 
stop and stap ; hott, hoate, and whot 'hot'; which spellings show (i) a 
pronunciation similar to that of the present day, (2) one with a long 
vowel, (3) one with a short vowel but with an initial w or wh ; one (pro- 
nounced as now in 0#-ly); wone (pronounced, as one is now, with an 
initial^-); othew\&wolhe\ other and wother ; earth zn&y earth. Finally, 
we may mention the remarkable variety in the distribution of-er- and -ar- 
forms in hert and hart, service and sarvice, swerve and swarve, ferm and 
farm, and all the other words of this group. 

In the realm of accidence, we begin with Nouns. Weak Pis. occur by 
the side of the more usual Strong Pis. (and that in writers like Wilson and 
Ascham), e. g. housen for houses, peason for peas, shoon for shoes, sisterne 
by the side of the more usual sisters. In Possessives of words ending in 
~f we often find v before the suffix, as in the PI., e. g. wolves, wives, by 
the side of forms with f as at present my wife's father, &c. It is still 
permissible to use the old uninflected Possessive of Feminine Nouns : 
the Scotish Quene lettres (Lord Burghley) ; my ladye Elizabethe grace, but 
my ladye Maryes grace (both in Latimer). 

The Neuter Pronoun is still written hit as well as it. The Indefinite 
Article occurs without the final -n before vowels a opinion, &c. 

The 3rd Pers. Sing. Pres. of Verbs ends in -s in some writers, with 


considerable frequency, at a point in the century when others use it 
but rarely, and others not at all. 

These are but a few samples of variety taken from a large number, but 
they are enough to establish our point. 

It is evident that these differences of usage are more considerable 
in character than those at present tolerated in Received Standard 
Spoken English, while in written English, except in poetry, there is now 
practically no latitude of this kind at all. 

If we consider the possible variations in pronunciation which would 
pass muster at the present day in Received Standard, we shall find that 
they are very few in number. They consist chiefly in a few classes of 
words which admit of two types, such as [L?f, kof] ' cough ', [pu9, po] 
'poor', &c. 

The deduction from the above is that in the sixteenth century the 
relation between Standard Spoken and Literary English was more 
intimate than at present, and that the greater allowable latitude of usage 
which existed in the former was reflected in the latter. While we insist 
upon the existence of a standard of speech at least as early as Henry VIII, 
and probably earlier (see p. 5 above), it is not suggested that this had 
anything like the currency which Received Standard has at the present 
day, nor can the general diffusion of this among the higher classes be 
assumed much before the end of the eighteenth century. 

In the sixteenth century there is good reason for thinking that the 
Standard was practically confined to those persons who frequented the 
Court, or who came directly or indirectly under the influence of Court 
speech. The various Regional dialects, more or less modified doubtless 
by the habits in vogue at Court, as these filtered through the Universities, 
and some of the clergy, were still spoken by all classes in country districts. 
That many members of the country squire class still spoke Regional dialect 
well into the eighteenth century, and, in isolated instances, much later, is evi- 
dent from various sources. (See, however, pp. 163, 166-7, below.) Putten- 
ham, or whoever wrote The Arte of English Poesie (1580), recommends as 
the best type of English ' the vsual speach of the Court, and that of London 
and the shires lying about London within IX myles and not much aboue '. 
He remarks that ' Northern-men . . . whether they be noblemen or 
gentlemen, or of their best clarkes ', use a type of English which is ' not 
so Courtly nor so currant as our Southerne English is '. That is to say, 
the upper classes, and educated persons generally, in the provinces, do 
not speak Standard English, but their own Regional dialect. It is 
recorded that Sir Walter Raleigh spoke with a strong Devonshire accent. 

Already in the reign of Henry VIII people paid attention to the ' proper ' 
pronunciation of English, and we find Palsgrave (1530 and 1532) (see 
p. 198, below) referring with disapproval to a current pronunciation 
of the old short a, other than the ' true ' one. In a letter to ' his right 
honorable maister Mr. Thomas Crumwell chief Secretary vnto the Kings 
Maiestie ', Henry Dowes, the tutor of Gregory Cromwell, reports con- 
cerning that young gentleman's education, and refers to a certain Mr. 
Southwell ' dailie heringe hime to reade sumwhatt in thenglishe tongue, 
and advertisenge hime of the naturell and true kynde of pronuntiacon 
thereof. Now this talk of 'true pronunciation' as distinct from some 


other kind, is a new thing in English, and implies a definite recognition 
of a Standard form. 

Sir Thomas Elyot writes in his Gouernour : 

Hit shall be expedient that a noblemanes sonne in his infancie, haue with 
hym continually onely suche as may accustome hym by litle and litle to 
speake pure and elegant latin. Semblably the nourishes and other women 
aboute hym, if it be possible, to do the same; or, at the leste way that 
they speke none englisshe but that which is cleane, polite, perfectly and 
articulately pronounced, omittinge no lettre or sillable, as folisshe women 
oftentimes do of a wantonnesse, wherby diuers noble men and gentilmennes 
chyldren, (as I do at this daye knowej haue attained corrupte and foule 

It is characteristic of Henry VIII and of his children that they loved 
learning and that their Courts were the resort of scholars. Henry, whose 
most absorbing interests were matrimony and theology, was himself no 
mean scholar. Writing in 1550, Ascham says of King Edward VI (I use 
Giles's translation of the Latin, see Ascham's Works, vol. i, pp. Ixii and 
Ixiii), ' Our illustrious King Edward surpasses all men, as well as his own 
years, and every one's expectations, in talent, industry, perseverance, and 
learning '. Of Princess Elizabeth, then sixteen years of age, he says in 
the same letter ' There are many honourable ladies now who surpass 
Thomas More's daughters in all kinds of learning, but among all of them 
the brightest star is my illustrious Lady Elizabeth the King's sister : . . . 
she had me for her tutor in Greek and Latin for two years. . . . She talks 
French and Italian as well as English; she has often talked with me 
readily and well in Latin, and moderately so in Greek. When she 
writes Greek and Latin, nothing is more beautiful than her hand- 
writing', and so on. In view of Elizabeth's later tastes in dress, it is 
interesting to find Ascham saying, ' In adornment she is elegant rather 
than showy, and by her contempt of gold and head-dresses, she reminds 
one of Hippolite rather than of Phaedra'. Ascham's account, in his 
Scholemaster, of his visit to Lady Jane Grey at Leicester is well known, 
but a briefer reference to this event occurs in a letter to Sturm in 1550. 
'I found the noble damsel Oh ye gods! reading Plato's Phaedo in 
Greek, and so thoroughly understanding it, that she caused me the 
greatest astonishment ' (Giles, vol. i, p. Ixxi). In the same letter he 
refers to another learned lady, Mildred, daughter of Antony Cook (or 
Coke) and wife of William Cecil, who, he says, ' understands and talks 
Greek as well as English '. 

Harrison, in his Description of England, says of Elizabeth's Court : 
' The stranger that entereth in the court of England upon the sudden, 
shall rather imagine himselfe to come into some publike schoole of the uni- 
versities, where manie giue eare to one that readeth, than into a princes 
palace, if you conferre the same with those of other nations/ Holinshed, 
Vol. I, p. 196, Ed. of 1586. 

It is remarkable what a number of those who under the Tudors held 
great offices of State, were employed in some more or less responsible 
position about the Court, or who were sent on embassies abroad, were 
also distinguished in learning and literature. The gentle, saintly, and 
learned Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), the author of Utopia, was a sue- 


cessful barrister, a member of Parliament ; he served on various embassies 
abroad, was Speaker of the House of Commons, and Lord Chancellor of 
England. John Bourchier, second Baron Berners (1467-1 533), who in his 
noble translation of Froissart approaches nearer than any other writer of his 
age to the grand style in prose, was a soldier, a diplomatist, and Chancellor of 
the Exchequer ; he accompanied Henry at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. 
Sir Thomas Elyot (c. 1499-1546), author of the Gouernour, and friend of 
More, was Clerk to the Privy Council, M.P. for Cambridge, and was sent 
as ambassador to Charles V. Roger Ascham (1515-68), whose name 
is best remembered by his Toxophilus, a treatise on archery, and by the 
Schokmaster p , after being for many years a Cambridge don, was appointed 
tutor to Princess Elizabeth, was secretary to the English Ambassador to 
Charles V, Latin secretary to Queen Mary, and later on secretary to 
Queen Elizabeth. Sir John Cheke (1514-57), who very literally 'taught 
Cambridge and King Edward Greek', since he was Professor of that 
language in the University, and tutor to Edward VI, was Clerk of the 
Privy Council and a Secretary of State. Thomas Wilson (1525-81), 
author of the Arte of Rhetorique and the Rule of Reason, a writer of pure 
and unaffected English prose, was M.P., served on several foreign 
missions, and was a Secretary of State. Sir Thomas Smith (1513-77), 
author, in Latin, of a treatise De Recta et Emendala Linguae Anglicae 
Scriptione Dialogus, and, in English, of an admirable account of the 
English Constitution, De Republica Anglorum, was Regius Professor of 
Civil Law at Cambridge, Vice-Chancellor of the University, and Provost 
of Eton, was employed on foreign missions, and was ambassador in 
France in 1562. He left several entertaining private letters concerning 
his experiences abroad. Lastly, in considering the roll of scholar- 
statesmen, we may recall that Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam (1561-1626), 
was M.P. for Liverpool and other boroughs, was Attorney-General, 
Lord Keeper, and Lord Chancellor of England. 

But if the number of scholars and authors who took an active part in 
politics and the affairs of State is large, no less striking is the roll of those 
who, being of high birth, and courtiers, politicians, or soldiers by tradition 
and circumstances, also cultivated literature with enthusiasm and often 
with distinction. Of these it is sufficient to mention a few. Henry 
Howard, Earl of Surrey (c. 1517-47), one of the chief contributors to 
Tottel's Miscellany of Songes and Sonnet tes (1557), the translator of 
Books II and III of the Aeneid into blank verse, which does not, it is 
true, strike a very high poetic note : 

They whisted all, with fixed face attent, 
When prince ^Eneas from the royal seat 
Thus gan to speak: O Queen, it is thy will 
I should renew a woe cannot be told, 

and so on. Surrey wrote many poems besides those in Tottel, including 
paraphrases of Scripture and love poems, but his chief claim to be 
remembered as an author rests upon his introduction (along with Wyatt) 
of the sonnet into English. Perhaps the sonnet of Surrey's best worth 
remembering is that beginning : 

The soote season that bud and blome furth bringes. 


Like the work of nearly all the poets of the late fifteenth and early 
sixteenth century many of Surrey's lines appear to halt through uncer- 
tainty of accentuation, and of the number of syllables. The above line, 
for instance, requires the accent to be placed upon the second syllable of 
season, and, in the same sonnet, the line The swift swalow pursueth the 
fiyes smale, requires a strong stress on the second syllable of swalow, needs 
that pursueth should have only two syllables, and that in fiyes the flexional 
syllable (long lost in natural speech) should be pronounced. 

Such apparent anomalies are no doubt due to the fact that poets were 
torn between the old M.E. tradition of Chaucer, which preserved the 
unstressed flexional endings as separate syllables and often accented 
words like nature, sesoun, after the French method, upon the second 
syllable, and the modern colloquial usage in which the English manner 
of accentuation, upon the first syllable, was rapidly becoming the exclusive 
method, while the endings -ed, -es, &c., except in certain specific circum- 
stances, as at present had lost the vowel, and were no longer pronounced 
as separate syllables. There is reason to think that -es, the Possessive of 
Nouns, survived longer as a separate syllable than the same ending as 
a Plural (see pp. 314-15, 319, below). 

This accomplished and gallant gentleman fell a victim to the jealousy 
of ' that majestic lord ', Henry VIII. His romantic and unfortunate love 
for the fair Geraldine inspired Scott with one of his most moving ballads, 
while his genius, his valour, and his misfortunes called forth from the 
chivalrous poet that noble tribute which few now will care to challenge : 

The gentle Surrey loved his lyre- 
Who has not heard of Surrey's fame? 
His was the hero's soul of fire, 
And his the bard's immortal name, 
And his was love, exalted high 
By all the glow of chivalry. 

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42), the reputed lover of Anne Boleyn, also 
contributed to Tottel many love poems. To him perhaps belongs, rather 
than to Surrey, the honour of having written actually the first English 
sonnet, but he will be longest remembered by the lovely little song The 
louer complayneth the vnkmdnes of his loue, of which we may quote the best 
verses, that is, the first and the three last : 

My lute awake performe the last 
Labour that thou and I shall waste; 
And end that I haue now begonne : 
And when this song is song and past : 
My lute be styll for I haue done. 

May chance thee lie witherd and olde, 
In winter nightes that are so colde, 
Playning in vaine vnto the mone : 
Thy wishes then dare not be tolde. 
Care then who lest, for I haue done. 


And then may chance thee to repent 
The time that them hast lost and spent 
To cause thy louers sigh and swowne. 
Then shalt thou know beaute but lent, 
And wish and want as I haue done. 

Now cease my lute this is the last 
Labour that thou and I shall wast, 
And ended is that we begonne. 
Now is this song both song and past, 
My lute be still for I haue done. 

Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst and first Earl of Dorset (1536- 
1608), a cousin of Anne Boleyn, and the ancestor of the Dukes of 
Dorset, among many other offices, was M.P. before being raised to the 
peerage, a privy councillor, an ambassador, a commissioner at State 
trials, and to him fell the duty of announcing the death sentence to Mary 
Queen of Scots. He planned a great work, The Mir our for Magistrates, 
the object of which was to show ' by examples passed in this Realme, 
with how greevous plagues Vices are punished in great Princes and Magis- 
trates, and how frayle and unstable worldly prosperitie is found, where 
Fortune seemeth most highly to favour ', of which, unfortunately, he only 
had leisure to write the Introduction, or, as he calls it, the Induction, 
and the Complaint of the Duke of Buckingham. The work shows 
genuine poetic feeling and a fine facility for verse, as may be judged from 
the single stanza here quoted : 

And sorrowing I to see the summer flowers, 

The lively green, the lusty leas forlorn, 

The sturdy trees so shattered with the showers, 

The fields so fade that flourished so beforn, 

It taught me well, all earthly things be born 

To die the death, -for nought long time may last ; 

The summer's beauty yields to winter's blast. 

Sackville's position in the history of English literature is chiefly due, 
howeyer, to his being the part author of Gorboduc, the first English 
tragedy in blank verse, which was acted in 1561. Of this work it may 
be said that the last tvo acts, which critics attribute to Sackville, have 
considerably more poetic quality than the earlier ones by Thomas Norton ; 
the diction of the former is in the grand manner, and the ideas and 
images both noble and striking. The verse, however, though generally 
musical enough, has an air of strangeness, as of a first attempt, and 
rather suggests to the ear the effect of couplets with the rhymes left out. 

Of all the brilliant and memorable figures which made illustrious the 
age of Elizabeth, none is more romantic and attaching than that of the 
accomplished, the gallant, the chivalrous Sir Philip Sidney, whose name, 
indeed, and the splendid qualities of character and genius of which it has 
become the symbol, would lend a special dignity to any age and any 

Of all the writers of his class, traditions, and habitual occupations, his 
contribution to literature is, with the exception of Sir Walter Raleigh's, 
the most considerable in extent, and it is certainly among the most 
remarkable in quality. His Defense of Poesie is a classic, though, as 
Mr. Gosse excellently says, it ' labours under but one disadvantage, 


namely, that when it was composed in 1581, there was scarcely any poesy 
in England to be defended '. His gigantic, and to us perhaps somewhat 
tedious, pageantries of poems, Asfrop/iel and S/e//a,and those in \ht Arcadia, 
are nevertheless remarkable in the variety of their experiments in metre, and 
remain gorgeous, if somewhat unwieldy, relics of an age when even 
courtiers and captains took poetry seriously. Sidney's poetical industry 
was untiring he was indeed, as he says, ' admitted into the company of 
the paper-blurrers ' he attained a wonderful mastery of technique, and if 
none of his sonnets are among the best in the language, there is certainly 
no other writer, outside the great masters, who has produced so many 
of such a high degree of excellence. But Sidney is, above all things, 
a great English gentleman ' I say that my chiefest honour is to be 
a Dudley ' and our immediate point is that being this, and all that it 
implied in his age, he loved poetry and practised it assiduously. Were 
it only for the manner of his death it would be ' vain to praise, and use- 
less to blame him '. 

Nor had ' the noble and valorous Sir Walter Raleigh ', as Spenser calls 
him, a career less romantic and picturesque than Sidney's, though less 
happy in the manner of his death. As a writer he was far more volumi- 
nous. The son of a Devonshire gentleman, born about 1552, he was at 
Oriel College, sailed with his half-brother, the famous Sir Humphrey 
Gilbert, was at Court, in high favour with the Queen, from whom he 
obtained several grants of land, married Elizabeth Throckmorton, went 
in search of treasure in the New World and failed to find it, fought at 
Cadiz and at the Azores with distinction, was tried for high treason under 
James I, found guilty on the flimsiest evidence, sentenced to death with 
all the hideous circumstances associated at that time with such a sen- 
tence and such a crime ; was reprieved, and after living for thirteen years 
with his wife, in the Tower, was at last set free. His insatiable spirit of 
adventure led him once more to make a voyage to Orinoco, lured by 
dreams of fabulous wealth to be found in the mines of El Dorado. This 
expedition was equipped by Raleigh himself, who realized all his own 
and his wife's property for the purpose. It was largely manned by 
gentlemen adventurers, most of whom were Sir Walter's kinsmen. 
Disaster by storm and sickness dogged his steps, and while he was ill 
from fever his captain, Kemis. to whom the command of the expedition 
passed, destroyed the Spanish settlement of San Tome, thus breaking 
Raleigh's solemn agreement with James to engage in no hostilities with 
the Spaniards. In this assault, his eldest son ' having ', as he says, ' more 
desire of honor then of safety was slaine, with whome (to say the 
truth) all respect of the world hath taken end in me '. After this the 
crews became demoralized and there was nothing for it but to return to 
England. He was soon arrested ; he had failed to find the treasure, and 
he had, through his lieutenant's action, broken faith. After spending 
a short period in the Tower, the once gay and splendid Raleigh died 
on the scaffold by virtue of his former sentence, in 1 6 1 8. 

Raleigh left some poems of great merit, though many have been lost ; 
among those which survive a few may be recalled : the fine sonnet begin- 
ning Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay, and the Farewell, 
a poem of thirteen verses, of which the first runs 


Go, soul, the body's guest 
Upon a thankless errand ; ' 
Fear not to touch the best ; 
The truth shall be thy warrant. 
Go, since I needs must die, 
And give them all the lie. 

Equally memorable is the short poem supposed to have been written 
on the night before his execution : 

Even such is time that takes on trust 
Our youth, our joys, our all we have, 
And pays us but with age and dust; 
Who in the dark and silent grave, 
When we have wandered all our ways, 
Shuts up the story of our days ! 
But from this earth, this grave, this dust, 
My God shall raise me up I trust. 

These, if indeed they are by Raleigh, show the touch of a true poet 
and craftsman. 

But Raleigh is chiefly known to us as a writer of prose, and of this 
he was a consummate master. Besides the ambitious History of the 
Worl^ which occupies six large volumes in the Oxford Edition of 
Raleigh's works of 1829, Sir Walter wrote many other essays upon 
historical, political, constitutional, and geographical subjects, as well as 
a Discourse upon the invention of ships, and Observations on the Navy and 
Sea Service. 

We cannot forbear giving a short example of his prose style. The 
magnificent passage ' O eloquent, just, and mighty Death !' which closes 
the History of the World, is commonly quoted and well known. We 
select, therefore, from that most fascinating of travellers' tales, the Dis- 
covery of Guiana, a passage in a very different key. 

' That cassique that was a stranger had his wife staying at the port where 
we anchored ; and in all my life I have seldom seen a better favoured 
woman : she was of good stature, with black eyes, fat of body, of an 
excellent countenence, her hair almost as long as herself, tied up again in 
pretty knots ; and it seemed she stood not in that awe of her husband 
as the rest ; for she spake and discoursed, and drank among the gentle- 
men and captains, and was very pleasant, knowing her own comeliness, 
and taking great pride therein. I have seen a lady in England so like 
her, as but for the difference of colour I would have sworn might have 
been the same.' 

Aubrey said of Raleigh that he was ' a tall, handsome, and bold man, 
but damnable proud'. The same authority states that he heard from 
Sir Thomas Malet, one of the justices of the King's Bench, who had 
known Sir Walter, ' that notwithstanding his so great mastership in style, 
and his conversation with the learnedest and politest persons, yet he 
spoke broad Devonshire to his dyeing day. His voice was small, as 
likewise were my schoolfellows his gr. nephews.' 

Such were some of the figures that distinguished the Court of Elizabeth 
and her immediate predecessors. They have been dwelt upon here thus 
far because the intimate union of learning and literature with action, in the 
field, upon the high seas, or in the council chamber, is of vital importance 


for our present study. The Greek professor in the University is no musty 
pedant living immersed in books and remote from life. He stands before 
kings and is not ashamed ; he conducts delicate negotiations at his own 
and in foreign Courts. The professor of Civil Law knows at first hand 
the working of the Law which he expounds, he is in touch with living 
problems of the constitution, and sees history and legislation in the 
making. He must cultivate those graces of manner and speech which 
alone can commend learning to the truly discerning and polite. On the 
other hand, the courtier, and the statesman by profession, the gallant 
soldier, and the adventurous sea-rover, are not mere fops, cut-throats, or 
quarter-deck desperadoes. They can turn a sonnet as easily as a compli- 
ment, they discuss a trope as eagerly as a treaty, they play pranks with 
metres with as much zest as with the Spaniards ; the future of Poesie 
interests them as keenly as the fate of nations, and they handle a pen as 
deftly as they do the lance or the tiller. Literature is not the property 
of a tribe of helots living in obscure corners and speaking a strange 
jargon, but the common heritage and patrimony of those who are living 
and doing, and who speak a tongue that all men use. The scholar and 
the great writer appeal not merely to a few choice souls in garrets or in 
pothouses ; they know that the men of action, who are themselves 
writers, will hear them, understand their ' great language ' and cherish it ; 
for are not these same men of action also craftsmen and explorers, not in 
strange lands and seas only, but in prose and verse as well ? 

Ascham can write to Sir William Cecil in 1548 : 'I hope you will devote 
some of your time to cultivate the English tongue, so that men might 
understand that even our language allows a man to write in it with 
beauty and eloquence.' To what purpose the writing of English was 
cultivated by several of Cecil's sort we know. It is not without signifi- 
cance that Ascham was reputed to be addicted to cock-fighting, which he 
says is ' of all kinds of pastime, fit for a gentleman '. Here was the kind 
of man whom a gentleman might trust in graver matters ! 

Now it is not for nothing that matters stood thus between the men of 
letters and the courtiers and explorers in the age when Literary English 
was being made, or rather, let us say, when English speech was being put 
to new uses, and made to express in all its fullness the amazing life of 
a wonderful age, with all its fresh experiences, thoughts, and dreams. 

If any one doubts whether the language of Elizabethan literature was 
actually identical with that of everyday life, or whether it was not rather 
an artful concoction, divorced from the real life of the age, let him, after 
reading something of the lives and opinions of a few of the great men we 
have briefly referred to, ask himself whether the picture of Ascham, 
Wilson, Sidney, or Raleigh posturing and mouthing like the Delia 
Cru scans of a later age, is a conceivable one. 

Better still, let him compare the colloquial language of the sixteenth 
century, as it is found in the private letters of men and women of all ranks 
and occupations, with that of the works of literature of the same period. 
The more the colloquial and literary types of the sixteenth century are 
studied side by side, the more clearly does the essential unity of the 
language appear. 

When we consider the various kinds of eminence collected together at 


Queen Elizabeth's Court, the mental and literary attainments of many of 
the foremost men, and the general standard of taste and refinement 
among the courtiers of that age, we shall assert that the English which 
they spoke was not merely reputed the best type, but that it actually was 
the best attainable. We shall not assent to the view that certain habits 
in this politest form of Elizabethan speech, the outcome of natural lingu- 
istic tendencies, which are different from those now prevalent among the 
best speakers, are ' slipshod ', merely because a later age, wishing to be 
more ' correct ', has discarded them. If the speech of the great men we 
have been considering was unaffected and natural, it certainly was not 
vulgar. If it be vulgar to say whot for hot, stap for stop, offen for often, 
sarvice for service, venter for venture ; if it be slipshod to say Wensday for 
Wednesday, beseechin for beseeching, stricly for strictly, sounded for swooned, 
aitemps for attempts, and so on ; then it is certain that the Queen herself, and 
the greater part of her Court, must plead guilty to these imputations in 
some or all of the above instances. The absurdity of such a contention 
is manifest, and it will not be seriously made by those who are properly 
informed of the facts. 

Before we examine in some detail the peculiarities in the writings of 
some typical authors of this age, there are one or two general questions 
which fall to be discussed. 

We have seen that the language of the Court was recognized by 
Puttenham as the best type of spoken English, and that that type is also 
recommended for the use of writers. We have contended in the fore- 
going pages that the colloquial Court English was as a matter of fact 
used by writers, whether learnt from books or by actual personal ex- 
perience and usage. The existence of a Standard, both in speaking and 
writing, and that the same Standard, has been assumed as established 
beyond cavil. This Standard was used, as far as possible, in writing, 
even by those who did not conform to it in speech. The more oppor- 
tunities the writer had for being acquainted with Court English the nearer 
was the English of his literary works to that Standard. The individualism 
in spelling which still to a certain extent prevailed in the sixteenth century, 
enables us to collect from written works, to a far higher degree than at 
present, the individual habits of speech which the writer possessed. The 
result of an examination of the writings, both private and published, of 
this age, from this point of view, is that we see that there existed there 
a greater degree of variety in speech both in pronunciation and in gram- 
matical forms than exists now. Such variety is found among persons of 
the same kind of education and social standing, possessing equal opportu- 
nities of hearing and using the Court dialect. This shows that Court 
English was by no means so uniform as present-day Received Standard, 
and, since the relation between a man's mode of speech and his manner of 
writing was extremely intimate, the language of literature also was still 
liable to variation. Such is a brief summary of what we have so far arrived at. 

The question arises, How far are the apparent varieties the result of 
Regional, and how far of Social, speech habits? It is admitted that 
varieties of the former kind are not very common or numerous. But if 
they are due to social causes, may they not, in the printed works of the 
period at least, be the work of the printer ? An interesting investigation 


would be to show how far the printer of this period followed, in the main at 
any rate, the author's manuscript, and how far he departed from it and 
introduced his own spelling. Perhaps some day, when research in these 
questions of the history of our native language is properly organized in 
this country, some one will carry out such an investigation among 
many others. In the meantime we can only argue from what we know. 

It might be contended that while a polite and fastidious Court would 
tolerate a rustic mode of speech as indeed it must have borne with 
Raleigh's Devonshire accent it would reprobate and ostracize persons 
who spoke with the accent, or otherwise after the fashion, of a lower 
social stratum. It is one thing to listen to a gentleman using the dialect, 
or a modified form of it, from his native county ; it is quite another thing, 
and far less bearable, to hear the eccentricities of the Custard Makers' 
wives, and Sunday Citizens of London Town. But is it not more likely 
therefore, it may be asked, that those varieties found in printed books, in 
so far as they are not of Regional origin, are in reality not those of the 
writers' own speech, when these were in a position to know how people 
spoke at Court, but mere vulgarisms of the printers ? Are we justified in 
attributing to the writers many of the peculiarities of pronunciation, &c., 
that occur in printed works, and in drawing conclusions from them as to 
the speech of the author himself? 

It certainly makes an enormous difference whether we are being 
let into the secrets of the habits of speech of Latimer, Wilson, and 
Ascham, or only into those of some unknown and humble compositor. 

In this work it is assumed that we are entitled to take the printed 
books as reflecting the actual speech of the authors themselves, and that 
for the following reasons : 

(1) The varieties referred to, while as a rule they do not suggest any 
specifically Regional origin, are not, so far as can be judged, of the nature 
of vulgarisms. For the most part they consist merely in differences of 
distribution of elements which we know to have existed originally in the 
dialect of London. 

(2) If the varieties in the language of printed works were solely or 
chiefly the work of the printers, we should expect definite vulgarisms such 
as are found habitually used in Machyn's Diary. 

(3) The same varieties are found in private letters of the period which 
were not printed at all for hundreds of years afterwards. 

(4) The same, or similar, diversities in pronunciation may be inferred 
from the statements of writers upon English pronunciation such as 
Palsgrave, Salesbury, and Smith. 

(5) The printers are unlikely to introduce, of themselves, any con- 
siderable novelties in spelling. They are conservative and conventional, 
and follow the main lines of the old scribal tradition. It is more likely 
that they would eliminate the ' incorrect ' spellings of the authors' manu- 
script than introduce these themselves. 

(6) The individualities found in the printed works, as in the private 
letters, are not all concerned with pronunciation, but include also 
differences in the use of grammatical forms. These the printer would 
hardly alter. 

From these considerations, and also^ from the impression of con- 


sistency and genuineness produced by the perusal of a large number of 
sixteenth-century published books, an effect which it is very difficult to 
analyse, the present writer is convinced that we are justified in regarding 
the outstanding linguistic features in printed literature of this period as 
really reflecting the individualities of the authors, and not of the printers. 
If the language of books is less individual than that of private letters, it is 
because in writing a serious literary work, destined for the public, the 
author was less unrestrained and followed the conventional spelling of 
the day rather an elastic one at the best, or the worst more rigidly 
than in familiar correspondence. 

Writers vary, even in their letters, in the degree and frequency of their 
departures from the normal spelling, and it is true, on the whole, that 
academic writers and ecclesiastics adhere more rigidly to a conventional, 
and therefore an unenlightening spelling than the pure man of action or 
the courtier. But even within these classes there are persons who are more 
precise than others. Thus the sermons of Latimer, though preached 
before the King, are much less orthodox, and therefore more interesting, 
in spelling, style, and thought, than those of John Fisher, Bishop of 
Rochester. Ascham is less conventional than More or Sir Thomas 
Smith ; Wolsey, Cromwell, Cranmer, Burghley, and Bacon are more so 
in their letters than Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Admiral Lord Seymour, or 
Queen Elizabeth. The letters of women, as we saw in the fifteenth century, 
and shall see again in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, are far less 
carefully spelt as a rule than those of men, and tell us more concerning 
their actual mode of speech. 

The next point is, granting that the occasional spellings really mean 
something, and that they really express the writers' own speech, how far 
we shall go in the inferences we draw in regard to this. It must be 
made clear that the phonetic spellings, which we advisedly call occasional 
spellings, are rarely consistently used by the same writer, even for the 
same word. Now if we find the spelling sarvts, &c., we may quite safely 
assume that the writer pronounced in the first syllable a vowel which, 
whatever its precise nature, was better expressed in that way than by the 
spelling -er-. But supposing, as often happens, the same writer also puts 
down servis in the same letter or document. Are we to assume that he, 
or she, used two pronunciations of the same word ? I think not, and 
should conclude that a single such departure from the traditional spelling of 
a word would show that this was the type of pronunciation employed by 
that writer. If not, and if the traditional spelling expressed his pronuncia- 
tion best, why should he ever depart from it? A much more difficult 
question is this. Suppose a writer spells sarvt's, hard 'heard', dark, 
szvarve, dark, &c., each of them once, or many times, whence we conclude 
that, in those particular words, he certainly pronounced -ar-, but always 
werk ' work ', swerd ' sword ', ferm ' farm ', sermon, never writing -ar- in 
these words, are we to extend the -ar- pronunciation to these and all the 
other words belonging to the old -er- group, and assume that this writer 
pronounced -ar- here as well, although he never happens to lapse from 
the traditional spelling in their case ? 

If London polite English had ever hitherto been a uniform dialect, or 
had become so by the sixteenth century, we should certainly answer this 


question in the affirmative. But we know that this was very far from 
being so. The axiom of philological method that in the same dialect, at 
a given time, the same sound or combination of sounds, under the same 
conditions, changes everywhere in the same direction, cannot be applied 
to such a dialect as Standard English without many reserves and qualifica- 
tions. It is enough to point out that at the present time, although we 
pronounce -ar- in clerk, hearth, heart, &c., we do not do so in earth, 
service, heard, &c. We have here, as in so many other instances, a double 
usage within what was originally a single class of words. This duality may 
have existed, and almost certainly did exist in the sixteenth century in the 
clerk, learn, heart class, as it did in many other classes of words having 
originally the same sound. There is no doubt that by the end of the 
sixteenth century a very large proportion of words of the old -er- class 
were pronounced with -ar- by good speakers. On the other hand, this 
is probably one of the cases in which latitude was allowed, and it is 
perhaps safer to assume an -ar- pronunciation only for those words in 
which it is actually proved by occasional or consistent spellings. We may 
think it highly probable that a speaker said -ar- in many words in which 
he only writes -er indeed the rhymes in this and the succeeding cen- 
turies go far to prove that this was so, but in the absence of either spelling or 
rhyme it is perhaps temerarious to assert it as a fact for a given writer 
or speaker. We shall give later a list of all the words for which the -ar- 
pronunciation is proved, in one or other of these two ways, and it will be 
seen that almost every word of the class was so pronounced, at one 
time or another, by at least some speakers. 

The principles which are advocated in regard to the interpretation of 
such occasional spellings as sarvis, &c., should be applied to all classes 
of words of which such spellings are found. If we content ourselves with 
saying that some undoubted speakers of Court or Standard English, at 
a given time, pronounced such and such words in this or that way, 
because their occasional spellings show this, we are safe, and are not 
going beyond what can be proved. But even this moderate statement 
involves the further conclusion that such isolated pronunciations, as they 
may appear to be, were at least tolerated among speakers of Standard, 
and that therefore they cannot have been mere eccentric individual 
vagaries. They must have been shared by a large number of speakers 
of the same social position, that is, they were current among these 
speakers, though not necessarily to the exclusion of other types of pro- 
nunciation. We have remarked above that even at the present time, 
when the degree of latitude in Received Standard is comparatively limited, 
we have two types of pronunciation equally current in certain cases, 
sometimes in isolated words, such as girl, when both [geal] and [gAl] 
are equally * good ', the former being perhaps rather old-fashioned now, 
sometimes in a whole class of words, e. g. those which have an old 
short o before s,f, th, where both [/] and the lengthened [5] are equally 
current [bs 15s, s^ft soft, kb]> k!5J>]. 

The sources of such divergence may be either Social or Regional 
dialect, or the coexistence at the same time of an older and a younger 
type of pronunciation within the same period. 

In the above remarks we have stated the weight to be attached to the 


occasional spellings at a minimum, as it would be a mistake to urge 
evidence of this kind too far, or to attempt to construct too much upon 
it. It cannot be denied, however, that the testimony of these spellings is 
cumulative, and the effect of a considerable collection of them, drawn from 
all kinds of sources, is impressive, and gives a consistent picture of the 
average speech of the time, one which is supported by the statements 
of the more intelligible writers upon pronunciation, and by the known 
facts of English pronunciation in its later developments. 

This is a convenient occasion to say something concerning the 
Orthoepists, as they are called, of this and later times. Since the pioneer 
work of Ellis and Sweet in the last century, writers upon the history of 
English have attached enormous weight to the statements of the writers 
upon English pronunciation from the sixteenth century downwards, and 
to within the last few years these statements, together with the evidence of 
rhymes, were almost the sole, certainly the principal, basis upon which 
conclusions as to the character of English pronunciation in past ages were 
built. The opinion of the majority of students of English would probably 
still approve this method. From this starting-point Ellis and Sweet had 
constructed a very definite picture of the sounds of our language in the 
past, and later investigators have worked on precisely the same lines. 
Quite recently, however, Zachrisson has appealed also to the testimony 
of the occasional spellings, with the result that the views handed on by the 
great pioneers have been to some extent modified. The works of the 
Orthoepists themselves have been reprinted and subjected to a fresh 
scrutiny and critical analysis. It is, however, true that hitherto writers 
upon the history of Modern English have relied mainly upon the 
Orthoepists, and have only used comparatively slight collections of actual 
forms taken from contemporary literature as a kind of secondary luxury. 
Now the view which we hold regarding the relative importance of the 
two sources of information is likely to vary according to the amount of 
first-hand information which we have of each or both. 

After considerable study, on the one hand, of the writings of the old 
Orthoepists, of the exhaustive, and often very tedious, disquisitions which 
have been written upon them, and, on the other, of a large number of 
works of all kinds written during the fifteenth and following centuries, 
the present writer confesses that he now leans definitely to the view that the 
path of progress lies in the minute study of the letters and books written 
in the periods under consideration, rather than in that of reiterated tor- 
turing and weighing of the descriptions given by the writers on pronun- 
ciation. When we find that these writers invariably start from the 
' letters ' and proceed to discuss the ' powers ' of these, that their descrip- 
tions of the sounds are, for the most part, entirely dominated by the 
relation, real or fancied, of these to the letters, and are almost always 
most vague and indefinite, so that, for instance, we can rarely be sure, 
when a writer speaks of a diphthong, whether he means simply a 
combination of two letters, or whether he is really thinking of a combina- 
tion of two sounds, we are filled with something like despair of ever 
arriving at any clear ideas at all, if these writers are to be our principal 

When we turn from what these men have written to what other men 

I 2 


have written about them, the effect is, if possible, even more dismal. The 
essential inadequacy of most of the old would-be describers of English 
sounds for their task is most painfully brought out by the extreme 
ambiguity which the commentators discover in their writings. The 
simplest fact of pronunciation is usually so darkly and mysteriously set 
forth, that the explanation is frequently far longer than the original state- 
ment ; the critic has to turn and twist this in many directions to make 
it mean anything definite, and often to perform prodigies of legerdemain 
to make it mean what he thinks it ought to mean. Then again, some 
critics are anxious to square all the contemporary statements regarding 
a particular vowel, so that they shall all mean the same thing, regardless 
of the fact that writers of the same period often appear to be describing 
quite different sounds in the same word. Other editors of, and writers 
upon, particular Orthoepists are so carried away by the supposed claim of 
their pet author to be authoritative, that they set his particular bundle of 
ambiguities, or rather their own interpretation of them, up as the standard 
for the period, although other contemporary writers, no less obscure, 
appear to say something directly opposed. As a rule, it is impossible to 
assert with confidence that such and such an old writer definitely says 
that such and such a vowel had a particular sound ; all we can be sure of 
is that his editor or commentator thinks that he says so. The seeds of 
madness lie in all this. 

I believe we shall have to change our views of the importance of the 
old writers, and put the study of the private letters and the books written 
and printed in the period which we are studying first, and that we should 
only apply to the writers on pronunciation after we have extracted all the 
information we can get from the former source. When we find the state- 
ments of the old grammarians in opposition (in so far as we understand 
them) to the plain facts, as revealed again and again by the occasional 
spellings, we shall, I believe, do well to disregard the former, and be 
guided by the latter. 

No one who has studied the English of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries in the texts of this period, rather than in the pages of the gram- 
marians, will doubt that these writers have grievously misled those who 
trusted them so implicitly, with regard to the chronology of the vowel 
changes, while they leave us almost entirely in the lurch with regard to 
the pronunciation of vowels in unstressed syllables, and to that of many 
important consonant combinations. 

We hasten to say that there is a great variety of merit, or demerit, 
among the old Orthoepists ; some are fairly intelligent in their method, 
really seem to know the difference between sounds and letters, and to 
have some capacity for discriminating and describing the former ; some 
are almost worthless from these points of view ; all are disappointing in 
some particular. 

Nor is this to be wondered at. At the present time in England, after 
several generations of scientific Phonetics, the number of men who could 
give a complete and intelligible description of the sounds of our native 
language is extremely small. Every year books upon English Grammar 
are still published in which the accounts given of actual English pronuncia- 
tion are useless to every one, from the complete ignorance of the writers 


regarding the nature, mode of production, the principles of classification, 
and transcription of sound. 

It is not surprising that between three and four hundred years ago 
there were writers equally ignorant of the elements of phonetic descrip- 
tion, nor that, given such ignorance, their efforts should have been 
failures as dismal as those of their modern fellow-craftsmen. 

The most that the best of the old writers do, is to put us on the 
track of changes that have taken place, and are well established before 
their time, but they are nearly always reluctant to admit any great diver- 
gence between actual pronunciation and the supposed legitimate 
1 powers of the letters ' a phrase we get positively sick of in the seven- 
teenth century. The result is that the descriptions are always some way 
behind the facts, or made to square with the traditional spelling so that 
they are quite misleading. Thus, although it is fairly certain that M.E. 
short a had developed into its present sound in some parts of England 
before the end of the fifteenth century, and that the new sound was used 
among good speakers long before the end of the sixteenth century, it 
took the Orthoepists about [a ^hundred years to find this out and to 
describe the sound as it really was. Again, while long a (as in bake, 
&c.) was well on the way to its present sound before the beginning of 
the sixteenth century, Gill, in 1621, ridicules those who use the new 
sound as vulgar and affected innovators, maintaining that the real sound 
was still old long a. Perhaps the most useful part of the work of most 
of the writers on pronunciation is the lists which they give of words 
having the same sound, which at least enable us to ascertain the dis- 
tribution of the sound, even if they give us no very definite idea of what 
the sound was. 

These remarks apply especially to sixteenth-century writers, and to those 
of the first quarter or so of the seventeenth. After that date the Orthoepists 
are more helpful, though they still leave much to be desired. See Ch. V 
on some later writers. 

We shall now give a short account of the language of a few typical per- 
sonages of the sixteenth century. We base our present observations for the 
most part upon published works, since these being more extensive than 
letters afford more copious material for a general survey of the language , 
although they may not be so fruitful in the occasional spellings. The 
account of Queen Elizabeth's language is based upon several collections 
of her letters, and upon her translations from the classics a work of no 
great literary merit, however praiseworthy it may be as showing industry 
and a love of learning. The private letters of the sixteenth century will 
be referred to later in our systematic general survey of the development 
of sounds and grammatical forms from the fifteenth century onwards. 

We begin here with Lord Berners' translation of Froissart, using 
Vol. I of Professor Ker's edition of this great work. 


(a) Vowels. O.E. jp occurs with all three types : hylles, hyrdell, 
stirr ' stir ', shitte ' shut ' ; yvel ' evil ' ; businesse, buryed, brused (long j), 
moche l much ' ; t>esynes(se) (very frequent), sterre ' stir '. 

e for z'is found \njebet ' gibbet ', suspeciously, hedeouse ' hideous ', mengled 


' mingled '. M.E. -er- occurs both as -er- and -ar-. We give here only 
the more remarkable words, as the complete list will be given later (p. 2 1 7). 
With -er- : clerkes, herte (also harte), swerd ' sword ', ferr (and farr 
1 far ', clergy ; with -ar- : harte (also herte), harde ( heard ', farr (and 
ferr), wark, defarre ' defer ', armyns ' ermines ', darth ' dearth ', swarved 
' swerved '. The Southern form (fr. O.E. ) occurs in drad P. P. 

* dreaded ', but spredde P. P. M.E. a has apparently been fronted in 
renk ' rank ' (twice). M.E. e has been raised to *, as is shown by the 
occasional spellings achyved, relyve, belyved ' believed '. 

M.E. o is unrounded in yander ' yonder '. The common sixteenth- 
century Busshoppe, with rounding after b, occurs. Earlier e before ng 
becomes I : Ingland. The old short form survives in wyckes ' weeks ', 
M.E. wike. 

M.E. eu is monophthongized to e before a following lip-consonant : 
Beamond ' Beaumont ', M.E. Beumont ; Beachame. Initial e in erthe 
appears j ; - myerih, a common sixteenth-century spelling. 

(b) Consonants. Addition of a final parasitic Cons, occurs in * the 
quene kneld downed '. Loss of a final Cons, occurs in Beamon (by the 
side of Beamond) ; loss of / in an unstressed syllable occurs in hosieries. 

(f) Unstressed Syllables. There are not so many spellings indi- 
cating the treatment of unstressed syllables as in many other works, but 
the following may be noted : the diphthongs at, et, monophthongized in 
battel (by the side of batayle\ certenly (by the side of cerfeinly), appareled 
(by the side of aparailed), travell and traveled (by side of travailed with 
same meaning), rascalle (and rascaille), counsele (and counsaile), burgesses. 
The form mentayne ( maintain ' shows weakening of the unstressed first 

The old suffix -es in the PI. of Nouns is often written -is -feaiis, 
changis,frendis, &c., sometimes -es lordes, clerkes, and the vowel is often 
omitted barouns, archers, &c. The Superl. suffix is sometimes written 
-yst wekyst. In the P. P. of Wk. Vbs. both -yd and -ed occur, but the 
vowel may be omitted as at present in unharnest. 

Old ui (= [y]) is unrounded as in btsket, bisquet ' biscuit'. 

Examples of confusion of vowels, showing reduction in the unstressed 
syllable, are discomfe/ure, comen ' common ', but commonly, astate, aspeciall, 
ascaped. y is very common in final syllables before all Cons. helmyttes, 
opyn ' open ' passim, sadyls. 

Initially an unstressed vowel is lost in poyntment l appointment ', ' great 
rayne and a clyps '. Of occurs as a in men a warre, and the Auxil. have 
in wolde a bene. 

The suffixes -ier, -eour become ~er, -our respectively in fronters 

* frontiers ', barrers ' barriers ', currers ' couriers ', behauour * behaviour '. 

Inflexion of Nouns. 

The suffix of the PI. often loses its vowel when the Noun ends in -n or 
-r barouns, strangers, susters. 

On the variants -es and -*>, see under Unstressed Syllables. 

The Wk. Pls.^ and eyen ' eyes ', kyen ' cows '. 

Irregular : brethern, womenne, children. 

Invariables : xxui Englisshe myle, a thousand horse = horsemen, 


Pis. with voicing of/ lyves, wyves, but wifes is also found. 

Fossessives. Note the construction frendis of the erle of Arundels. 

The following uninflected : old Feminines Mary Maudlyn day, our 
lady day ; when the second noun begins with s by ^& father syde. 

Group Possessives : the kynge of Englandes homage, the lorde of 
Mannes quarrell, Sir Gaultier of Mannes fader, the kyng of Englandes 
doughter. The older construction, the kynges doughter of Englande, also 

Adjectives. The French PI. in -s occurs in letters patentes. 

Mutated Comparatives : lengar, strenger. 

Superlative suffix contracted after s- : outragyoust, ungracyoust. 

Comparative suffix preceded by more: more stronger, the more 

Superlative suffix preceded by most : moost neweste and secrettest, the 
moost outragyouste people, the moost ungracyoust of all. 

Adverbs : a foote, a horse backe (a = earlier on). 

Pronouns. The srd Pers. PI. seems to have only the th- forms they, 
theyr, theym, them. In the 2nd PI. Berners always distinguishes between 
Nom.^ and Possess, and The Possess, of 2nd PI. has -s in final 
position the noble and gentyl kyng of yours. The Neuter Pron. is 
commonly it, but hit is also found. 

The Def. Art. elides the vowel before words beginning with another 
vowel thentent, t hot her, &c. &c. 

Verbal Endings. The 3rd Pers. Sing. Pres. Indie, always ends in -th. 

The Pres. PI. often has the Southern -th suffix : other thynges lyeth 
at my hert, your knightes abideth for you to wasshe, what weneth the 
Frenchmen ?, their husbandes payeth. The P. P. of Strong Vbs. gene- 
rally ends in -en, but gotte, won, fought, occur ; the Pres. Part, ends 
in -yng. 

The Strong Vbs. call for little remark. The following forms may be 
noted : gyve, gave, gyven ; the Prets. strake, spake, brake, drave (analogy 
of gave, &c.), fyll ' fell ' (as in Chaucer), though fell is commoner, 
sirave 1 strove ',flang ' flung ', gatte. 

Auxiliaries. The PI. of be is ben, are, ar, &c. Will is always wol. 
Have becomes a when unstressed : ther might a ben sene ; the kyng 
wolde nat a consented. 

Constructions and Phrases. The following may be noted : I can 
you good thanke ; we knowe at this day, no persone in the worlde that 
we lovethe preferment of, so much as yours. 

The old double negative is still used : ther needeth nat to make no 
provisyon for their hoost. 

Characteristics of the Language of Sir Thomas 
Elyot's * Gouernour '. 


M.E. -er- so written in erthe, hertes, serue, ferre, lernyng, herbes, 
kerumge, herde 'heard', derke, sterres 'stars', ferme (fr. Elyot's Will), 

M.E. er appears as -ar- in hartes, warres ' wars ', warke, stare ' starling ', 
darke, parson ' person ' (Elyot's Will). 


O.E. y appears as e in ketchyn, stereth l stirs ', stere Inf., kendled ' kindled ', 
euil] the u- type is found in sue he, buyldynge, thursty, ihurst ; the only i- 
form appears to be iuel. 

O.E. 3e l shows the Southern type (shortened) in lasse ' less ', praty 
' pretty ', radde passim ' advised ', &c., dradde Adj. and P. P. ; the non- 
Southern type appears in lesse, redde, drede (Noun). 

M.E. /written e in sens ' since ' ; Early M.E. i lengthened in open sylla- 
ble : weete ' to know ' ; short i retained in wike ' week '. 

The combination -and- appears as -ond- : londes (Will), hondes (Will). 

The Northern form of O.E. a apparently occurs in drane ' drone '. 

Before -r a glide was pronounced after a long vowel or diphthong as 
at present : hiare ' hire '. The inverted spelling man/ton ' mention ' 
probably points to M.E. short a having a fronted pronunciation as at 
present day. 


Omission of Cons, occurs in : chylhode ' childhood ', shud ' should '. 

ng becomes n before -th- : strenthe ' strength '. 

Addition of final consonant in fesaunt. 

Sound expressed by gh lost before -/ lyte ' light '. The same fact is 
proved by the spellings dought * doubt ', and cloughtes ' clouts ', where no 
sound could have been intended to be expressed by gh. 

Unvoicing of b before / is seen in optaine ( obtain '. 

Unstressed Syllables. 

Flexional suffixes constantly written -*- : the Pis. her sis t versis, 
princts, menaces, si'ckenessis, &c. 

Other endings : askidist ' askedst ', causid P. P., haruist ' harvest '. 

The diphthong ei simplified police ' palace ', M.E. paleis. 

Hesitation, pointing to a ' neutral ' vowel in the unstressed syllable, is 
seen in : writars ' writers ', redar ' reader ', Italions ' Italians ', burgine 
' burgeon ', profest ' provost ' (this, however, is a M.E. spelling). 

Loss of syllable is seen in robbry ' robbery '. 


In words ending in -/ this often remains before the Plural suffix : 
wolfesj lyfes, our self es, wifes (Will). 

On the other hand, the PI. of hoof is hoeues. 

Weak Pis. eien 'eyes' (also eies\ All Soulen College (Will), shone 
' shoes '. 

Irregular Pis. chyldren, bretherne^ bredern (Will), wemen and women. 

The old Neuter thing remains invariable to loue god ofwhome wehaue 
all thinge. 


The Adjective follows the Noun occasionally, as in French : beastes 
sauage, actes martially spirites vitall 

The Adjective takes -s in PI. in the legal phrase heires males (Will). 
Most is used as an Adjective in her mooste discomforte. 



These are as at the present time, except that hit is still used occasion- 
ally, the Possess. Neuter is his ; ye Nom,, and you Ace. and Dat, are 

Verbal Endings. 

The 3rd Pers. Pres. Sing, always ends in -th. The Pres. PI. generally 
ends in e, that is, has no ending, but the Southern -th forms are not in- 
frequent : harts lepeth, people takethe comforte, after exploitures hapneth 
occasions, &c. The Sing, of the Vb. is used after both bothe the body and 
the soul is deformed. In Strong Vbs. the -n of the P. P. ending seems 
almost invariably to be retained -founden (also founde\ yoten ' poured ', 
comen, songen ' sung ', holpen, &c. The old E. Midland forms chese and 
lese ' choose, lose ' are kept ; the Pret. of the former is chase ; that of 
fight isfaughte, fr. the old Sing. Pret. type fauht (O.E. feaht, fiekf), not 
from the old P. P. fouhten- type as at present. The archaic P. P. 
yolden ' yielded, payed ', and the new aboden ' abode ', instead of -biden, 
may be noted. 

Among the forms of Auxiliaries we may recall mought instead of 
might (also used by Queen Elizabeth), the P. P. kanned in the sense of 
' known ', the Pret. darte of the Pret. Pres. dare. The form shud occurs 
as well as shulde. 

The curious ' Ablative Absolute ' construction of which I have two 
examples is worth mentioning : After a little good meates and drinkes 
taken ; / take her not my father liuynge. 

We pass now to the Life of Cardinal Wolsey by George Cavendish 
(1500-61), who from his long residence in Wolsey's household had every 
opportunity of being acquainted with the speech of the Court. Cavendish, 
who loved the Cardinal ' on this side of idolatry ', has left a wonderful 
picture of the great prelate and statesman at the height of his power and 
splendour, a glowing description of the magnificence of his personal 
surroundings and his princely hospitality, and a pathetic account of his 
fall and death. The following account of this interesting book is based 
upon the unmodernized reprint from the Kelmscot Press. 


M.E. er is so spelt in ferther, Herre ' Harry ', ferre * far ', kervers 
1 carvers ', sterre (chamber), ferme ' farm ', herd ' hard '. It is written -ar- 
in warres, darknes, hard ' heard ' (more frequent than herd], harold 
1 herald ', marre, parells ' perils '. 

Southern er for O.E. -eard, &c., appears in (wood)j>erd, smert ( smart '. 
O.E. y appears in all forms : myche, kychen, myrtle ; stick, busynes, 
busylie ; stere ' stir ', shet ' shut '. The old combination -and or -ond has 
the latter form in Eylond, londed, londyng. 

e for i occurs in open syllables : in suspecyon, prevye, shreven P. P., 
delygence in a close syllable : in sence ' since '. 

The following words, to judge by the spelling, show shortening of 
the vowel before two consonants in Bridwell, Flet Street, backhowse 
'bakehouse'; and in close syllables before /, in strett 'street', botts 


' boats ', swett. Among isolated forms may be noted wyry for ' wherry ' 
(see similar form as regards vowel, in Latimer), laft ' left ', thether, whan, 
than, ' when, then ', yearthely ' earthly ', a common form in the period 
(cf. the ist and 2nd Prayer Books of Edward VI, &c.), and the interesting 
spelling Guees for Guise, which shows that ee stood for the same sound as 
at present. The spelling strayngers (very common) may either indicate 
a real diphthong surviving from M.E. before -ng- [ndz] or that ay and a 
both had the same sound, which is more probable. 

Unstressed Syllables. 

The inflexional endings have very commonly -i- : horssis, crossis ; 
extendyth', commendyd, providyd] hosyn, rysyn 'risen', &c. , ai 
become e or i\ chapplens, councell, certyn, ther 'their', palice. The 
'jnurmur vowel ' for ei is probably indicated by the spelling curtosye. 
Old oi appears as -a- in turkkas ' turquoise '. A pronunciation identical 
with that of the present day is indicated in orrynge ' orange '. 

Unstressed -a- is written i in ambassiter ; French u is i or e, cf. volup- 
tious, somptious, sumptiously, commynicacioun, commen Vb. ' commune '. 

The endings -en, -on, -in are evidently levelled under a single sound to 
judge by the varying spellings opeyn ' open ', tokyn ' token ', cusshons, 
cusshens, latten ' Latin ', waggans ' wagons '. These spellings rather 
suggest a ' syllabic - ', as in present-day button, in all these words that 
is, for all vowels + n finally. 


gh before t had no longer any sound, or it could not have been written, 
as we have already seen in these or similar words, in whight * white ', 
therabought, to wright ' write '. 

wh- had the sound of w- as at present in the South of England, and 
the spelling is confused in wye l why ', where ' wear '. 

The ' fronted ' or ' palatalized ' type of O.E. c occurs in archebysshop- 
riche, bisshopriche. 

French -qu- is pronounced k in banketts. 

The metathesized form axed ( asked ' is used. 

The old form Putnethe occurs twice on the same page, but Putney two 
pages earlier. 

The spelling Pumfrett ' Pontefract ' shows a pronunciation which still 
survives, though perhaps now obsolescent. 

Hankyng ' hanging ' suggests a pronunciation still heard in provincial 

/ is lost before / in vaughtyng ' vaulting ', which form also shows the 
' gh ' had no sound. 

k is lost in combination with other consonants in Worsopp ' Worksop ' ; 
b is lost after / in tremlyng ' trembling '. 

On the other hand, d is already added after -n in roundyng in the eare, 
earlier rowne-. 

Initial h- is omitted in the French-Latin word armonye ' harmony '. 
Initial h- is never written wh- (apparently) as by many writers of this 
period : hole ' whole '. 



Nouns ending in ^generally keep this before the Possessive suffix in 
the Singular: selfs. Before the PI. suffix -f- sometimes remains, as 
in lyfs, beafes ; but sometimes becomes v : staves. The reforms some- 
times occur in the uninflected cases love l loaf ', on hys lyve. 

Weak Pis. : hosyn ' hose', Allhallon day (twice). 

Invariable Pis. : xvfoote thyke ; vi of the beste horse. 

Irregular Pis. : childerne, brethern. 

Uninflected Possess. Sing. : Our lady mattens (old Fern.) ; my 
hart blode. 

Group Possessives : Kyng Herre the VHlths sister ; Ayenst the 
Kyng and my lords commyng ; my lord of Shrewsbury s servaunts ; 
therle of Shrew sburyes (absolute) ; but the abbots of Westminster (absolute). 


The Neuter Sing. 3rd Pers. is hyt. The 2nd Pers.j# and j/w ar 
used indifferently for the Nom., especially in addressing one person. 
The Def. Art. elides the vowel before a following vowel : therle, &c. 

Verbal Endings. 

The 3rd Pers. Sing. Present is almost universally -yth or ~ith t but me 
semys occurs. 

The PL generally has no ending, but the Southern ~th occurs in them 
that hath. 

The Weak P. P. pact ' packed ' may be noted. 

Among Strong Verbal forms we may note geve instead of give, P. P. 
gevyn. The M.E. Prets. hild ' held ', fill ' fell ', as in Chaucer, survive. 
The Prets. spake and spoke, sang, strak ' struck ', stale ' stole ', drove, and 
shew ' showed ' (analogy of knew} may be noted, and the P. P. lyen ' lain ' 
(as in the Prayer Book) and shreven ' shriven '. 


The only points which call for mention are : the P. P. byn ; was 
used in PL, walls whiche was ; wol ' will ' by the side of wylL 

We now pass to consider the language of a far better known writer, 
namely Hugh Latimer (c. 1491-1555), so far as this can be gauged 
accurately from the versions of his sermons that have come down to us. 
The style is much more colloquial, and more touched with provincialisms 
than the other works we have hitherto dealt with, and this albeit these 
sermons were preached before King Edward VI. Latimer was the son 
of a yeoman farmer in Leicestershire, who, as he tells us, ' had no landes 
of his owne, onely he had a farme of iii or iiii pound by the yere at the 
vttermost, and here vpon he tilled so much as kepte halfe a dosen men. 
J3e had a walke for a hundred shepe, and my mother mylked xxx kyne. 
... He kept me to schole, or elles I had not bene able to haue preached 
before the kinges maiestie nowe.' At the age of 14 Latimer went to 
Clare Hall, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. at 18, having been elected 
a Fellow of his College while still an undergraduate. He became M.A. 


at 22, and at 24 (1514) was Professor of Greek in the University, being 
ordained priest the same year. In 1530 he preached before Henry VIII 
at Windsor, ' when his maiestie after ye sermon was done, did most 
familiarly taulke with me in the gallery '. When Cranmer became Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury in 1533, Latimer gained a powerful friend at 
Court ; the following year he preached before the King every Wednesday 
in Lent, and in 1535 he was consecrated Bishop of Worcester. In 1539, 
however, unable to swallow the Six Articles, he resigned his See. After 
being imprisoned, and apparently only escaping death for heresy by the 
King's death, he was offered for a second time, but declined, the See of 
Worcester. During this and the following year he preached before King 
Edward at Whitehall and at ' Paules '. He retired to Lincolnshire in 
1550, where he remained, preaching much, until, early in Mary's reign 
' a pursiuant was sente downe into the countrey to call him vp '. As he 
passed through Smithfield he remarked that 'Smithefield had long groaned 
for him', but his death was destined for another place. In 1555 he was 
burnt at the stake in Oxford, as Foxe says ' upon the Northe syde of 
the Towne, in the Dytch over agaynst Baily College '. Such, in brief, 
was the life and ' dolorous death ' of Bishop Latimer, whom some will 
venerate as a saint and apostle, and others detest as a wrong-headed and 
dangerous heretic, whose teaching was wellnigh fatal to the Catholic 
faith in the Church of England. His worst enemies, however, must 
admit his sincerity, and his cheerfulness and courage at the last; and 
few will deny that he possessed a copious flow of invective, and a ready, 
if a rude and coarse eloquence. 

The following notes are based upon Arber's Reprints (i) of the Seven 
Sermons before Edward VI, and (2) from the Sermon known as ' the 
Ploughers '. 


O. and Early M.E. 1 , which, as we have seen, probably became [u] 
in Late M.E., is frequently written u and ou : must, blud, shutyng ; blonde, 
gould ' gold ', boune (N. Fr. ban) ' boon '. 

The u of must was probably short in the unstressed position, and that 
of blud had been shortened before a final consonant. 

M.E. o 2 initially is sometimes written wo-, and ho becomes who- : 
such a worn ' such an one ', whomlye ' homely ', whore, whoredome ; on the 
other hand, we also find holsome ' wholesome ', horynge. 

M.E. -er- is far more often so written, but there are some important 
-ar- forms : swaruing ' swerving ', parson ( clergyman ', harde * heard ' 
(also herd], clarke, maruel (and meruet), clargy (and cleargy), faruentlie 
(sindferuenttt'e) ' fervently '. On the other hand we have hertes ' hearts ', 
mercie, herken, sterue ' starve ', swerd, sweard ' sword ', learne, ferme 
1 farm ', sermon, Personage ' parsonage '. 

O.E. y appears in all three forms, sometimes in the same word: 
sturred sterryng styrred 'stir'; the words which so far as I have noted 
have only u are : busie, suche, burden, buyldynge ; those which have i or 
y are : synne, sinners, myntes, myniyng, fyrst, gilty, hyl ( hill '. Both 
listed and luste ( list ' Vb. occur. The latter may be influenced by the 
Noun lust. 


M.E. i appears as e in close syllables sence (very common) ' since ' 
(also since), Chechester ; in open syllables -preuie ( privy ', preson (oftener 
pryson), thether ' thither '. 

M.E. e is written ye, which may indicate an [i] sound in : thyefe 
( thief *,fryendes,pryeste 'priest*. The word devil is written both deuyl 
and diuyl, the latter indicating a pronunciation with short i which we 
know to have existed later. 

The spelling preaty 'pretty' apparently stands for the Southern form. 

i for e occurs in opprision ' oppression ', trimble ' tremble ', and whirry 
' wherry '. 

The spelling clausset ( closet ' implies a lengthened vowel, and shows 
that au no longer expressed a diphthong. Diphthonging of o before -Id, 
which we know occurred, is expressed in toulde, soulde, oulde. 

The consonantal y- is developed before initial I in y earth ' earth \yer 
1 ere '. 

A long vowel is suggested by the spellings wourse ( worse ', Loordes 
(supper), woorde ' word '. 

A short vowel is shown in waiter ' water '. 

Vowels in Unstressed Syllables. 

The interesting form unscripterlye shows the treatment of -ure when 
unstressed, which is vouched for later by the writers on pronunciation 
and so often expressed by the spelling at this time, before, and after. 
The spelling righteous may owe its u to virtuous. The endings -es, -eth, 
-el, -en, &c., are nearly always so written, but deuil ( devil ' alternates with 
deuel, euyl with euel. Loss of an unstressed vowel occurs, initially, in 
poticaries, leauen ' eleven ' ; medially, in Deanry. 


Omissions, d is lost before -ns- in (asshe) Wensdaye ; after n- before 
-sh- infremheppe', p after m before /, temted', /"after / before p halpeny. 

Hoise ' hoist' has not yet acquired the final -/; faut 'fault' has not 
yet restored the / through the influence of a supposed etymology direct 
from Latin ; the / is, however, inserted mfaulse. b is not yet added in 
defter f debtor'. 

h- is lost in the unstressed syllable of shepard. 

Addition of consonant. The only case noted in Latimer's Sermons is 
myxt ' mix ' Imperat. 

Entirely bogus spellings are accoumpt ' account ' and depntely ' daintily '. 
Nearly as bad is victalles, where again a Latin etymology has introduced 
c where it was not pronounced. 

Banquet, as so frequently at this period and much later, is spelt banket '; 
the form banketers is also found. 

Final -/ is written -th in comforth. 


A woman's name is sometimes inflected in the Possessive my Ladye 
Maryes grace, sometimes uninflected according to the M.E. method 
my Ladye Elizabethe grace. 


Nouns ending in/ sometimes change this to v before the PI. suffix 
wyues, theaues; sometimes retain it wouljfes. 

The PI. suffix is generally -s, mi betters, or -es, egges, but the curious 
wayeys is also found. There is no reason to suppose that this suffix, 
however written, was syllabic, except under the same conditions as at 

The word newes is used as a PI. these be the newes, I fear they be true. 

Both elements are inflected in the PI. Lordes Presidentes. 

In the phrase The Parliamente house are wyser, &c., the collective 
Noun is treated as a PL 

Pounde with a number before it is, as usual at this period, uninflected. 

An interesting Group-Possessive occurs oure holy e father of Rome s eares. 


The Comparative suffix is used where we should now use more with 
the Positive greuouser. 

The double Comp. more diligences so common in the sixteenth century 
is found. 

The old mutated Comp. hnger ' longer ' is used. 

The old form bedred ' bedridden ' survives. 

The Adj. in -lye, byshoplye dutyes and orders i unscripterlye may be 

The Adv. vpsydowne ' upside down ' shows a more primitive form than 
our own. 


The ist Pers. Possessive seems to distinguish between my and mi, the 
latter shorter and unstressed. 

The form me is used Reflexively one kneleth me downe. The un- 
stressed a is used for he here was a not gyltye. 

Ye and you are used indifferently in the Nom. PI. 

In the 3rd PI. only the //fc-forms are used in all Cases. 

The Absolute Possessive forms theyres, heres * hers ' occur. 

The Def. Art. is written both the and_>><f, the y standing for old /. 

The old Neuter survives in the tother. 

Verbal Endings. 

The most striking point in Latimer's grammar is the exceedingly 
frequent use of the -s forms of the 3rd Pers. Sing. Pres. of Vbs. I have 
noted about sixty-three examples in the Sermons. No one acquainted 
with the writings of the sixteenth century can fail to be struck by the 
frequency of these forms at this date. Perhaps it may be attributed to 
Latimer's residence in Lincolnshire ; perhaps these forms were acquired 
by him at Cambridge. 

The -/^-forms also occur, and are perhaps rather more numerous 
than the others. The ending in this case in almost invariably -eth. 

The PI. Pres. generally has no ending, but the Southern -th occurs at 
least three times, and a few -es Pis. are also found, especially after some 
some that Hues, there be some writers that sates, some sayes, &c. The 
extraordinary form we mustes also occurs. Note also is with a PI. 
subject greate reformadons is, &c. 


The 2nd Pers. Sing, is usually -/, but the Northern -es occurs : 
thou pules, polles . . . oppresses. A strange use is you measures/, with the 
Sing. Vb. in spite of the PI. Pron. here used of one person only. Note 
also the construction thou which doth. 

In the P. P/s of Strong Vbs. the distribution of -en endings is the same 
as at present. 

Among other Strong forms we may note chose Inf. (not the older chese\ 
geue by the side of gyue. Of Prets., brake and bracke, spake and spak, 
quod (he) and quode, strooke * struck ', stacke ' stuck ', wrot and wrote. 


The PI. Pres. of be is both are and be. 
Doth seems to be used as an Auxiliary ; otherwise doeth. 
Will has a negative form nil! wil thei, nill thei. 
The form we mustes is noted above. 

Oughte is used as the Pret. of owe as if I oughte another man xx M. 

Worth is still used in the sense of happen what wyl worth ? 

Constructions and Phrases. 

The following idiomatic phrases are worth noting some of them 
strikingly modern in flavour, some remarkably colloquial for a bishop to 
use in a sermon preached before his sovereign. 

He thought all cocke sure ; when all came to all = ' when all was said 
and done ' ; the diuel and all ; Feyne and put case our sauyour Christe had 
committed al the sinnes of the worlde ; wo worth the Deuyll ; another 
day = ' some day ' ; I here saye he redeth much Sayncte workes and 
is wel sene in theim. 

A very ancient use of ' abide ', in the sense of ' to go through, ex- 
perience', is seen in what terror and distresse abode he. Notice the 
archaic use of at in the Byshoppe of Rome shoulde haue learned that 
at him. 

We turn now to another Cambridge man to whom we have already 
referred several times Roger Ascham. Our survey is based upon 
Arber's Reprints of (a) Toxophilus (1545) and (Z>) The Scholemaster, 
posthumously published in 1563. 


Ascham does not differ greatly from Latimer in his vowel spellings, 
and his spellings do not teach us very much with regard to the pro- 

The M.E. ~er- words show the usual variety. The only -ar- form 
which we do not still keep is hard ' heard '. By the side of this, Ascham 
has also herd; further hert and hart, sweord and sword. 

O.E. y appears to have the same forms and in the same words as at 
present, except rishe ' rush ' (the plant). 

The Southern form of O.E. x l appears in drad ' dread ', Adj. 

In open syllables i appears as e in preuie and weeke. In a close syllable 
i is written e in splettyd. 


The diphthonging of o before / is expressed in the spellings oulde, boulde, 
coulde ' cold ', houldyng, bouling, route (Noun). It is doubtful whether this 
was still pronounced as a diphthong. The spelling wount ' accustomed ' 
rather suggests that ou expresses length. 

The diphthonging of a before / is occasionally expressed : taulke, 
caulme,faul 'fall'. 

M.E. e is written i,y mpiuyshlye, lipe ' leap ', style * steel ' ; but e becomes 
\{\ before nch in wrynchynge. 

Vowel quantity is often expressed by doubling the vowel, or writing 
ou, for long vowels : moos/, woordes, woorke, boorde ( board ', also bourde, 
thoumbe ' thumb ', seeldomer ' seldomer ', hoote ' hot '. 

Unstressed Syllables. 

The flexional syllables are generally written -es, &c. 

Both ay and e are written for at when unstressed : battayle and battel, 
trauayle. Possibly the -ayl spellings represent actually surviving variants 
with the stress on the second syllable. The form maynteners shows weak 
stress on the second syllable. Persever Vb. no doubt was accentuated 
on the second syllable, a mode of pronunciation which survived well into 
the eighteenth century at least. 

French -our- becomes simply -er- in unsauery. Initially, unstressed 
syllables are sometimes lost as in spence for ' dispense ', ' expenditure '. 
The common sixteenth-century form emonges ' among ' is found in 

Note what would now be an illiterate form barbariousties, due to 
confusion of suffixes -ious and -ous. 


Omissions. / is lost before / in mouted ' moulted ', Matravers, family 
name, for Maltravers, f antes ' faults '. f is lost between / and p in 
halpeny ; / is lost finally after -mp-, prompe ( prompt ' ; d is lost after -n 
before s, unhansome. b is lost, finally, in dame ( climbed '. 

Addition. / is developed finally, after -f, grafte Vb., earlier graffe 
' engraft ' ; also finally after s in amongest, old form amonges, which also 
occurs ; after older -ks (spelt x) betwixt. 

The form optaine shows unvoicing of b before the following -/-. 

d is still written in moder by the side of mother, in wedder by the side 
of wether ' weather '. 

y is often written for old/ my at, ye, also that, the. 

Initial wh- for h- occurs in wholie, by the side of the Noun hole ' whole '. 
In ones, onse ' once ' we have the only form ; the won- spellings do not 


The Pronoun his constantly occurs after a Noun, instead of the Pos- 
sessive suffix. It is always written his, never, apparently, is on a man 
his tiptoes, the kinge his wisdome, another his heeles, the king hisfoole. 

The suffix -.r is omitted when the next word begins with s- : Robin 
Hood seruant,for his country sake, for conscience sake also when the word 
in the Possessive case-relation ends in -s : horse feete. 


The Weak PI. housen ' houses ' is found, but eyes occurs instead of the 
older eyne, &c. The PI. of woman is wemen and woomen. The PL of 
child has both chyldren and chylderne. 

Yere is invariable mfourtene yere olde. 

Adjectives and Adverbs. 

The mutated Comparative lenger is used, but also longer and stronger. 
The Comp. willinger and the Superl.formest may be noted. 

Throwlye occurs for ' thoroughly ', 'and the Adverb hedlynge ' headlong ' 
is interesting as preserving the old adverbial ending, seen also in our 
present darkling. The suffix was much commoner in the sixteenth 
century than it is now. 


You and^ are used indifferently in the Nom., both in addressing one 
or several persons. On one occasion ye is used as if for variety in 
a sentence in which j>0# has already occurred three times. 

The Masc. he, hym are used instead of /'/, of a bow. 

The words fewe and none used as Pronouns take a Singular Verb 
fewe or none hath yet atteyned, &c., unless hath here as a PL, which is 
possible. (Cf. below, under Verbal Endings.) 

Verbal Endings. 

The 3rd Pers. Sing. Pres. generally ends, in -elk, but Ascham has an 
unusually large number of -s endings, though not so many as Latimer. 
These often occur in the same sentence as the -^-forms. 

The PL Pers. generally has no ending, but some -j-forms are found, 
e.g. : the ends haue nothyng to stop them, but whippes so far back, &c. The 
-,r-forms both in 3rd Sing, and in the PL may be due to Ascham's native 
Yorkshire dialect, or the former perhaps to Cambridge influence. 

The Auxiliaries doth and hath are used fairly often with a PL subject - 
as wild horses doth race ; where one hath learned to singe, vi hath not. 

Weak P. P.'s, such as mard ' marred ', cocker de, show the loss, as in 
present-day English, of the vowel of the suffix. 

The P. P.'s of Strong Verbs have -n in those words where we now have 
the ending, otherwise apparently not, except in gotten and foughten. 

Strong Verbs. 

In the Pres. both gyueth and geueth are found, and both forms occur 
also in the P. P., where, however, the gyu-forms are overwhelmingly more 

The Prets. quod (and quoth), dame ' climbed ', draue ' drove ', and the 
P. P.'s gotten, holpen, foughten, clouen may be noted. 

The old (Eastern) form Uese and lease ' lose ' occurs in the Inf. and 

Auxiliary Forms. 

The chief points are that be is more frequent than are in the PL, and 
that the P. P. form be is used by the side of the usual ben, dene. 

The use of ts with a PL subject must be due to the writer's native 
dialect: howe many kindes there is of it. 



Idioms and Constructions. 

We may note the peculiar use of certain prepositions in the following : 
to shoote in a bow (= with a bow); to playe of instruments (cf. French 
jouer or toucher du piano). 

The idioms as weake as wafer and winked at (in the modern sense). 

A curious phrase from the Modern point of view is all man seeth it 
= ' every man '. The expression put case ' supposing ' is used by Ascham 
as by Latimer. 

We next turn to another academic writer, also a Cambridge man, and 
contemporary and friend of Ascham Thomas Wilson, author of the 
Arte of Rhetor ique, from which the following forms are taken. This work 
was published in 1560, again in 1567, and in 1585. 


M.E. er appears as -ar- with some frequency : -farre, starres, swarue, 
darth ' dearth ', farmer \ clarkes, but also clerkes^ verlet ' varlet ', ierre ' jar, 
discord ', &c. 

O.E. y seems to have the same distribution of the various forms as at 

The common e for /' occurs, apparently, only in grenning ' grinning '. 
In open syllables we find Hue, giue instead of the geue or yme forms so 
common at this period. 

Woorke ' work ' has evidently a long vowel. 

Vowels in Unstressed Syllables. 

One of the most interesting forms is mannering ' manuring ', where 
the weakened vowel of the second syllable shows that Wilson accentuated 
the word on the first syllable. 

The form volupteous is due either to the normal unrounding of French 
u in the suffix -uous^ or to a substitution for this of -eous, as in righteous. 
The spelling spanell ' spaniel ', the dog, shows an assimilation of French 
-ni- or -nj- (for -gn-} in espagnol^ which still survives in uneducated speech 
in this word. A precisely similar pronunciation is the now vulgar Dannel 
for Daniel, which is recorded as ' correct ' in the eighteenth century. 

Wilson adheres to the old spelling of -ail, -ain, in battail^ baraine 
' barren '. On the other hand, -01- is simplified in turcasse ' turquoise '. 


wh- for initial ho- appears in whoredom, wholy. 

An interesting assimilation of -nf- to -mf- with -mph- is seen in imphants 

A final -d is added after -n in gallands ' gallons '. 

The excrescent -/ after -f which we saw in Ascham's form grafte, which 
we still retain, is not yet added in Wilson's graffe Vb. He writes 
banqueting as at present, and not with -k as so many of his contem- 
poraries do. 



Wilson uses the Weak Pis. peason, sisterne 'sisters', bretherne, shone 
'shoes'. He has the old Possess. Sing, in wiues (v instead of f as at 
present). He uses Invariable Pis. after numbers this thirty winter, three 
thousand pounde. 

Verbal Endings. 

It is characteristic of Wilson's grammar that he uses the -j-endings in 
3rd Pers. Pres. Sing, with great frequency, more often indeed than Ascham, 
especially in less solemn and stately passages. This peculiarity is also 
found in a letter of his of 1602 published in Ellis (2. 3. 201). It is true 
that towards the end of the sixteenth century these forms are fairly 
frequent generally, but the group of Cambridge men whose language we 
have been studying are distinctly ahead of most good writers in this 
respect. Wilson makes use of the Northern and N.E. Midland -s in the 
2nd Pers. Sing. Pres. thou sleepes, places, waites, &c., alongside of the 
-est form. After some we find -s some speakes, some sprites, &c. (I have 
noted sixteen forms in -s after some on one page, 220.) 

Strong Verbs. 

The chief forms to note are : Inf. chase ; Prets. forgot, begot, gotie, 
quoth, rz#(also rode), and the P.P.'s ouerloden and stroken 'struck'. 

A typical writer of the later sixteenth century, who enjoyed among his 
contemporaries a fame which we may think disproportional to his merits, 
and who by his vogue and influence is of great historical importance, is 
John Lyly. We have only the most shadowy notions of the facts of his 
life. He must have been born about 1554, and Anthony a Wood says that 
he was a Kentish man born, and entered at Magdalen College, where, 
according to the Oxford Register, being then described as plebeii filius , 
he matriculated in 1571 at the age of seventeen. He took his M.A. in 
1575, 'at which time', says Wood, 'as he was esteemed in the University 
a noted wit, so afterwards was he in the Court of Queen Elizabeth, where 
he was also reputed a rare poet, witty, comical, and facetious'. He 
obtained a post of some sort in Burghley's household, had plays acted at 
Court, and aspired to the post of Master of the Revels, in which ambition 
he was unsuccessful. In the latter part of his life he sat in the House of 
Commons for various boroughs. Lyly left at least eight plays, and a tract 
taking the side of the bishops in the Marprelate Controversy, but his 
fame and influence rest mainly, the former perhaps exclusively, at the 
present time upon the two works Euphues Anatomy of Wit, 1579, and 
Euphues and his England, 1580. 

His relations with Burghley do not seem to have been altogether 
happy, and a rather servile and long-winded letter to the latter exists, in 
which, with much characteristic verbiage, Lyly appears to repudiate some 
sort of accusation brought against him. For some reason Lyly did not 
find favour with Elizabeth, whom he petitioned on at least two occasions, 
asking for reward, or, 'If your sacred Ma tie thinke me unworthy, and 
that after x yeares tempest, I must att the Court suffer shipwrack of my 

K 2 


tyme, my wittes, my hopes, vouchsafe in yo r neuer-erring judgment, 
some planck or rafter to wafte me into a country, where in my sadd and 
settled devocion I may, in euery corner of a thatcht cottage, write praiers 
instead of plaies', &c. 'I feare ', he says, 'to comitt the error I dis- 
comende, tediousness.' And much more in the same strain. Possibly 
the Queen thought that he had committed this error ; at any rate she seems 
to have taken no notice of this or of a later petition, and, as has been 
said, he received neither the office he coveted nor other preferment at her 

At the present time probably many will find the wit of Euphues 
laboured and far- fetched, its eloquence turgid and vapid, the moral 
reflections lacking in profundity, the dialogue unreal and stilted, the style 
with its elaborate antithesis and balance, its ceaseless flow of images 
drawn from a more than dubious Natural History, its ever-recurring and 
often intricate alliteration, insufferably tedious, the portrayal of human 
character unnatural, and the situations devoid of verisimilitude. It would 
be difficult to rebut any of these strictures, and yet there are passages here 
and there where the blemishes disappear for a moment, where the thought 
is filled with good sense, and in which the style attains real grace and 
freedom of movement. To say this is not, however, to admit the 
extravagant claims made for the author. Lyly brought to a greater pitch, 
and employed more systematically than his predecessors, a manner, the 
beginnings of which at its worst may be seen in Caxton, and which at 
its best exists already in Lord Berners. It is preposterous to assert that 
Lyly gave to English prose style any graces of which it was incapable 
before. Neither the illustrious translator of Froissart, nor Cranmer, or 
whoever composed the English of the incomparable prayers and exhorta- 
tions of the two first Prayer Books (1549 and 1552), would have had 
anything to learn from the author of Euphues. But, though we may 
dissent from, we cannot afford to ignore the judgement of Lyly's con- 
temporaries upon his work. As, for example, the encomium of Webbe 
(not perhaps a very discriminating critic of English Prose or Poetry), in 
his Discourse of English Poetrie (1586), where he says that ' Master lohn 
Lilly hath deserued moste high commendations, as he which hath stept 
one steppe further therein then any either before or since he first began 
the wyttie discourse of his Euphues^ Whose workes, surely in respecte 
of his singuler eloquence and braue composition of apt words and sen- 
tences, let the learned examine and make tryall thereof thorough all the 
partes of Rethoricke, in fitte phrases, in pithy sentences, in gallant tropes, 
in flowing speeche, in plaine sence, and surely in my Judgment, I thinke 
he wyll yeelde him that verdict, which Quintilian giueth of bothe the best 
Orators Demosthenes and Tully, that from the one, nothing may be taken 
away, to the other, nothing may be added ' (D. of E. P., Arber's Ed., 
p. 46). 

With Lyly the saying le style c'est Thomme seems completely verified. 
We find the same absurdities and affectations in his plays, even in his 
private letters, as in Euphues. We feel that in ordinary life he must have 
talked like that at last, and if he ever spoke in the House the country 
gentlemen must have writhed under him. We open the plays at random 
and we light on such a passage as this, in Sapho and Phao : ( Of acornes 


comes oakes, of drops flouds, of sparkes flames, of atomies elements. 
But alas it fareth with me as waspes, who feeding on serpents, make their 
stings more venomous : for glutting myself on the face of Phao, I have 
made my desire more desperate. Into the neast of an Alcyon, no bird 
can enter but the Alcyon ; and into the hart of so great a ladie, can any 
creepe but a great lord ? ' That might have come straight out of Euphues. 
And yet with all Lyly's absurdities in prose, it would be foolish to deny 
that the man was a true poet who wrote such songs as * Cupid and my 
Campaspe ; , or that (also in Campaspe) in which occur the lines : 

who is't now we heare 
None but the larke so shrill and cleare; 
How at heavens gates she claps her wings, 
The morne not waking till she sings, 

or that in Sap ho and Phao beginning : 

O cruell Love ! on thee I lay 
My curse, which shall strike blinde the day ; 
Never may sleepe with velvet hand 
Charme thine eyes with sacred wand, &c. 

Nor should we forget 'that Shakespeare, .though he made fun of Lyly's 
prose, condescended to copy his lyrics, while Polonius's advice to his son 
is more than slightly reminiscent of Euphues. 

We must now address ourselves to the more prosaic task of examining 
in some detail the forms of English employed by this writer. The follow- 
ing account is chiefly based on the two parts of Euphues, with some 
additional forms from the Plays. 


M.E. er. The ar spellings are not very numerous, and several words 
appear both with er or ear, and ar : hart and heart (the phrase neither 
art nor heart leaves no doubt of the pronunciation intended); deserts and 
desarts ; warre, farre, farther, harken, quarrellous ; on the other hand, 
vertue, swerue, clearkes. The spelling furre ' far ' is curious. 

O.E. y has the three forms distributed as now, so far as they occur, 
except creple, creaple ' cripple ', which in view of the author's origin we 
are tempted to regard as a survival of Kentish dialect, though the form 
occurs in fourteenth-century London documents. 

The spelling e for i only occurs in sheltering ' shivering '. The e in 
hether, hetherto 'hither', &c., is to be otherwise explained. (Cf. p. 226, 

Instead of e, a appears in dragges ' dregs ', and hauenly ' heavenly ', 
which may point to a front pronunciation of old a. 

M.E. 1 is written ou in bloud ' blood '. 

The M.E. spelling -aun- is largely preserved aunswered, graunt, 
chaungyd, glaunces, graundfather, daunger, straunge, graunge. 

The new diphthonging of o before / is expressed in mould, souldiours, 
rowle ' roll '. 

Vowel Lengthenings, &c. These are shown in the following 
spellings : woorth, woord, retourne, toossed ( tossed ',foorth, woont 'wont' ; 
old length is preserved in doath, threede, ihreade, hoat ' hot ', insteed(e]. 


Vowel Shortenings. Hotte ' hot ', beheaddest. The following show 
shortenings after raising of e to i : sillye, thrid ( thread ' (N.), diuell, 
deuilks l devil ', M.E. devel. 

Unstressed Vowels. Confusion of original sound is shown in 
destany, musition, Italionated, dyot < diet '. 

Old 01 is written ey in torteyse, also tortuse (in Mother Bombie). French 
u is written e in the second syllable of venterous. 


Addition of a final -d after -n occurs in sound-ed ' swooned ', round-'mg 
1 whispering ' ; after -r in visard '; of / after -n in margant, margenl 
1 margin ' ; of b after -m in lombe ' loom ' ; of p after -m in mushrompe. 

Loss of final consonant is seen in yron Mowle, io clyme ' climb ', 

Final -d is lost before an initial d in next word in ole drudge = ' old '. 

Final -/ is not yet added to the old hoise ' hoist ' (cf. the P. P. hoised). 

Initial qu- [kw] becomes c [k] before o in from coting of ye scriptures 
' quoting '. 

The older banket is found, by the side of banqueted. 

Intrusive -- is seen in messanger. 

The artificial learned spellings dampnable, to condempne, accompt, solempn 
may be noted. 

A few isolated archaisms are worth recording : retchless ' reckless ' (as 
in Article XVII of the Prayer Book, where it is spelt wrelchlessness), euets 
1 newts ', O.E. efete, still heard in provincial dialects, chekin ( chicken '. 


Possessive Singulars without a suffix, when the Noun ends in -s : 
Appolos Musicke, Euphues feature. The use of his after the Noun instead 
of the suffix Philautus his faith, Fidus his hue. This usage is extended 
to the Fern., which takes hir, in Juno hir bedde, by the side of Junes 

The Plurals are, on the whole, as at present, but the Invariable apple. 
to bring forth apple ^ evidently in a collective sense, is noteworthy. 

The word neives is used with a Singular Vb. Other newes here is 

The form sheeve 'sheaf is derived from the Oblique case type. 


Double Comparatives, as is typical of this period, occur, e. g. : the 
more fitter, more swifter, more sweeter, &c. The Elizabethans had no 
compunction in adding the Superlative suffix to words of three syllables 
delicatest. The irregular Comparative badder occurs in a sentence where 
it is contrasted with better. In this case, worse would have spoilt the 

The old mutated elder is used as the ordinary Comparative of old You 
are too young . . . and were you elder, &c. 



The forms of the Personal Pronouns are pretty much as at present, 
and only the following remarks fall to be made. You is used for all 
cases, both Sing, and PL, but thou, thee, thy (thine before vowels) are used 
in affectionate address in the Sing. Ye also occurs in Nom. PI. 

The Possessive Sing, of the Neuter is his then shall learning haue his 
hire, whose b'oud t's in his chief est heate, &c. 

The Indefinite Pron. any takes a Possessive suffix when used abso- 
lutely my fortune should be as ill as antes. One, in the sense of ' one 
man', is also inflected ones loynes 'one man's'. The Indef. one is 
used as at present to cut ones meate. 

Verbal Endings. 

The 3rd Pers. Sing, in Euphues hardly ever ends in -s, apparently, 
but nearly always in -eth, except the irregular forms dares (Pret. Pres.) 
and giues. The PI. as a rule has no ending, that is, it represents the 
old Midland type, the final -n being lost. There is, however, at least 
one example of the retention of the latter they loaden. I have noted two 
examples of the old Southern PI. 'pleasaunt sirroppes doth chiefliest 
impart a delicate taste ', and whose backes seemeth. In the Plays, while the 
3rd Sing, in -th is the normal form, especially in the more solemn 
passages, -s is quite frequent in the songs and blank verse portions, for 
the sake of the metre, and in the more colloquial parts of Mother 
Bombie e.g. This happens pat, &c. Plurals in -s also occur in the 
Plays, as in the passage quoted above from Sapho and Phaoof acornes 
comes oakes. 

Strong Verbs. 

These, on the whole, are as at present, but the following forms may be 
noted : 

The old Inf. leese ' lose ', by the side of loose, and to strick, by the side 
of strike. The Prets. stroke ' struck ', wan (and wonne), quoth, ws\&flang. 
The Vb. give has only give, given, in Inf., Pres., and P. P., no geue 
forms. Among P. P.'s,/orlorne (Adj.) occurs by the side of lost, the real 
P. P., strooke, stroken, and stricken, striken ; meaten ' measured ', and 
melten 'melted '. 

The Auxiliaries call for no special remark, except to point out the use 
of art with you in the Sing. art not you instead of art not thou. This is 
the same kind of tendency which later produces the construction you was, 
so common in the eighteenth century. 

Constructions and Idioms. 

We may note the use of was after there in Impersonal constructions 
there was all things necessary. The Negative follows the Verb imme- 
diately inlmeane not to follow them. The still-familiar expression straight- 
laced occurs, and the phrase Philautus came in with his spoake (i. e. in the 
conversation), equivalent to our ' put his oar in '. The expression Euphues 
whom thou laydst by the wals (= 'shelved', 'gave up') recalls at once 


our phrase to go to the wall, and the very old expression which occurs in 
O.E. poetry e.g. dugud eall gecrong wlonc bi wealle in the Wanderer. 

We may fittingly conclude these brief studies of the language of 
typical writers and speakers of Court English during the sixteenth century 
with an account of the English of Queen Elizabeth herself. The materials 
for the following statement are drawn from various sources, of which 
the chief are letters of the Queen, from the third quarter of the 
century onwards, written to various people, and published in different 
collections (see Bibliography), and the volume of Translations made by 
the Queen in 1593, from classical authors, published by the Early 
English Text Society, under the quaint title of Englishings. A few early 
letters from Ellis's collection have also been used. In collecting forms to 
illustrate the Queen's English, I have avoided all letters not reprinted 
from the originals in her own handwriting ; and, as regards the ' English- 
ings ', have taken forms only from the Metres of Boethius, and the trans- 
lations of Plutarch and Horace which are all in Queen Elizabeth's own 

A very characteristic habit of the Queen's is the frequent use of i for 
M.E. e, and this is seen in her letters as early as 1549. So persistent is 
this mode of spelling that any document purporting to be written by 
Elizabeth which shows no example of it might safely be rejected as 


The -ar- spellings. These are very common in the Queen's writings, 
and are found already in the early letters. The following is a com- 
plete list of those I have noted from all sources : disarued, desarue, 
hartiest, hartely, hart, desart, sarued, the Cars (the Kers of Fernyhurst), 
swarue, justice-clarke, hard ' heard ', marcy, darkness, stars, wark ' work ' 
(also work), defar ' defer ', parson ' person '. On the other hand, -er- 
spellings occur also, chiefly in the early letters: servant,serues,preserue, 
deserued, herde ' heard '. The spelling /earning is ambiguous. 

O.E. y. With i\ litel, gilty, bisy, styrring. The spelling ivel may 
come under this head, or it may be the Queen's way of writing the type 

With u we have much, stur ' stir ', sturred put ' stirred pit ', furst, busy, 

Only one e- form seems to occur, and that is dubious in origin ivesh- 
ing ' wishing ', and should perhaps be placed in the following group. 

e for i. The only forms are bellowes ' billows ', rechis ' riches '. I am 
doubtful whether to include weshing here or to take it as representing the 
Kentish form of O.E. wyscan. 

Unrounding of M.E. 6. 

The form stap occurs I pray you stap the mouthes. It is interesting to find 
this form at this period. As noted above (p. 78 (St. Editha)) the unround- 
ing of o is characteristic of the South- West, where it is found in the first 
quarter of the fifteenth century. These forms became current in fashion- 
able speech in the seventeenth century, when they are ridiculed by 
Vanbrugh in the well-known character of Lord Foppington with his 


often-quoted cliche* stap my vitals, and many other forms of the same 
class. In Standard English a few of these forms have gained permanent 
footing, such as strap by the side of strop, plat (in Biblical language) by 
the side of the now usual plot (of land). It seems at the first blush 
a plausible surmise that the gallant and accomplished Raleigh, with his 
broad Devon speech, may have helped to make such forms fashionable at 
Court. In any case, this is one of the few examples of the influence of 
Regional dialect upon Standard Spoken English, dating from the Modern 
Period. (See, however, p. 240, below.) 

The Raising of M.E. e 1 . 

We have already seen plenty of examples of the spelling i for e from 
the fifteenth century onwards, and the writers on pronunciation make it 
clear that old [e] was pronounced [l] in Standard English as early as the 
first quarter of the fifteenth century. It is desirable, however, to give 
fairly numerous examples from the writings of so important a speaker as 
the Queen, and, indeed, I know of no other writer in whose works so many 
of these spellings can be found. The following are instructive : 

hiresay ' hear- ', kiping, briding * breeding ', fried ' freed ', besiche, 
spidye ' speedy ', hire Inf. ' hear ', dides ' deeds ', spick ' speech ', shipe 
'sheep', &c. 

All these represent M.E. tense [e]. It should be noted that the same 
spelling also occurs in spike Vb. ' speak ', and bequived ' bequeathed ', 
where i stands for M.E. [i] from O.E. e lengthened in the open 

The Queen is not perfectly consistent, however, for she also writes 
deapest, seake ' seek ', deleaved ' believed ', which all have M.E. [e], and 
sead and sede ' seed ', which" may represent either the Southern type with 
M.E. [i] or the E. Midland type with [e]. 

The spelling shild probably stands for [Jild], from the E. Midland 
M.E. scheld, and not for the Southern M.E. schlld. The spelling whir 
1 where ' establishes an [i]-sound in this word, which is described later 
also by writers on pronunciation. The explanation of this sound in 
this word is, doubtless, that it has been influenced by here, which has e 1 . 

Monophthonging of M.E. Diphthong ai. 

This, I think, is proved by the spelling agane * again ' in a letter of 
J 553> by ganesays, pant, panter ' paint', ' painter', in the Translations, 
and by the ' inverted spellings ' maid Vb. ' made ', and maike Vb. 'make '. 

The spellings dainger, daingerous to my mind point in the same direc- 
tion and probably indicate a pronunciation with [i]. The Queen also 
occasionally retains the M.E. spelling daunger. 

Murmur Vowel between Long Vowel, or Diphthong 
and following -r. 

This seems to be shown by such spellings as / desiar ' desire ', fiars 
1 fires ', hiar ' hear '. Such spellings are not uncommon in the sixteenth 
century, and curiously enough desiar occurs in a letter written by the 
Queen's mother, Anne Boleyn. 


Other Vowel Spellings. 

We are not surprised to find a diphthongal spelling in fauk ' fall ', 
fauleth, and stauke ' stalk ', since we saw these spellings in the former 
century. Whether this was still pronounced as a diphthong is very 
doubtful. (See pp. 251-3.) 

The spelling ou and u for O.E. and Early M.E. o, as we shall 
see, is found several centuries earlier (cf. p. 234). Queen Elizabeth has 
several examples : bloud, floude, louke ' look ', boutes ' boots ', boukes, 
houke, ' hook '. The form must is probably short, and arose in the 
unstressed position. 

We must not omit to mention the spelling fortiune with iu for the 
earlier French u [y]. I regard this form as representing M.E. fortune 
with the original French accentuation, on the second syllable. The 
other type, accented on the first syllable, had become fortin by the middle 
of the fifteenth century. 

Vowels in Unstressed Syllables. 

The suffixes -ed t -es, -est, -ness are constantly written -id, -is, &c. : 

preventid, acquainiid, &c. ; -ed is rarer ; 

scusis ' excuses ', practisis ; 

expertist, largist,fullist, hottist, &c. ; 

kindnis, wekenis, happinis, darkenis ; also witnis ; 

bestoith, burnith. 

The ending -er is often written -ar, implying probably the pronuncia- 
tion [ar] : sistar, bdtar, bordars, murdar. 

The ending -en is written -in in heauin. 

Where we now have the ending -tour, -or is written, in behavor. 

The M.E. diphthong ei is written a in vilanous, and e in the for * they ', 
a very common spelling with Queen Elizabeth. 

The tendency to join a consonant after a weak syllable to the following 
syllable, when this is stressed, is shown in my none witte = ' mine own '. 

The vowel of the Superlative suffix is lost in carefulsf, thankfulst. 

The unstressed forms the and ther 'they, their' are frequent in all 
Elizabeth's writings. 


Loss of Consonants. / is lost after another Cons, before -s in attempt, 
accident; after/" before n in of en 'often*. 

b is lost between m- and -/- in nimlest ' nimblest '. 

/ is lost before -k in stauke ' stalk '. 

Addition of Consonants. A parasitic / is developed finally in in 
middest (cf. also Amidz //), and/br the nones/. 

The parasitic nasal is seen in messanger, earlier messager. 

Other Consonant Changes. The nasal [n] ' ng ' in the suffix -ing 
occurs once written -n besichen ' beseeching '. The same sound at the 
end of a stressed syllable occurs twice written -nkbrinkinge of me up, our 
brinkers up. 

The old voiceless w, formerly written hw, and then wh, was apparently 
not pronounced in the Queen's English, since she writes wich ' which ', 


and evidently used the voiced sound in this and other words beginning 
with this consonant, as all Southern speakers do at present, unless they 
have been subjected to Scotch or Irish influence. 

M.E. o* (from O.E. d) when initial is written wo- in won, wons ' one, 
once ', and ho- is written who- in wholy ' wholly '. The former is the 
ancestor of the type now in use, and it is interesting to note that won 
occurs also in a letter in the handwriting of Henry VIII, written in 1544, 
which shows that this type was current in Court English at this period, 
although the other type, pronounced as in on-ly t seems also to have 
survived much later in good English (see pp. 306-7). The arbitrary 
character of present-day spelling is shown by the fact that we write one 
and pronounce [wan], while although we do not pronounce wh- in whole 
we yet write it thus. Queen Elizabeth also writes hole by the side of the 
wh- spelling. 

To pronounce [v] for voiced ' -th- ' [tS] is to this day an individual 
peculiarity which is heard here and there, and Queen Elizabeth apparently 
had it, and betrays it in the spelling bequived for bequeathed. 

The metathesized form of old -sc- occurs in axed ' asked '. 

Flexional -s t both as a PI. and as a Possessive ending, is often written 
-2, generally after voiced consonants, as in quarelz, equate, Russelz 
(Possess.), Godz tuition, lordz, &c. 

The spelling -iz for -ts is also commoner in the Letters and the Trans- 
lations -fitz Vb., hartz, dartz. 

The old (English) type with y- instead of the Scandinavian type with 
g- survives \nforyetfullness. 


The traditional change of -f- to -v- between vowels still survives in 
hues, a typical Possess. Sing, of this period. 

A ' group-possessive ' occurs in ' I shulde . . . long sithens have 
appeased my lorde of Bedfords mynde therm ' (1553). 

Among noteworthy PI. forms we may note oxe a hundred oxe t and 
thanke ' the two gentilmen I trust shal receaue your thanke '. 

News is used as a Sing, in This last newes ; as a PI. in how grate ful 
such newes were. 

A curious construction with sort is seen in * a few sort of outlawes fils 
up his traine '. 


The only point I have noted is the inflected PI. in clirristz days 

Personal Pronouns. 

There is not much to note beyond the fact that the Queen never uses 
thou, &c., in the Sing. always you(e), and that by the side of yt the old 
spelling hit is extremely frequent I have counted twenty-eight examples 
in twenty-one letters, and the form is also found in the Translations. 

The unstressed forms of the PI. Pronouns of the 3rd Pers. have already 
been mentioned. 


The Indefinite Article. 

It is worth noting that a before a word beginning with a vowel occurs 
three times in a letter of 1549 'a encreasinge of ther ivel tonges, a 
bridinge of a ivel name, so ivel a opinion '. 

Verbal Endings. 

The chief points of interest are the endings of the 3rd Pers. Sing. 
Present, and of the PI. Present. Concerning the former it must be 
recorded that the ending -s is very common in the later letters, and in 
the Translations. In the latter, indeed, this is the most frequent form, 
the -th ending being comparatively rare. In the early letters the -j- forms 
also occur, but in nothing like the same proportion as in the later ones 
and the Translations. 

The Auxiliaries hath and doth seem only to occur in this form, and 
hardly ever with -s, though I have noted your Grace has in a letter 
of 1549. 

As regards the Pres. PI. we find, besides forms with no ending, others 
in both ~th and -s : e. g. the (' =they ') ar most deceued that trusteth most in 
themselves ; the (they) breakith, &c. ; all our subjectes lokes after ; small 
flies stiks fast for wekenis; your commissionars telz me; sild(= seldom) 
recouers kings ther dominion ; as the hunters rates ther houndz, and 
) &c., &c. See also pp. 339-41, below. 

Strong Verbs. 

There is little to note under this head except that although geue ' give ' 
occurs, the usual type is giue, gyut. The P. P. is geuen and gtuen, and 
the curious and archaic typeyeouen is found in a letter of 1595. 

We have now examined, in some detail, the English of some typical per- 
sonages of the sixteenth century, who between them cover the whole century. 
They spring from various classes and were engaged in different pursuits, 
but all of them, from the circumstances of their birth, their fortunes, and 
their occupations were brought into contact, in varying degrees, with the 
Court, and with the highest and most distinguished society of their age ; 
all of them by virtue of their opportunities and their education were 
certainly acquainted with the best type of Spoken English of the day, and 
in spite of occasional lapses into a native form here and there, they may 
be taken as individually and collectively exhibiting the Standard English 
of daily life and of literature. 

From our brief survey we learn the existence of a certain latitude in 
the choice of type, both in pronunciation and in the use of grammatical 

It seemed worth while to make, on this account, this study of the 
speech of individuals, which brings home to us how considerably greater 
then than now was the possible variety in the speech of persons of 
approximately the same social entourage. 

We learn also from the occasional spellings cited above, many impor- 
tant and interesting facts concerning the development of sound change 
in English, and concerning the distribution of varieties due to dialect of 
one kind or another. 


We now turn to consider the English of an entirely different social 
stratum from that whose language we have hitherto examined in this 
century. Henry Machyn, the Diarist, seems from his own words to 
have been a simple tradesman, possibly an undertaker, with a taste for 
pageants especially for funerals (as was natural) and for gossip. Of the 
great persons whom he mentions, he knew no more than their names 
and faces, scanned as they rode past him in some procession, and an 
occasional piece of gossip picked up, one is inclined to think, from some 
other spectator among the crowd. 

Machyn's work is a priceless monument of the English of the Middle 
Class Londoner with no particular education or refinement. We shall 
find therein, naturally, much that is common to the speech of the higher 
orders, but also certain marked features which distinguish his English 
from theirs ; certain things, also, which are definitely stated to be 
Cockneyisms at a later date, although they have now passed away ; and 
other things which we know from personal experience, or from compara- 
tively recently extinct tradition, to have been typical vulgarisms fifty or 
so years ago. 

The English of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant 
Taylor of London. 


M.E. er. The following occur with ~ar- : clarkes (passim), Harfford 
(Hereford), sarvand, the yerle of Darbe, fardyng 'farthing', harold, 
armyn ' ermine ', hard ' heard ', hart, sarmon, parson, Garnsey, farm, 
Barmsey ' Bermondsey ', sward * sword '. The -er- spell ings include the 
following : clerk, serten, Bernard castyll, servandes, serjanfs, lernyd, 

M.E. i is written e (a) in the following two-syllabled words, in open 
syllables : denner, also deener ' dinner ', cete ' city ', pressun ' prison ', 
vetell ' victuals ', pelers ' pillars ', pete ' pity ', wedew, wedow ' widow ', jebett 
' gibbet ', leved { lived ', veker ' vicar ', velyns l villains ', vesitars, consperacy, 

(b) In the following words of three or more syllables: lever ay 'livery', 
pelere ' pillory ', Necolas, prevelegys^ menyster. 

(c) In the following the vowel is certainly short : deleverd ' delivered ', 
chelderyn, Recherd, essue ' issue ', Eslyngton ' Islington ', prensepulles, 
selver, red = rid ' rode ', belleis, hes ' is ', ennes of the cowrtt. 

The list under group (a) is larger than in most if not all other London 
writers or writers of Literary English whose language we have considered ; 
group (c) is considerable, and if, as is probable, we are entitled to put 
(b) under the same head, i. e. of short I lowered to e, the list becomes very 
large. The list in group (a) probably illustrates the lengthening and 
lowering of i- in open syllables, which is characteristic of the Northern 
dialects of M.E. and is also found in E. Midland Robt. of Brunne, &c. 

O.E. j/ occurs in all three types, the distribution of which is not 
precisely as at present : 

(a) With i : myche ' much ', ymberyng days ' Ember days ', first^ gylded 
Vb., ryssfs ' rushes ' (plant). 


(b) With u .furst, buryall. 

(c) With e : bered ' buried ' (very frequent), fastness, mere ' merry ', 
Crepulgate, beldyd l built ', kechens. 

M.E. d unrounded : the marow ' morrow ', caffen ' coffin ', Dasset 
' Dorset '. 

M.E. au appears to be monophthongized : ontt ' aunt ', a node = an 
aulb 'alb', commondyd (M.E. commaund-), hopene 'halfpenny* (earlier 
haul/-), agmenlyd ' augmented '. That au had already become [5] is 
further made probable by the spelling caumplet ' complete ', which shows 
that the writer could not have considered au to represent a diphthongal 

This [5] resulting from earlier au appears also to have been unrounded 
in drane f drawn ', straberries ' strawberries ', agmentyd f augmented '. 
Note the spelling sarter ' salter ', which shows monophthonging of sault, 
then unrounding, the loss of / before /, and the use of -r- after a vowel to 
express mere quantity. 

The spelling Crenmer ' Cranmer ' shows the fronting of M.E. a. The 
spelling prast for * pressed ' points in the same direction. 

y is written for M.E. e in Qwyne, prych, fryndes^ spykyng, brykyng, 
brykefast. By the side of weke * week ', wike is also found. The form is, 
however, ambiguous. 

Early Modern u from u from M.E. 0, or from M.E. u, is written a in 
Chamley ' Cholmondeley ', Samerset ' Somerset ', and suggests that the un- 
rounding of u had already taken place. The form Watton for ' Wotton ' 
appears to indicate that this change had come about, in the speech of 
Machyn, also after w-. 

The old diphthong ai can hardly have retained its diphthongal pro- 
nunciation. Such spellings as mayde ' made ', stayffes ' staves ', show that 
this combination of letters could be used without any idea of a diphthongal 
value, and the word mayor, which formerly certainly had a diphthong, is 
found written mere as well as may re. 

The spelling oy for M.E. <? a , O.E. <z, is curious and occurs several 
times : cloyth ' cloth ', boyth ' both ' (passim), hoyth ' oath '. 

Initially this vowel is still written in one, oon ' one ', but the form won 
also occurs. 

The Southern type, from an old x, is preserved in prate ' pretty '. 

The combination -ench appears as -ynch in Kyngbynche (twice). 

The combination wa- becomes wo- in wosse ' wash '. 

Vowel Shortenings. 

These are evidently expressed by the doubling of the final consonant in 
the following words : goli 'goat \fottman ' footman ', swett l sweat', also 
swell ' sweet ', grett ' great ', heddes ' heads ', mett ' meet ' (passim). 

Vowel Lengthening. 

This has already taken place in gaard, where the doubled vowel can 
have no other meaning. In this case, either the r has already been 
weakened, or the lengthening occurred earlier than the loss of r. It is 
pretty certain that aa here does not imply [a] but [ae]. 


Unstressed Syllables. 

There is the evidence so common since the fifteenth century of the 
levelling of the vowels in unstressed syllables under an indeterminate 
sound which the writer found it hard to express : 

Rochester, Wynch^ster, but Lnnk0ster ; Justws a pesse, Cheyffe Justus ; 
prograsse, company, Crystynmws, secretary, where the italicized letters 
probably all stand for [9]. The family name Seymour is written Semer 
= [slma(r)]. 

Initially where unstressed u is written a in apone ' upon ', o is written in 
the same way in apinions, e in aronyous ' erroneous '. 

The ending -y is often written e, e. g. lade ' lady ', Darbe ' Derby ', 
pete ' pity ', galere ' gallery '. 

French u is written e in mysseforten ' misfortune \y in nevys ' nephews ', 
venterer ' venturer ', also written ventorer. 

Old long vowels are shortened in unstressed syllables this is probably 
a survival of the normal M.E. shortening in wyldfulle f -fowl ', grey- 
hond 'greyhound', M.E. -hund. 

The diphthong oi is written y in Gaskyn * Gascoigne ' ; at is written e 
in palles, M.E. pallais or pallets. 

Loss of Syllable. 

Initial vowels are lost in postyll ' apostle ', salt ' assault '. 
An unstressed syllable immediately following that with the chief stress 
is lost in Barmsey, i. e. Beorkmundesey ' Bermondsey '. 

The Consonants. 

A peculiarity of frequent occurrence in Machyn is the confusion of - 
and w-, so that the former is used for the latter and vice versa. 

Examples of w- for v- : wacabondes ' vagabonds ', wergers, waluw 
' value ', wue ' view ', welvet ' velvet ', wettelh ' victuals ', walans ' valance ', 
woyce ' voice '. 

Examples of v- for w- : voman, vomen, veyver f weaver ', Volsake 
' Woolsack ', Vestmynster, Vetyngton ' Whittington ', Vosseter ' Worcester ', 
Voderof (Pr. N.), also written Woodroffe. 

Loss of Consonants. 

(a) Finally \-blyne ' blind ', Egype. 

(b) Initially ', w before o = [u]: Odam for Woodham. 

(c) Medially y in combinations : / 4- s becomes -s Wyssun \Whitsun ', 

d lost after -/- before j [dz] Oil Jury = * Old Jewry '. d + s is 

lost : Wostreet ' Woodstreet ', Lumbarslrett ; ndf becomes -nf- gram- 

father ; -nds- becomes -ns granser ; -mm becomes -rm Yrmongers. 

The combination -pb- is simplified to -b cubard ' cupboard'; -nkt- 

becomes -nt santtuary. 

Loss of -1- before consonants : This occurs before -n- in swone P. P. 
'swollen'; before -m- in reme, ream 'realm'; before -k- in Northfoke\ 
before -p- in hopene ' halfpenny ' ; before -fm Raff 1 Ralph ' (this is perhaps 


from a French form Rauf, as safe from sauf) ; before g [dz] in sawgears 
' soldiers '. 

Loss of -r in combination with -s : Woseter, Vosseter ' Worcester ', 
Dasset ' Dorset ', Masse/say ' Marshalsea ', Cosseletts. 

Loss of -\- between vowels : Denshyre ' Devonshire '. In an unstressed 
syllable, before another cons., -n- is lost in sune elaw ' son-in-law '. 

Addition of Consonants. 

Final -d- after -1 -.Sake/eld for Sackville. This may, however, be 
partly suggested by the suffix -field. 

Development of a parasitic -n- before [dz] is seen in messenger, Selenger 
from Se(nt] Leger. 

The Misplacement of an Initial Aspirate. 

This is dropped in the following words :alffe, alff 'half, alpeny 
1 halfpenny ', Amton courte, elmet ' helmet ' (frequently), arnesse ' harness ', 
alters 'halters', ard 'hard', yt 'hit' Vb., At/allows, ede 'head'. In 
Cornnyll ( Cornhill ' the loss is normal in the unstressed element of 
a compound, and the same is true of Lussam for * Lewisham '. h is im- 
properly added initially in : hanswered, haskyd^ Sant Andrews hunder shaft, 
Halesander ' Alexander ', harme ' arm ' (of the body), harmes (in heraldry), 
here ' ear ', hoathe, herth f earth ', hetten ' eaten ', hevere * every ', Hambrose. 
This addition, as in present-day vulgar speech, only occurs in stressed 
words ; thus we find hat for at, at the end of a sentence a grett dener as 
I have be hat, and has for as when this stands in a stressed position at 
the beginning of a sentence. 

The above is the largest list of ' dropped aspirates ' in words of 
English, not Norman-French, origin which I have found in any document 
as early as this. The addition of h- is commoner, but nowhere, I believe, 
so frequent as in Machyn. 

Initial wh- was evidently pronounced simply as w- by Machyn, as is 
shown by the spellings wyped, wypyd ( whipped ', wyche ' which ', watt 
' what ', war/ ' wharf', and the inverted spelling whent for went. 

Old -gh- = [Y] is written -th- in Luthborow ' Loughborough '. 

Initial th- [}> J appears as f- in frust ' thrust ', Frogmorton ' Throg- 
morton '. 

Final ng in the suffix -ing is written -yn in standyn The Queen grace 
standyn in the galere, also syttyn, rydyn, syngyne ; on the other hand we 
get evyngsong ' evensong \ymberyng days ymberen ' Ember days'. 

The combination -rth- [r$] is occasionally written -rd-fardyng l i2x- 

The initial lip-glide is expressed by w- in won ' one ', by the side of 
one, oon. The phrase good ons occurs, which suggests our ' good 'uns '. 

An initial front-glide before a front vowel occurs vnyerle ' earl '. This 
may possibly be a Kentish form (cf. p. 41 (4)). 

Voicing of Consonants. 

This occurs finally (before the PI. suffix) in drynges * drinks ' ; medially 
before suffix -yd in hundyd * hunted ' ; further as a combinative change 


before -b in sagbottes 'sackbuts'; medially, between vowels in elevant 
' elephant '. 


The Possessive Singular is fairly frequent without any suffix e. g. the 
Kyng grace, his brodur horse, my lord cardenall commyng, a hossear sune 
'usher's son *,ynys father stede. Some of the above have a normal loss 
of -s before a word beginning in s-. 

The following uninflected Possessives may be regarded as old Femi- 
nines : Lade Mare grace, my lady grasys, &c., ' my lady's grace ', &c., 
the quen syster, though in the last instance the loss of suffix may be due 
to the following s-. The use ofys instead of the regular Possessive suffix 
after a noun is seen in the penter ys nam. 

The following Group Possessives are found, showing omission of the 
suffix : the bishop of London palles ; the duke of Somerset dowther. 

The following instance occurs of Group Possessives in which ys 'his' 
is used instead of the Possessive suffix after the last noun : the nuw 
byshope of Lychffeld and Coventreys wyff. 

The older construction instead of the Group Possessive occurs : 
master Godderyke sune the goldsmith. The -s is omitted of Godderyke 
before following s-. 

As regards Plurals, the only noteworthy points are the use of the 
invariables sturgeon and C gret horsse, and a curious collection of names 
of animals : mottuns ' sheep ', velles ' calves ', swines, samons. The voice- 
less/" before the PI. suffix occurs in beyffes ' beeves', and wyeffes 'wives'. 
Similarly we find fin the old Dat. Sing, a-lyffe * alive ' from on life. 


There is not much of note to record regarding the Pers. Pronouns. 
The weak form^ of Possess. Sing. 3rd Pers. Masc. is very frequent. In 
the 2nd Pers. \.youe seems the only form in the Nom. The form hytt 
' it ' is still found, but is rare. It does not seem to be determined by 
strong stress. Yt is the usual form. 

Emphatic Pronouns. The yonge French Kyng has proclaymed 
ynseyllff Kyng of Skotland. Isjm- written iwym-, or is it by any chance 
a late survival of the O.E. hme, rare already in Early M.E. ? 

She lepyd into a welle and drownydyr seyllff. 

Relative Pronouns. ' Who ' is spelt wo, a curious form, as we 
should have expected ho. Can there have been a real pronunciation with 
w- at this period ? 

We find as used as a Relative : the goodly est collars as ever youe saw. 

A fairly frequent construction with the wyche, followed by a Pers. Pron. 
or a Noun, recalls a modern Cockney vulgarism with which : the funeral 
of my lade Browne the wyche she ded (' died ') in chyld-bed ; the wyche he 
dwelt in Lumbar strett the wyche the Quen grace was ther. 

An interesting example of the omission of the Relative is found : 
This ij day of March was consecratyd at the byshope of London palles master 
Young e byshope of Yorke, was byshope of San Davids. 

Impersonal Pronoun. The Possess, of one is found in the form 
oneys ere ' one's ear '. 


Indefinite Article. 

The form without the nasal is sometimes used before a vowel : a arme, 
a or ay son, a elevant (' elephant '). 

Definite Article. 

The forms her thuder ' her other ', her thodur ere cut, &c., presumably 
stand for the with the elision of the vowel before a following vowel, which 
is very common at this period and much later. It is curious to find the 
Article used after a Possess. Pron. 

Verbal Endings. 

I have few examples of Machyn's form of the 3rd Pers. Pres. Sing. 
From the form of his work this part of the Verb would naturally be rare. 
But cf. specimen, and p. 333, below. There are, however, a few examples 
of Pres. Pis. in -s : comys, lys ' lie '. 

There is little to note concerning Auxiliary Verbs. Ar is used in 
Pres. PI. ; the P. P. is be, as well as bene, byne, and the shortened byn. 

In unstressed positions weak forms of have without the aspirate occur : 
' If my lord mer, and my lord Cortenay ad not ben ther '; and a shortened 
form of the Inf. occurs in * he told them that he wold not a savyd ', &c. 

Do is used as now in negative sentences ' the chyld dyd not spyke.' 

Strong Verbs. 

The following forms are worth notice : Preterites gayf (where y 
apparently expresses length), begane (with long vowel on analogy of Pret. 
of give ?), / say ' I saw ' (corresponding to Chaucer's sey), sluw ( slew ', 
druw ' drew ' (apparently phonetic renderings of the normal descendants of 
the O.E. forms slog and drog\ red ' rode ' (from the P. P. type, with the 
characteristic lowering of i to *); the P. P.'s gyffen, drane (with mono- 
phthonging followed by unrounding from draun\ swone ' swollen ', sene 
1 seen ', and the phonetically-written syne. 

The word choose appears in two varieties chuysse (Inf.) and chusse. 
It is probable that these both represent the same form with [y], which 
must perhaps be regarded as a descendant of the Western type with [y] 
spelt u. On the other hand, since y in Machyn's spelling seems to be 
used occasionally as a sign of length, these spellings may both stand for 
[tjuz] from M.E. chosen^ O.E. c(f)6san. The spelling loysse ' lose ' may 
represent the ancestor of our present type with [u] from old tense o. 

The great value of Machyn's Diary is that it lets us into more secrets 
of contemporary speech than does any other work of the period indeed 
we have to go back a hundred years, to Gregory, to find a collection of 
spellings and forms which throw such light upon pronunciation. Machyn 
is obviously inferior to his predecessor both in social standing and in 
education. The latter fact has turned out to be of inestimable advantage 
to students of English, since the Diarist is marvellously emancipated from 
traditional spelling. The former circumstance makes him a priceless 
guide to the lower type of London English of his day. His lack of 
literary education, combined with the absence of views regarding elegance 
and refinement, make him a high authority upon the ways of natural 
unstudied speech in the sixteenth century. 


Among the chief features of Machyn's Class dialect we may men- 
tion : the large number of cases of lowering of t to e, ; the cases of 
unrounding of short o, which are rather in excess of those found in 
writers of higher standing; the misplacement, by omission and wrong 
insertion, of initial h-\ the interchange of v- and w-\ the excessive 
number of combinative changes in the consonants, which, although 
they may all be paralleled from the writings of persons of a higher class, 
do not occur in their written documents in such profusion as here ; 
the peculiar use of which noted above, and the use of as as a Relative 

We conclude this chapter with a short specimen of Machyn's style. 

p. 139, 1557. The xvj day of June my yong duke of Norfoke rod abrod 
and at Stamford-hylle my lord havying a dage hangyng on ys Sadylle bow, 
and by mysse-fortune dyd shutt y t, and 1 yt on of ys men that ryd afor, and so 
by myssforten ys horse dyd flyng and so he hangyd on by vn of ys sterope, 
and so thatt the horse knokyd ys brayns owt with flyngyng owt with ys leges. 

p. 146, last day of June. The sam day the Kyng grace rod 2 on untyng into 
the forest and kyllyd a grett stage with gones. 

The iiij of August was the masse of requiem for my lade prenses of Cleyff 
. . . and ther my lord abbott of Westmynster mad a godly sermon as ever 
was mad, and the byshope of London song masse in ys myter, (and after) 
masse my lord byshope and my lord abbott mytered dyd (cense) the corsse, 
and afterward she was caried to her tomb (where) she leys with a herse-cloth 
of gold the wych lyys (over her) ; and ther alle her hed offerers brake ther 
stayffes, her 8 hussears brake ther rodes, and all they cast them into her 
tombe ; the wyche was covered her co(rrse) with blake, and all the lordes 
and lades and knyghtes and gentyllmen and gentill-vomen dyd offer, and 
after masse a grett (dener) at my lord abbots, and my lade of Winchester 
was the cheyff (mourner) and my lord admeroll and my lord Dacre wher 
of ether syde of my lade of Wynchester and so they whent in order to 

1 hit. 3 a hunting. 3 ushers. 

L 2 


'MEN of the renascence', says Mr. Swinburne, in his tract on 
Shakespeare, ' could no more be expected to talk like men of the 
middle ages whether contemporaries of Dante, of Chaucer, or of 
Villon than like men of our own age. Each century or so, if we accept 
the convenient and casual division of manners and of styles by the rough 
and ready reckoning of successive dates, has its own natural conventions 
of life and art, from which none can entirely escape but by servile affecta- 
tion of an obsolete manner, or fatuous affectation of an unnatural style/ 

The student of English, who has some vital feeling for the genius of 
English speech as it was in the age just following Chaucer, and in the 
age of Elizabeth, discovers, when he continues his studies into the seven- 
teenth century, that he is gradually emerging as the century advances 
into a new world of language, and one more different from that which he 
is leaving behind him, than was this, at least to his perceptions, from those 
earlier periods through which his studies have led him. The ordinary 
reader has not time or occasion to saturate himself thoroughly in the 
style of the successive periods of Hoccleve and Lydgate and Skelton, of 
the Fastens and Celys ; of More, Elyot, and Lord Berners ; of Surrey, 
Wyatt, Latimer, and Fisher ; of Sackville, Sidney, Spenser, and Raleigh ; 
of Machyn, Ascham, Gabriel Harvey, Sir Thomas Smith, Lyly ; of Bacon, 
Shakespeare, and Jonson. He is conscious, indeed, that where all is 
more or less remote and unfamiliar as regards turns of phrase, cadence, 
and the general movement of sentences, the style of the three last is 
nearer to him than that of the writers whose names come earlier in the 
list, but he feels that in numerous ways theirs is not the English of his 
own day. It is difficult, perhaps, to be fully alive to the gradual changes 
which are coming over the modes of expression during a couple of 
centuries, when everything is more or less strange. It is different as we 
proceed into the heart of the seventeenth century. We begin to feel that 
we are getting into our own time as we leave behind us the great writers 
who were born, and did most of their work, in the sixteenth century, and 
with Beaumont and Fletcher, Carew and Walton, we lose more and more 
the feeling that we are reading the ' old writers '. Putting aside Milton, 
whose * soul was like a star and dwelt apart ', and perhaps Sir Thomas 
Browne, whose style, in spite of its opulence and magnificence, never 
attains the easy familiarity of Suckling, we feel, when we read the prose 
of the men born during the first and second decades of the seventeenth 
century, and in some cases of those born in the nineties of the sixteenth, 
that all, though in varying degrees, speak like the people of our own age. 
This is specially true of Suckling (1609-42) and Cowley (1618-67). 


After these men there can be no question that however much it may be 
possible to indicate here and there certain characteristic habits of style, 
tricks, mannerisms, or whatever we may call them, which adorn or dis- 
figure the prose writings of a particular generation, we have reached our 
own English in very spirit and substance. 

In order to bring home this gradual passage from something different 
to something which is the English of our own age in all its essentials, we 
must examine, side by side, a few passages from writers born between 
the middle of the sixteenth century and the end of the second decade of 
the next. We may take as a typical piece of late sixteenth-century prose 
a passage from A View of the Present State of Ireland, by Edmund 
Spenser (i552(?)~99)- 

' And yet the rebellion of Thomas Fitz Gerrald did well-nygh stretch itself 
into all partes of Ireland. But that, which was in the time of the government 
of the Lord Gray, was surely noe less generall then all those ; for there was 
no part free from the contagion, but all conspired in one to cast of theyr 
subjection to the crowne of England. Nevertheless, through the most wise 
and valiaunt handling of that right noble Lord, it gott not that head which 
the former evills found ; for in them the realme was left, like a shippe in 
a storme amiddest all the raging surges, unruled, and undirected of any : 
for they to whom she was comitted either faynted in theyr labour, or forsooke 
theyre charge. But he (like a most wise pilote) kept her course carefully, 
and held her moste strongly even agaynst those roring billowes, that he 
brought her safely out of all ; soe as long after, even by the space of twelve 
or thirtene yeares, she rode in peace, through his only paynes and excellent 
enduraunce, how ever envye list to bluster agaynst him.' 

The next example is from Bacon's Essay on Friendship. Bacon was 
born in 1561 and died in 1626. 

' How many things are there which a man cannot, with any face or comeli- 
ness, say or do himself? A man cannot alledge his own merits with modesty, 
much less extol them : a man cannot sometimes brook to supplicate or beg ; 
and a number of the like. But all these things are graceful in a friend's 
mouth, which are blushing in a man's own. So again, a man's person 
hath many proper relations, which he cannot put off. A man cannot speak 
to his son but as a father ; to his wife, but as a husband ; to his enemy but 
upon terms ; whereas a friend may speak as the case requires, and not as it 
sorteth with the person. But to enumerate these things were endless ; I have 
given the rule, where a man cannot fitly play his own part ; if he have not 
a friend he may quit the stage.' 

The gentle Izaak Walton is a good representative of the seventeenth 
century. Born in 1593, six years before the death of Spenser, he lived 
well into the last quarter of the seventeenth century, dying in 1683. ^ 
his style lacks the brilliancy and sparkle that belong to the later 
generation which grew up and matured long before the end of his life, 
Walton is endeared to us by his genuine goodness of character, his love 
of the country, and the simplicity and sincerity of his writing. His 
failings, if they were such, certainly ' leaned to virtue's side '. Besides 
his enthusiasm, which we need not further refer to, for fishing, he was 
deeply attached to the Church of England, and had a distinct penchant for 
dignitaries. The following passage from the Life of Sir Henry Wotton 
exhibits the simple and unaffected graces of Walton's style : 


' He (Sir Henry) returned out of Italy into England about the thirtieth year 
of his age, being then noted by many both for his person and comportment ; 
for indeed he was of a choice shape, tall of stature and of a most persuasive 
behaviour ; which was so mixed with sweet discourse and civilities, as gained 
him much love from all persons with whom he entered into an acquaintance. 
And whereas he was noted in his youth to have a sharp wit and apt to jest ; 
that, by time, travel, and conversation, was so polished, and made so useful, 
that his company seemed to be one of the delights of mankind ; insomuch 
as Robert Earl of Essex then one of the Darlings of Fortune, and in greatest 
favour with Queen Elizabeth invited him first into a friendship, and, after 
a knowledge of his great abilities, to be one of his Secretaries ; the other 
being Mr. Henry Cuffe, sometime of Merton College in Oxford, and there 
also the acquaintance of Sir Henry Wotton in his youth, Mr. Cuffe being 
then a man of no common note in the University for his learning ; nor after 
his removal from that place, for the great abilities of his mind, nor indeed for 
the fatalness of his end.' 

We pass now to the prose of perhaps the greatest Englishman born 
during the seventeenth century, John Milton. When Milton was born, in 
1608, Spenser had only been dead nine years, Shakespeare had still eight 
more years to live, Donne was a young man of 35, Marston and Fletcher 
were 33, and Beaumont nine years younger. Bacon was 47, Waller was 
a child of three. It is almost impious to say so, but it must be said that 
Milton's prose is not in the direct line of descent from the great writers 
his predecessors, nor do those of the following ages derive from him. In 
spite of its many splendours, and its massive weight, this style does not 
reflect the age, however much it may express the personality of Milton. 
It is magnificent and memorable, but it exists in solitary state, remote, 
and unrelated to the general current of English speech. 

Against Prelatry, Book II (vol. i, p. 221) : 

* For although a Poet, soaring in the high Region of his Fancies, with his 
Garland and singing Robes about him, might, without apology, speak more 
of himself than I mean to do ; yet for me sitting here below in the cool 
Element of Prose, a mortal thing among many Readers of no Empyreal 
Conceit, to venture and divulge unusual things of my self, I shall petition 
to the gentler sort, it may not be envy to me. I must say therefore, that 
after I had from my first years, by the ceaseless diligence and care of my 
Father, whom God recompence, been exercis'd to the Tongues, and some 
Sciences, as my Age would suffer, by sundry Masters and Teachers both at 
home and at the schools, it was found, that when ought was impos'd me by 
them that had the overlooking, or betak'n to of mine own choise in English, 
or other Tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly this latter, the stile by certain 

_ *j i r*l *A. i i _. 1*1 l__ A_ i* T* _ j_ __ . i i . i .1 

the manner is, that every one must give some proof of his wit and reading 
there) met with acceptance above what was lookt for, and other things 
which I had shifted in scarcity of Books and Conveniences to patch up 
amongst them, were receiv'd with written Encomiums, which the Italian is 
not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps, I began thus far to 
assent both to them and divers of my friends here at home ; and not less 
to an inward prompting which now grew daily upon me, that by labour 
and intent study, (which I take to be my portion in this Life) joyn'd with 
the strong propensity of Nature, I might perhaps leave something so written 
to after-times, as they should not wilingly let it die.' 


This is Milton speaking in prose, ' with his Garland and singing Robes 
about him ' ; it is not the speech of ordinary life, nor of ordinary people 
in any age. But even when Milton descends to a very different level and 
expresses such human feelings and passions as personal hatred, prejudice, 
and intolerance, his style is never that of the common man ; like his own 
hero, he is never ' less than Archangel ruined '. 

No less remarkable than Milton in possessing a prose style aloof from, 
and unrelated to, that which is typical of the age, is his near contempo- 
rary Sir Thomas Browne, from whom we quote three passages. 

Religio Medici, Pt. II, Sec. n (Ed. of 1659): 

' Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty years which to relate, were not 
a history but a piece of Poetry, and would sound to common eares like a 
fable ; for the world I count it not an Inne, but an Hospital, and a place, 
not to live, but to dye in. The world that I regard is my selfe, it is the 
Microcosme of mine own frame, that I cast mine eye on ; for the other, 
I use it but like my Globe, and turne it round sometimes for my recreation. 
Men that looke upon my outside, perusing only my condition, and fortunes, 
doe erre in my altitude; for I am above Atlas his shoulders. The earth 
is a point not onely in respect of the heavens above us, but of that heavenly 
and celestiall part within us : that masse of flesh that circumscribes mee, 
limits not my minde; that surface that tels the heavens it hath an end, 
cannot perswade mee I have any; I take my circle to bee above three 
hundred and sixty, though the number of the Arte doe measure my body, 
it comprehendeth not my mind: whilst I study to find how I am a 
Microcosme or little world, I find my self something more than the great.' 

From Vulgar Errors, Book III, chap, xxii : 

* As for its possibility we shall not at present dispute ; nor will we affirm 
that Iron ingested, receiveth in the stomack of the Oestridge no alteration at 
all ; but if any such there be, we suspect this effect rather from some way 
of corrosion, then any of digestion ; not any liquid reduction or tendance 
to chilification by the power of natural heat, but rather some attrition 
from an acide and vitriolous humidity in the stomack, which may absterse 
and shave the scorious parts thereof.' 

From Hydriotaphia, chap, v : 

4 There is nothing strictly immortall, but immortality ; whatever hath no 
beginning may be confident of no end. All others have a dependent 
being, and within the reach of destruction, which is the peculiar of that 
necessary essence that cannot destroy it self; And the highest strain of 
omnipotency to be so powerfully constituted as not to suffer even from the 
power of itself. But the sufficiency of Christian Immortality frustrates all 
earthly glory, and the quality of either state after death, makes a folly of 
posthumous memory. God who can onely destroy our souls, and hath 
assured our resurrection, either of our bodies or names hath directly 
promised no duration. Wherein there is so much chance that the boldest 
Expectants have found unhappy frustration; and to hold long subsistence, 
seems but to scape in oblivion. But man is a Noble Animal, splendid in 
ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing Nativities and Deaths, 
with equall lustre, nor omitting Ceremonies of bravery, in the infamy of 
his nature.' 

The first passage above quoted, and much of the work from which it 
comes, is the nearest approach which Sir Thomas Browne makes to 
a natural style in his great works themselves. The Epistles to Thomas 


Le Gros, and to Nicholas Bacon, and the Preface, to the Reader, of 
Religio Medici are, on the whole, free from the author's peculiar manner- 
isms, and while they lack the qualities which distinguish the best writing 
of the age, are not very different from the general run of such productions. 

Every element in this author's characteristic style is intensely individual : 
the vocabulary a marvellous assemblage of costly incrustations the 
word order, the whole structure and cadence of the sentence. The last 
chapter of Hydriotaphia is a veritable tour deforce', it soars to an almost 
incredible pitch of sustained eloquence, which never falters nor declines 
in intensity and volume, from the opening to the closing words. 

It is probable that whether Sir Thomas Browne's contemporaries 
enjoyed his style or not, it appeared to them nearly as bizarre as it does to 
us. It would be interesting to know, for instance, what Dryden, who was 
born about a quarter of a century later than Browne, and outlived him 
by eighteen years, thought of the style of Hydriotaphia. 

We may now with advantage pass to Sir John Suckling and Cowley, 
both of whom are contrasted by Dryden with the writers of the former 
age Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher as exhibiting 
the best qualities of his own, qualities to which the older writers had not 
yet attained. ' Shakespeare's language is likewise a little obsolete ', says 
Dryden in Essay of Dramatic Poesy (p. 81), and again, ' they ' (the writers 
of the former age) ' can produce nothing so courtly writ, or which ex- 
presses so much the conversation of a gentleman, as Sir John Suckling ; 
nothing so even, sweet, and flowing, as Mr. Waller ; nothing so majestic, 
so correct, as Sir John Denham ; nothing so elevated, so copious, and 
full of spirit, as Mr. Cowley ' (ibid., pp. 345). 

We are not immediately concerned with the ultimate justness of this 
appraisement of relative literary values, but merely with the fact that 
Dryden wishes to emphasize the difference of language which separates 
the older writers from those of his own day. ' That an alteration is lately 
made in ours (our language), or since the writers of the last age (in 
which I include Shakespeare, Fletcher, and Jonson), is manifest ' 
(Dramatic Poetry of the Last Age, p. 164). This will be manifest also 
to the reader who has studied the various specimens given above when 
he compares them with the short quotations from Dryden, and still more 
so when he considers longer passages of this great man. But, not to 
anticipate, let us first see how Sir John Suckling ' expresses the conversa- 
tion of a gentleman '. I take this to refer not merely to the dialogue of 
his plays, but to his writing as a whole, to the ease, the lack of stiffness, 
and the well-bred self-possession and naturalness which pervade all he 

Here is one of his letters to ' Aglaura ' : 

' My dear Dear, Think I have kissed your letter to nothing and now 
know not what to answer; or that, now I am answering, I am kissing 
you to nothing, and know not how to go on ! For, you must pardon, 
I must hate all I send you here, because it expresses nothing in respect 
of what it leaves behind with me. And O ! why should I write then ? 
Why should I not come myself? Those tyrants, business, honour, and 
necessity, what have they to do with you and I ? Why should we not do 
love's commands before theirs, whose sovereignty is but usurped upon us ? 
Shall we not smell roses 'cause others do look on, or gather them 


'cause there are prickles, and something that would hinder us ? Dear, 
I fain would, and know no hindrance but what must come from you; 
and why should any come ? Since 'tis not I but you, must be sensible 
how much time we lose, it being long time since I was not myself but 
yours' (Works, ii, pp. 197-8). 

The following is in a very different strain, and is taken from the Dis- 
course of Religion (Works, ii, pp. 245-6) : 

' The strangest, though most epidemical, disease of all religions has been 
an imagination men have had that the imposing painful and difficult things 
upon themselves was the best way to appease the Deity, grossly thinking 
the chief service and delight of the Creator to consist in the tortures and 
sufferings of the creature. How laden with changeable and unnecessary 
ceremonies the Jews were, their feasts, circumcisions, sacrifices, great Sab- 
baths and little Sabbaths, fasts, burials, indeed almost all worship sufficiently 
declare ; and that the Mahometans are much more infected appears by ... 
lancing themselves with knives, putting out their eyes upon the sight of 
their prophet's tomb, and the like. . . . Our religion teaches us to bear 
afflictions patiently when they fall upon us, but not to force them upon 
ourselves; for we believe the God we serve wise enough to choose his 
own service, and therefore presume not to add to His commands.' 

It is hardly temerarious to date the beginning of typical seventeenth- 
century prose from Suckling. 

In him we find, almost for the first time, the accents of that age which 
has given to succeeding generations the models of clarity, elegance, and 
urbanity. Dying in 1642, Suckling was ' ta*ken away from the evil to 
come ' ; but if he was spared the mortification of seeing the triumph of the 
usurper and the martyrdom of the King, neither did he enjoy the frolics 
of the Restoration, nor know the later perfections of English speech in 
literature and in its colloquial forms. 

From Suckling we naturally pass to Cowley, and consider a passage 
from an Essay. 

Of my Self. 

' It is a hard and nice Subject for a man to write of himself ; it grates his 
own heart to say any thing of disparagement, and the Readers Ears to hear 
any thing of praise from him. There is no danger from me of offending him 
in this kind ; neither my Mind, nor my Body, nor my Fortune, allow me any 
materials for that Vanity. It is sufficient, for my own contentment, that 
they have preserved me from being scandalous, or remarkable on the 
defective side. But besides that, I shall here speak of my self, only in 
relation to the subject of these precedent discourses, and shall be likelier 
thereby to fall into the contempt, than rise up to the estimation of most 
people. As far as my memory can return back into my past Life, before 
I knew, or was capable of guessing what the World, or Glories, or Business 
of it were, the natural affections of my Soul gave a secret bent of aversion 
from them, as some Plants are said to turn away from others, by an 
Antipathy imperceptible to themselves, and inscrutable to Mans under- 
standing. Even when I was a very young Boy at School, instead of 
running about on Holydays, and playing with my Fellows, I was wont 
to steal from them and walk into the Fields, either alone with a Book, or 
with some one Companion, if I could find any of the same Temper. I was 
then too so much an Enemy to constraint, that my Masters could never 
prevail on me, by any perswasions, or encouragements, to learn without 
Book the common Rules of Grammar, in which they dispenced with me 


alone, because they found I made a shift to do the usual exercise out of 
my own reading and observation.' 

With Cowley the new era is well on its way. This is no longer the 
diction of the ' last age '. It has all the grace of the seventeenth century 
in its middle period, none of the eccentricities of Browne, none of the soaring 
above human life and common modes of expression that is felt in the prose 
of Milton, none of the frigid didactics or haughty aloofness of Bacon. 
The style of Cowley 's prose Essays has given to these works a perma- 
nence which their intrinsic interest alone would hardly have secured. It 
is familiar without overstepping the bounds of good manners, easy without 
lapsing into slovenliness, and it preserves stateliness without sacrificing 
intimacy. It is colloquial in the best sense. What Dr. Spratt affirms 
of his conversation is true of his writings ' In his Speech neither the 
pleasantness excluded gravity, nor was the sobriety of it inconsistent with 

In Cowley are found neither the lofty eloquence of Dryden's noblest 
passages, nor the pointed brilliancy of Congreve. The former was alien 
to the altogether slighter character of the elder poet, while the latter 
belongs peculiarly to the Restoration. 

And this brings us to Dryden, whose style in ' the other harmony of 
prose ' we shall observe as he acts as our guide to the matter in hand 
the development of English literary and colloquial style after the age of 

In the Essay on the Dramatic Poetry of the Last Age (Essays, vol. i, 
p. 174, &c.) Dryden says : 

' I have always acknowledged the wit of our predecessors, with all the 
veneration which becomes me ; but I am sure their wit was not that of 
gentlemen ; there was ever somewhat that was ill-bred and clownish in it, 
and which confessed the conversation of the authors. 

' And this leads me to the last and greatest advantage of our writing, 
which proceeds from conversation. In the age wherein these poets lived, 
there was less of gallantry than in ours ; neither did they keep the best 
company of theirs. Their fortune has been much like that of Epicurus, 
in the retirement of his gardens; to live almost unknown, and to be 
celebrated after their decease. I cannot find that any of them had been 
conversant in courts, except Ben Jonson ; and his genius lay not so much 
that way, as to make an improvement by it. Greatness was not then so easy 
of access, nor conversation so free, as now it is. I cannot, therefore, 
conceive it any insolence to affirm, that, by the knowledge and pattern of 
their wit who writ before us, and by the advantage of our own conversation, 
the discourse and raillery of our comedies excel what has been written 
by them.' 

It is necessary to note that, as Mr. Ker points out in the Preface to his 
edition of the Essays, Dryden uses Wit in the larger sense of propriety of 
language, and also in the narrower and stricter sense of sharpness of con- 
ceit. In the above passage it appears to be used in the former sense. 

Dryden here advances several important propositions. The dramatic 
writers his predecessors did exhibit in their plays the actual speech of 
their age the style * confessed the conversation of the authors ' ; but it 
was not the conversation of gentlemen, not the best example of the 
speech of their age therefore, but that of clownish and ill-bred persons ; 


the dramatic writing of his own age also expresses the { conversation ' of 
the time, but now, being based upon a more refined and polished type 
of this, ' the discourse and raillery of our comedies excel ' those of his 

Dryden proceeds : 

' Now, if they ask me, whence it is that our conversation is so much 
refined ? I must freely, and without flattery, ascribe it to the Court ; and 
in it, particularly to the King, whose example gives a law to it. His own 
misfortunes, and the nation's, afforded him an opportunity which is rarely 
allowed to sovereign princes, I mean of travelling, and being conversant 
in the most polished courts of Europe ; and thereby cultivating a spirit 
which was formed by nature to receive the impressions of a gallant and 
generous education. At his return, he found a nation lost as much in 
barbarism as in rebellion; and as the excellency of his nature forgave 
the one, so the excellency of his manners reformed the other. The 
desire of imitating so great a pattern first awakened the dull and heavy 
spirits of the English from their natural reservedness ; loosened them 
from their stiff forms of conversation, and made them easy and pliant to 
each other in discourse. Thus, insensibly, our way of living became more 
free ; and the fire of English wit, which was before stifled under a con- 
strained melancholy way of breeding, began first to display its force, by 
mixing the solidity of our nation with the air and gaiety of our neighbours. 
This being granted to be true, it would be a wonder if the poets, whose 
work is imitation, should be the only persons in three kingdoms who 
should not receive advantage by it ; or if they should not more easily 
imitate the wit and conversation of the present age than of the past.' 

It results from the various remarks quoted from Dryden that he was 
conscious of great differences between the speech of his own time as 
reflected in literary works, and more particularly in dramatic literature, and 
that of the Elizabethans. This difference Dryden holds to be greatly to 
the advantage of his own contemporaries, and he attributes the improve- 
ment to the refinement and polish of the language of the Court under 
Charles II. The ' stiff forms of conversation ' had passed away. 

Dryden's complaint against the older writers is in reality threefold : 
their language is 'obsolete'; it was based upon bad models; it has 
often a certain incorrectitude. 

The obsolescence of these writers, in so far as it existed, is not a 
reasonable ground of complaint, since it is inseparable from the normal 
development of speech. The other two charges are to a great extent 
part and parcel of the first. It is inadmissible that Shakespeare was not 
acquainted with the best colloquial English of his time, or that when he 
chose he could not make his characters speak like gentlemen. The 
colloquial convention had changed greatly during the century or so 
between Shakespeare and Dryden, and it is this difference between them 
that Dryden mistakes for ' clownishness ' in the older poets. In the same 
way Dryden's contemporaries speak of the ' rude unpolished strain ' of 
Chaucer, and Dryden himself cannot praise this poet's verse more highly 
than in comparing it to the ' rude music of a Scotch tune '. 

As for the ' incorrectness ', some of it no doubt, judged by the strictest 
standards, had a real existence, but as Professor Sir Walter Raleigh says 
of Shakespeare ' the syntax and framework of his sentences have all the 


freedom of impulsive speech ', and again ' He breaks through grammar 
only to get nearer to the heart of things.' 

Some of the constructions which fall under Dryden's censure are 
perfectly normal in the sixteenth century, as, for instance, Ben Jonson's 
Contain your spirit in more stricter bounds, which is a very usual 
form of the Comparative among the Elizabethans, and continued in 
colloquial use after their day (cf. p. 326, below). But it is not from 
the consideration of isolated features of this kind that the essential 
character of the language of an age is to be apprehended. This is 
the result of innumerable factors vocabulary, the particular associations 
attached to certain words, the order of these in the sentence, the balance 
and cadence of the sentence, the peculiar movement, one might almost 
say the speed of the utterance. The general impression of the typical 
seventeenth-century style at its best is one of rapidity, lightness, ease, supple- 
ness, and grace. It is almost impossible to conceive that the dialogue 
which we find in Sir Thomas More's Life, in that of Wolsey's Life by 
Cavendish, or in Euphues, could have rattled and flashed along with the 
same swift inevitableness which is felt to belong to the dialogues of Dryden's 
best manner, to those of Otway, of Vanbrugh, or even of Mrs. Aphra Behn, 
and, above all, to those of Congreve (see examples on pp. 369, 397, &c.). 

In this connexion it is interesting to recall the views propounded by 
Bacon in his Short Notes for Civil Conversation, which no doubt were 
shared by many in his day. 

1 It is necessary to use a stedfast countenance, not wavering with action, 
as in moving the head or hand too much, which sheweth a fantastical light, 
and fickle operation of the spirit. . . . Only it is sufficient with leisure to 
use a modest action in either. 

In all kinds of speech, either pleasant, grave, severe or ordinary, it is 
convenient to speak leisurely, and rather drawlingly, than hastily ; because 
hasty speech confounds the memory, and oftentimes, besides unseemliness, 
drives a man either to a non-plus or unseemly stammering, harping upon 
that which should follow ; whereas a slow speech confirmeth the memory, 
addeth a conceit of wisdom to the hearers, besides a seemliness of speech 
and countenance.' 

This passage appears to recommend a gesture and a manner of utter- 
ance as sober and slow-moving as the style in which the advice is 
couched. Precept and example are here become identical. These few 
sentences of Bacon have the atmosphere of his age, and certainly they 
neither lack anything of the leisureliness which he enjoins in conversa- 
tion, nor err on the side of sprightliness of movement which would 
correspond to the ' wavering with action ' in uttered speech. 

If we put these and similar passages of this age side by side with others 
from the later seventeenth century, the difference between the Elizabethan 
and the post-Revolution sentences in what we have called the general 
mode of movement at once becomes apparent. 

This characteristic movement will depend very largely upon the 
sentence structure, word order, and syntax ; to some extent also upon 
accidence, and upon the general habits of pronunciation. It is the subtle 
fusion of all these factors which gives to the language of an age its special 
tlavour, character, and atmosphere. Only the grosser and more obvious 


of the elements which compose the whole submit to our analysis. There 
are hosts of imponderables which no philological microscope can focus. 

To the critics of Dryden's day there was only one test of supreme 
excellence in English style, and that was conformity to their own 
standards. What differed from these was suspect, and it was natural 
that, convinced that ' Well-placing of words for the sweetness of pro- 
nunciation was not known till Mr. Waller introduced it f , the men of the 
seventeenth century should feel, in reading diligently the works of 
Shakespeare and Fletcher, that a man who understood English would 
' find in every page either some solecism of speech, or some notorious 
flaw in sense '. It is well to remember that Dryden, although he may 
try to justify his strictures by producing a series of examples of the 
supposed improprieties of the Elizabethans, is simply protesting against 
what is to him archaic and unfamiliar. However much we may be alive 
to the differences between the English of the age of Shakespeare and 
that of the age of Dryden, it is evident that Dryden himself and the men 
of his time felt these differences far more keenly. To be obsolete was to 
be inferior, and the charges of ' clownishness ', and the assertion that 
the ' wit' of the earlier dramatic writers was ' ill-bred ', amount to no more 
than an insistence that the colloquial style, and with it the style of prose 
generally, had changed. 

This is perhaps the proper place to reiterate what was insisted upon 
in general terms in the earlier chapters, that the literary and colloquial 
styles of any age are most intimately related. 

The style of literary prose is alive and expressive, chiefly in so far as 
it is rooted in that of colloquial utterance. The general atmosphere of 
both is the same in any given age. It may be safely affirmed that a 
piece of prose which is genuinely typical of the period in which it is pro- 
duced, no matter how highly-wrought and finished it may be, will not 
sound strange when read aloud and judged by the colloquial standards of 
its own day. Dryden attributes the improvement of dramatic literature in 
his day to the polishing of conversation since the Restoration. It may be 
said that dramatic style necessarily aims at reproducing conversation at its 
best, and that the relation between this genre of literature and the col- 
loquial language is closer than that between the latter and any other 
form of writing. To recognize this is not to exclude the extension of 
the principle to other kinds of prose. We may make every possible 
allowance for differences which distinguish the various types of colloquial 
speech from each other, according to the occasion which calls them 
forth, and for those differences again which naturally divide the style of 
uttered speech from that of written prose, of whatever kind this may be, 
yet we must recognize that at a given period the language is everywhere 
one and the same within the limits of the same dialect and that 
written and uttered language, passing through the various gradations 
from the most familiar and colloquial to the most elevated and carefully 
finished, are all of a piece ; they all represent merely different ways of 
using the same instrument ; they breathe the same general spirit and 
atmosphere, and express, in divers tones, the same characteristic genius 
of the age to which they belong. 

This is why the changing genius of a language such as English may 


be illustrated by means of literary prose. If this has changed, it is 
because the colloquial language has changed first. Everything which 
is true of one is true of the other, allowing for the different conditions 
under which conversation and writing are severally produced. Dryden's 
account of the English of his age, although this refers primarily to that 
of literature, is applicable also to the colloquial language. 

The change in English style from the close of the age of Elizabeth 
to the Restoration has been illustrated above from the more polished 
and deliberate types of literary prose ; the more specifically colloquial 
types will be displayed later on in their proper place, in the general survey 
of colloquial English. 

Passing on to the next generation after Dryden we come naturally 
to Swift, whose various treatises on the English of his own day and that 
of the age immediately preceding this, are very instructive. 

They consist (i) of a short article in the Tatter (No. 230, Sept. 28, 
1710); (2) a burlesque entitled A complete Collection of Genteel and 
Ingenious Conversation^ &c., known also by the shorter title of Polite 
Conversations ; (3) A Proposal for correcting, improving, and ascertaining 
the English Tongue, In a letter to ... the lord high treasurer of Great 
Britain. This is dated Feb. 22, 1711-12. 

These three documents are all in the nature of an indictment of the 
fashionable English of the period, on various grounds : that there is 
a great deal of deliberate affectation ; that this takes the form of ' corrupt- 
ing ' the pronunciation sometimes by leaving out vowels, so that 
awkward combinations of consonants are brought about sometimes 
by dropping whole syllables and otherwise ' clipping ' words ; a further 
form of affectation is the use of what we should call ' slang ' words and 
phrases ; another is the persistent use of set words, tags, and phrases, so 
that conversation degenerates into a mere string of cliches. The most 
elaborate of these articles is the Introduction to the Polite Conversations, 
which describes, in a vein of irony, some of the chief features of fashion- 
able pronunciation, as well as the various airs and graces of manner 
which distinguish the bearing of genteel persons in social intercourse. 
A much more serious document, though perhaps hardly more instructive, 
from the amount of light which it throws upon the actual habits of speech 
of the period, is the Letter to the Lord Treasurer. The great interest of 
this lies in the author's attempt to discover the causes of the corrupting 
tendencies which he censures, and to trace them to their different sources. 
Throughout these treatises Swift includes both writers and speakers under 
a common condemnation, referring specifically now to one, now to the 

Perhaps the first point in Swift's Letter to the Lord Treasurer which will 
strike the reader who is familiar with Dryden's views concerning the 
English style of his own day compared with that of the Elizabethans, 
is the remarkable divergence between the views taken by these two 
great writers. Born in 1667, Swift was just a generation younger 
than Dryden. We have seen what Dryden thought of the Eliza- 
bethans as writers, and how superior to them he considered his own 

In contrast to this we find Swift saying of the former * The period, 


wherein the English tongue received most improvement, I take to 
commence with the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, and to con- 
clude with the great rebellion in forty-two.' Now for Swift's opinion of 
the effect of the Restoration upon English style. ' During the usurpation, 
such an infusion of enthusiastic jargon prevailed in every writing, as was 
not shaken off in many years after. To this succeeded that licentiousness 
which entered with the restoration, and from infecting our religion and 
morals fell to corrupt our language ; which last was not like to be much 
improved by those, who at that time made up the court of King Charles 
the Second ; either such who had followed him in his banishment, or 
who had been altogether conversant in the dialect of those fanatic times ; 
or young men who had been educated in the same country ; so that the 
court, which used to be the standard of propriety and correctness of 
speech, was then, and I think hath ever since continued, the worst school 
in England for that accomplishment ; and so will remain, till better care 
be taken in the education of our young nobility, that they may set out 
into the world with some foundation of literature, in order to qualify 
them for patterns of politeness. The consequence of this defect in our 
writing may appear from plays, and other compositions written for enter- 
tainment within fifty years past; filled with a succession of affected 
phrases and new conceited words, either borrowed from the current style 
of the court, or from those, who under the character of men of wit and 
pleasure pretended to give the law. Many of these refinements have 
already been long antiquated, and are now hardly intelligible, which is 
no wonder when they were the product only of ignorance and caprice.' 

The function of the Court of Charles II then, in regard to English, was, 
from Swift's point of view, hardly that which Dryden attributed to it. 

After the courtiers and ' dunces of figure ', Swift passes to ' another 
set of men who have contributed very much to the spoiling of the English 
tongue ; I mean the poets from the time of the restoration '. The fault 
of these writers is alleged to be that they abbreviate words ' to fit them 
to the measure of their verses, and this they have frequently done so very 
injudiciously, as to form such harsh unharmonious sounds that none but 
a northern ear could endure : they have joined the most obdurate con- 
sonants without one intervening consonant, only to shorten a syllable ' 

It was maintained that words ' pronounced at length sounded faint and 
languid '. 

' This was a pretence to take up the same custom in prose, so that 
most books we see nowadays are full of these manglings and abbrevia- 
tions/ Swift gives instances of the fault complained otdrudgd, disturb 'd, 
rebuk'd, fledgd. We may note in passing that the omission of the vowel 
of the suffix -ed had been in vogue for centuries, but if Swift is to be 
relied upon, there must have still been many in his day who pronounced 
the P. P. suffix in the above words as a separate syllable. 

The next cause 'perhaps borrowed from the former* which has 
' contributed not a little to the maiming of our language, is a foolish 
opinion, advanced of late years that we ought to spell exactly as we 
speak '. Swift naturally condemns phonetic spelling on various grounds. 
For us the most interesting of those alleged is that ' Not only the several 
towns and counties of England have a different way of pronouncing, but 


even here in London they clip their words after one manner about court, 
another in the city, and a third in the suburbs '. If all these varieties 
were reduced to writing it ' would entirely confound orthography '. 

The last source of ' corruption ' mentioned by Swift is a certain school 
of young men from the Universities ' terribly possessed with a fear of 
pedantry ', who from his description wish to be what we should call ' up 
to date '. ' They . . . come up to town, reckon all their errors for accom- 
plishments, borrow the newest set of phrases ; and if they take a pen into 
their hands, all the odd words they have picked up in a coffee-house, or 
at a gaming ordinary are produced as flowers of style, and their orthography 
refined to the utmost.' Such a ' strange race of wits ', with their ' quaint 
fopperies ' of manner and speech, exist in every age. Their mannerisms 
rarely pass beyond their immediate clique, and have no more permanence 
than foam on the river. 

Swift's indictment appears at first sight rather a grave one. It is not 
altogether clear whether he objects more to certain habits of pronuncia- 
tion, or to those tricks of spelling, certainly common in his day, which 
were supposed to represent those pronunciations. It is possible that 
Swift did not distinguish very clearly between sound and symbol, and 
included both under a common curse. When we remember the many 
peculiarities of pronunciation, eccentric as we should think them, which 
were prevalent during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, more 
particularly in the way'of dropping consonants in various positions (see 
pp. 296, &c.), we might suppose that Swift's criticism is directed against 
this mode of pronunciation, slovenly and slipshod as it would be considered 
at the present time. Some readers might be inclined to say, ' Here is 
Swift, a man of taste, refinement, and by no means unacquainted with 
the fashionable world of his day, but he censures the careless speech of 
his period. Is it fair to assume, in the face of Swift's strong disapproba- 
tion, that the best speakers really spoke in the manner suggested by the 
writers in the Verney Memoirs or the Wentworih Papers ? It may be 
well to inquire what it really is with which Swift finds fault. The few 
examples given in the Letter to the Lord Treasurer are really of no 
meaning, unless the strictures passed upon them refer primarily to the 
spelling. The Taller article, however, gives a letter which is evidently 
intended to illustrate as many as possible of the ( late refinements crept 
into our language '. They do not amount to very much to ha' come 
I'd ha bro't 'um ; ha'nt don't ' haven't done it ' ; dot ' do it ' ; that 's pozz 
to g'imselfairs ; their phizz's ; the hipps ; prornis't; upon Rep. ' reputation ' 
incog \ mob instead of mobile ; 7w ; banter 'd, and a few more. Some 
of these, such as ha, do'/, that's, &c., were already well-established forms, 
at least a century or a century and a half old. 

The really new, or comparatively new, abbreviations are rep, phzzz, 
mob, pozz, plenipOy &c. The number of these truncated words which 
appear already in the latter part of the seventeenth century was never 
very large, and most have now become obsolete, mob being the only one 
which has passed into permanent and universal use. Pozz has vanished, 
rep still lingered in the phrase demirep in the middle of the nineteenth 
century, phizz barely survives, as a half-facetious word which amuses no 
one and which few now employ. 


We look in vain among Swift's examples for what were indeed 
the characteristic pronunciations from the sixteenth to late in the 
eighteenth century, for instances of the dropping of consonants in the 
middle and at the end of words. Why does Swift not mention Lunnon, 
Wensday, Chrismas, greatis (for greatest], respeck, hounes (for hounds}! 
How is it that the common habit of adding a d or / at the end of a word 
has escaped him ? Why does he allow such pronunciations as laft (for 
laugh), generald (general), varmint (vermin), and a dozen more of the 
same kind to pass without notice? In Chapter VIII numerous instances 
are given of these and similar omissions and additions, and it will be 
observed that not a few are taken from the late seventeenth and early 
eighteenth centuries. It is inconceivable that Swift should not have 
heard these pronunciations, yet they do not fall under his lash. Why 
not ? Because they were so widespread among the best speakers that to 
take exception to them would have been to fall foul of the English of all 
his contemporaries, his own included. Does not Swift himself rhyme 
vermin with ferment, thus implying either that he pronounced a / at the 
end of the former, or dropped one at the end of the latter ? Let the 
reader glance at the lists on pp. 217-20, and he will probably come to the 
conclusion that these things were so common, so much part of the fabric 
of English pronunciation in Swift's day, that he did not notice them, 
indeed that he himself shared the universal habit of his age. In the long, 
satirical Introduction to the Polite Conversations, he refers again to pozz 
and bam (bamboozle) and shortenings of that class, as in the Letter , and 
further to cant, han't, shan't, couldn't, isnt, &c., where it is surely rather 
the spelling than the suggested pronunciation which is aimed at. He 
does, however, refer to four words whose pronunciation was different in 
his day from what it is in our own, and we must perhaps suppose, from 
the fact that these words are mentioned, that Swift did not himself pro- 
nounce them according to the manner usual to his contemporaries. 

These words are learnen for learning, jometry for geometry, vardi for 
verdict^ and lard for lord. On the various points involved see pp. 289, 
303, 242, below. Probably lard was in any case going out of fashion. 

Swift is not a purist in pronunciation ; at any rate he is not bent upon 
reforming the fixed habits of his time, however much he may dislike the 
mere passing fashions which he regards as ephemeral affectations. He 
sees on the one side a rather vulgar slanginess, and on the other an equally 
intolerable preciocity. 

He is mainly concerned with propriety of vocabulary and diction, and 
he dislikes neologisms. It is evidently upon these grounds that Swift 
objects to the style of the dramatists of the Restoration. What he con- 
siders as ' a succession of affected phrases and new conceited words ' 
was to Dryden the embodiment of all that is gay, gallant, and polite, as it 
was exhibited in the easy and elegant conversation of King Charles's 
Court. It is apparently this very identity between the diction of literature 
and that of life which is condemned by Swift, or if, theoretically, he would 
not deny the necessity of this, he at any rate disapproves of those very 
models of colloquial English which Dryden most admires. To this 
extent then, and in theory, if not in practice, Swift represents the view of 
the academic pedant, and Dryden that of the urbane man of the world. 


If we consider the general character of the English of the average 
printed books after the first decade of the seventeenth century, compared 
with that of a similar class of work in the preceding century, we observe 
a far greater uniformity of spelling and of dialect generally. Only rarely 
do we find, here and there, those occasional spellings which we have seen 
occurring with surprising frequency in books of all kinds, down to the 
end of the reign of Elizabeth, and even, to some extent, for the first few 
years of the seventeenth century. 

The spelling and accidence of literary English, especially when printed, 
have gradually become crystallized, deviations from the recognized standard 
are more and more rare, and those trifling variations from this which do 
occur are of no importance, as a rule, in throwing light upon the changes 
of language. What is true of printed literature is true, in a general way, 
and with certain important exceptions, of the English preserved in the 
letters of the period. Whereas in the former century we found that such 
writers as Sir Thomas Smith, Barnabe Googe, Ascham, Cranmer, Lyly, 
and so on, often employ very instructive spellings in their private corre- 
spondence, and that they retain certain dialectal features in the forms and 
accidence, such things are increasingly hard to find during the seventeenth 
century among persons of the same type. Thus if we examine the con- 
siderable collection of letters contained in Ellis's nine volumes, we find 
that whereas on almost every page of the sixteenth-century letters several 
forms of great interest occur, these are remarkably rare later on. Ortho- 
graphy and grammar are uniform and stereotyped, and more than this ; 
the personages whose correspondence is presented to us, mostly highly 
educated officials, courtiers, and bishops, adhere with great consistency 
to the orthodox spelling. 

On the other hand, a priceless collection of letters for our purpose 
exists in the 1 Verney Memoirs, which cover practically the last three 
quarters of the seventeenth century. These four volumes are an inex- 
haustible treasure-house of material for the study of seventeenth-century 
colloquial English. The letters are principally those of Sir Ralph Verney, 
his wife (and later of his children), his sisters and brothers, his uncle 
Dr. Denton, his aunts and cousins, besides many other persons among 
the intimate friends of the family. There are a few letters from humbler 
persons, bailiffs and other dependants, but the vast majority are from 
people of the same social standing, men and women belonging to 
the class of country gentry, some of them, as in the case of several of 
Sir Ralph's sisters, living pretty continuously in the country at Claydon 
on the borders of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire others, such as 
Lady Hobart, Mrs. Eure, Mrs. Sherard, and Dr. Denton, living principally 
in London. Dr. Denton, a member of an old Buckinghamshire county 
family, was a man of considerable cultivation who was educated at 
Oxford, where he studied medicine, and subsequently became a fashion- 
able physician in London ; his opinions concerning both health and 

Less important only because less numerous are the letters in the Verney Papers 
(Letters and Papers of the Verney Family, Ed. Bruce, Camden Soc. 1853) to which 
reference is often made below. These come down to 1639, with which date the later 
collection begins. 


other grave problems of life were greatly prized by all his family and 
friends, including his close relatives, the Verneys. 

A very large proportion of the letters in the Memoirs are from ladies, 
and it is from these that we obtain the greater number of those occasional 
departures from the conventional spelling which shed so much light upon 
current pronunciation. But these spellings are by no means confined to 
the letters of the ladies. Sir Ralph himself, his brothers, his sons, Dr. 
Denton, and Sir John Burgoyne, to mention no others, all now and then 
employ spellings of the same kind as those found in the letters of the 
female correspondents, and the indications given by these spellings, 
though less frequent, point in exactly the same direction as the spellings 
of the ladies, and suggest an identical pronunciation. Thus we are by 
no means justified in supposing that the ladies habitually used a more 
careless and slipshod mode of speech than the men of their family and 
class. If the Verney ladies spell phonetically, and in such a way as to 
imply what we should now call a careless and even illiterate pronunciation, 
this is because they read less than their men folk, and were less familiar 
with the orthodox spelling of printed books. To spell badly was not 
a ground of reproach in the seventeenth, nor even in the eighteenth, century. 
It is not a plausible suggestion that the ladies of a family spoke other- 
wise than their sons and brothers, and indeed the evidence is all against 
such a supposition. Regional dialect does not appear in the letters of 
these Buckinghamshire ladies and their friends, and the characteristic 
features revealed by the Verney Memoirs seem to be those of the English 
of the age as spoken among the upper classes. There seems to be no 
reason for supposing that the pronunciations recorded, and the easy- 
going grammar of the letters, were not those in general use. As one 
reads these Memoirs one has a very vivid impression of reality, and no 
amount of study of the purely literary works of the period on the one 
hand, or of the contemporary writers on English pronunciation on the 
other, can possibly give such an insight into the actual pronunciation and 
the familiar, unstudied diction of the seventeenth century, as is to be 
gained from a perusal of these documents, written on the whole, as we 
have said, by persons of the same class, but various in character, tempera- 
ment, education, and the general circumstances of their lives. It might 
be said that the whole of the seventeenth-century colloquial English is 
here, in its various degrees of familiarity, and also of more studied 
utterance. The number of persons whose letters appear makes the col- 
lection truly representative of the age, and we can observe the differing 
modes of expression of three generations. Every mood finds expression, 
and almost every shade of temperament, and if none of the writers has 
the pen of a Se'vigne' or a Walpole, the correspondence holds us by its 
intense human interest, quite apart from its value for linguistic and social 
history. These letters are genuine human documents, in which living 
men and women tell the story of their lives in the natural diction of their 
age, and, we must repeat, in the actual pronunciation of their age. We 
are in an altogether more attractive world than that of the litigious 
Fastens and huckstering Celys, whose correspondence is nearest to that of 
the Verneys in point of linguistic interest. It is worth noting that the 
spellings into which the writers ift the Verney Memoirs often drop uncon- 

M 2 


sciously are in many cases identical with those employed by contemporary 
writers on pronunciation, such as Wallis and Cooper, in order to express 
the pronunciation they wish to describe. 

Another collection of letters covering about the same period as the 
Verney Memoirs is the Correspondence of Dr. Basire. This volume 
contains chiefly the letters of the Reverend Doctor himself, and of other 
more or less eminent clergy, and these are of small value for the light 
which they throw upon the pronunciation, but the letters of Mrs. Basire 
formerly a Miss Corbet of Shropshire are as enlightening as those 
of the Buckinghamshire ladies. The pronunciation exhibited by these 
letters shows the same general character as that of the Verneys. A lin- 
guistic uniformity of this kind between, on the one hand, a group of 
persons chiefly belonging to Buckinghamshire, some of them residing 
in London, and on the other a lady of the same class belonging to 
Shropshire, but living most of her life in the North of England, goes 
far to confirm the impression regarding pronunciation which we gain 
from the Verney Memoirs ; it also shows that in the latter part of 
the seventeenth century there was a Received Standard which had a 
very wide currency among people of a certain social standing. From 
the spontaneous deviations from the convention in spelling which occur 
in the letters of the Verneys and of Mrs. Basire, it would be possible 
to reconstruct the pronunciation of the period with considerable minute- 
ness and no little certainty. The Standard thus reached is that which 
might be adopted were it desired to reproduce the pronunciation of 
the great Restoration dramatists. If it be thought that the modes of 
speech of the Verneys and Mrs. Basire are too careless and unstudied for 
the sparkling dialogue of the smart ladies and gentlemen of Congreve and 
Vanbrugh, it should be remembered that these characters are almost 
exact contemporaries of Sir Ralph and Lady Verney, of Lady Sussex 
and Dr. Denton ; that all these personages, real and fictitious, belong to 
the same class; that, allowing for the literary polish and brilliancy 
imparted by the dramatists to the conversation of the latter, they all 
employ the same diction, grammar, and constructions. 

Passing on to about a generation later than the last letters in the 
Verney Memoirs, &c., we find in the Wentworth Papers, documents 
no less important as illustrating the colloquial English of the Court circle 
during the first third of the eighteenth century. The best letters, from 
our present point of view, are those of old Lady Wentworth, who had 
been Woman of the Bedchamber to the Queen of James II, of her son 
Peter, and of her daughter-in-law Lady Strafford. There are many other 
letters in the collection which are of great value for the study of eighteenth- 
century English as indeed is nearly everything which was written during 
the first three quarters of the century but the above are the chief. 

The general character of these letters closely resembles that of the 
Verney collection. They are intimate effusions from a mother to her son, 
from a wife to her husband, from one brother to another. The style of 
the three characters mentioned is absolutely unaffected and natural, and 
is clearly as close as it is possible for that of written documents to be to 
that of everyday life. The spelling, even of Peter Wentworth the 
' Querry ', as he calls himself is instructively remote from the conven- 


tional type, and shows that the pronunciation of the period was practically 
identical, in all essential features, with that suggested by the Verney 
correspondence. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance for our 
knowledge of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century conversational 
English of the Verney and Wentworth letters. Those who have not made 
themselves familiar with these collections, or with others of a similar 
character, have missed the richest and most vital sources of information. 

Both the Verney Memoirs and the Wentworth Papers are freely drawn 
on in the later chapters of this book, but it will not be out of place to 
bring together here a few of the priceless gems of spelling which the 
former volumes contain. 

As full references are given later to page and volume, as well as to 
the writer, and the date, these are omitted here. The following forms 
are all taken from letters written between 1640 and 1688 : 

Vowel Spellings. 

ar for er : sartinly, desarve, sarvant, sarve, presarve, divartion, larne 
'learn', vartus ' virtues *,yarn ' earn', marcy, &c., &c. 

M.E. <? 2 = [e] : discrate ' discreet ', to spake. 

e for / : stell, sperits, keten ' kitten ', pell ( pill', fefty, pettyful, shelmgs, 
unfel, &c., &c. 

a for o or au shortened : 6 a clake, becas ' because ' (also bicos), faly 
' folly ', s as sages ' sausages '. 

wo- for wa- : wore ' war ', warning, who I 'what', woater, quorill, quollity, 
woshing, &c. 

Confusion of M.E. i and oi: by led leg of mutton, implyment ' employ 
ment ', gine ' join '. 

Oblige written oblege, obleging, &c., several times. 

Unstressed Vowels. 

-est : gretist, sadist. 

-el : cruilty. 

-une, -ure \-fortin, misfortin, &c. ; jointer, venter, futer. 

-age : corige ' courage ', advantig, acknoliges. 

-on : pardenn, surgin ' surgeon ', ribins, fashing * fashion '. 

-day \ Frydy, Mundy (days of the week). 

-oi'n ) -ot(s) : Borgin ' Burgoyne ', Shammee gloves. 

Consonantal Spellings. 

-in for -ing : seem, missin, comin, shillins, disablegin. 

w- for wh- : any ware, wig ' whig '. 

shu- for su- : shuite (of clothes), shewted ' suited ', sfiewer ' sure '. 

Loss of -r- : quater ' quarter ', ' no father than Oxford ', doset ' Dorset ', 
fust ' first ', passons ' persons ', wood ' word '. 

Loss of other consonants \-friten (P. P.), diomons, gretis (Superl.), 
Wensday, granmother, Papeses ' Papists ', respeck, crismus, nex, hounes 

(Mrs. Basire has Lonan ' London ', with which cf. Lunnon referred to 
in eighteenth century. See p. 303.) 

Addition of consonants'. lemonds Memons', night gownd, dendlynes, 
schollards, mickelmust ' Michaelmas ', hold year ' whole', homb ' home '. 


These spellings speak for themselves, and the few examples here given, 
out of hundreds equally enlightening, are sufficient to illustrate the 
importance for the student of seventeenth-century pronunciation of 
extending his inquiries to naturally-written documents, and of not trusting 
to the professional orthoepists alone. 

A few examples may be added from the Verney Memoirs of peculiari- 
ties of Accidence. 

The suffix -s is often used with plural subject in the Pres. Indie. 
'My Lady and Sir tomos remembers their sarvices to you and Mrs. Gardiner'; 
is also used with PI. subject : ' all hopes of peace is now taken awaye '. 

The Auxiliary have shortened to a : ' It would a greved there harts to 
a sene ', &c. 

Speake, rtt, and right (' wrote '), safe, are used in the Pret. ; spok, took, 
choose, lyen, eat, loaden, as Past Participles. 

Confusion between the Nom. and Objective of Pronouns : between you 
and I ; -SV.r(ter) Peg and me got an opportunity. His used instead of 
Possess, suffix My lord Parsons his sonne. 

Adjectives are used where we should use Adverbs : he is reasonable 
well agane (Lady Verney) ; the weather has been wonderful stormie (Sir 
Edm. Verney). 

The general question of the survival of Regional dialect among the upper 
classes has already been touched upon (pp. 102, 103, 112, 163). A few 
words may, however, be added with special reference to the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries. This is particularly necessary as the well-known 
passage in which Macaulay deals with the speech of the country gentry 
of the seventeenth century, does not give an altogether accurate idea of 
the facts, nor put them in their proper perspective in the general picture 
of the history of English. We have shown that the rustic Verneys and 
Mrs. Basire did not write in such a way as to suggest that they spoke 
a local dialect, but rather that their speech was the Standard English of 
their day. This is true of all the correspondents whose letters appear in 
the Verney Memoirs. It is probable that a minute examination of these 
letters would reveal certain rusticities, and it is inconceivable that such 
should not have occurred, here and there, in the speech of the Verney 
ladies and their brothers. But that they all spoke a Regional broad dialect 
is quite inadmissible. Macaulay's picture of the speech and manners 
of the country squire of the seventeenth century is apparently con- 
structed partly upon the testimony of the Restoration Comedies, and 
more especially from the portrait of Squire Western. His mention of 
Somersetshire and Yorkshire reveals Fielding and Vanbrugh as his 
chief sources, and they are very good ones. It is certain that in the 
remoter shires many country gentlemen spoke their Regional dialect 
well into the eighteenth century. Many did, but not all. By the side 
of Squire Western we have his neighbour, Mr. Allworthy, and for 
the matter of that, Tom Jones himself, whose education was purely local 
until he was fully grown, when he went to London. The dialect-speaking, 
swearing, drinking country gentleman of the Squire Western type had 
plenty of opportunity of hearing the more polite forms of English, and 
could probably use them when he chose, without much difficulty. After 


all, we do not gather that his woman-kind spoke the rustic dialect, so that 
even in his own household the other type was constantly heard. When 
he went to town, the rustic squire was certainly a butt for the wags and 
bloods about the Court the seventeenth-century comedies offer plenty 
of examples of this but his little oddities of speech and manner did 
not cut him off from others, of exactly his own class, indeed often of 
his own family, whose acquaintance with the town was of longer duration 
and older date than his own. Thus his angles were soon rounded off. 

It must not be forgotten that the fashionable circles of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries were made up of persons, some greater, 
some smaller, but all ultimately of this very class which Macaulay 
describes indiscriminately as boors, drunkards, and clowns. All of the 
fine ladies and gentlemen of the Court, from the days of Charles II to 
those of Anne, spent some portion at least of each year on their estates ; 
they might affect to jeer at rustic speech, but they were not unfamiliar 
with it, and its accents doubtless often mingled with their own, as they 
lapsed in unguarded moments into the speech of their native county. It 
is just this constant touch with country pursuits and rustic dialect which 
distinguished, and still distinguishes, the upper classes from the middle- 
class dwellers in the towns. As was said above (p. 112), it was possible 
to speak with a rustic accent and still be a gentleman ; it was not allow- 
able to speak like a * Sunday citizen ' or a ' comfit maker's wife '. In 
any attempt to realize the conditions under which Received Standard 
has developed, these considerations must not be forgotten. If many 
country gentlemen, even in their own homes, spoke what was in all 
essentials the language of the Court, so also there were many courtiers 
and gallants who when they spoke the latter form of English, must have 
retained certain features of their native Regional dialect, and these passed 
muster as accepted and permissible variants in the speech of a gentleman, 
some of them, perhaps, in time, becoming more or less universal. In 
1772 Dr. Johnson said that if people watched him narrowly, and he did 
not watch himself, they would find him out to be of a particular county. 
He added ' In the same manner, Dunning (afterwards Lord Ashburton) 
may be found out to be a Devonshire man ', cp. Life, Oxford Ed., ii. 159. 

It is not wholly fanciful to connect the free and easy pronunciation 
and grammar which are characteristic of fashionable English down to 
the middle of the eighteenth century, with the intimate relation with the 
country and with Regional speech which existed among the ruling classes. 
The reaction to which reference is made later begins, and progresses at 
first, chiefly among the learned middle class whose touch with country life 
and rustic speech was of the slightest. 

It is desirable to say something concerning the professional writers on 
pronunciation of this period. They are so numerous that it is necessary 
to make a selection of some of the most typical and informing. The best 
of these writers, especially those from the middle of the seventeenth 
century onwards, are far more intelligible than the grammarians of the 
sixteenth century. With most of the latter we not only have the very 
greatest difficulty in understanding what sounds they are trying to 
describe, but when by chance we do make out some meaning, we cannot 
escape the gravest doubts that the information conveyed is very wide of 


the truth. The great difficulty with all these writers, supposing that 
some definite conception can be gathered from their statements, is to 
decide how far their accounts are reliable, and to what extent the type of 
pronunciation described may be accepted as the Received Standard of the 
period. On the one hand are the pedants and purists like Gill and, to 
some extent, Butler and Cooper, and on the other the writers whom we 
are inclined to suspect of Regional or Class modification, such as Daines 
and Jones. The safest test to apply is that of the evidence derived from 
the Verneys, Mrs. Basire, and the Wentworths. Pronunciations which 
recur in these sources, but which are nevertheless characterized as vulgar, 
careless, or barbarous, by the grammarians, may safely be accepted as 
belonging to the Received Standard of the day. 

Provided we are armed with a touchstone in the form of material 
supplied by our correspondents, it is true that some small pieces of 
information can generally be extracted from nearly any of the professional 
writers, even from such unsatisfactory authorities as Gill or Bullokar ; but 
it more often happens that a large collection of occasional spellings from 
contemporary letters will render reference to the former superfluous. 

In the English Grammar prefixed to his Dictionary, Dr. Johnson com- 
plains that ' most of the writers on English grammar ', in dealing with 
pronunciation, 'have often established the jargon of the lowest people as 
the model of speech 7 . This is hardly applicable to the seventeenth- 
century writers such as Butler, Wallis, and Cooper, with whose works 
Dr. Johnson was well acquainted, and one must suppose that he had 
in his mind, perhaps, such early eighteenth-century writers as Jones and 
Baker. It is the peculiar merit of these men, as we shall see, that they 
do actually describe, not an ideal form of speech, but one which we know 
from other sources to have been that in actual use. 

We shall consider in due course Dr. Johnson's general views regarding 
English pronunciation, and may now mention in chronological order 
a few of the earlier writers, all of whom are his inferiors in learning, as 
they usually are in judgement also. 

Gill, the author ofLogonomia (1621), was High Master of St. Paul's 
School, ' a very ingeniose person ', says Aubrey, ' as may appear by his 
writings. Notwithstanding he had moodes and humours as particularly 
his whipping-fitts/ Aubrey tells a ludicrous story to illustrate Gill's zeal 
with the rod, and quotes a lampoon upon the subject which shows the 
estimation in which he was held, on this account at least. He was 
among the numerous would-be reformers of spelling, and has left a 
number of texts in his notation. His brief remarks on English pro- 
nunciation are so wide of the mark, and his notation, based upon his 
conception of how English ought to be pronounced, gives a picture so 
wildly remote from what we are compelled by other evidence to consider 
as the true one, that in spite of his great reputation as flogger of little 
boys little or nothing is to be gained from detailed consideration of his 
book. The chief interest lies in his strongly expressed prejudices against 
the prevailing habits of pronunciation of his day, and his abuse of certain 
classes of speakers as affected and effeminate 'mopseys'. Forms of 
pronunciation which had certainly been long in use by the end of Queen 
Elizabeth's reign are denounced by Gill as affected. Thus he even 


pretends that M.E. a was still a back vowel [<z], and that ai was still 
a diphthong. 

He expresses the greatest contempt for those who pronounced ' I pray 
you give your scholars leave to play ' as [si pre ju g! ja(r) sk<zl9(r)z llv te 
pie], which, on the whole, was the way in which most decent speakers 
pronounced at that time (except that not all said [liv, sk#b(r) gl]) instead 
of [91 prat ju giv jur skolorz lev tu pla/'], which probably none but yokels 
had said for a hundred years or more. The chief information is to be 
derived from his exhibition of certain types of pronunciation for the 
purpose of pillorying them. Altogether, Gill seems to be a cantankerous 
and rather ridiculous person, who, if he lived up to his theories, must 
have spoken a detestable English. 

A more agreeable man, and a rather more informing writer, is Charles 
Butler, born in Buckinghamshire in 1 560. He was educated at Magdalen 
College, Oxford, was a schoolmaster at Basingstoke, and Rector of Laurence 
Wotton in 1594. He lived till 1647. He published hisIZngh'sh Grammar 
in 1634. Butler uses a special notation of no particular merit and very 
little phonetic value. His chief aim is to be consistent in spelling. His 
intentions were good, and some of his remarks upon the relation of spell- 
ing to sound are not uninteresting, but he lacked both the special 
training which might have fitted him for his task, and the intelligence to 
supply its lack. Thus his book remains a barren, vague, and unsatis- 
factory account of English speech. Commenting on the uncertainty of 
English spelling in his day, Butler remarks that one of the causes of this 
is that ' in many words wee ar fallen from the old pronunciation, and 
therefore soom write them (i. e. words) according to the nu sound and 
soom (for antiquitis sake) do keep the old writing '. Again ' Wee hav 
in our language many syllables which having gotten a nu pronunciation, 
doo yet retain their old orthographi, so that their letters doo not now 
rightly express their sound ... the which errour if we will correct ... the 
question will be whether we should conform our writing to the nu sound ; 
or reform our sound and return to the old '. 

' For solution of which doubt, it is meet that when wee have generally, 
or in the most civil parts (as the Universities and Citties) forsaken the 
old pronunciation, then wee conform our writing to the nue sound, and write 
as wee speak, deede, neede, sleepe, hart, change, strange, angel, danger (for 
chainge &c.) not dede, nede, sleap, hert, or heart (which is woors) chaunge, 
straunge &c. as they ar yet sounded in the North, and were not long since 
written in the book of Homilies (imprinted 1562) and where the olde sound is 
left only by soom, and in soom places; that there we reform the vowel 
sound and speake as wee write : first, third, bird, dear, ear, hear, heard : not 
furst, thurd, burd, deer, eer, heer, hard.' 

We are not told more precisely than this just what we should like to 
know, what the old sounds and the new sounds severally and respectively 
were. We must suppose that Butler intends to recommend [did, nld, 
slip, hsert, tjendz], &c. 5 in the first group. Incidentally, we may note 
that these pronunciations had been fairly widespread, if not universal, for 
about 1 50 years at least. As regards the second group, it is difficult to 
imagine what he is driving at ; furst represents an originally different 
dialectal type from first \ thurd, burd represent a later pronunciation 


than that expressed by i\ every one said [hiar, diar], certainly not [her, 
der], and most, probably, said [er] if not fir, for] for ear. ' Hard ' [haerd], 
where we now write heard and say [hXd], was apparently the commonest 
type from early in the sixteenth century to the end of the seventeenth at 
least. These passages illustrate well the invincible futility of Butler and 
his kind. They have a gift for selecting the worst possible examples to 
illustrate their meaning, and their statements are generally confused. 
Butler is quite incapable of giving an intelligible account of the character 
of a vowel sound, and it is impossible to be sure what he means when he 
talks of diphthongs. The following are a few of his most definite and 
specific statements, taken from the Index of words like and unlike : 
' Errand a message commonly pronounced arrand; Devil or rather 
deevil, not divel as some far fetching it from diabolus would have it 
deevil comes from eevil\ For enough we commonly say enuf, as for 
laugh, daughter soom say laf, dafter, for cough all say coff\ ere, erst, not 
yer,yerst', Ew not yew ovis femella, as iw not yiw taxus, though y be 
vulgarly sounded in them both ' (p. 70). 

John Wallis published in 1653 his Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae, 
a work which was many times reprinted for more than a century, and 
from which many later writers pilfered right and left. 

The ' learned and sagacious Wallis ', as Dr. Johnson calls him, was born 
in 1616 at Ashford in Kent, of which his father was incumbent. He 
was educated at a school near Tenterden, kept by a Scot, at Felstead 
School, Essex, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He held two livings 
in London, and was elected, in 1649, Savilian Professor of Geometry at 
Oxford, where he died in 1703. 

Wallis has considerable merits as an observer of sounds, he has good 
powers of discrimination, nor is he led astray by the spelling like all 
the sixteenth-century grammarians, and Bullokar, Gill, and Butler in the 

He makes several interesting observations. He perceives that the 
sound expressed in English by au or aw is a kind of 0-sound, which, 
although long, differs otherwise but little from * short o '. Thus he gives 
fall folly, hall, haul holly, call collar, laws losse, cause cost, awd 
odd, saw'd sod, as longs and shorts of the same sound. 

Again, he recognizes the existence of a short ' obscure ' sound which 
he identifies with the French ' e feminine ', and which is heard in the word 
liberty presumably in the second syllable. This must be [9]. 

Wallis further notes the existence of another, similar, but slightly 
different 'obscure* sound, which the French have long in the last 
syllable of sacrificateur. This sound is expressed in English by short u 
in turn, burn, dull, cut. This sound is also heard in English among those 
who pronounce rather negligently, in words in which o or ou is written, 
as in come, some, done, company, country, couple, covet, love, &c. Although 
the identification with French -eur is inaccurate, it is sufficiently near to 
allow us to understand that Wallis is referring to a vowel approximately 
the same as our [a]. The pronunciation indicated of turn, burn is 
apparently that heard in the present-day Scotch pronunciation of these 
words. It is not quite clear from Wallis's account whether our [A] had 
yet developed. He says that an obscure sound occurs in vertue, and 


identifies it with the former of the two obscure vowels mentioned. We 
should expect the vowel in the first syllable of this word to be identified 
with that in turn and burn. 

Another great merit of Wallis is that he includes the M.E. short a in bat, 
ban, Sam, &c., among ' palatal ' vowels, and definitely ranges it, as what we 
should call a front vowel, with M.E. d in pale, same, bane, bare, &c., and 
with the sounds in still, steel, set, seat, &c. 

It is rather remarkable that so acute an observer as Wallis should 
think it worth while to say that au, aw rightly pronounced, consists of 
a combination of short English a and w, when in the next sentence he 
notes that ' nowadays it is mostly pronounced simply like the thick 
German d, the sound of this being prolonged, and that of w nearly 
suppressed '. This description implies [5] with perhaps a faint diphthongal 
effect, produced by a very slight additional rounding of the lips before the 
end of the vowel. 

By far the most reliable phonetician among the seventeenth-century 
writers is Cooper, whose Grammatica Anglicana was published in 1685. 
Cooper was born in Herts., went up to Cambridge in 1672, took orders, 
and became Head Master of Bishop Stortford School in Herts. He died 
in 1698. Cooper tries, in his book, to describe the actual pronunciation, 
and the facts of articulation which underlie it, giving an account of the 
speech organs and their activities. He distinguishes, as none of his 
predecessors except Wallis do, between sound and letter. 

Cooper not only regards a as a front vowel, but describes it as being 
formed ' by the middle (that is what we call the ' front ') of the tongue, 
slightly raised towards the hollow of the palate '. This leaves no doubt 
that he is describing [ae], and that he thoroughly understood the character 
of the sound, and the way in which it was formed. He notes that this 
same sound occurs in cast, past, only lengthened, which implies [ksest, 
paest]. Strangely enough, he says that the vowel in pass is short. He 
gives later on a list of words with the short and long vowel. Those con- 
taining [ae] are : bar, blab, cap, car, cat, dash, flash, gasp, grand, land, 
mash, pat, tar, quality, [ae] is heard in : barge, blast, asking, carp, dart, 
flasket, gasp, grant, larch, mask, path, tart. He distinguishes thus the 
vowels in can, cast, as respectively long and short of the same sound. 
From this he separates the sound in cane, wane, age, as containing in 
reality ' long e ', ' falsely called long d '. Thus ken contains the short, 
and cane the long of the same sound. His description of this vowel is ' e 
formatur a lingua magis elevata et expansa quam in a proprius ad extre- 
mitatem, unde concavum palati minus redditur et sonus maior acutus ut 
in ken '. 

A noteworthy feature of Cooper's pronunciation is his account of 
a diphthongal pronunciation of M.E. d in certain words name and tale. 
He says : ' u gutturalis interseritur post a ut in name quasi scriberetur 
na-um dissyllabum. . . . Tale pronunciatur quasi scriberetur ta-uV, There 
is no doubt as to what Cooper means by ' guttural u ', since he says else- 
where that this vowel, which occurs in nut, &c., is like ' the groans of 
a man afflicted with sickness or pain ', which might serve as a description 
for [A, a] or [a]. 

It is quite certain, therefore, that Cooper, as regards name, tale, is 


describing a pronunciation approximating to [neam, teal]. The descrip- 
tion is so circumstantial that it is impossible to doubt its occurrence 
within Cooper's own experience, perhaps in his own usage. In any case, 
we have no reason to regard such pronunciations, at any period, as other 
than provincialisms. 

The question of the probable pronunciation of M.E. a and/ 2 in Cooper's 
day is fully discussed later on (pp. 194-6, 209-12), and it is sufficient here 
to note that his description appears to refer to the sound [e] rather than 
to [e], although, for several reasons, duly set forth below, the latter sound 
seems the more probable. Differences due to mere tenseness of the 
tongue have been properly described only comparatively recently, and 
Cooper would find it difficult to distinguish between [e, ], or to describe 
the former otherwise than by comparing it to the short vowel in ken, &c., 
of which he might quite naturally suppose it to be merely the lengthened 
form. Had the English of his day possessed both the tense and the 
slack mid-front vowels, he would doubtless have perceived the difference, 
but if, as seems certain, only one of these vowels existed, it was almost 
impossible for him to let us know without ambiguity which it was. It is 
much that Cooper distinguishes different degrees of height of the tongue, 
and between back and front activities. 

Cooper must be commended for endeavouring to face facts in actual 
speech, even although it was rather disconcerting for a man of his age to 
admit too great a disparity between spelling and pronunciation. Thus, 
although he says that the sound in bait, caitiff, eight, ay consists of a com- 
bination of the vowel sound in cast (previously described as [se]) followed 
by ' ee ', while that in praise, height, weight, convey is a diphthong com- 
posed of the a in cane ([e] according to his description) placed before 
i, he admits, at least for the latter group, that in familiar conversation 
people ' speaking negligently ' pronounce the simple a in cane. As will 
be seen below (p. 248), the evidence of the occasional spellings, in letters 
and other unstudied writings, is against the assumption of a diphthongal 
pronunciation for old at, ei. 

Cooper has some interesting indications of the pronunciation of 
unstressed syllables, the correctness of which is confirmed from other 
sources. Thus he says that picture is pronounced like picKther, that is, 
[pzktd], and he gives a long list of words ending in -ure in which this is 
pronounced [a] and not [ja] as at present. Of these, figure [figa] is as 
now, but not so rapture, rupture, sculpture, structure, torture, scripture, 
future, &c., &c. [skiYpta, torta] are proved by the occasional spellings to 
have been the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century forms. (See on this, 
pp. 277-8, below.) 

We now pass to certain classified lists of Cooper's which are important 
from several points of view. 

The first is a collection of pairs or larger groups of words which, 
according to our author, ' have the same pronunciation but a different 
sense, and mode of writing '. This collection includes : are air ere 
heir ; ant aunt ; coat quote ; comming cummin ; coughing coffin ; 
jerkin -jerking ; flea flay \ fir fur far ; heart hart ; hard heat- 
her d-, i'le (I will) isle oil', leaper leper ; line loin', meat mete', 
a notion an ocean ; own one ; order ordure ; pastor pasture ; rare 


rear Vb. ; raisin reason ; season seisin ; spider spid-her', tire 
ty (tie)-^r. 

We may note, among the above, the pronunciation [ear] for are (cf. 
p. 357, below); [5(r)cb(r)] (cf. p. 299, below); the pronunciation of 
-ing as -in (cf. p. 289, below); -on == -in in reason, season (cf. p. 276, 

The next list we shall mention is one in which the pairs are said to 
have ' nearly ' affinem the same sound. This probably means that 
the sound was really identical, but that Cooper, for some reason, was not 
quite prepared to admit it: Eaton eten; Martial Marshal ; Nash 
gnash ; Noah's nose ; Rome room ; Walter water ; carrying carrion ; 
craven craving ; doer door ; pulls pulse ; saphire safer ; shire 
shear', sex sects', stricter stricture', throat throw 't. 

We come next to a list of forms which belong to a ' barbarous dialect', 
and are therefore, according to Cooper, to be avoided, although many of 
these spellings, or others which imply the same pronunciation, are to be 
found in the letters of the Verneys or of Lady Wentworth. The most 
interesting are: Bushop-, Chorles 'Charles' (cp. Mrs. Basire, p. 205, 
below) ; eend ' end ' ; fut ' foot ' (= [fat], cp. suit in the Verney Memoirs, 
p. 237, below) ; gave ' gave ' ; hild ' held ' (cf. p. 354) ; leece ' lice ', meece 
' mice ' (S.E. or S.E. Midi.) ; ommost ' almost ' ; wuts ' oats ', hwutter 
'hotter* (cf. p. 307); ap to 'up'; stomp 'stamp'; sarvice (cf. p. 219); 
tunder ' tinder ' ; yerb ' herb ', yerth ' earth ' (cf. p. 308) \yeuseles ; yeusary. 
With regard to the two last, it is doubtful which pronunciation they are 
intended to suggest. If [jusb's], &c., why not have written yousless ? If not 
this then is it [jys-] ? If the former was condemned by Cooper, did he 
still adhere to the latter pronunciation ? Or is he condemning [jys-], 
which must have been very archaic by his time ? (Cf. p. 243.) 

Finally, a few examples from the comparatively small list of pronuncia- 
tions which, Cooper says, are used ' for the sake of ease ', concerning 
the propriety of which he offers no comment. 

Bellis ' bellows ' ; dander ' dandruff ' ; axtre ' axeltree ' ; ent ' isn't ' ; 
git 'get'; hundurd-, hanker c her \ reddish 'raddish'; sez 'says'; shure 
'sure', shugar ; squourge l scourge ' (cf. p. 307); vittles; wusted. 

So we take leave of Cooper, a competent and conscientious observer, 
with very few fads. His work is by far the best of its kind we have met 
so far, or shall meet, perhaps down to Ellis and Sweet. It is true that 
he can tell us very little that we cannot learn for ourselves from the 
Verneys and Wentworths, but his statements unquestionably confirm 
many of the conclusions which we are inclined to draw from the occa- 
sional spellings of these writers. If in some cases Cooper is at variance 
with this testimony, this must be put down partly to a want of familiarity 
with the speech usage of the circles in which Sir Ralph Verney and his 
family moved, partly to the natural tendency of a writer on pronunciation 
at that period to describe an ideally ' correct ' form of English. From 
this, the besetting sin of the schoolmaster and the professional gramma- 
rian in all ages, Cooper is, on the whole, commendably free. We must 
not forget to recognize that we owe to him the knowledge, or at 
least the accepted view, that M.E. a when lengthened in the Mod. period 
before -si and -th t &c., as in past, path, &c., was still pronounced [] in 


the third quarter of the seventeenth century. (See pp. 203-5, on this 

We now come to Dr. Jones, author of the Practical Phonographer, 
published first in 1701, whose unprejudiced attitude to his subject, and 
the very copious examples which he gives to illustrate his rules for the 
relation of sound and symbol, render his book very valuable. Jones 
was born in 1645 at Pentyrch in Glamorganshire, and died in 1709, so 
that he represents the English of the latter half of the seventeenth century. 
He is older than Cooper, rather younger than Sir Ralph Verney and 
most of his sisters, and older than old Lady Wentworth. So far as we 
can judge, the pronunciation which Jones describes is not at all archaic, 
and his account of the distribution of vowel sounds and of the various 
treatment of the consonants agrees with the prevailing habit down at 
least to the end of the first quarter of the eighteenth century. We know 
but little, to judge from Ekwall's account in his very carefully annotated 
edition of the Phonographer, of the details of Jones's life and of his social 
experience. He was educated at Jesus College, Oxford, studied medicine, 
and became a qualified physician. Later in his life he was Chancellor of 
the Diocese of Llandaff. A minute observer, he is yet in no way com- 
parable to Cooper as a phonetician, and does not attempt to describe how 
sounds are formed. A sub-title of his book is ' The New Art of Spelling 
words by the Sound thereof, and of sounding them by the Sight thereof, 
Applied to the English Tongue '. He also professes to set forth ' English 
Speech ... at it is commonly used in England (particularly in London, 
the Universities or at Court) '. 

Jones's work is at once an elaborate spelling-book, and one that gives 
indications of the pronunciation. It proceeds by means of question and 
answer thus : ' When is the sound of a written wa ? ' ' When it may be 
sounded -ward &c. in the End of words.' The examples include 
athwart, backward, coward, eastward, Edward, forward, inward, North- 
ward, Windward, &c., &c. This evidently implies that Jones regarded 
[baekad, Istad, edad, forad, inad], &c., as the normal and usual pronuncia- 
tion, but at the same time recognized a pronunciation with [w]. He 
often gives additional information on words which are not covered by 
the question, as when he adds, after the above list, the statement that 
somewhat is sounded son? at (= [samat]). 

Jones's habit of recording alternative pronunciations is meritorious, 
and if his statements in this respect are reliable, we may perhaps draw 
the inference that a reaction had begun against the extreme negligence 
and independence from the written form, which characterized fashionable 
pronunciation from the sixteenth century to far into the eighteenth. We 
must not, however, push this too far, since, as we have seen, Swift, who 
is censorious enough in certain respects, does not touch upon the main 
features which would now be considered as monstrous blemishes in 

We shall return to this point later on. 

There are few writers of the sort from whom so much may be learnt 
as from Jones, and this is owing to his very remarkable freedom from 
bias in favour of ' correctness ', and the thoroughness with which he com- 
piles his lists. He very rarely censures, and when he does so he merely 


notes that such and such a word is c abusively sounded ' in such a way 
as when he tells us that appetite is ' abusively sounded appety '. 

A few examples may be given of the kind of information, generally 
quite definite, which may be gathered from Jones. 

(1) Among a list of words in which Jones says that / is not sounded, 
in many of which we still omit this sound, the following occur, in all of 
which we have now 'restored' /: Si. Allans, Talbot, falchion, falcon, 
almanac, almost, Falmouth, falter, Walter (p. 30). 

(2) The sound of ee (that is [i]) written / in oblige [oblidz]. 

(3) Jones gives a very much longer list than Cooper of words ending 
in -lure, in which, as he says, -ure is sounded -er. Among these are 
adventure, conjecture, departure, failure, gesture, jointure, mixture, nature, 
&c., &c. (p. 52). The list includes also all those words mentioned by 

(4) ' Some sound daughter, bought, naught, taught, nought &c. with 
&nf, saying daufter, boft &c.' (pp. 54, 55). The au in daufter is prob- 
ably suggested by the orthodox spelling ; there is no lack of examples of 
dafter among the letter- writers (cf. p. 288). 

(5) ' The sound of o written au, when it may be sounded au ', as in 
Auburn, auction, audience, August, aunt, austere, because, daunt, fault, 

fraud, jaundice, Pauls, sausage, vault. ' Which may be sounded as with 
an o' (p. 79). Here clearly two possible sounds [5. 5] are indicated. 
While most of the words in the list, and all are not included here, are 
now pronounced with [5], several of them are almost universally pro- 
nounced [.?], such as [b*k.?z, s^sz'dz], while [i\ may be heard from some 
speakers in fault, vault. 

(6) ' The sound of o written wo where it may be sounded wo' Jones's 
list is a long one, and although it is certain that good speakers did omit 
the w- consonant in some of the words as late as the forties of last 
century (cf. p. 297), one wonders whether, even in Jones's day, its 
omission in other words in the list was not due to Regional dialect 
influence. This is the list '.forswore, swole, swofn, swop, sword, swore, 
wolf, Wolverhampton, worm, worn, worry, Wolverton, woman, womb, 
wonder, wont, word, work, worse, worship, worth, worthy, woven, would, 
wound. 'Which are', says Jones, p. 82, 'especially those of two 
or more syllables, sounded as beginning with o! (Cf. also p. 296, 

The next book which we may consider is an unpretentious little work 
by William Baker Rules for True Spelling and Writing English 
(2nd Ed.), Bristol, 1724. The author gives an instructive list of ' Words 
that are commonly pronounced very different from what they are 
written '. The grammar of this title does not inspire confidence in the 
general cultivation of the author, but most of the pronunciations he 
indicates are confirmed by the evidence of the letter-writers in the 
Wentworth Papers, or by the Verneys. 

Some useful light is shed upon the pronunciation of unstressed syllables. 
The tendency to reduce -on to -in (cf. pp. 275-6, below) is recognized 
in the forms sturgin, dungin, flaggin, carrin, cooshin, for ' sturgeon, 
dungeon, flagon, carrion, cushion '. Stomick is given as the pronunciation 
of ' stomach ', Izic for ' Isaac ' ; spannel, Dannel for ' spaniel, Daniel ' ; 


janders for 'jaundice'; hanker cher for 'handkerchief; mastee for 
' mastiff', as in Jones. 

As regards consonantal pronunciations, Egip, poscrip occur with the 
loss of final -/ ; the disappearance of r before -s is shown in mis ' nurse ', 
pus 'purse', Usly 'Ursula', thusty 'thirsty', sasnet 'sarsanet'. The 
proper names Birmingham, Dorothy, Margaret, Katherim are spelt 
Brumminjum, Dorraty, Marget, Katturn. Among other individual 
forms are sparagras, staffer ' slaughter ', conster ' construe ', and cr owner 
' coroner '. 

We are told that i is not sounded in venison, and that medicine is 
pronounced medson. G- is not sounded in gnat, gnaw, nor k- in knead, 
knee, knife, &c. ; ' Words terminated in -re sound -ur as Acquire, aspire, 
fire, hire ', &c., &c. 

This pronunciation [ai'di], &c., probably existed early in the sixteenth 
century at any rate (cf. p. 300, below). The few examples show how 
informing some of these simple treatises by unknown writers may be, 
compared with the pretentious works of an earlier day written by men 
incomparably more learned, such as Sir William Smith, Richard Mul- 
caster, Bullokar, and Gill. 

-During the eighteenth century the teaching of English pronunciation 
was a common means of livelihood; innumerable quacks flourished, 
and many of them published small manuals on their art. Their practice 
lay, no doubt, largely among the richer tradesmen's families in London, who, 
while they were able, so far as mere wealth could permit this, to cut some 
figure in the polite world, were afraid of rendering themselves ridiculous 
by their lack of breeding and their ignorance of the English spoken in 
fashionable circles. Dr. Johnson, as usual, has a pithy remark upon the 
rich retired shopkeepers who in his day were pushing their way in 
Society. ' They have lost ', said he, ' the civility of the tradesman, but 
have not acquired the manners of a gentleman/ 

Smollett, in chap, xiv of Roderick Random, gives an account of one 
of the quack teachers of pronunciation, a Scotchman in this instance, and 
the picture is probably not overdrawn. The following is the young 
Scottish surgeon's impression : 

' This gentleman who had come from Scotland three or four years before, 
kept a school in town, where he taught the Latin, French, and Italian 
languages ; but what he chiefly professed was the pronunciation of the 
English tongue, after a method more speedy and uncommon than any 
practised heretofore ; and indeed, if his scholars spoke like their master, 
the latter part of his undertaking was certainly performed to a tittle ; for 
although I could easily understand every word of what I had heard hitherto 
since I entered England, three parts in four of his dialect were as unintel- 
ligible to me as if he had spoken in Arabic or Irish.' 

Unfortunately very few examples are given of this worthy's pronuncia- 
tion, and these not particularly enlightening : caal for ' call ' ; / vaw to 
Gad ; and hawze for ' house '. It would be interesting to know what this 
Scotchman made of the English diphthong in vow, house, a sound quite 
new to him. Vanbrugh spells Lord Foppington's pronunciation of the 
English diphthong as au, so it is just possible that an affected pronuncia- 
tion [o] existed. 


We have seen that the writers on pronunciation of the sixteenth 
century and those of the next, before Wallis, are chiefly concerned, not 
to give a true picture of English speech as it actually existed, but to 
concoct a more or less fanciful form of language based largely upon their 
own conception of what English ought to be, a conception mainly deter- 
mined by the supposed ' powers of the letters '. The result of these 
efforts at restoring ' true ' pronunciation was nil. The writers' descrip- 
tions were so wildly remote from reality that no one paid any attention to 
them. Natural tendencies appear to have continued unchecked in the 
speech of all classes, and a vague ideal of ' correctness ' was the last factor 
which determined what was fashionable and polite. This was settled 
rather by the convention of the moment in the Court and among the 
superior classes. These tendencies and their results are recognized by 
Cooper and Jones, especially by the latter, and, as has been said, their 
statements agree wonderfully, on the whole, with the truth so far as we 
can gather it from the unstudied familiar letters of the day. 

From the middle of the eighteenth century or thereabouts, there are 
signs of a reaction against what came to be considered too great a laxity. 
This reaction is represented, and was probably influenced to some 
extent, by Lord Chesterfield in the great world, and still more considerably 
by Dr. Johnson in the world of letters. It does not follow that these two 
extremes would agree completely, either in theory or practice. Lord 
Chesterfield's attitude to ' correctness ', in speech no less than in manners, 
has already been illustrated by quotations (cf. pp. 1923). That of 
Dr. Johnson is well defined in the general remarks on pronunciation in 
the Grammar prefixed to his great Dictionary (1755). The vital passages 
are these : ' Most of the writers of English Grammars have given long 
tables of words pronounced otherwise than they are written, and seem 
not sufficiently to have considered that of English, as of all living tongues, 
there is a double pronunciation, one cursory and colloquial, the other 
regular and solemn. The cursory pronunciation is always vague and 
uncertain, being made different in different mouths, by negligence, 
unskilfulness and affectation. The solemn pronunciation, though by no 
means immutable and permanent, is yet always less remote from the 
orthography, and less liable to capricious innovation. They have 
however generally formed their tables according to the cursory speech 
of those with whom they happened to converse ; and concluding that the 
whole nation combines to vitiate language in one manner, have often 
established the jargon of the lowest people, as the model of speech/ 

' For pronunciation the best general rule is, to consider those the most 
elegant speakers who deviate least from the written words/ 

The new trend in English pronunciation then, which Dr. Johnson 
favoured, and which with his enormous influence and prestige as a 
scholar, and a dictator in what was correct, he was able to impose upon 
his own circle, and upon others far outside it, was in the direction of the 
' regular and solemn ' rather than of the ' cursory and colloquial '. We 
shall probably not be far wrong in placing the serious beginning of this 
reaction in the period in which these words were written. The age of 
Swift and Pope apparently did not regard 'deviation from the orthography' 
in pronunciation as a lapse from politeness, or from the speech of the 


1 best companies '. We have seen that Swift's attacks on the English of 
his day are directed against quite other features ; he neither pillories in his 
Polite Conversations the typical laxity of his period in this respect, nor 
scruples himself to take advantage of the prevailing usage in his rhymes. 

Pope has plenty of rhymes which show that he must have pronounced 
very much as did Lady Wentworth, and so we may believe did the ' Chiefs 
out of War and Statesmen out of Place ' who resorted to the poet's villa 
at ' Twittenam '. If Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in her letters, does 
not spell like Lady Wentworth, with whom by the way she was perfectly 
acquainted, it is not that she spoke differently from this lady and her 
other contemporaries, but simply that she was a more bookish person and 
was better informed as to the conventional orthography. She has such 
rhymes as please stays, fate deceit t theft gift, coquet w it. 

As to the age before this, that of Charles and James II, a society which 
is doubtless faithfully depicted in the comedies of Congreve, Wycherley, 
Vanbrugh, and Mrs. Aphra Behn, a generation which laughed ' a gorge 
de'ploye'e ' at such pranks as that narrated in Grammont's Memoirs, of my 
Lady Muskerry at the ball, when the frolicsome Duke of Buckingham ran 
about squeaking like a new-born infant, and inquiring among the maids 
of honour for a nurse for my young Lord Muskerry ' vastly pleasant 
burn me ' such a world as this was not likely to spare time from more 
diverting pursuits to ' correct ' its speech after the model of the ' true 
spelling '. 

The great Dictionary of Johnson was greeted with some enthusiasm, 
though in a bantering tone, by Lord Chesterfield in Nos. 100 and 101 of 
The World. ' I hereby declare ', says the writer, ' that I make a total 
surrender of all my rights and privileges in the English Language, as 
a freeborn British subject to the said Mr. Johnson, during the term of his 

Lord Chesterfield has some remarks upon the prevailing uncertainty, 
in the spelling of private persons, down to that time, which are of some 
importance. ' We have ', he says, ' at present two very different ortho- 
graphies, the pedantic, and the polite ; the one founded upon certain dry 
crabbed rules of Etymology and grammar, the other upon the justness and 
delicacy of the ear. I am thoroughly persuaded that Mr. Johnson will 
endeavour to establish the former ; and I perfectly agree with him, 
provided it can be quickly brought about. Spelling as well as music, is 
better performed by book, than merely by the ear, which may be variously 
affected by the same sounds. I therefore most earnestly recommend to 
my fair countrywomen, and their faithful or faithless servants, the fine 
gentlemen of this realm, to surrender, as well for their own private as for 
public utility, all their natural rights and privileges of misspelling, which 
they have so long enjoyed, and so vigorously exerted. I have really 
known very fatal consequences attend that loose and uncertain practice 
of auricular orthography.' 

It may be noted that Lord Chesterfield does not condemn the current 
pronunciation itself, but only the habit of expressing it in irregular spell- 
ing. It is improbable that his Lordship would have endorsed Dr. John- 
son's definition of the 'most elegant speakers' without considerable 
qualifications and reservations. 


A younger contemporary of Johnson's was James Elphinston, whose 
life covers the last three quarters of the eighteenth century and extends 
into the nineteenth. Elphinston was born in Edinburgh in 1721, the 
son of an Anglican clergyman, and was educated at the High School 
and at the University in that city. He lived chiefly in Scotland until he 
was 32, when he went to London. Here he taught school for about 
twenty-five years, and then returned to Scotland in 1778. He lectured 
upon the English language in Edinburgh and Glasgow and returned to 
London in the following year. Thence he removed to Hertfordshire in 
1792, but returned to London Hammersmith in 1795, where he spent 
the remaining fourteen years of his life. Elphinston appears to have 
been in every way an excellent man, and to have occupied a respectable 
position in society. He was a friend of Dr. Johnson, who said of him, 
* his inner part is good, but his outward part is mighty awkward '. The 
latter part of this estimate, as we know, agrees fairly accurately with 
Lord Chesterfield's portrait of the Doctor himself. In spite of the little 
peculiarities of his 'outward part', however, Elphinston was a very 
superior type of man to the Scotch teacher of English pronunciation 
described by Smollett. He was an accomplished French scholar and 
published a poetical translation of Racine's La Religion, which received 
the approbation of Edward Young. 

He also translated the Fables of Fe'nelon and Bossuet's View of Uni- 
versal History, made an Anthology of English Verse, and wrote some 
original poems and a translation of Martial's Epigrams. 

Of this last, Garrick said that it was ' the most extraordinary of all 
translations ever attempted ' ; Beattie that it was ' a whole quarto of non- 
sense and gibberish'; while Burns thought it worth while to devote an 
Epigram to it : 

O thou whom Poesy abhors 
Whom Prose has turned out of doors, 
Heard'st thou yon groan? Proceed no further! 
'Twas laurell'd Martial calling ' Murther ! ' 

The translation of Martial's Satire given in full by Muller displays 
neither wit nor felicity of phrasing and versification. We see that 
Elphinston, although possessed of very indifferent literary gifts, was at 
least a man of commendable industry and varied activities. 

They are not exhausted by the above enumeration, which is given as 
a factor in our estimate of the author's qualifications for the task which 
concerns us here, of describing the English pronunciation of his day. 

This subject is dealt with by Elphinston in a series of works written 
between 1756 and 1790. Of these the most important is The Principles 
of the English Language, or English Grammar, which appeared in 1765. 
The gist of the whole collection is given by Muller in his book Englische 
Lautlehre nach James Elphinston, 1914. 

The first thing which occurs to us with regard to Elphinston is that he 
was a Scot, not in itself a drawback in the ordinary affairs of life, but 
a fact which produces some misgivings in connexion with one who is to 
act as a guide to English speech in the second half of the eighteenth 
century. We should expect to find that a Scotsman who, like Elphin- 
ston, came to England for the first time when he was over thirty, would 

N 2 


have his Scottish habits of speech pretty firmly rooted, that he would be 
censorious of Southern English, and would be often inclined to put down 
as vulgarisms some of the most widespread features of good speech in the 
South. This is certainly true of Elphinston's attitude to English. 
Further, because the London type is the only Southern type he really 
knows, he is naturally inclined to regard as vulgarisms peculiar to London 
English, many things which were by no means confined^to London, and 
which, moreover, were not vulgar at all. Even at the present time 
a learned Scot who is unfamiliar with Southern English is very apt to 
look with great disapproval at what is alien to his own speech habit, 
and to regard agreement with the latter as the test of correctness and 

It is very difficult for a stranger to appreciate the nice shades between 
different Class dialects, and just as Elphinston sets down as improprieties 
of speech pronunciations which were habitual among good speakers, so 
he also credits ' Manny Ladies, Gentlemen and oddhers ' with the mis- 
placement of initial h-, and observes concerning a ' yong Lady ' ' So 
hamiabel howevver iz dhis yong Lady, dhat, widh her fine air, sweet hies, 
quic hears, dellicate harms, above all her tender art she wood giuv anny 
man a anker ing to halter iz condiscion ', &c., &c. Which is supposed to 
represent the lady's pronunciation. 

In a translation of one of Martial's Epigrams Elphinston professes to 
illustrate the characteristics of London English. The interchange of w 
and v (ve for we, wulgar for vulgar, &c.) is at least as old as the 
fifteenth century, and was probably not confined to London, even in the 
latter part of the eighteenth. Wife for white, wen for when, &c., is character- 
istic of the whole South of England, and has been so for centuries ; it has 
nothing to do with Class dialect, and apparently never had. Larn'd 
for learned in the eighteenth century was certainly not a vulgarism, nor in 
any sense a Regional peculiarity. Sence for since, e/ioi if, &c., were com- 
mon enough in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, in circles such 
as Elphinston in all probability never aspired, even if he desired, to enter. 
It is, however, possible that such forms were going out of fashion in 
Elphinston's time; Feller [feb] for fellow was certainly Pope's pronuncia- 
tion, and as it is still a perfectly good and natural form in colloquial 
speech, it is improbable that it was a vulgarism at the time the translation 
was written. 

Many of the other supposed inelegancies satirized by Elphinston, such 
as we was, come as a Pret., came and began as P. P.'s, and so on, are 
* mistakes ' of accidence, which have no local habitat, but may occur 
anywhere. Many well-bred seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century 
speakers would have used such forms. 

Present Pis. in -s were common in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, and are not infrequent in the Wentworth correspondence. On 
the whole, Elphinston's statements as to what is vulgar and characteristic 
of London English may be received with the greatest scepticism, and 
should never be accepted unless they are confirmed from other sources. 
His works are nevertheless useful in establishing the existence, in his 
day, of such and such forms and pronunciations. We must hesitate before 
accepting the author's estimate of their ' correctness ', or the reverse, in 


the speech usage of the time. At the same time, while we may exercise 
due caution in believing all Elphinston's statements as to what is or is 
not ' good ' English, especially when we know that a quarter of a century 
before him, at any rate, standards were quite different from what he repre- 
sents them in his own time, it is certainly probable that standards had 
actually changed, or were changing as has been said, in the time of 
Elphinston and Dr. Johnson, though probably not as much as both 
of them would have liked, nor as much as Elphinston's statements sug- 
gest. As the knowledge and practice of a fixed spelling gain ground 
among the better sort of speakers it becomes increasingly difficult to 
check the statements of the writers on pronunciation, and experience has 
shown that their evidence on points of fact is frequently unreliable, and 
that what these gentlemen put down as an actual Pronunciation may be 
no more than an unrealized ideal of their own construction, 

The last of the tribe whom we shall mention here is John Walker. 
This writer formerly enjoyed a great reputation, and his pronouncing 
Dictionary was reprinted again and again, and indeed probably forms 
the basis of more than one of the cheap dictionaries at the present time. 
Walker was born at Colney Hatch which had not then its present 
associations in 1732. His family seem tc have occupied a very humble 
position, and Walker left school early and was put to trade. He did 
not stick to this very long, but went on the stage, married a comic 
actress, Miss Myners, and is said to have achieved some success in the 
characters of Cato and Brutus. He left the stage in 1768, and set up 
a school in Kensington, but gave this up after two years. 

He now began to give lectures on elocution, and had a great success, 
especially in Scotland and Ireland. According to the account of him 
given in the Dictionary of Nat. Biogr., Walker was invited by some 
of the Heads of Houses in Oxford to give private lectures on his subject 
at the University. He was acquainted with, and enjoyed the patronage 
of, Burke and Johnson. Boswell records a rather dull conversation 
between Walker and Johnson. He said he had only taught one clergy- 
man to read, ' and he is the best reader I ever heard, not by my teaching, 
but by his own natural talents '. To which Dr. Johnson replied, ' Were 
he the best reader in the world, I would not have it told he was taught '. 
Amongst other remarks, Walker observed that ' the art (of oratory) is to 
read strong though low '. 

Fanny Burney, in her Diary, under the date of Jan. 13, 1783, mentions 
meeting Walker at dinner. All she has to say of ' Mr. Walker the 
lecturer ' is that ' though modest in science, he is vulgar in conversation '. 
This may refer merely to the subject-matter, or the general bearing of 
the speaker, but it does not of itself inspire confidence in Walker as 
a guide to propriety in speech. Besides his Dictionary, Walker pro- 
duced a Rhyming Dictionary, Elements of Elocution, and a Rhetorical 
Grammar. The latter first appeared in 1785, and went into many 
editions. It is difficult, from the meagre facts given in the Dictionary 
of Nat. Biogr.) to judge what opportunities Walker had for becoming 
acquainted with the politest forms of English, but we must suppose that 
he made the most of his chances for observing the conversation of Burke 
and Johnson, and of such other members of their circle as he came 


across. It is only fair to say that, in spite of his early training on the 
stage and his profession of teacher of elocution one wonders what 
sort of people sought his aid Walker does not appear to inculcate an 
artificial and pedantic pronunciation. On the contrary, his remarks are 
generally sober, sensible, and, so far as we can test them, accurate. The 
style of pronunciation which he recommends seems to be a perfectly 
natural and easy one, and the Rhetorical Grammar is probably a much 
safer guide than the works of Elphinston. He is also a fairly minute 
observer, and a faithful chronicler. Thus he notes with approval the 
' liquid k, and g' in sky, kind, guide, card, &c., that is [skj0/, kja/hd, gjaz'd, 
kj0d], &c., a pronunciation which lingered on amongst old people far 
into the last century. (See p. 310, below.) 

He says that ' polite speakers always * pronounce educate as though 
written edjucate, virtue as vertchew*. These pronunciations are the 
usual ones at the present day, [edjwkeit, vXtjw] being quite recent. A still 
older form of the first of these words was [sdzlceit] (cf. treatment of 
unstressed Fr. u, p. 265). Walker has some interesting remarks on 
Indian, odious, insidious, &c. He says, in continuation of the sentence 
quoted above ' if the general ear were not corrupted by being corrected^ 
we should hear Indian pronounced Injian, odious ojeous, and insidious 
insidjeous . . . but the speaker ought to avoid sinking the i and reducing 
Indian into two syllables as if written In-jan, odious as o-jus, insidious as 
insid-jus. The i ought to be heard distinctly like e in these words as if 
written and divided In-je-an, o-je-us ', &c. Of all this it may be said that 
it is very greatly to Walker's credit that, although a teacher of elocution, 
he is able to talk of the ear being ' corrupted by being corrected '. Again, 
while the phonetic descriptions, and the notation employed to express 
the pronunciation, are those of a man totally untrained and unskilled in 
scientific phonetics, they yet leave no kind of doubt as to the pronuncia- 
tion referred to. Lastly, while we no longer say ' ojus ', &c., it is well 
known to many still living that good speakers born early in the last 
century used these and similar forms, and it is rather strange that Walker 
should have thought it necessary to warn his readers against Injun, ojus 
[Yndzan, oudzGs], pronunciations which most good speakers in his day 
must have employed, and to insist upon 'the i' being heard distinctly. 

Walker shows his superiority to Elphinston in not regarding as a 
vulgarism the 'sinking of the h' in while, where, &c., although he regards 
it as ' tending greatly to impoverish pronunciation ', and also as apt to 
produce confusion of meaning. Such a view is perhaps excusable in an 
elocutionist. An interesting observation on the part of Walker is that 
r has disappeared, * particularly in London', in bar, bard, card, &c., 
which are pronounced as baa, &c. What is perhaps even more remark- 
able is that he does not find fault with this, but merely notes that r ought 
to be strongly pronounced initially, but that in bar, bard, &c., it must be 
nearly as soft as in London. Incidentally, we may note that the dis- 
appearance of ' r ' in these words probably implies, by this time, [d] as the 
vowel, and not []. 

With regard to the interchange of w and v (vind for wind, and weal 
for veal, &c.), Walker records that this occurs ' among the inhabitants of 
London, and those not always of the lower order '. 


His statements touching the final consonant in the suffix -ing are 
largely borne out by our information from other sources, although he is 
inclined to limit the pronunciation -in to verbs whose root-syllable already 
contained *ng\ such -s&fling^ &c. See on this point pp. 289-90, below. 

Walker has some sound observations concerning the vowels in un- 
stressed words, such as pronouns and prepositions. Thus he says that 
yoit is pronounced ye in such a sentence as ' he had no right to tell you ' 
(= [tsl !]), and that my is pronounced ' me' in 'my pen is as bad as my 
paper ' [mt pen, mz' pepa], both of which forms of reduction are per- 
fectly in accord with the habits of eighteenth-century English. 

Walker also recognized the reduced forms of of, for, from, by, which 
he writes uv^fur [av, fa], &c., as distinct from * ov,four ', &c. On the other 
hand, ' to must always preserve its true sound as if written two, at least 
when we are reading, however much it may be suffered to approach to te 
(= [ta]) when we are speaking'. 

The value and truth of Walker's account of the pronunciation of the 
latter part of the eighteenth century can best be tested by checking it, 
on the one hand with the various sources of information prior to his day, 
the private letters, the testimony of rhymes, and the statements of the 
earlier grammarians, and on the other, with what we know of the pro- 
nunciation after his time, especially what could be learnt from the speech 
of old people, mostly now dead, who were born early in the nineteenth 
century, and from the recollections of these persons concerning forms of 
speech still current in their youth among a yet older generation. 

Walker emerges very creditably from the test, and he must be placed 
among the most reliable and informing writers of his class, that is, with 
Wallis, Cooper, and Jones. He is a good and enlightened representative 
of the reaction already referred to, against the laxity of speech of the earlier 
generations. His tendency is towards a moderate ' correctness ', and an 
approximation to the supposed pronunciation implied by the now fixed 
orthography, but he does not set out to 'reform' English speech by 
destroying everything that is traditional and habitual. He appeals con- 
stantly to the habits of ' our most elegant speakers ', that is, to a real type 
of existing English, and he must be held to mirror the usage of his 
day among refined and learned, and, though to a less extent perhaps, 
among fashionable speakers, with considerable fidelity. Since Walker's 
day, the ' correcting ' process has gone much farther and has unquestion- 
ably obliterated, in the speech of the general average of educated persons, 
the results of many tendencies which had existed for centuries. The 
process, as is shown in various places throughout this book, involves both 
isolated words and whole categories. 

At any and every period, no doubt, there may be found among speakers 
of Received Standard those who are purists and those who are careless and 
negligent speakers, giving full rein to the natural tendencies which make 
for change in pronunciation. If the seventeenth century had its Gill, the 
eighteenth had its Elphinston and many others of the same sort, while 
the nineteenth had its Dean Alford, to mention but one amid innumerable 
* reformers '. But while no one seems to have paid any attention to Gill, 
among those who set the standard of polite English, from the middle of 
the eighteenth century onward, the general ideals expressed by Dr. John- 


son in the passage quoted on p. 177 have gained an ever-increasing assent. 
It is this gradual but undoubted triumph of the learned class, within 
which may be included the real scholars of whom Johnson is the type 
and chief, down to the humble and ignorant teacher of elocution filled 
with false and extravagant theories of ' correctness ', which is claimed as 
exemplifying the influence of Class dialect on the development of Received 
Standard (see also pp. 18-20). This influence is by no means confined to 
the introduction of ' Spelling pronunciation ', but includes also the intro- 
duction of other types, naturally developed, among different social strata. 
It is not always easy to distinguish between these two classes of forms. 
The present-day pronunciation of nature, &c., instead of [nets] may belong 
to one or the other (cf. p. 265). The same applies to the pronunciation 
of gold. It is certain that the two forms [gold, guld] coexisted, and that 
the rise of each can be explained by natural processes, but it is by no 
means certain that the final selection of [gowld] as the ' correct ' form was 
not determined by its apparent agreement with the spelling. 

During the lifetime of many who are still of middle age, numerous old 
pronunciations have been given up by large sections of the community, 
while other sections adhere to them most obstinately. There are still 
many who consider as very offensive vulgarisms the modern pronunciations 
of waistcoat^ of ten^ forehead, landscape, handkerchief, as [weistkout, rftan, 
f5hsd, laendzske/p, hsendkatjlf] instead of [weskat, 5fn, fond, laenzkzp, 
haerjkstJzT], and there are perhaps as many more who use all these pro- 
nunciations habitually without a single qualm. Whatever may be the 
resistance of the present generation of middle-aged or elderly people to 
these innovations, it seems probable that they will appear as natural to our 
grandchildren or great-grandchildren as the now universally-received forms 
of gold, servant, oblige, nature, London, Edward, &c., do to us. 

It must be reiterated that all the 'reforms' in pronunciation and 
grammar which have passed into general currency in colloquial English 
during the last century and a half, have come from below, and not from 
above, in the first instance, so far as we can discover. This fact will be 
variously received and interpreted according to the peculiar social bias 
of the reader. One interpretation at any rate has been suggested in 
Chap. I, pp. 20-23, above. 

The reaction against the happy-go-lucky pronunciation and grammar 
of the Restoration, and of the early eighteenth century, is accompanied by 
a certain bias towards formality and stiffness which is traceable in the 
poetry and the literary prose, and, as we may well believe from the evi- 
dence before us, in the conversational style also, of the later eighteenth 
and early nineteenth century. It is a tendency towards the ' regular and 
solemn ' and away from the ' cursory and colloquial '. 

Pope and his generation still kept the sparkle, along with the ease of 
the seventeenth century. The later writers often lose the brilliancy of their 
predecessors, if they preserve the ease and grace of movement. Gray, 
and Walpole, and Goldsmith perhaps combine both qualities to a higher 
degree than many of their contemporaries. If we put a passage of the 
Deserted Village alongside one from Pope, taken almost at random, the 
different genius of the two ages is as perceptible as when we compare 
Congreve's dialogue with that of She Stoops to Conquer. It may be said, 


probably with justice, that the younger writer surpasses the older ones in 
tenderness, humanity, and real feeling for nature, possibly in humour, 
and that he is their equal in his mastery of a supple and intimate style, 
free from literary affectation. But the swift thrust of Congreve's rapier, 
the epigrammatic finality of Pope's couplet, are no longer there. 

What the later age lost in keenness and glitter it may be said to have 
gained in sincerity and solidity. There were, however, not wanting, even 
among the contemporaries of Pope, those who foreshadowed the style 
and spirit of a younger day. The sweetness, naturalness, simplicity, 
and shrewd gaiety of Addison, Pope's senior by sixteen years, are perhaps 
nearer to the spirit of Goldsmith than to that of the age immediately 
following the Restoration ; while the sober decorum of Richardson, born 
only a year later than Pope, with his leisurely narrative and rather stiff 
and pompous dialogue, exhibits the correctitude of Middle Class propriety 
in speech and conduct. The formality of the conversations in Pamela, 
which to us is almost ludicrous, is typical of a habit of mind and mode 
of expression which were gaining ground among our people, and held 
them for three-quarters of a century. Allowing for differences of genius, 
wit, and of social setting, it may be said that the recorded conversations 
of Johnson are on the same note, and we catch echoes of this spirit in the 
utterances, both trivial and serious, of Mr. and Mrs. Segrave. 

The later eighteenth century and the early nineteenth seem to have 
favoured a very serious turn of mind which expressed itself in a formal 
and solemn style. It is easy to find exceptions to this, as in the Diary 
and letters of the sprightly Fanny Burney, or the captivating letters of 
Cowper in his happier moments, or the irresistible mirth of Sheridan, but 
are not these in many ways less representative of their age than, let us say, 
Wesley's Journal, and Sandford and Merloni Miss Austen has left 
a gallery of imperishable portraits of human beings, drawn from the life 
if any ever were. But the conversation of her characters, even of those 
whose parts are most extolled, is singularly lacking in brilliancy, humour, 
pointedness, or charm of any kind. The charm, the humour, the magic lie 
in the author's handling of these rather second-rate though generally well- 
bred people, in whose conversation, which hardly ever rises above the com- 
monplace, and in whose self-centred lives, she contrives to interest us 
amazingly. We have here the representation of actual life and dialogue 
as the author knew it. There can be no doubt that this is the real 
thing, and that people really spoke like this in the closing years of the 
eighteenth century. Perhaps no books were ever written which embody 
the spirit and idiom of an age so faithfully as Miss Austen's novels. All the 
little pomposities and reticences, the polite formulas, the unconscious vulgar- 
isms, the well-bred insincerities, are here displayed. It is not Miss Austen 
who is speaking, it is the men and women of her day, each perfectly distinct, 
a complete and consistent human being. The characters reveal them- 
selves naturally and inevitably in their conversation, with hardly any 
commentary by their creator, who rarely troubles to pass a personal 
judgement upon them, or to see that they are very good or otherwise as 
the case may be. 

We shall not go far wrong in supposing that the Bennets, the D'Arcys, 
and the Wodehouses, &c., pronounced their English very much according 


to the principles laid down by Mr. Walker in describing the utterance 
of ' our most polite speakers '. 

They undoubtedly pronounced ' kyard, gyearl, ojus, Injun', to use 
Walker's own rough and ready notation, and almost certainly said 
' coming goin', singin, shillin' ' ; some of them, Lady Catherine de Burgh 
in particular, probably said ' Eddard' ', ' toy ', ' chancy ', l ooman ' ' woman ', 
' neighb 'rood' ', ' lanskip ', ' Lunnon \ 'cheer ' for ' chair ', and possibly 'goold', 
l obleege\ and 'sarvant'. Many still living have heard the last echoes of these 
things in the mouths of their parents and grandparents. We can 
remember old ladies and gentlemen who spoke in this way in our child- 
hood, and whose conversation still preserved the decorums of the former 
age, its quaint mixture of eighteenth-century survivals, with the new 
* correct ' forms of their youth. Unfortunately most of these are now 
' fallen asleep '. 

In this very imperfect account of the character and general tendencies 
of English speech during something like two centuries, a few important 
problems are touched on, and many more are omitted altogether from 
our survey. 

This period offers ample scope for investigation. It is no exaggeration 
to say that a proper history of the English of each of these centuries has 
still to be written. 

We want minute studies of such documents as the Verney Letters and 
the Wentworth Papers, and also of other similar letters and diaries of the 
same period, and if possible, of more recent collections covering the 
period from about 174010 the first quarter of the nineteenth century. 
Apart from these, the well-spelt letters and diaries of such writers as Fanny 
Burney should be carefully examined for the sake of the colloquial and 
grammatical usage which they reveal, and much may be learnt incidentally 
from casual remarks scattered through biographies and memoirs (cf., for 
example, instances quoted, pp. 203, 2 15, '2 y 2, &c., from Leigh Hunt's Auto- 
biography and Tuckwell's Reminiscences of Oxford). Many works which 
few scholars would think of investigating specially for such a purpose, con- 
tain priceless, if isolated, pieces of information as to the speech habits of 
our immediate ancestors. This is why the dutiful and painful philologist, 
who ' goes through ' large numbers of the orthodox ' sources ', may often 
miss some of the best things, unless he happens also to be widely read 
in English Literature. It is much to be regretted that during the last 
twenty or thirty years a series of observations into the speech of old 
people speaking the best English of the first half of the last century was 
not made in a systematic way. These old people, both by their own 
actual usage, and by their recollections of that of their own elders, could 
have shed a very valuable light on much that is now obscure. The 
present writer had the advantage of knowing, during his boyhood and 
early manhood, a considerable number of excellent speakers who were 
born between 1800 and 1830, and although he remembers accurately 
certain points of interest from the speech and recollections of this genera- 
tion, these are unfortunately all too few. It is remarkable that while 
the English of illiterate elderly peasants has often been examined, with 
the view of recording for posterity the rugged accents of the agricultural 
community, and even of the inhabitants of slum villages in colliery and 


industrial districts, it has not been thought worth while to preserve the 
passing fashions of speech of the courtly and polite of a former day, and 
those whose good fortune it was to be in a position to record these at 
first hand have neglected their opportunity. 

Among the general problems still to be solved may be mentioned: 
the precise extent and character of both Regional and Class dialect influ- 
ence upon Received Standard during the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries ; the divorce of prose style from the colloquial language of the 
day which may appear in any language from time to time, and which 
research might possibly show occurred among the latest Elizabethans and 
their immediate successors, and again towards the end of the eighteenth 
century ; the precise linguistic results, if any, of the Civil Wars upon our 
language, whether in conducing to laxity of pronunciation and grammar, 
or in modifying the diction of conversation or of literature; the beginnings 
of the reaction in favour of the ' regular and solemn ' style of pronuncia- 
tion and grammar, and the progress of this movement in colloquial and 
literary English down, roughly, to the Early Victorian period ; the rise of 
bogus pronunciations, based purely on the spelling, among persons who 
were ignorant of the best traditional usage ; the gradual process by which 
many of these obtained currency among the better classes. It would be 
desirable to run these monstrosities to earth, when it would probably 
appear that many had their origin with the class of ignorant teachers of 
pronunciation referred to by Smollett. 

Among special questions, it would be satisfactory to know with 
certainty approximately when the modern [a] sound in path, last, &c., 
developed out of [se] and became generally current in Received 

The whole question of unstressed vowels is a virgin field for the young 
investigator. A small beginning is made in Chap. VII, below, towards 
a systematic collection of material upon which conclusions may be based. 
What was the attitude of the more sober ' reformers ' like Dr. Johnson 
in this matter ? Is it probable that he applied his principle of conforming 
pronunciation to orthography to the vowels of unstressed syllables ? If 
so, how far did he and ' those associated with him ' go in this respect ? 
If we may judge from his younger contemporary Walker, that generation 
probably did not pronounce fortune, future^ &c., as 'fortin', l futer\ like 
the Verneys, the Wentworths, Cooper, and Jones ; but did they attempt to 
' restore ' all unstressed vowels to the extent to which Mr. Bridges would 
like us all to do at the present day ? Perhaps Mr. Bridges can tell us. 
So far as the evidence now available carries us, it looks as if nearly the 
whole movement towards ' full ' vowels in unstressed syllables is an abso- 
lutely modern conceit, based entirely upon spelling. To this there are 
certain exceptions, such as the -ure, -une words whose present-day 
pronunciation may be explained as a purely phonetic development from 
a different type from that which produced l for tin ', 'futer ', &c., and 
again, the interchange of [-aw] and -in, [-9/J and -it in ribbon, faggot, 
&c., appears to represent two different speech-usages. (See pp. 276-8.) 

But all these and many other points await investigation. 

It would be an interesting inquiry how far the falling off in the quality 
of prose style among the generality of writers after the third quarter of the 


eighteenth century is related to social developments. An East Indian 
Director is said to have told Charles Lamb (of all men !) that the style 
the Company most appreciated was the humdrum, thus doubtless voicing 
the literary ideals of the rising class of bankers, brokers, and nabobs 
whose point of view was largely to dominate English taste for several 
generations. Horace Walpole lived and wrote on nearly to the end of 
the century, but his spirit, his gaiety, and the sprightliness of his style 
belong in reality to the early eighteenth century. Even Macaulay was 
unable to rate him at his true value. The letters of Gray are prob- 
ably better appreciated to-day than in the age which immediately followed 
his death. The peculiar quality of Sheridan's wit and raillery is assuredly 
nearer to Congreve in spirit than to Hook and Jerrold. 

But this is not the place to pursue a subject which is the business of 
the critic of Literature. If an appeal is made to pure Literature, in dis- 
cussing the changing spirit and atmosphere of Colloquial English, it is 
because of the principle so often propounded here, that the style of 
Literature is rooted in the life and conversation of the age. From these 
sources alone can prose renew its life from generation to generation. 
When Literary prose style loses touch with the spoken language it 
becomes lifeless and unexpressive, powerless to * strike the ear, the heart, 
or the fancy ', remote alike from human feeling and from the speech of 
man because it has never known real life and movement. 



I. The Vowels in Stressed Syllables. 

IN the foregoing chapters we have taken a series of rapid surveys of 
the English of the Modern Period, not only of the pronunciation, but 
of other aspects also, century by century, from the fifteenth century 

In the following portions of this book it will be our business to attempt 
to work into a continuous account the facts of development exhibited by 
our language throughout the whole period with which we are dealing. 
Of the various aspects with which we shall concern ourselves, pronuncia- 
tion is one of the most important, the one perhaps which demands the 
greatest amassing and sifting of detail in the elucidation of fact ; it is also 
the one which involves most care in the construction of a reasonable 
theory in the interpretation of the facts. 

It has been already k said that the convenient practice of dividing 
English, chronologically, into Old, Middle, and Modern English is apt 
to be misleading, and to give the impression that our language has 
changed by a series of sudden bounds. Still more danger is there in 
conveying such a wrong view when we divide our treatment of the 
language, as has been done in this book, into centuries. It is therefore 
desirable to renew the warning previously given, and to re-state our con- 
ception of the History of English as a process of continuous development 
and change. If the previous chapters, which aimed at discovering 
what is characteristic of the language of each of a series of centuries, 
have led the reader to think too much of English as broken up into 
a number of brief, clear-cut, and distinct periods of development, in 
each of which a new set of tendencies and impulses arises, the 
following chapters may possibly act as a corrective. 

The student who constructs his picture of the unfolding of English 
chiefly from the long series of documents of all kinds, in which the 
language of each age is enshrined, is not likely to be misled into what 
one may call the spasmodic view of its history. To him the gradual 
and insensible passage from one phase of development to another is so 
manifest that he finds it ever more difficult to draw the line between 
period and period, and he becomes increasingly sceptical of the propriety 
of attempting to define the limits of each. But it is one thing to be con- 
scious of the continual onward sweep of evolution, and quite another to 
be able to convey the sense of this. The realization of this linguistic deve- 
lopment comes slowly, from the prolonged study of a mass of individual 


facts and details, all of which contribute something to the picture 
which exists in the student's mind. In the present state of our know- 
ledge, it is difficult to see how we are to bring home to the reader this 
sense of perpetual and continuous development, otherwise than by pre- 
senting him with a considerable quantity of detail, together with certain 
generalizations based upon this. 

Let it never be forgotten that in tracing, by means of the sources of 
knowledge at our disposal, the history of a language, we have not and 
cannot have all the links in the chain of development. We know 
approximately the starting-point, and we know what is the outcome 
at the present time. But of the intervening stages, many are missing 
altogether, while at the precise character of too many others we can but 

For instance, if we are tracing the change of M.E. a in name into its 
present form^ while we can easily construct theoretically the various 
stages of development, it is impossible to say exactly at what period each 
of them is reached. Supposing that already in the first half of the fif- 
teenth century we find M.E. a written e, what precise value are we to 
attach to this symbol in this period? How far has the sound gone 
towards its present pronunciation ? And so with all the other vowels ; 
we have divers hints of changes from peculiar spellings, from rhymes, 
from statements of grammarians and we must piece all these scraps 
of information together, compare, and check one with another, but when 
all is said and done, there are more lacunae in our picture than some 
scholars like to admit. 

In former days, when those great figures of English Philology Ellis 
and Sweet were in their prime, these men, and others who followed 
limpingly in their footsteps, believed it to be possible to construct, 
almost entirely from the accounts given by the Orthoepists, a fairly exact 
chronological table of vowel changes, and to say with confidence, such 
and such was the shade of sound in the sixteenth century, this or that 
other shade in the seventeenth, yet another in the eighteenth, and so on. 
As I have already indicated above, I cannot find any such sure foundation 
in the statements of the old writers upon which Ellis and Sweet relied, 
and when I compare these statements with the testimony of the other 
kinds of evidence, I become more than ever distrustful of the results 
which were formerly accepted so confidently, less inclined to be dog- 
matic as to the chronology of vowel changes. For one thing, quite 
recently, many scholars have been led to put back the beginnings of the 
modern vowel system, anything from one to two hundred years earlier 
than the date to which Ellis and Sweet assigned the rise of this. If 
this is justified, then it follows, since the formerly-received chronology 
was almost entirely based upon the testimony of the old grammarians, 
that these have misled us, and that much of the system of minute chronology 
derived from them crumbles. A single instance will suffice. Sweet, 
trusting to the Orthoepists, believed that far into the sixteenth century, 
and among some speakers well into the seventeenth century, M.E. a in 
name, take, &c., retained its old sound [&]. But we know now that as 
early as the first half of the fifteenth century this sound must have been 
completely fronted, and that before the end of the sixteenth it rhymed 


with the M.E. e in seat, &c. Now this entirely knocks the bottom out of 
the delightfully simple old tables such as : 


1 6th c. 

iyth c. 

W [i] [e] 

1 8th c. 

which satisfied most of us down to within the last few years, and if I had 
to be tied down to a definite statement on the chronology of this sound 
I should be inclined to construct, from the facts at my disposal, some 
such table as : 

M.E. (i 3th and 
early i4th c.) 

late 1 4th c. 

1 5th c. 

1 6th, 1 7th, and i8th cc. 

[e] (among some speakers [i]) 

But I should know that this was rather a dangerous table to make, 
because at least two and perhaps more of the stages which are here 
neatly packed into separate periods, certainly coexisted in the same 
period, and overlapped into the periods before and after that to which 
they are assigned. 

And this brings me back to the point which I set out to emphasize, 
namely, that a clear-cut and precise chronology is impossible in linguistic 
history, since, as was said earlier in this book, the periods overlap as do 
the generations of speakers. From this point of view it is obvious that 
some men must have been born in the M.E. period and have died in the 
Modern Period, just as they may be born in one century and die in 
another. Thus while Chaucer himself no doubt always spoke what must 
still be called M.E., he must have heard, before he died, younger speakers 
who were at least on the verge of Early Modern. He may himself 
always have pronounced [mak(9)], and probably he did so, but it is, 
I think, certain that he must have heard the younger generation say 
[msek], possibly with disapproval as strong as that with which the 
present Poet Laureate hears the unstressed vowel in [^ksfsd] and so on. 
But whereas the vowel above indicated in make, was a novelty in Chaucer's 
old age, the unstressed vowels of which his illustrious successor com- 
plains have been in pretty common use for five hundred years or so. 
While then, in dealing with each sound change, we naturally ask When 
did it start ? and attempt to answer the question, it is absurd to suppose 
that our answer, however carefully considered, is absolutely exact. We 
can give the earliest evidence known to us of a modification of the old 
usage, and of a move in the new direction, but we must never forget that 
there may be older evidence which our industry has failed so far to dis- 
cover, and that a sound change is nearly always considerably older 
than the earliest documentary evidence of its existence. Further, 
although we may be able to say that a sound change in a certain 
direction has begun, and is well under way by a given period, we can 
rarely say with certainty exactly how far it has gone. Any effort to do 
this must be tentative, and is based upon reasoning from all sorts of 
collateral evidence. (Compare, in illustration of this, the attempt to 
fix approximately the various stages of development of M.E. a on 
pp. 195, &c., below, together with the inferences drawn from the history 
of other vowels.) 

In tracing the history of the English vowels I have followed the usual 


practice, and an excellent one it is, when dealing with the later periods of 
the language, of starting from the M.E. vowel system. 

But the term Middle English covers a long period which begins, 
roughly, towards the beginning of the eleventh century and extends, 
according to the view taken, down to about 1400, or twenty or thirty 
years later. It is not to be supposed that English pronunciation stood 
still, even within a single dialect, all this time. Even if we adopt the 
further divisions Transition, Early M.E., M.E. Central Period, and 
Late M.E. the limits of each of these will depend upon the feature which 
we take as the test. Thus while we have no direct evidence, from 
areas more southerly than Lincolnshire, before about 1420, of the 
alteration towards its present pronunciation of the a-sound which 
aros e in English words about the middle of the thirteenth century, 
and which we call ' M.E. a r , we have unmistakable indications that 
one of the O.E. 0-sounds as in O.E. mono, ' moon ' had moved on 
far towards, even if it had already reached, its present sound, perhaps 100 
to 125 years earlier, and this in the South-East. 

Therefore when we speak of * M.E/ sounds, we do not always refer to 
one and the same period. In the case of the vowel last mentioned, M.E. 
o (which is also O.E. J, and further occurs in words borrowed from 
Norman French), this sound was certainly no longer pronounced in the 
old way, but had become almost, if not quite, [u] probably early in the 
fourteenth century, and in some dialects, perhaps, much earlier. 

With these qualifications of our terminology we may pass to some 
general observations on what is sometimes called 'the Great Vowel 
Shift '. From what has been said above the reader will be on his guard 
against supposing that the phenomena of which we treat in this chapter 
are new and sudden departures of the Modern Period. He will consider 
that the pronunciation which the old vow^l sounds have now acquired is 
the result of a slow and gradual process, and of tendencies which un- 
doubtedly existed in English long before the various periods at which 
the changes can be shown severally to have come about. 

If we compare the M.E. vowels in stressed syllables with the corre- 
sponding sounds in the same words at the present day, it appears that all 
the old diphthongs, all the old long vowels, and some of the short vowels, 
have acquired a totally different pronunciation. But if we compare 
the two lists of actual sounds, the M.E. vowels and diphthongs, and those 
of the present day, we notice that, as far as we can judge, the contents of 
each list are not so very different. M.E. had, amongst others, the simple 
sounds [a, u, I, 5], and the diphthongs [at, au\, and so has the English 
which we speak. But they do not occur in the same words now as then. 
Where M.E. had a as in name we have the diphthong [ei] ; where M.E. 
pronounced [u] as in hus, hous, we pronounce [au] ; in the words in which 
[i] occurred in M.E., e. g. wif, &c., we now pronounce [at] ; and corre- 
sponding to M.E. [5] as in boon ' bone ' we now have [owj. Again, we 
do not retain the diphthongs [at, au\ in our pronunciation of rain and 
cause, but have substituted for them [ei, 5] in these and other words. On 
the other hand, our [a] as in path, our [u] in moon, our [i] in queen, our 
[o] in saw, are not survivals of the M.E. sounds, but have developed out 
of sounds entirely different. 


Thus the new sounds never caught up the old sounds which, so far as 
we can tell, were identical with them, except in the case of M.E. a and 
M.E. e [i], on which see pp. 1 94, &c., 209, &c., below. This fact has an 
important chronological bearing. It means that supposing we are able to 
ascertain, for instance, that not later than a given year, O.E. o in mono,, &c., 
had reached the [u] stage, it follows that the O.E. u in hus had, before that 
stage was reached, been so far altered in pronunciation, that it was quite 
unlike the new sound which had developed in the word moon, and 
although this word and other words containing O.E. o now have the same 
vowel sound that once existed in hus and other words containing O.E. u, 
there never was a time at which moon and house were pronounced with 
the same vowel. For if this had been so, they would be pronounced 
with the same vowel now. When once two originally different sounds 
become levelled, as often happens in the course of their history, under 
one and the same sound, the history of the sound in both is henceforth 
one and the same. We see an instance of this in the vowel [a], which 
occurs in the words nut, blood, and judge. In the first of these words the 
O.E. and M.E. sound was [u], in the second it was [o], and in the last it 
was French [yj. The present sound developed probably in the sixteenth 
century, and its immediate predecessor was [u]. This means that some 
time before the rise of [a] the three originally different sounds [u, o, y] 
had all, under certain circumstances, been levelled under one single 
sound [u]. This sound, no matter what its antecedents may have been, 
was unrounded at a given point, and gradually developed into the present 
vowel [a]. In such a case as this, it is evident that whatever the period 
at which the unrounding of old [ii] occurred, the various other processes 
whereby old [o, y] became [u] must have already taken place. 

To return to our former line of argument concerning sounds originally 
different which remain different, this is often of the greatest use in deter- 
mining at least the relative chronology of sound changes. With regard 
to the history of old o, it has been already mentioned that this sound had 
apparently become [u] as early as the first half of the fourteenth century. 
We must therefore assume that certain disturbances had arisen prior to 
that date in the old [u] sound. Now, although this latter has now 
become the diphthong \au\, it does not by any means follow that any- 
thing like the present form had been reached before old o had become 
[u]. All that we can say is that something had happened to u, that it 
had started upon that series of changes which was to result in our present 
diphthong. The same line of argument may be applied to all other 
vowels whose pronunciation has changed from what it formerly was, and 
which have either themselves taken the place of other vowels which have 
also become something quite different, or have had their old places taken 
by other vowels. 

The old z in wtf, Uf, bite, &c., has been diphthongized to [at], but 
a new [I] sound has developed in seek, green, feet, &c. from an old [e]. 
It is instructive to consider the histories of these two original vowels in 
relation to each other. It is evident that the old [i] must have changed 
into something different before the new [i] in feet, green, &c., was fully 
developed. The old and the new [i] never had the same sound at the 
same time. In this instance we have evidence of about the same age, on 


the one hand, that old i had become a diphthong, and on the other, that 
old [e] had become [i] (cf. pp. 205-7). It seems certain that at least 
as early as 1420 [i] had become a diphthong (cf. p. 223), but how far 
it had gone towards its present sound is another question. In this 
connexion we must consider also the history of the old diphthong at, 
which later on became [e]. The development of all three sounds took 
place in such a manner that the new [e] from at never caught up old e; 
this latter, while it was clearly on the move towards [i], never caught up 
old *; and this, though it subsequently became [0z], never overlapped 
with the old diphthong, since if it had done so it would have gone still 
farther and become monophthongized again to [e]. Incidentally, it may 
be pointed out that all this illustrates the fact that in all languages 
certain tendencies arise, at a given moment, which change certain sounds 
in a particular direction. Then the tendency, for the time being at any 
rate, dies out, so that when, perhaps shortly after the beginning of the 
process which changed the original sound has set in, the same sound 
arises from some different source, the tendency has spent itself and this 
sound remains unaltered, it may be for centuries. 

The consideration of the history of several sounds during the same 
period, such as has been briefly attempted above, is of value sometimes 
in checking the statements of the Orthoepists. Thus, when some of 
these seem to tell us, in the sixteenth century, that old J is still pronounced 
[i], while at the same time they admit that old e is pronounced [i], we 
know that either they are deceiving themselves, and would mislead us if 
we trusted them, or that we must have misinterpreted their statements. 

The Vowels in Detail. 
M.E. a. 

This vowel must have been definitely fronted by the beginning of the 
fifteenth century. This is proved by rhymes in the first quarter of the 
century and by spellings which occur during the first half. 

The earliest spellings I have found which indicate fronting are in 
R. of Brunne's Handlyng Sinne, Lines. 1303, where meke 'make' Inf. 
occurs line 1618, and mekest 3906. It would be rash, at present, to 
generalize too much from these N.E. Midland forms. 

In the Siege of Rouen (c. 1420) we have the rhyme care were, and 
Bokenam writes credytt^ S. Cecil. 80, for earlier cradel ' cradle ', and bare, 
Pr. 149, for M.E. bere O.E. bxr 'bier'. This use of the symbol a to 
express what can only have been a front vowel [e~|, or in Suffolk more 
probably [e] in the latter word, is as convincing "as is the use of the 
letter e to express the sound usually written a. The Treasurer of Calais, 
in 1421, in a letter among the collection of letters of Marg. of Anjou 
and Bishop Bekinton, p. 16, writes er ' are '. If this represents the strong 
M.E. form are it is a case in point, but it may possibly represent the 
weakened form in unstressed positions which in M.E. was are. In this 
case it might be evidence of the fronting of M.E. #. 

Since the evidence shows that the old diphthong at had been mono- 
phthongized and fronted in the fifteenth century (see treatment of at, ei, 
p. 248), the use of the symbol ai for old a is a further evidence of fronting, 


and also of the fact that M.E. a and at, ei had all been levelled under 
one sound. In the account of the State of Ireland (State Papers, 
Hen. VIII, Part III, p. 18) save is written saive ; the Coventry Leet Book, 
under date 1421, p. 24, writes maid 'made', M.E. made', waiter mylne is 
thus written in a Leics. Will of 1533 (Sir J. Digby), cf. Lines. Dioc. 
Docs., p. 142. 9. The Cely Papers have ceme M.E. came 'came', 
p. 46, and Zachrisson has noted teke M.E. take l take ', and feder M.E. 
fader ' father ', in the Paston Letters of the fifteenth century. I have also 
noted yeate 'gate* in Shillingford's Letters, p. 10. Now ea is a regular 
L.M.E. and Early Mod. method of expressing the sounds [i] or [e]. 
So far as I know it rarely expresses any other sound, certainly never any 
sound like [d]. Possibly, however, yeate represents M.', rather than 
ydte, in which case the form is not to our purpose here. Jul. Berners 
constantly writes aege ' age ', M.E. age, and the same spelling occurs in 
Bishop Fisher's Sermons, p. 306. This spelling seems to show that a was 
not felt as a suitable symbol for the sound as it then was. Rede me, &c. 
(1528) rhymes declare theare 46, spare wheare 76, declare weare Vb. 
122. French writers on English pronunciation from 1529 onwards liken 
the English sound of d to French e and at, that is []. English gram- 
marians and orthoepists are ambiguous upon the nature of this as of 
most other vowels (though both Palsgrave and Ben Jonson hint at the 
existence of a sound other than [<zj), and it is not until the first quarter 
of the seventeenth century that we find, in Gill's Logonomia, the fronted 
sound referred to, but then only with contemptuous disapproval, as of an 
effeminate and affected pronunciation. Gill would apparently have us 
believe that he himself said [d]. It is more important to arrive, if 
possible, at the current pronunciation of his time, and for this we shall be 
guided by other evidence. 

Since the fronting is so definitely established comparatively early in 
the fifteenth century, and for Lincolnshire much earlier still, as we see 
from a consideration of the spellings of, and rhymes with, old d, taken 
together with the facts and arguments given below (pp. 196, 211) 
concerning the development of the old diphthong at, it is reasonable 
to suppose that the fronting of d had begun, even in London, at least 
as early as Chaucer's day. The first stage was probably [ae], and this, 
we may conjecture, lasted into the beginning of the fifteenth century. 
From the moment that d and at are levelled under a single sound, that is 
by the end of the first quarter of the century, it is most probable that the 
stage [e] had been reached. The next change consists in making the 
slack vowel into tense [e], and we may believe that this has come to pass 
from the moment that v;e find the old <z-words rhyming with those con- 
taining M.E. * 2 [e], which became [e] towards the end of the fifteenth 
century (see p. 209, below). The period could be fixed with fair 
accuracy by a careful examination of the rhymes from the first half of the 
sixteenth century or so down to the middle of the seventeenth, before the 
first of which dates, I believe, the change took place. To take a concrete 
example, the question is how early are hate and heat, or mate and meat, 
pronounced precisely alike ; how early does heat rhyme with mate, make 
with speak, &c. ? We have seen that already in the fifteenth century 
care and were rhymed, but the [e] sound was retained before r 



so that we must find examples of rhymes before other consonants. The 
identity of mate and meat is proved in 1685 ( see P- 2IO )> DUt how much 
earlier can it be established? It is pretty certain that the old [i] became 
[e], otherwise than before r, as soon as, or at least soon after, M.E. e l [e] 
had been raised to [I] (cf. pp. 209-10). At this point it was, or just before 
old [i] had become [4], that the new [i] from a caught it up. We must 
note here, though the point will be discussed later, that the fact that we 
now pronounce [i] in heat and other words from M.E. e 2 , whereas in the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Received pronunciation, on the 
whole, favours [e] in these words, does not imply a sound change whereby 
[e] has become p] since the eighteenth century, but merely indicates one 
of the many instances of the adoption of a different and already existing 
type of pronunciation as the normal standard. 

Had there really been a late sound change of the kind suggested, it is 
clear that it must have involved all the old -words as well as the 2 -words. 
That is to say, we should now pronounce heat and meat with the same 
vowel as hate and mate, as was the habit in certain circles in the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries. 

As early examples of the apparent identity of old d with old <? 2 , we may 
cite Lord Buckhurst's rhyme speake make, Complaint, p. 154; Spenser's 
rhymes states seates, Heavenlie Beautie, estate and late with retrate (sic) 
'retreat', F. Q. i. 8. 12; Shakespeare's rhyme nature defeature, V. and 
A. 734-6 ; and Mrs. Isham's spelling discrate for discreet in 1655, Verney 
Mem. iii, p. 235. It appears from a careful comparison of the state- 
ments and equations of Wallis and Cooper that they intend to imply that 
in their day, the three original M.E. sounds d, at, and <? 2 had all been 
levelled under what they call 'long e'. The precise character of this 
sound is open to discussion. I believe it to be tense [e], but having 
here brought the history of a. down to the point at which it is levelled 
under a vowel in which it converges with two other originally different 
sounds, I reserve the arguments in support of the view just stated until 
the treatment of M.E. e 1 ; cf. pp. 209, &c., below. 

The present-day diphthong into which old d has developed (in make, 
&c.) is first noted by Batchelor, Orthoepical Analysis, pp. 53-4, 1809. 

M.E. a in the Modern Period. 

In Received Standard English the present pronunciation of M.E. 
short a, in all words where this sound was unaffected by any combinative 
change, either in Late M.E. or at some subsequent period, is [se]. 
Examples : mad, man, cat, rag, wax, &c., &c. The Late M.E. -dr from 
-cr (cf. pp. 212-22) became [-ser], for the subsequent history of which 
see pp. 203-5, below. The problems are when and in what dialect did 
the new sound first develop, and when did it become the received pro- 
nunciation in Standard English ? The process is one of fronting, and, if 
we assume that M.E. d was a mid-back vowel, also of lowering. The 
lowering may have accompanied the fronting, or [a] might become first 
[e], and then have been lowered. The difficulty of the second hypothesis 
is that a general tendency to lower all [e] sounds would have necessarily 
involved also original M.E. e in tell, bed, &c. 

OLD SHORT a 197 

The dialectal and chronological problems are not altogether easy of 
solution. The earliest (sixteenth century) writers on pronunciation, 
especially the native-born grammarians, give us very little help, their 
remarks being extremely ambiguous. And this is not to be wondered at 
when we reflect that the modern English sound is, even to-day, very rare 
among the languages of the world, that it is by no means universal in 
the English dialects, whether Regional or Social, at the present time, and 
that, for those speakers who have not used it from childhood, it is 
apparently one of the most difficult vowels to acquire, difficult to recognize 
and discriminate, and difficult to analyse and describe. It is a matter of 
very common experience that English speakers who have studied and 
perhaps spoken a foreign language for years, in which no sound at all 
resembling the genuine English [ae] occurs, continue, when pronouncing 
this foreign tongue, to substitute their native sound for the foreign [0J 
without the slightest misgiving, and without entertaining any doubt as to 
the complete identity of the two sounds. I have also known persons who, 
without having had any systematic training in phonetics, had yet given 
much intelligent attention to phonetic questions, who maintained stoutly 
that English [20] was not a front vowel at all, but a back vowel, closely 
associated with [a], and this although they themselves undoubtedly 
pronounced the normal front sound. 

From these considerations I am impelled, when the sixteenth- and 
seventeenth-century English writers on pronunciation identify the English 
a with the sound usually expressed by this symbol in continental 
languages, and give no hint of the existence of another sound, to disregard 
their testimony as proving nothing at all not even that the new sound did 
not exist in their own pronunciation. When it further appears that 
a writer has no phonetic knowledge, no grasp of foreign sounds, but is 
completely under the spell of the l letters ' and their supposed mysterious 
' powers ', it seems mere waste of time to spend it in trying to make 
definite sense out of his vague nonsense. 

Our best chance of help from the grammarians is in the works of 
foreigners who, having no prejudices in favour of one sound more than 
another, have no hesitation, if they are acute enough to observe a differ- 
ence between the English pronunciation of a ' letter ' and their own, in 
pointing it out. 

The occasional spellings which are often so enlightening shed some 
slight light on our problem, in that we find a few examples, even in the 
fifteenth century, of e written for a. Many of the words in which this 
spelling occurs may be otherwise explained than by the assumption of 
a genuine development of a front pronunciation from old a. It is true 
that e is an unsatisfactory spelling for [se], but supposing that a writer 
feels that the vowel in cat is front (he does not of course call it ' front ' to 
himself), what symbol can he use to express this except e ? But spellings 
of this kind which are not patient of some other explanation e. g. as 
representing a M.E. (S.E.) -type, and not an a-type at all are very few 
and far between. 

Lastly, there is the testimony of rhyme, which in the present instance 
can serve us but little, since there can be no genuine rhymes with [ae] 
except in words which are derived from a, and it therefore proves nothing 


that words originally containing [a] and spelt a are rhymed together, for 
the rhyme would be equally good before and after the change of sound, 
which would affect all words of this class equally. The nearest approach 
we get to any enlightenment from this source are rare rhymes of a with 
e. This is comprehensible if the former sound had been fronted to [s], 
but not if it was still a back vowel. 

The information, such as it is, from the various sources is the 
following : 

During the fifteenth century we have a few examples of e written 
instead of a in different parts of the country : in St. Editha (c. 1420) the 
rhyme was cress ' cross ' occurs twice, lines 1543, 1548. Cress is written 
for crass(e), which is found in line 1387. That the writer of St. Editha un- 
lounded o is shown by this form and by starme ' storm ' 939, which rhymes 
with harm. It would appear from the spelling cress that he had also 
fronted a ; sedness, Palladius, 10. 255 ; ibid., eddres ' adders ', 34. 935 ; wex 
' wax ', 38. 1023 ; wesshe ' wash ', 40. 1105. Wm. Paston, the judge, has 
1 heve l have ' (perhaps long) ; Duke of Buckingham thenking l thank- 
ing ', 1442-55, Paston Letters, i. 61 ; Bokenam venyschyd, Agn. 603; 
wecheman, Agn. 295; Marg. Paston seek 'sack', ii. 179; pollexis 
'-axes', ii. 215; wetch ' watch ' (Vb.), ii. 362; Shillingford Sheftesbury, 
5; hendes 'hands', 46; Gregory becheler, 203; j'esper, 209; fethem, 
213; cheryte 'charity', 232; Rewle of Sustr. Men. wexe (Vb.), 107. 
24 ; chesiple 'chasuble* 91. 4. In the sixteenth century I have noted es 
/or, Rec. Cath. of Ar., L. and P. ii. 405. 1501 ; bend ' band', Bp. Knight 
(1512), p. 191 (twice) ; renk ' rank ', Lord Berners, i. 295 (twice) ; axemyne, 
in the Letter of Thos. Pery to Mr. R. Vane (Ellis 2. 2), p. 142 ; and the 
same writer has exemynyde, pp. 142 and 145; Jenewery, 149, cheryte^ 
156. Machyn writes Crenmer, 57, and cherete, 131. Wm. Faunte, 
Alleyne Papers ' if you hed him ', p. 32, 159-, where hedis stressed. Mrs. 
Basire writes settisfie 135 (1654), Frencis 139 (1655), sednes 140(1656). 

The inverted spellings (a for e) occur in Wanysday ' Wednesday ', 
Gregory, 97 and 229; massynger, 124, and massage, 223, in the same 
writer; zastyrday 'yesterday' (z = M.E. 3) i. 81; and massynger, 
i. no, Marg. Paston ; while in the sixteenth century Sir T. Elyot writes 
mantion, 2. 316 ; and Machyn prast for ' pressed ', 127. We are perhaps 
entitled to assume that when a writer puts a for e, he attributes a front 
pronunciation to the former symbol. Of the first group above (e for a), 
it might be contended that the forms from Palladius (Essex) represent 
not M.E. a at all, but the old S.E. type with e, though this particular ex- 
planation does not apply to wesshe. Heve for have may possibly be an 
unstressed form. Shillingford's Sheftesbury may be from an O.E. South- 
western form with sceft- for earlier sceaft-. On the other hand, the 
whole collection may be perfectly genuine, in which case it would be 
established that as early as the fifteenth century a had been fronted in 
Essex, Suffolk, and possibly in London, though Gregory, as we have 
seen (p. 64), was by birth a Suffolk man. None of the English writers 
on pronunciation of the sixteenth century appear to throw any light, 
except Palsgrave ( 1 530), who hints at the existence of a pronunciation other 
than [a] : French a is sounded ' suche as we vse with vs, where the best 
englysshe is spoken '. Some of the French writers on English assert that 


English a is pronounced like e (' at least in Latin ', Tory, 1529) ; l e almost 
as brode as ye pronounce your a in englysshe ' (Wes. 1532). Unfortu- 
nately, we do not know whether this refers only to long a or to a as well. 

Shakespeare rhymes scratch wretch in Venus and Adonis (Victor, 
Shakespeare Pron., p. 208), and neck back in V. & A. 593 (Horn, N.E. 
Gr., 40) Publ. Pprs. 6, beck ' back ', 1485. Diehl (Eng. Schreibung und 
Ausspr.) mentions a few more occasional spellings siren 'strand ', 1554 
Machyn, 72; ectes 'acts', 1598 Henslowe's Diary, 137, 1. 13. 

The statements of the grammarians down to the second half of the 
seventeenth century are nearly as useless for our purpose as those of 
their predecessors in the former century. 

Butler (1634) only tells us that a and a differ ' in quantity and sound '. 
This might mean that d was still unfronted, while d was fronted, or that 
a = [ae] and d = p i e]. Ben Jonson, however (Gr. 1640, but written twenty 
years or so earlier), notes a difference between French a and the English 
vowel in art, act, apple. He says : ' A with us in most words is pro- 
nounced lesse than the French a' This is, perhaps, intended to refer to 
a fronted vowel. 

Wallis (1653) nas tne grace to distinguish between 'guttural' and 
' palatal ' vowels, and among the latter he includes English a, both long 
and short, which he also denominates ' exile ', that is ' thin, meagre '. If 
these terms mean anything when applied to vowel sounds they must mean 
that the sound thus described is a front sound. We know, fortunately, 
from other sources that M.E. d was undoubtedly fronted long before the 
time at which Wallis wrote (cf. pp. 194-6, above, concerning M.E. d), 
and therefore this author's equation of the vowels in the pairs sam 
same, lamb lame, bat bate, &c., as simply long and short forms of the 
same sound makes it pretty certain that the short vowel was [ae]. 

Cooper (1685) is the first serious phonetician, and the most accurate 
observer we have hitherto met. He describes English a and says, ' for- 
matur a medio linguae ad concavum palati paululum elevato, in can, pass 
a corripitur ; in cast, past producitur '. This is quite unambiguous and 
can only mean [ae], and the analysis is identical with that which the best 
modern phoneticians have made of the sound, described by Bell and 
Sweet as the low front. Cooper's list of words containing the short 
vowel is : bar, blab, cap, cat, car, dash, flash, gard, grand, land, mash, 
hat, tar, quality. It will be seen that this includes words where a occurs 
before -r, and the word quality which we do not now pronounce with [ae]. 
The explanation of this will appear later (cf. pp. 201-3). 

We need not pursue any farther the winding mazes of the grammarians 
in their descriptions of this sound, since it is clear that our present-day 
vowel is now fully recognized and adequately described. We may note 
in passing that Bachelor (1819) warns his readers against a prevalent 
vulgarism in the pronunciation of a. He says (p. 22): ' Refinement 
should be kept within very moderate bounds with respect to this letter, as 
the real exchange of a for e is the result of ignorance or affectation, by 
means of which certain words will cease to be distinguished in pronuncia- 
tion.' He illustrates his meaning by a list of words showing how one 
vowel is passing towards the pronunciation of the other. Thus had is 
becoming like head, lad like led, man like men, and so on. ' The broad- 


est provincial tone ', he adds, ' seems to make a far nearer approach to 
propriety than the exchange of the ( = these) sounds. ... It cannot be 
foreseen whether the fickle goddess of fashion will not one day authorise 
such an alteration/ She has not done so yet. We catch echoes of this 
vulgarism, springing, no doubt, from a desire for a bogus elegance, in the 
satires of Dickens and Thackeray, and we may still hear ' head' instead 
of had from a few would-be refined vulgarians, as well as from certain 
sections of Cockney speakers. 

We may now attempt a constructive theory of the course of events, 
which are somewhat imperfectly reflected by the facts which have so far 
been collected. 

It seems probable that the fronting of M.E. a began in the S.E. 
counties, notably in Essex, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, and 
that it spread during the first half of the century to Suffolk, and possibly 
to Norfolk. Only gradually did the tendency spread to London, and at 
first only among the proletariat or the middle classes. The forms in 
Gregory's Chronicle, if we take them as establishing that he had the 
fronted pronunciation, may be due largely to his Suffolk origin. The 
fronting was very gradual, so that a was not felt as an incongruous symbol 
for the sound. When we find ^-spellings, or rhymes of #-words with 
those containing e, we may reasonably assume that the vowel implied was 
fully front. From the lower and middle classes in London the new 
pronunciation passed during the sixteenth century to the upper classes, 
and even into the English of the Court. 

Among the latter sections of the community the fronted sound may 
quite possibly have been at first an affectation adopted from some feeling 
that it was more refined than the ' broader ' [#]. This seems likely in 
view of the fact that even to-day, outside Received Standard and the 
dialects of the Eastern Counties (as far as Bedfordshire and Cambridge- 
shire ?), the sound is practically unknown in natural Regional and Class 
dialects. In any case, it was in all likelihood universal among fashionable 
speakers by the end of the sixteenth century. If the professed writers on 
English pronunciation are so slow to recognize and admit the existence 
of [se], this is due partly to their inadequate observation and incapacity 
for phonetic analysis, partly to their dislike of new departures in pronun- 
ciation, and their reluctance to admit these, especially when there was no 
traditional symbol ready to their hand to express the new sound. It was 
comparatively easy to admit the new [se or e] from old a because it was 
possible to liken the sound to French or Italian or Latin e. Also a long 
vowel is always easier to recognize and describe than a short one. It was 
hardly possible to give any idea of [ae] without some knowledge of the 
functions of the tongue in the production of vowels, such as Cooper and, 
to some extent, Wallis possessed. It seems likely that many old- 
fashioned speakers, even at Court, preserved the old sound well into the 
seventeenth century. 

If Shillingford's hendes really implies a front pronunciation of the 
vowel, he must have picked up the sound during his trip to London 
together with many other features of his .English which are foreign to his 
native dialect (cf. pp. 65 and 81 above). It is hardly possible that [ae] 
should have existed in Devonshire in the fifteenth century, seeing that it is 


foreign even now to the dialect of that county. The form can hardly be 
of Scandinavian origin in Devonshire ! If we take St. Editha's cress 
= crass seriously, this was probably a foreign importation. While at the 
present time most English provincial dialects show more or less well- 
marked advancing or fronting of old a, except in the North, none would 
seem to have developed a full front vowel. Even the considerably 
advanced [#] of many of the forms of Modified Standard, especially as 
heard in large towns, is probably not a survival of the native Regional, 
but due to the influence of Received Standard. In the would-be refined 
English of certain classes in Edinburgh and Glasgow, vigorous efforts to 
attain an ' English accent ' have resulted in a front sound indeed, but in 
[e] instead of [ae]. 

M.E. a I becomes auL 

In Late M.E. a followed by -/ is diphthongized to au. This happens 
only in stressed syllables, and only when these end in a consonant. 
There are many examples in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries of the 
spelling aul or awl. It is doubtful whether these spellings, at any rate 
by the end of the fifteenth century, do not express a sound very like our 
present sound [5] in hall, ball, all, salt, rather than the diphthong. 

The development of [au] to [o] is discussed below (pp. 251-3). 

A few examples will suffice to illustrate the flw-spellings. 

Gregory, Saulysbury, 102 (this must have been pronounced [s<zlzbm] 

with no vowel following the -/) ; Cely Papers, Tawbot ' Talbot ', 46, 

fawkyner, 81, aull 'all', cawlyd, 74, schawl be. The last word must be 

the strong or stressed form. Our present-day shall [Jael] is derived from 

the undiphthongized unstressed form, which is far commoner. 

Thos. Pery (1539), saume 'psalm ', Ellis ii. 2. 152 ; Sir Thos. Seymour, 
cawlh, St. Pprs. Hen. VIII, i, p. 773 (1544); Sir Thos. Smith, hawle, 
Ellis ii. 3. 15 (1572-6) ; Q. Elizabeth, faule, Letters, 4%,/aukth, Transl. 2; 
stauke ' stalk ', Trans. 26. 

It is unnecessary to multiply examples, as these may be found scattered 
about in most fifteenth- and sixteenth-century letters. 

Wherever, in present-day English, the combination -al- is pronounced 
[51], or when the / is no longer pronounced, as in talk, stalk, &c., [5], we 
may be sure that this vowel is derived from the earlier diphthong au. 
The change of this into [5] has been so regular that au, aw are regarded 
in English as the natural symbols to express this vowel sound. 

See p. 251, &c, below, for the history of au. 

M.E. a in the Modern Period after w-, wh-, gu-, squ-. 

At the present time we pronounce a rounded vowel \_o] in wand, wash, 
what, quantify, squash, &c. If we assume that the preceding [w, w] 
rounded M.E. a before fronting to [se] had taken place, the change in 
sound is easy to understand. In this case the change was earlier than that of 
[a] to [ae] (cf. pp. 196-200). If we place this in the fifteenth century in the 
South-East and in the following century in London English, the rounding 
after w, &c., must be earlier still. This would put the development of the 
rounded vowel in this position rather earlier than the meagre evidence of 


occasional spellings would lead us to suppose. The Celys write wosse, 
whos, &c., for was several times, and the same form occurs in Cr. of 
Duke of York a Knight of the Bath, p. 390; but this is not absolutely 
convincing, since the Auxiliary is usually unstressed, and the spelling may 
represent the reduced vowel. The first convincing spelling with which 
I am acquainted is wosse 'wash', Machyn, p. 230. In William Watson's 
Teares of France (1593) occurs the very bad rhyme songs swans, which 
seems to imply a rounded vowel in the latter word. After that there 
is nothing until the seventeenth century, when Sir R. Gresham in Verney 
Papers, p. 106, writes Whoddon for Whadden in 1622. The grammarian 
Daines (1640) says that ait is pronounced in quart, wart, swart, and 
thwart. This implies the sound [5] with the lengthening of o before r. 
The Verney Memoirs from 1642 onwards furnish numerous examples of 
^-spellings of a after w- t &c., and Cooper in 1685 gives war, warm, 
warder, watch, water, wattle, wrath as containing either the short vowel 
in of, or the long vowel in off respectively. 

Already in the fourteenth century I have noted a few instances of o for 
a after w-, but always before -/, so that one is led to suppose that the 
latter consonant exercised some influence. The examples are : swolwe- 
bridde, Earliest Eng. Pr. Psalter (1350), p. 180; sivolj 'swallow' (N.), 
Allit. Poems, Patience, 250 ; swotyd (Pret.), Patience, 363, 1 268. Chaucer 
in the House of Fame, 1035, rhymes swallow (Vb.) with holowe. 

The list of ^-spellings in the letters of the excellent Verney ladies is 
a fairly long one. Whot 'what', V. Memoirs, iv. 87, 1662 ; wos 'was', 
1642, ii. 67, 70, 71; wore 'war', 1644, i. 201; worr, 1688, iv. 449; 
worning, 1646, ii. 356; woshing ' washing', 1661, iv. 21; woching 
' watching ', iii. 433 ; Worik * Warwick ', 1658, iii. 416 ; quorill ' quarrel ', 
1674, iv. 226; quollity 'quality', 1683, iv. 273; quollyfications, 1685, 
iv. 275 ; squobs 'squabs', 1664, iv. 72. 

Woater 'water', 1688, iv. 449, though representing the rounding of 
M.E. a, may be included here. 

Cooper indicates a rounded vowel [o] in was, wasp, wan. 

The words waft, quaff, usually pronounced [waft, kwaf), though some 
speakers say [w^ft, w5ft, kwof], have in the former case escaped the 
rounding. Unless this be a spelling pronunciation, which is unlikely, 
since wa- for most Englishmen stands for [w.?, WD], these forms must 
represent a type in which M.E. wa- became [wee]. The subsequent 
change in this vowel before -ft is dealt with on p. 204, below. 

The Pret. swam [swsem] instead of [sw0m] may be explained by the 
analogy of began and other Prets. of this class. 

By the side of the rounded forms whose existence is fully established 
among the best speakers, by the above evidence, for the seventeenth 
century, Mulcaster, 1582, puts warde, wharf, dwatf, warn, wasp into the 
same list as cast, far, clasp, grasp, &c., as regards the vowel, Elementarie, 
127, and some seventeenth- and eighteenth-century grammarians seem to 
suggest the existence of unrounded forms such as [waez, swsen, kwael/t/, 
kwaentzb'J, which again are either spelling pronunciations or dialectal 
variants. It looks as if we must assume the existence of a speech com- 
munity among which wa- became simply [wse] and not [w/|, whose 
habits of speech have left some slight traces. It is certain, in spite of the 


Verney forms, that many eighteenth-century speakers said [kwselz'tz* and 
kwaentzh']. This is asserted by the writers on pronunciation, and is con- 
firmed by a statement made to me by a lady who died recently, aged 
eighty-six, that nearly eighty years before, a great-aunt of hers, then very 
old, corrected my informant for saying [kw^hb', kw^ntzb'], asserting that 
these were vulgar pronunciations. Further, in Leigh Hunt's Auto- 
biography, p. 180, it is recorded that John Kemble the actor (1757-1823) 
always said [kwaeh't*']. 

The rounding does not normally occur in Received Standard English 
when wa-, qua-, wha- are followed by g or k. Hence we pronounce [se] 
in wag, whack, wax, quack, quagmire. The Danish writer Bertram (1753), 
whose observations are generally accurate, states, however, that a rounded 
vowel was heard in quagmire, and [kw.?g-] may still be heard. 

If the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century unrounded forms of such 
words as wash, swan, wasp were not spelling pronunciations, that is, if 
wa- really developed into [wae-] and subsequently became [wo], then we 
must assume that the initial w, while not hindering the early fronting of 
the vowel, later unfronted it again before rounding. This would be 
a later process than that which, among a different set of speakers, rounded 
M.E. a direct, before fronting took place. 

The poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (e.g. Surrey, 
Wyatt, Sackville, Spenser, Shakespeare, Habington, Donne, and Herrick) 
do not, so far as I have got evidence, rhyme wa- with o, but with a 
e.g. want rhymes with grant, pant, &c., was with grass. Pope rhymes 
rewards cards, Moral Essays, Epistle ii. 243. These rhymes would 
still be held perfectly sound, being traditional, and also appealing 
to the eye. These reasons would explain their occurrence at an earlier 
date, even if those who used them pronounced [w^nt, w^z], &c. Such 
rhymes prove nothing one way or the other. The absence of the rhymes 

wa o may be due to the dislike already alluded to, to rhyme in 

antagonism to the conventional spelling. 
M.E. a before s,f, th [s, f, J>]; also before r and r + consonant. 

The words path, bath; pass, glass; chaff, after; hard, far, &c., may 
serve as types of what has happened to the old short vowel before the 
above-mentioned consonants. In Received Standard, instead of a short 
vowel [se] we have a long [a]. In the various Regional and Class dialects, 
different developments occur, such as [glas, glaes, glses], &c.; these, 
however, do not concern us here, except in as much as they may repre- 
sent survivals of the stages through which the Received Standard forms 
have passed in their time. Two things, then, have happened to the vowel 
in Early Modern [paef, glaes, tjaef] : it has been lengthened, and it has 
been retracted, from a front to a back vowel. 

The generally received view is that M.E. path, &c., became [paef>], 
whenever the fronting took place ; that this was then lengthened to [pae)>] 
in the seventeenth century, whence [p#}>] developed in the course of the 
eighteenth. In the same way hard became [haerd, haerd, ha(r)d]. There 
is little fault to find with this, except as regards the approximate period 
of lengthening. This took place, in all probability, much earlier than is 
usually supposed. 

We shall see (p. 257) that # is lengthened in Warwickshire as early as 


1420, when we find crooft for croft (Coventry Leet) ; also that the spelling 
marster for master occurs in the Cely Papers. This last form has been 
adduced to prove that r could have had no consonantal sound at this 
period before -s, but it also shows that the preceding vowel was long, in 
fact that a was already lengthened before -s + consonant. There is no 
reason for supposing that lengthening of a took place earlier before -s 
than before [f,f>], or that the vowel o was lengthened earlier before /than 
a was. If we draw what seems the natural inference from these facts we 
shall have to assume that, at any rate by the end of the fifteenth century, 
the vowel in path, glass, chaff was already long. Did this lengthening 
occur before or after the fronting of a ? Are we to assume for the six- 
teenth century [pof>, glas, tjtff], or [pai]?, glaes, tjsef]? 

The question seems open to discussion, and it may be well to argue it 
out. Let us assume that M.E. bap * bath ' was lengthened direct in the 
fifteenth century, before the fronting of a, to bap. In this case what was 
its position with regard to the verb bathe, which had a long a in M.E. ? 
Either this latter vowel had already been fronted, or it had not. If not, 
then bap and bad must have had the same vowel, and this, as we have 
seen, was fronted in the fifteenth century and subsequently became [e]. 
The same fate would, therefore, have overtaken the same vowel in both 
words, with the result that there would have been no distinction in vowel 
sound at the present time between bath and bathe. But there is a dis- 
tinction. Let us assume, then, that when bap became bap, the old a in 
\ba<f\ was already fronted and had thus got far ahead of the new a. This 
assumption necessitates the further one that at a later period a fresh 
tendency arose to front a. But this assumption is not justified, apparently, 
by facts. We are compelled, therefore, to assume that bap did not 
become bap direct, but that the vowel had already been fronted before 
the lengthening took place, so that the development was [balp, baef, bse]?]. 
This offers no difficulty, since we know that [bsef] did exist (from the 
testimony of the seventeenth-century Orthoepists), and the only question 
which arises is, when did it come into existence ? If it be held, as it still 
is by some, that M.E. a had only reached the [se] stage by the sixteenth 
century, this would certainly be a difficulty, but we have established 
already (pp. 195-6) at least a very strong probability that by that 
period [e], or still more probably [e], had already been reached by the 
old 0, so that, if that be so, the difficulty is removed. 

Incidentally it may be remarked that such a rhyme as past waste, 
which occurs in Shakespeare's sonnet, ' When to the sessions of sweet 
silent thought ', is intelligible if we assume that the vowels in both words 
were long [psest west] but hardly so if we are to suppose [pst 
west] or even [west]. 

As regards the change from [psest, bse}?, seft3(r)] to [past], &c., it is 
difficult to be sure of the approximate date of the change. The state- 
ments of the eighteenth-century authorities are very unsatisfactory. The 
chief argument against assuming a very early (say late seventeenth or 
early eighteenth century) retraction to [a] is the fact that this vowel seems 
to have been difficult for Englishmen at that time. Why, if the sound 
was a common one in our language, did it always become [5], written aw 
or au, in foreign words when borrowed into English ? 


We find spaw for Spa in the Verney Memoirs, ii. 23 (1641) ; iv. 120 
(1665), and the habit survives in the spelling and pronunciation of 
Cawnpore, Punjaub, brandy pawnee, and in the pronunciation [kobwl] 
for Cabul, really [p^ndzab, panz', kabwl], &c. The old-fashioned and 
now vulgar pronunciation [voz] for vase illustrates the same point. The 
word in this form must have been borrowed when [d] was unknown in 
English. Our present-day pronunciation [vaz] is the result of a com- 
paratively recent approximation to the French sound. 

Before r, a becomes -o in some dialects; cf. for instance Charlbury, 
Oxon., locally called [tjolbn']. There was in the nineteenth century 
a hyper-fashionable or vulgar by-form [t|5lz] of Charles. This used to be 
facetiously written ' Chawles '. The prototype of this form seems to occur 
in Mrs. Basire's chorls, 141 (1655). Cp. also Cooper, p. 173, above. 
The form is difficult to account for unless [d\ had already developed 
from [ee]. 

The Vowel in half, laugh, dance, &c. 

If we assume that our pronunciation of these words goes back to 
a late M.E. haf, laf, dance which became [haef naif h<zf], &c., there is 
no difficulty concerning them, nor one or two other words, such as calf. 
If, on the other hand, we insist on deriving our present forms from Early 
Modern forms with the diphthong au haulf, caulf, lauf, daunse, &c. as 
some scholars do, then we are put to all sorts of shifts to explain the 
present-day [d~\ instead of [5]. That diphthongized forms haulf, caulf 
existed, no one doubts, but it is suggested that undiphthongized forms 
also existed, and that from these our present received pronunciation is 
derived. As regards laugh, laughter, there is no proof that [laffor], &c., 
ever existed. In words of this kind there were two types, one in which 
the final [^] became [f], and in this type au did not develop ; but there 
was another type in which final [x] or this sound before / did not 
become [f] but retained its back character and then disappeared. In 
this type au did develop, and afterwards, quite normally, became [5]. 
Our forms laugh, laughter (in spite of the spelling which really belongs 
to the second type), and the earlier forms, so much in vogue right into 
the eighteenth century, staffer, dafter, are derived from the first type. On 
the other hand, the received pronunciation of slaughter, daughter with 
[3] is derived from the second type. See p. 288, below, for early 
examples of the spellings laffe, &c., and p. 297 for ^a/'half '. 

M.E. ? in the Modern Period. 

By common consent, the long tense e of M.E., no matter what its origin, 
was raised to [l] in the Early Modern period. Apart from present-day 
vulgar English of big towns, the new vowel sound has been preserved. 
In the degraded forms referred to, there appears to be a tendency to 
diphthongize [i] to something like [az']. This tendency generally goes 
with a drawling habit of speech which seems incompatible with the 
preservation of any long vowel as a pure sound. The same speakers 
who pronounce [ha/, baz', maz] for he, be, me, &c., also diphthongize the 
vowel in boot, &c. (cf. 235, below). 


The first indications we get of the change of [e] to [l] are given by 
the occasional spellings of persons who write i,y instead of e. These 
spellings, so far as my knowledge goes, begin before the end of the first 
quarter of the fifteenth century. They are fairly frequent during the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and are found even in the seventeenth 
century. The following examples will suffice : 

Siege of Rouen, c, 1420 hyre 'hear', 1. 23, hyrde 'heard', 29. 
Bokenam (1443) besychyn, S. Marg. 925; Shillingford (1447-50) 
mykely, myte ' meet ', 6, hire ' hear ', 9, dyme ' deem ', 1 3, myve 
'move', 60, from M.E. meve, meeve, pryving, pryved, 57, 'proving', 
&c., from M.E.preve. Shillingford's wyke 'week', 59, may = [wlk], or 
it may represent an old form wike without lengthening. Sike ' sick ', 64, 
may be either M.E. seke, or an early shortening. 

Gregory (1450-70) &r* 'hear', passim, dyre ' dear', 116, stypylle 
'steeple', 149, slyvys, 160, 'sleeves'; the spelling schyppe, 162, 'sheep', 
no doubt expresses a shortening of the vowel after it had been raised to [i]. 
Margaret Paston (1440-70) thir, 2. 142, 'there, in which', hyrafter 
'here-', 2. 178, agryed, 2. i>jg,priste 'priest', 2. 179, symed 'seemed', 
2. 186, spyde ' speed', 2. i88,fg?i*g r , 2. i<)2,dymeth, 2. ig^shype 'sheep', 
2. 196, kype, 2. 197, wypyng ' weeping', 2. 226. Creation of Knight of 
the Bath (1494) sien 'seen', 390, indied, 391, Letters and Papers, 
vol. i. Hymn to B.V.M. (before 1500) wi, Quin 'queen', tri 'tree', 
win' ' weary ', si ' see '. 

Anne Boleyn in 1528 writes besyche, Ellis i. i. 306 and 307, and so 
does Thos. Pery in 1539, Ellis 2. 2. 148. The spelling Mons. de Guees 
for Guise in Cavendish's Life of Wolsey, p. 76, makes it quite clear what 
value the symbol ee had for the writer. Ascham has style ' steel ', 
Toxophilus, 112, and piuyshlye, Tox. 83 and 84; Roper's Life of Sir 
Thos. More, liver 'rather', xxviii. 16 (1556). As has been pointed out 
already, p. 136, Queen Elizabeth in her letters and in her Translations 
makes very frequent use of this spelling. The following list is rather 
fuller than that given above, and includes references. From letters to 
James VI (1582-1602) : agreed, p. n, fa'res&y (Noun), 17, grivous, 19, 
ivel, 20, kiping, 23, fried 'freed', 23, nideful 'need-', 27, &jte'keep', 
53, besiche 'beseech', 53, spidye ' speedy ', 53, hire (Inf.), 61 ; from 
Ellis : briding 'breed-', i. 2. 157 (1549), dides 'deeds', i. 2. 147, hire, 
i. 2. 146. In the Translations, among other forms, we find whir 
'where', p. 146. The habit of these spellings, then, is observable 
in the Queen's writings from her girlhood to the end of her life. It 
is unnecessary to prolong the list farther, and still less necessary to 
refer to the early Orthoepists, who for once seem all to agree, and all 
to be describing the real facts. It may be useful to observe that when 
the late sixteenth- and the seventeenth-century writers on pronunciation 
speak of the sound of ' ee ', they invariably mean [i]. 

How early did the sound change take place ? Since we have evidence 
of it in spelling as early as 1420 or thereabouts, it is probable that the 
present sound was fully developed in pronunciation considerably, perhaps 
fifty years, earlier, A thorough search through the late fourteenth-century 
texts might reveal examples of /, y spellings in these. It is probable that 
M.E. e was pronounced very tense, and slightly raised, like the vowel in 


Danish- se 'see', which to English ears is almost indistinguishable from 
[si]. This, point is reached before the full high position of the tongue is 
attained. It might, of course, be argued that the fifteenth-century 
spellings indicate only a very tense and very high [e], and that the full 
[l] sound is only reached in the following century. The exact chronology 
of minute degrees of sound change is not obtainable with absolute 
certainty, but the facts and inferences based upon them with regard 
to the history of M.E. e* [i] (see pp. 209-13) all make, in my opinion, in 
favour of the view here taken, that [i] was probably fully developed from 
e l before the end of the fourteenth century. 

So far as my present knowledge goes, I see no reason for claiming 
any particular Regional dialect as the starting-point of the change, nor 
any Class dialect as the medium through which it passed into the English 
spoken in London, and ultimately into Received Standard. The sound 
change appears common to the speech of all areas and classes. 

The Vowel in evil, &><:. 

We have now briefly to consider a group of words containing M.E. e l 
of Late M.E. origin. 

There are a few words in Received Standard English at the present 
day which have [I] spelt e or ee, about which there has been some dis- 
cussion. The chief words are evil, beetle, weevil, and week, the last three 
of which all have original i in O.E. In some dialects bitul, wifol, wicu 
appear as beotul, weofol, weocu. In M.E. these become betel, wevel, weke 
respectively, the <? being due to monophthonging ofeo to ^,and the lengthen- 
ing of this in open syllables in M.E. Until recently these M.E. forms 
were accepted as the ancestors of the present-day forms. Evil, O.E. 
yfel, was regarded as the descendant of the Kentish type, O.E. efel, M.E. 
evel. It has been pointed out, however, that M.E. lengthened e was 
slack, and would not produce [i] in the Earliest Modern, but at best [e]. 
It is pretty generally accepted now that in certain dialectal areas not 
yet very precisely defined O.E. i in open syllables was lengthened in 
M.E., and lowered to a tense [e] which would account perfectly well for 
the Modern forms of the above words. Evil is regarded not as a 
1 Kentish ' form, but as an E. Midland form from ivel, the vowel of which 
was lengthened to tense e in later M.E. (See on this question my Short 
Hist, of Eng., 174 and 229, Note i, and references there given.) 

In present-day Standard English we usually retain the short forms of 
words with O.E. and M.E. z, as in live, give, written, shriven, little, to wit, 
privy, city, pity, stick Vb., &c., &c. As we shall see, however, the long 
forms with [i] were far commoner during the first four centuries of the 
Modern period than at present. ' Peety ' [pit*] for pity was occasionally 
heard till quite recently, and ' leetle ' [litl] is still used facetiously in the 
sense of ' very little '. There is some difficulty in distinguishing among 
the early spellings with e, those which really represent the long vowel, 
from those which are the lowered form of the short/, discussed pp. 226-9, 
&c. In the case of some words such as live, give, we know in other 
ways that the pronunciation [liv, giv] was current; in other cases the 
spelling ea or ee sometimes reveals the length. It is certainly possible 
that all three pronunciations [Izv, lev, liv, giv, gev, giv], &c., coexisted. 


The dialectal distribution of the late M.E. <?-forms from earlier i needs 
much more investigation than it has hitherto received. At any rate, the 
view that the lengthening (to e) of / in open syllables was a purely 
Northern process must be given up. It undoubtedly involved a consider- 
able area of the E. Midlands, and may even have spread South, and, to 
some extent, Westwards. 

The following examples, in so far as they contain a long vowel and are 
rightly classified here, must be regarded as having M.E. e 1 , which was 
raised to [i] very early, in these as in other words. 

Lydgate wedewe, &c. ; Coventry Leet (1421) previe, 131; Hen. V 
(Letters of Marg. of Anjou, &c.) yeuenP.T*., 2 1 (this may, however, be M.E. 
/ 2 ); Wm. Paston abedyn P. P., i. 30 ; Bokenam pete ' pity ', Pr. ^i^sekyr, 
Pr. 70, wretyn, Pr. Marg. 41, weteth, Pr. Marg. 228, presoun, Pr. Marg. 
289, iebet, Marg. 428, and Christ. 366, bedel, Pr. Marg. 349 (may repre- 
sent either M.E. bldel, or S.E. type bedel with lengthening), wedowe, Ann. 
578, shrevyn, Elev. Thous. Virg. 415, quekyn Inf., Cecil. 782, 793, 796, 
lenyn Pres. PI., Lucie 296; Gregory preson^ 65, 81, levyd ' lived ', 106, 
wete 'wit' Vb., levyn Inf., 130, wedowe, 164, peiefullyste, 199, rever 
'river', 207; Shillingford weket, 101 ; Exeter Tailors' Guild weke, 
319, wekett, %22,geven, 315 (perhaps M.E. /*, fr. O.E. geofen], dener, 315 
(both long and short forms of e occur in this word, cf. Machyn ; dener 
being a case of the lengthened forms we are considering, dener of the 
lowering treated on pp. 226-9); Ord. of Worcester geve, 388 ; Shilling- 
ford prevyly, 61, prevy seal, 63 ; Marg. Paston levyn ' live ' Inf., petous, 
ii. 26, preson, ii. 84 (indeferently, i. 178, and levery, ii. 192, &c., are 
doubtful); Short Eng. Chron. presone, 74, prevely, 75; Cr. of Knt. of 
Bath shreven P. P., 390, gentilwemen, 393; Caxton to wete 'wit', 
Jason, 58. i^wre/en 'written', 15. 24; Sir Robt. Wingfield (1513) 
gevyn P. P., Ellis 2. i. 212 ; Bury Wills wedow, 78, dener, 74, wedowed 
'-hood', 75 (1482), leve 'live', in (1509); Lord Berners suspeciously 
(?), i. 71, jebet, i. 36; Sir Thos. Elyot weete Inf., i. 51 ; Will of 
R. Bradley (Leics. 1533), L. D. D. levyng, 161. 19, geue, 161. 27; Will 
of R. Astbrooke (Bucks. 1534), L. D. D. I geue, 168. n ; Sir Thos. 
Seymour, St. Pprs. Hen. VIII i (1544) rever, 776; Thos. Lever's 
Serm.forgeuenesse, 50; Machyn deener, 138, cete 'city', 10, presuns, 
18, Prevesell ' Privy Seal ', 37, pete, 43, wedew, 49, leved, 67, veker 'vicar', 
80 ; Gabr. Harvey's Letters steekid, 2, steek ' stick ', 34 ; Verney Memoirs 
letel, M. Faulkiner, ii. 55 (1642), leetle, ii. 355 (1645) and 384 (1648), 
reaver ' river', Lady Hobart, iv. 137 (1666), pety> Lady Hobart, ibid. 138. 

In the eighteenth century Lady Wentworth has leved ' lived ', Wentw. 
Pprs. 64, 116, levin and leving 'living', 54, pety, 39, geven P. P., 40, 56, 
64, lever 'liver ', 42, wemen 'women', 113. 

We see that these forms were both fairly numerous and widespread 
formerly, and it is remarkable that nearly all should have been eliminated 
from Received Standard and Literary English. 

It is highly probable that many more of these forms, in documents of 
the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries are concealed under 
the spelling z', in which case it is impossible to distinguish them from the 
unlengthened forms. Thus such a spelling as give may well represent 
either of the two forms [g*v, giv]. 


M.E. e* = []. 

This sound, which remained during the whole M.E. period, and for some 
time afterwards, quite distinct from e l = [e] (see pp. 205-7), nas various 
origins (for which see pp. 29, 30 ; 33-4, above). With the exception of the 
words break, great, steak, all words originally containing this sound, unless 
shortening or other combinative influences have supervened (see p. 212), 
have in present-day Received Standard developed the vowel [i], so that 
the old [e] is now completely levelled under old [e]. Examples of 
words containing M.E. e* are : meat, eat, breathe, speak, steal; heat, 
teach, heath, deal (Vb.) ; clean ; leap, heap, east} also the French words 
feast, beast, veal, &c., &c. 

For the shortening of this vowel see p. 254. 

When e 1 was raised to [i] (cf. pp. 205-7), ^ at fi rst remained unaltered. 
At this point M.E. a and M.E. at, which, as we have seen (pp. 194-6), had 
by this time both been levelled under a single sound, caught up P, and 
thus the three originally distinct vowels were all represented by the single 
sound [i], which was tending more and more to become tense. 

Between this stage and the present sound the intermediate stage [e] 
must certainly be assumed. When was this stage of a fully tense vowel 
reached ? 

It seems likely that soon after M.E. e 1 became [i], <? 2 would take its 
place as a mid-front-tense vowel ; the tendency of Modern English being, 
on the whole, to make long vowels tense and to reserve slack quality for 
short vowels. We shall probably be within the mark if we place the 
development of the new tense e at least as early as the first quarter of the 
fifteenth century. This view is confirmed by the fact that in Gregory's 
Chronicle (1450-70) M.E. helen 'conceal', fr. O.E. helan, is written hylyn 
(p. 146), where the M.E. vowel was certainly [e]. , 

This is evidence that among certain sections of the community, at any 
rate, this new e had already been raised to [i]. Again, in the virulent 
Protestant tract Rede me and be not wrothe (i 528) the rhyme cleane bene 
' been ' occurs. Now the latter word can only have had [l] at this time, 
since it contains M.E. e 1 . 

During the sixteenth century we find scattered spellings of this vowel 
with i, e.g. Mzchynfirych ' preach ', p. 13, &c., brykyng 'breaking', 
109, bryke-fast, 199, spykyng 'speaking', 35; Ascham has lipe 'leap', 
Toxophilus, p. 89; Gabriel Harvey, Letters, 1573-80, has birive, p. 53; 
Q. Elizabeth has bequived 'bequeathed', Transl. 140 (M.E. quefre, O.E. 
cwepari), besides spike Vb. The Queen also has spick, but this no 
doubt represents the non-Southern form with e\ Skelton rhymes stepe 
lepe, Ph. Sparowe, 114-15; Surrey rhymes greneclene (Tottel, p. 3). 
Spenser rhymes seas these in Heavenly Beautie, and streeme seeme in 
Prothalamion, cleene with beene P. P., sheene (Adj.) and seene, F. Q. 2. i. 10; 
Shakespeare rhymes teach thee beseech thee, V. & A. 404 and 406 ; but 
all of these poets have, more commonly, rhymes which suggest the [e] 
pronunciation (cf. p. 211). The grammarian Gill, in Logonomia (1621), 
mentions with contempt what he considers affected, effeminate pronuncia- 
tions with [i] of leave and meat, which he writes liv, mit. Thus the 
comparatively early raising to [i] and therefore a still earlier ' tensening ' of 
M.E. tf 2 are completely established. 


But this is not the whole story. It is evident from rhymes and from 
the statements of writers on pronunciation that [spik] for speak and so 
on was not the only, nor indeed the prevalent, type in Received Standard 
during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Another pronunciation, 
with [e], in words of this class is recorded, and this seems to have been 
the more usual during this period. We must assume, therefore, that the 
[e] from earlier [e] was differentiated among different classes of 
speakers whether in a Regional or a Class dialect I am unable at 
present to say into two types, one of which retained the old [ej, while 
the other gradually raised this to [i]. It is unnecessary to discuss at 
length the often contradictory and never very clear statements of the 
English and French writers as to the precise quality of sixteenth and 
seventeenth-century English 'long e', but so much at least seems 
certain, that they refer to a mid and not a high vowel. We have come to 
the conclusion that this was tense and not slack, quite apart from their 
statements. If these were accepted literally they would generally tend 
to show that the vowel was slack. Even Cooper (1685) equates the 
quality of ' long e ' with that of the short in ken. On the other hand, Wallis 
(1653), anc * Sherwood in Cotgrave's Dictionary (1672), state that English 
* long e ' has the sound of French /, that is, a tense sound. 

If these men are right, then Cooper is wrong, and it is not extraordi- 
nary that, good phonetician as he is on the whole, he should not have 
realized that there was a difference of quality as well as quantity between 
the vowels in sell sail, tell tale respectively, these being, amongst others, 
the examples he gives of ' long ' and ' short e '. Cooper shows clearly 
that he did not appreciate the distinction of tense and slack, since he gives 
the pair win wean [i i] as differing only in the length of the vowel. 

However, passing from this point, we may note that Cooper gives 
a longish list of words containing ' long e ', words, that is, with ' ea pro e 
longa ', which includes the following : beacon, bead, beam, lean (Vb. and 
Adj.), beat, bequeath, bleach, breach, break, deal, dream, Easter, eat, great, 
heal, cheap, heap, heat, heath, heathen, leaf, leap, clean, leave, mead (the 
drink), meal, meat, sea, seat, sheaf, sheath, speak, squeak, steal, stream, 
sweat, teach, weak, wean (Vb.), bean, ivheat ; also the words of French 
origin : appeal, beast, cease, cheat, conceal, cream, creature, deceave, defeat, 
disease, ease, extream, feast, impeach, preach, queasie, repeat, reveal, treat, 
veal. This is a pretty satisfactory list of words which had [e] in M.E., 
and it is perfectly certain, in my opinion, that in Cooper's pronunciation 
all these had the sound [e]. I am quite unable to see the force of the 
arguments of Jones, the recent editor of Cooper, and of Zachrisson, who 
seek, apparently, to prove that Cooper intended to suggest that all these 
words were pronounced with [i]. He definitely places them under ea ; 
immediately above comes a list of words like behead, bread, &c., in which 
he says ' Ea ponitur pro e brevis ', and our list, as stated, is headed ' ea 
pro e longa '. Of * E 1 he says, ' Vera huiusce soni productio scribitur per 
a absque a longum falso denominatur ut in cane, wane, age '. Further, in 
a list of words pronounced alike though written differently, ' Voces -quae 
eandem habent pronunciationem ', &c., Cooper includes meat mate. 
Surely if this means anything it means what we have already tried to 
establish, that M.E. a and M.E. <? 2 had both the same sound in the 



seventeenth century, if not much earlier, and further, if we can ever learn 
anything from the Orthoepists, we may learn that this sound was a mid 
and not a high vowel. Shakespeare rhymes sea \vithplay, &c. (see p. ) ; 
Spenser, seates states, Heavenly Beautie, retrate (sic) late, F. Q. 
i. 8. 12; Habington sea with pray, Castara, 134, with play, 89, with 
away, 91, and so on; Thames streames, ibid. 21; and Suckling cleane 
with Seine in ' I came from England into France '. Donne but these 
rhymes are not quite conclusive rhymes meat with great, breake with 
weake (Auct. of the World). 

Such a spelling as 'to spake to her' (1693), C. Stewkley in Verney 
Mem., iv. 464, leaves no doubt as to the type of pronunciation intended. 

Cooper's list, then, is invaluable, and may be considered reliable as 
showing that words of the class we are now considering were still com- 
monly pronounced according to a different type from that now in vogue 
in Received Standard English, although our present type was certainly 
already in existence, as we have proved above, and had existed before 
the end of the fifteenth century. Cooper himself seems to have known 
both pronunciations of wean. It is rather strange that the evidences 
of the [e] pronunciation of the old [s] words should be so comparatively 
rare as they are. This may be due partly to the dislike of the more 
fastidious poets for rhyming together words which are spelt with different 
vowel symbols although the sounds be identical, so great a hold has 
spelling on the literary imagination, partly also perhaps to the fact that 
the [i] type may have gained ground more rapidly in fashionable speech 
during the eighteenth century than we suppose. Still, such rhymes as 
great cheat, sea survey, gate eat (Pope), dreame name and speake 
mistake (Swift, An Apology), shade mead (Pope, Windsor Forest, 135-6 
(1713)), please stays, ease days, fate deceit (Lady M. Wortley), &c., 
occur far into the eighteenth century. A thorough investigation of these 
rhymes from the early sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century 
would be a laborious but repaying piece of work. In dealing with M.E. a, 
p. 104, above, I have shown the existence of the rhyme M.E. d with M.E. e* 
before r, as early as c. 1420. 

This is the proper place to emphasize the fact that our modern usage 
with [/] in heat, meat, &c., is not in the nature of a sound change as some 
writers seem to suggest, but is merely the result of the abandonment of 
one type of pronunciation and the adoption of another, a phenomenon 
which, as we know, is of the commonest occurrence in the history of 
Received Standard Colloquial English. 

Had such a sound change taken place between the seventeenth century 
and the present day it must have involved all the words which had d and 
at in M.E., and made, maid, and mead would all have been pronounced alike. 
It is possible that a tendency to make M.E. d and ai into [i] did actually 
exist in some Regional dialects, and, if Gill is to be believed, some affected 
speakers of Standard English in his day actually said [kipnj for capon. 

This tendency, however, must have been confined to a small and 
obscure community, and it has not affected Received Standard.\It is not 
comparable in importance to the tendency to raise M.E. <? 2 to [I], and in 
the community among whom this latter process was carried out, it is 
evident that this must have started before the descendants of the old d 

P 2 


and ai had developed into the full [e] sound. Incidentally, this shows 
how early must have been the ' tensening ' of <? 2 . To make the matter more 
concrete for those unused to this kind of discussion, we may say that in 
the dialect from which is derived the present pronunciation of mead, this 
word must have been approaching that pronunciation before made and maid 
had reached the [med] stage and while they were both pronounced [mid]. 

The three words break, steak, great may be simply survivals of the type 
represented in Cooper's list, in which they all occur. 

On the other hand, great has been explained on the analogy of the old 
Com\).gretter, which was fairly common in the fifteenth century (cf. p. 325). 
The shortened form preserved [g], and the quality of this vowel may, 
it is said, have influenced that of the Positive by preventing so great 
a differentiation between the two forms as would exist between [grit 
greta]. This explanation now appears to me improbable. Break and 
steak have been supposed to be loan forms from a South- West dialect. 
But the South-West dialects have had extremely little influence upon 
Received Standard, in spite of Drake and Raleigh. Besides, while this 
might be a plausible explanation for the sixteenth century, the problem 
does not arise till the late seventeenth or eighteenth century in this case. 

It is simpler to regard all three forms as survivals of the older type. 
As a matter of fact these words were pretty widely pronounced with [i] 
in the eighteenth-century Received Standard, and break is still [brik] in 
Irish English and in many Regional dialects. 

Dr. Johnson said that Lord Chesterfield told him that great should be 
pronounced so as to rhyme with state, while Sir William Yonge sent him 
word that it should rhyme with seat, and that ' none but an Irishman would 
pronounce it grait\ (See Boswell's Life of '/., Oxford Ed., ii, p. 161.) 

The Change of -er- to -ar-. 

A number of words in Mod. Engl. which formerly had -er- are now 
pronounced with [a], and this irrespective of the fact that some are still 
written -er-, e. g. clerk, others -ear-, e. g. heart, while others are written 
-ar-, e. g. hart, starve, far, carve, star, and so on. On the other hand, 
a larger number of words which formerly had -er- in the spelling retain 
this spelling, as clergy, mercy, person, swerve, &c., or are written -ear-, as 
learn, early, search, and are pronounced [A], We have here the survivals 
of two types, differentiated in Late M.E. from one original type 
one type which preserved -er- unaltered, until by a series of changes 
this vowel developed into present-day [A], the other type in which 
M.E. -er- became -ar-. This has normally become present-day [a] 
when the r is followed by a consonant as in starve, or is final, as in 
star, but has remained short and is fronted to [se] when another vowel 
follows the -r-, as in tarry. 

Our task now is to trace the rise and history of the M.E. -ar- type, and 
to give some account of its distribution in the Mod. Period. 

The phonetic process is most probably one of simple retraction of [e] 
to \a] before -r~, but it is conceivable that the series of changes was 
[er ser ar] ; that is to say, the sound represented by e in M.E. may 
first have been lowered and then retracted. The difficulty of the problem 


lies in the fact that at no period, and in no early writer after the appear- 
ance of the -ar- spellings, is either type used with perfect consistency, the 
same writer often spelling the same word in both ways. Nor is it easy 
to see why in a certain number of words the -ar- spelling should gradually 
have become fixed, thus helping to fix the pronunciation, while in others 
again in which -er- or -ear- is written, the pronunciation should preserve 
the other type, nor further why yet a third group has preserved the 
-er- spelling, and are pronounced according to this type. It is difficult 
enough to reach a satisfactory solution of the difficulties even when the 
facts are known with some fullness ; it is quite impossible to do so when 
the facts are imperfectly known. The following account, though incom- 
plete, is less so than those which have appeared hitherto. 

From an examination of the list of words which have been found 
written -ar- from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, it seems 
impossible to formulate any law to account for the change in terms of 
combinative phonetic conditions, since almost every word formerly con- 
taining -er- in a stressed syllable is found at one time or another to have 
been written -ar-, and therefore, presumably, to have been pronounced 
according to this type among some groups of speakers. The nearest 
approach to any combinative influence which might be suspected is that 
of lip consonants, which present some slight appearance of having pre- 
disposed to the -ar- type when they stand before, and perhaps also after, 
the combination. I consider this, however, very doubtful, and it leaves 
much unaccounted for. 

It seems more probable that dialect is at the bottom of the difference, 
dialect of a Regional character to start with though, as we shall see, this 
is hard enough to determine which, however, was later on rather social 
than Regional. 

The Chronological Facts. 

The -ar- forms are very rare in any text before the beginning of the 
fifteenth century. I cannot profess to give an exhaustive account of 
the conditions in M.E. until my M.E. Grammar is much farther advanced 
than at present, and I only give the results of my investigations on 
M.E. vowels so far for what they are worth. I have not yet examined 
PL N.'s in respect of our present point. The earliest example of -ar- 
for >er- which I have is dare in St. Juliana, line 30 (Prose), MS. Royal, 
c. 1250; the only other from the West before the fifteenth century is 
from Robt. of Glos. (1320-30), Barcssire, 1. 64, Barkssire, 5706. The 
Eastern and South-Eastern texts are slightly more fruitful, and I have 
noted sarmon and sarmoun in Will. of Shoreham's Poems (c. 1320), 4. 1212, 
56. 1562, 50. 1411, 100. 67, and harkne, 141. 330, in the same writer. 
From the Norfolk Guilds of 1389 I have noted parsones andprestes, p. 23, 
garland, 117, and far -thing, 122 (five times). Chaucer has only/izr/, harre 
'hinge' (rh. with knarre, Prol. C. T. 550), tarie 'tarry' (Vb.), and harrie. 

When we come to the fifteenth century we find that the larger number 
of the -ar- forms occur in S.E. and E. Midland texts, and they are not 
common here until well on in the century. Palladius on Husbandry 
(Colchester, c. 1420) has only barn and barley, Bokenam has very few 
of these forms, and they appear in the Suffolk Wills apparently only 


from 1463 onwards; it is perhaps only a coincidence that Marg. Paston, 
also belonging to Suffolk, has hardly any of these forms before 1461, 
and that before that date she writes her own maiden name Berney, after 
1461 Barney. The Essex family of Celys have a larger number of -ar- 
forms in their letters in the late seventies and eighties of the century than 
is found prevailing in any other collection of documents. The writers of 
this century who belong to the more Westerly parts of the country have 
practically no -ar- forms.. This is true of the Life of St. Editha. Bishop 
Pecok, Shillingford's letters, and the Exeter Guild documents. In the 
last mentioned, however, tarmes is a remarkable exception. 

Turning to London documents, the -ar- forms here are very rare 
before the middle of the century, though scattered instances will be 
found in the list. It is not until the second half of the century that we 
find any considerable number, and it is significant that we find most of 
all in the Chronicle of Lord Mayor Gregory, who was a Suffolk man by 
birth. Caxton has very few -ar- forms, and they are very rare in the 
official documents down to the end of the century. 

In the following century the -ar- spellings are more frequent, and 
most writers, of all classes, have a certain number. The examples quoted 
below are from documents of all kinds, including private letters, and 
works published in the sixteenth century. It will be noted that in some 
words, e.g. clerk, heard, serve, &c., swerve, war, these spellings are fairly 
widespread. It will be found, I believe, that the writers who use these 
\ spellings most frequently are Bishop Latimer, Machyn, and Queen 
\ Elizabeth. The evidence seems to point to the probability that before 
\ the end of the sixteenth century the -ar- pronunciation was far more 
common, that is, it included a much larger list of words, than at present. 
For the seventeenth century our best evidence is derived from the Verney 
Papers and the Verney Memoirs. These collections of letters put us in 
possession of the habits of speech of all the members of a very numerous 
family, and of a large circle of their friends (see remarks on these docu- 
ments, pp. 162-3). We find not only the Verney ladies, but many of 
their male relatives and friends writing -ar- in words where we now 
pronounce the other type. It would be absurd to deny that the writers 
of these letters spoke typical upper-class English of their period, and we 
are led to the conclusion that sarvent, vartue, and so on, really represent 
the pronunciation in vogue at this time. If these spellings are more 
common in the ladies' letters than in those of the men, we must, I think, 
put this down to the fact that the former read fewer books than the latter, 
and were less influenced by the spelling which was rapidly becoming 
stereotyped by the printers. Many people doubtless used the -ar- forms 
who wrote -er- ; cf. Ch. Butler in his Gr., p. 3 ' We write person though 
we say parson.' Lady Wentworth, whose letters contain a large number 
of these spellings, although her letters continue down to 1711, must be 
held to represent the English of the Court during the last quarter of the 
seventeenth century. She therefore continues our record of this type of 
English for thirty years or so after the Verneys. Those whose views 
on the history of pronunciation are derived mainly from the statements 
of writers on pronunciation, will be glad to find that Jones (1701) one 
of the best of his kind includes mercy, heard, and verdict in his rather 


brief list of words in which l e is sounded as a ', p. 24. Apart from the 
evidence of the Verneys, several of Lord Rochester's rhymes point in 
the same direction, and in supplement of Lady Wentworth's spellings 
we have several rhymes and spellings of Swift, which tell the same tale, and 
make it certain that down to about the middle of the eighteenth century 
the [#] pronunciation, or its immediate ancestor, obtained very largely in 
a number of words which are now pronounced according to the -er- type. 

Later in this century, Elphinston, a Scotchman who lived for many 
years in England and moved in decent society, puts down larrid as 
a London Vulgarism in 1783, though we have reason to believe that 
the word was normally so pronounced by the best speakers of an 
earlier generation. Elphinstone is not absolutely above suspicion, since 
as a professional authority on pronunciation he was bound to uphold 
a theoretically ' correct ' pronunciation, while he would be inclined to 
preserve a certain number of Scotticisms and Scottish prejudices against 
certain types of English pronunciation. 

Apparently, by the end of the eighteenth century the distribution of 
[A, d] among the old -er- words was, on the whole, the same as our own, 
though doubtless the older usage lingered here and there, among good 
old-fashioned speakers, much later. According to Leigh Hunt's Auto- 
biography, i, p. 180, the actor John Kemble (1757-1823) pronounced 
-ar- in virtue. Beigh Hunt regarded this as an eccentricity. It is 
evident that the -ar- pronunciations were declining from the middle of 
the eighteenth century, since Fielding singles out sarvis, sartain, parson 
' person ' for ridicule by putting them into the mouths or the letters of 
vulgar persons. This pronunciation evidently died out in some words 
earlier than in others, and the usage varied among speakers of the same 
breeding, at the same period. Thus it is curious that in spite of the 
testimony of the Verneys, and the habit of John Kemble 150 years or so 
later, Vanbrugh appears to discredit the pronunciation vartue by attributing 
it to a peculiarly dingy and dubious character, Mrs. Amlet in The Con- 
federacy (1705). Seventy years later Goldsmith puts varment into the 
mouth of Tony Lumpkin. As a rule, when a comic writer departs from 
ordinary spelling in depicting the speech of one of his characters, he intends 
to suggest a pronunciation which is out of the ordinary, though there is 
always the possibility that he is deceiving himself; as when a writer at the 
present time attempts to express the pronunciation of a vulgar person 
by writing ' orf for off", ' wen ' for when, ' chewsdy ' for Tuesday, thereby 
expressing nothing different from the normal pronunciation. Swift's 
spellings vardy for verdict and varsal for universal in Polite Conversations 
may have represented fashionable pronunciations of his day, of which he 
disapproved. The reality of the vowel in the former is confirmed by 
Jones. Swift himself evidently said l dargy ', and varment. (See these 
forms in the lists.) 

To sum up, we may say that the -ar- pronunciations appear to have ) 
been almost universal for at least two and a half centuries, among the; 
politest speakers, and that the use of this type was gradually discontinued 
from about the middle of the eighteenth century in a large number of words. 

Why was this ? The most natural explanation seems to be that it was 
chiefly due to the influence of a different social stratum, which had either 


preserved the -er- type traditionally, or deliberately adopted it on account 
of the spelling, from a desire for correctness. The question naturally 
arises, Why should the spelling of the printers of -ar- in certain words, 
and -er- or -ear- in others, have gradually crystallized ? The practice 
cannot have reposed altogether, or mainly, upon that of the Late M.E. 
professional scribes, since the -ar- forms were not nearly sufficiently 
well established in their time to make their usage consistent, and as we 
have seen the -ar- spellings are rare, and very scattered in M.E. texts. 
It would seem that the early printers were a law unto themselves, for 
had they followed the scribes ^in this respect, as they did in most 
others, they must have printed no -ar- forms at all. 

We must suppose then that the distribution of -er- and -ar- spellings 
in the printed books of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had a certain 
phonetic basis. The very inconsistency in usage seems to show that 
the printers did to a certain extent reproduce their authors' own spelling 
(see discussion of this point, pp. 112-13). And if the early writers, as 
we know is the case from numbers of autograph letters and other 
documents, wrote sometimes -er- sometimes -ar-, this must have repre- 
sented a conflict between traditional and phonetic spelling on the one 
hand, or, on the other, a different pronunciation in different words. How 
did this fluctuation arise ? Clearly only from a mingling of the habits 
of two different dialects. 

Dialectal Origin of the -ar- Forms. 

Looking at all the facts so far as they are known to me, and set forth 
in the preceding pages and the following lists, I am inclined to assume 
that the change of -er- to -ar- began in Kent early in the fourteenth cen- 
tury, and spread thence to Essex, to Suffolk, and to Norfolk. During 
the fourteenth century the new forms began to filter into London 
speech very gradually from Kent or Essex, or from both. They were 
rare in the speech of the upper classes at first, but gradually gained 
ground, probably through the speech of the lower strata of society, during 
the fifteenth century, possibly also through the direct influence of 
merchants from the Eastern Counties who acquired wealth and position 
like Gregory. 

During the sixteenth century these South-Eastern forms became 
fashionable, and were much used by Queen Elizabeth herself. Incident- 
ally, we may call attention to the occurrence of desarve in a letter of 
Anne Boleyn, and the same form in a letter of her daughter about twenty 
years later. In the former case the form may be due to native Eastern 
dialect, while Queen Elizabeth' was simply following the increasingly 
fashionable tendency. As a matter of fact, the -ar- forms are more 
frequent in the Queen's later letters and her translations than in those 
written in her girlhood. 

According to the view here taken, the -ar- forms were originally from 
a Regional dialect, then passed into the London Class dialect of the 
lower orders, whence they spread upwards. 

The precise distribution of -er- and -ar- forms would thus be as 
impossible to account for as that of the three forms /, e, u from O.E. y. 

The second list of -er- spellings shows how comparatively late many of 


these persisted, even in words where -at- spellings and pronunciations 
have long been absolutely fixed, and which one might therefore suppose 
to have been among the earliest words to be adopted in the -ar- type. 

To my mind this shows that, even in these cases, difference of pronun- 
ciation persisted for a long period. 

List of Words which formerly had -er-, but which appear 
occasionally written -ar- from the fifteenth to the eighteenth 

Bark Vb. barcke, Lever's Sermons, 115, 1550. 

Barley, barley, Pallad. on Husbandry 1420 ; Bury Wills 1467. 

Barn, barnes, Pallad. on Husbandry 1420; barnys, Bury Wills 98, 

1504 ; Sir Thos. Elyot's Gouernour 1531 ; Ascham. 
Carve. Engl. Conq. of Ireland (MS. Trinity 1425); karue, p. 1423; 

carue, Shakespeare ist Fol. Loves L. L. 
Clergy, clargy, Gregory's Chron. 1450-70; Rede me and be not 

wrothe 1528; Latimer's Sermons; Thos. Lever's Serm. 1550; 

Swift rhymes clergy charge ye. 
Clerk, clarke, &c., Line. Will 1451 (Line. Dioc. Docs.); Rede me, &c., 

1528; Skelton, Magnificence; Cavendish, L. of Wolsey 1577; 

Latimer; clarklte, Gabriel Harvey 1578-80; -dark, Q. Elizabeth ; 

Machyn 1550-63 ; Thos. Wilson, A. of Rhet. 1585. 
Certain, sartqyne, cartayne, Gregory in, 176; sartten, sarten, Cely 

P. 64, 139, 140, &c., 1475-88; unsartin, Mrs. Pulteney, Verney 

P. 199, 1639; sartinly, Lady Sussex 1641, Verney Mem. ii. i, 

82, 83; carten, Mrs. Basire, 140, 1655; E. of Rochester rhymes 

certain Martin; sartain, Went worth P. 48 (Lady W.), 1705; and 

Fielding in Tom Jones, where it is said by Landlady of an Inn, and 

is written by Mrs. Honour, a lady's-maid. 

Confirm, confarmes (Luce Sheppard), Verney Mem. iii. 75, 1651. 
Concern, consarned, Pen. V. in Verney Mem. ii. 195, 1642. 
Dark. Skelton rhymes with clarke, Magnif. 485 (1-1529); dark, Fisher, 

Bp. of Rochester's Serm. (fl. 1459-1535) ; Lord Berners's Froissart ; 

Sir Thos. Elyot's Gouernour 1531 ; darknes, Q.Elizabeth. 
Dearth, darth, Lord Berners 1520, i. 344, 415 ; Lever's Serm., p. 84, 

1550; Thos. Wilson, A. of Rhet. 1560, &c. 

Defer, defarre, Lord Berners, i. 100; ds/ar, Q. Elizabeth 1572 (letters). 
Divert, divartid, Gary V. in Verney Mem. iv. 276, 1686; divarlion, 

ibid. iv. 275. 

Early. E. of Rochester rhymes early with Farley, Epistle fr. B. to E. 
Errand. Gabr. Harvey, arrand, Letter Bk. 1573-80. 
Earn, yarne, Edm. V. Verney Mem. iv. 193, 1675. 
Ermine, armyns, Lord Berners 1523 ; armyn, Machyn 1550-3. 
Par. farre, &c., Lord Berners ; Sir Thos. Elyot ; Bp. Fisher; Ascham; 

Wilson ; Lyly. 
Farther. Bury Wills 1535; Latimer; Bp. Fisher; Lord Burghley; 

farder, Ascham ; Lyly, farther. 

Farm, farme, Machyn; Lever's Sermons, farmes, farmer three times. 
Fervent, faruentlye, Latimer. 


Farthing, fardyng, Machyn 1550-63. 

Guerdon, guardon, Bokenam, S. Agn., 701, 1443; Shakespeare ist 
Fol. Loves L. L., four times. 

Heard (Pret. and P. P.). herde rhymes farde, Siege of Rouen c. 1420; 
harde, Marg. Paston, P. Letters ii. 124, 1463; ibid. ii. 241, 1465; 
Cely Papers 77 ; Skelton, Magnif. ; Sir R. Wingfield 1513, Ellis 2. 
i. 212; Lord Berners; Cranmer, Letters (Ellis i. 2. 33) 1533; Sir 
T.Elyot; Lever's Serm. ; Latimer ; hard, Machyn 1550-63 ; Gabr. 
Harvey, Letter Bk. 1573-80; Lord Burghley, Letters, Bardon P., 
and Ellis i. 3. 12; Cavendish, L. of Wolsey ; Ascham; Ch. Butler, 
Gr. 1634; Verney Mem., passim Gary V. ii. 70, 1642; Lady V. 
ii. 268, 1647; P en - Denton, ibid. iii. 228, 1655, &c., &c. ; 
Lady W. in Wentworth Papers, 51, 1706, &c. ; Jones, Practical 
Phonogr. 1701. 

Heart. Hoccleve, Reg. of Pr. 1412 ; rhymes smarte, Siege of Rouen 
c. 1420; M. Paston, Letters ii. 365, 1469; Fortescue 1470 (?); 
Anne Boleyn 1528, Letter in Ellis 1528 ; Skelton, Magnif.; Thos. 
Pery, Ellis 2. 2. 149, 1539; Sir T. More; Thos. Lever; hartly, 
J. Mason, Ellis 2. 2. 54. 1535; hartie, Cranmer, Letter 1533; 
Bp. Fisher ; hartes, Ascham ; Lord Berners ; Sir T. Elyot ; hartily, 
Lord Burghley ; Ascham ; hartiest, hartily^ hart, Q. Elizabeth ; 
Lyly; Ch. Butler, Gr. 1634; Cooper 1685; Jones, Practical 
Phonogr. 1701. 

Hart, hart, Lord Berners 1520; Machyn, hartes ede = head. 

Harbour, harborowe, Sir Thos. Seymour 1544, Letter in State Papers, 
Hen. VIII, i. 775. 

Hark hearken, harke, Thos. Lever 1550; harken, Lyly 1579-80; 
Ch. Butler, Gr. 1634, ea in hearken = a. 

Harvest. Ascham. 

Hearth. Chapman, harth ; Mons. D'Olive, Wks. i. 239 (1606) ; Cooper 

Herald, harold, Machyn 1553-60. 

Hereford. Arfford, Harrford, Machyn 1550-3. 

Hurdle [fr. S.E. form M.E. herdel\ hardel, Palsgrave's Esclarcissement 
1530; bar dels, Dives Pragmaticus 1563; hardell, Bury Wills 1569; 
Levins, Manipulus 1570. 

Herbage, tharbagt ' the herbage', Letters and Pprs., i. 80, 1483. 

Infer, enferre Vb. rhymes debar , Skelton's Magnif. 60. 

Learn, learne rhymes warm, Rede me and be not wrothe, p. 1 23, 1528 ; 
larne, Henry V in Verney Mem. iii. 368, 1647 ; Luce Sheppard, 
ibid. iii. 98, 1652 ; Swift rhymes learn with darn in * A Panegyric ' ; 
Elphinston, 1783, regards larn as a London vulgarism. 

Mr Vb. marre rhymes barre, Rede me, &c., 1528; marre, Caven- 
dish, L. of Wolsey 1577. 

Mercy, marcy, Siege of Rouen c. 1420; marcyfully, Bokenam, S. 
Ann. 665, 1443; marcy, Gregory's Chron. ; Marcie (girl's name), 
Gabr. Harvey 1578-80; marcy, Q. Elizabeth ; marzy, Lady Sussex, 
Verney Mem. ii. 151, 1642 ; Lady V, ibid. ii. 296, 1647 ; Mrs - Ba ~ 
sire, marci, 135, 1654; marcey, Mall Verney, ibid, iv. 214, 1655; 
Jones, Practical Phonogr. 24, 1701. 


Marvel, &c. marvylyously, Cely Papers. 

Merton College. Marten Colege, Rich. Layton (afterwards Dean of 
York) in Letter, Ellis 2. i. 60, 1535. 

Peril, paryl, Ordinances of Worcester 374, 1467 ; parill, Caxton's 
Jason 1477 ; patytt* Lord Berners, i. 288 ; panllouse, ibid. i. 31 ; 
par ells, Cavendish, L. of Wolsey 1577. 

Person, parson, Marg. Paston ; State of Ireland, St. Papers Hen. VIII, 
iii. 15, 1515; Thos. Pery, Letter, in Ellis 2. 2. 147, 1539; Lord 
Berners ; Sir T. Elyot's Will ; parsonages, ibid. ; parson 1 person ', 
Machyn ; Q. Elizabeth ; ' We write person, though we say parson ', 
Butler's Gr. 1634, p. 3 ; Lady Sussex in Verney Mem. ii. 88, 1641 ; 
Dr. Denton, ibid. iii. 461, 1660; Lady Wentworth in W. Papers, 
94, 96, 1709; occurs in a letter by Mrs. Honour, a lady's-maid, in 
Tom Jones. 

Parson, parson, Latimer's Serm. ; Machyn. 

Prefer. Rede me, &c., prefarre ; E. of Rochester rhymes preferred 
Blackguard in Nell Gwynne. 

Search, sarche, State of Ireland, St. Pprs. Hen. VIII, iii. 15, 1515. 

Serjeant, sargent, Gregory's Chron. 81, 1450-70; sarjant, Dick Hals 
(cousin of Verneys) in Verney Mem. iv. 310, 1674. 

Sermon, sarmon, Bury Wills, p. 17, 1463; Gregory's Chron. 203; 
Machyn ; sarment, Lady W. in Wentworth Papers 221, 1711. 

Serve, sarvyd, Cely Papers 44 ; to sarve, Ld. Adm. Sir Thos. Seymour 
1544, St. Pprs. Hen. VIII, i. 778; same, sarved, Q. Elizabeth; 
sarve, Lord Barrymore, Verney Mem. ii. 53, 1642; Magdalen 
Faulkiner, ibid. ii. 56, 1642; Lady Hobart, ibid. iv. 127, 1665; 
Lady Wentworth, W. Pprs. p. 77, 1709; sarving, ibid., p. 118, 
1710 ; Prior rhymes served carved, The Ladie. 

Servant, sarvant, Sir T. Seymour, St. P. Hen. VIII, i. 776, 
1544; sarvand, Machyn; sarvant, Q. Elizabeth; sarvanfe, Sir 
J. Hotham 1560, Ellis 2. 2. 325 ; Sir E. Sydenham, Verney Mem. 
ii. 102, 1642; Lady V., ibid. ii. 257, 1647; Sir R. Burgoyne, 
ibid. iii. 51, 1652; Lady Wentworth in W. Papers, passim, 

Service, sarvyse, Gregory's Chron. 222, 1450-70; Cooper, 1685, 
designates sarvyse as belonging to a ' barbarous dialect ' ; sarvice, 
Verney Papers ii. 120, 1642; ii. 68, 1642; ii. 70, 1642; Lady 
Wentworth, W. Pprs. p. 95, 1709 ; sarvis is written by Mrs. Honour, 
a lady's-maid, in Tom Jones. 

Deserve, desarve, Cely Pprs. 63. 1475-88; Anne Boleyn, Letter, 
Ellis i. i. 305,51528; disarued, Q. Elizabeth 1546; E. of Rochester 
rhymes deserving starving, ' Bath Intrigues ' ; desarve, Lady Sussex, 
Verney Mem. ii. 83, 1641 ; Lady V., ibid. ii. 347 (twice), 1647; 
Lady Wentworth, W. Pprs. 118, 1710. 

Desert, desart, Q. Elizabeth ; Shakespeare rhymes deserts parts, 
Sonnet xvii. 

Preserve, presarve, Lord Barrymore, Verney Mem. ii. 53, 1642; 
Mrs. Isham, ibid. iv. n8, 1665. 

Quarrel. Q. Elizabeth ; Lyly. 

Smart, smart, Siege of Rouen c. 1420; smarting, Caxton, Jason 1477. 


Star, starre, Gregory's Chron. 80, 1450-70; Sir Thos. More, Letters 
in Ellis i. i and 2 ; Wilson, A. of Rhet. 52, 1585 ; Q. Elizabeth. 

Starling, starlyng, Cely Papers 1473-88 ; stare, Sir Thos. Elyot 1539. 

Start, astarte rhymes harte, Hoccleve, Reg. of Pr. 1412. 

Starve, starue, Wilson, A. of Rhet. 61. 

Swerve, swarue, Skelton, Magnif. 1529; swarved, Lord Berners, i. 
376, 1523; swarumg, Latimer's Serin. ; swarue, Wilson, A. of 
Rhet. 53; Q.Elizabeth; Gill, Logomonia 1621; Daines, Orthoep. 
Angl. 51, 1640. 

Tarry Vb. tarying, Bokenam, Agn. 476, 1443; taryed, Lord 

Term, farmes, Exeter Taylors' Guild 317, 1466; Gary V. in Verney 
Mem. iii. 431, 1657. 

Universal. ' the varsal world ', * Miss ' in Swift's Polite Conversation. 

Virtue, vartus (PI.), Lady Hobart in Verney Mem. iv. 57, 1664; 
vartuous, Vanbrugh's Confederacy (said by Mrs. Amlet), Act in. 
Sc. i, p. 174, 1705. 

Verdict. Jones, Practical Phonogr. 1701, includes this word among 
those pronounced with ar\ one of the fashionable speakers in 
Swift's Polite Convers. says vardy. 

Vermin, varment, Thos. Pery, Letter, Ellis 2. 2. 145, 1539 ; varmin, 
Mrs. Eure, Verney Mem. ii. 86. 1642 ; -vermin rhymes garment in 
Swift's poem ' The Problem ' ; varment, said by Tony Lumpkin in 
Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, Act v, 1773. 

War. warre, &c., Sir J. Fortescue 1471-6 ; Gregory's Chronicle 1450- 
70; Caxton, Jason 1477; Bp. Knight of Bath and Wells 1512; 
St. of Ireland, St. Pprs. Hen. VIII 1515; Sir Thos. More; Lord 
Berners 1523 ; Sir Thos. Elyot 1531 ; Lever's Serm. 1550; Caven- 
dish, L. of Wolsey 1577; Ascham; Lyly. 

Work, workys, Siege of Rouen 1420; warkys, Bokenam, Christ. 887, 
1443; Exeter Taylors' Guild awarke Adv., 1466; wark, Lord 
Berners i. 82 ; awarke Adv. i. 161 ; wark, Skelton, Magnif.; 
Lincolnshire Inventory, Line. Dioc. Docs. 1527; warke, Sir Thos. 
Elyot ; Q. Elizabeth (Trans.) ; worke (Letters). 

Proper Names. 

Barney. This, the maiden name of Marg. Paston, is always written 

Berney by her down to 1461 ; from then onwards generally with a. 
Berks. Barks in an Oxfordshire Will of 1455, Line. Dioc. Docs.; 

Barkshire, Spenser, Present State of Ireland 628. 2 (Globe Ed.). 
Berkley. Barkeley, Gregory's Chron.; Barkly, Bp. Knight of Bath 

and Wells 1512; Lord Berners; Shakespeare, First Fol., Pt. I, 

Hen. IV, Act i, Sc. iii. 
Bermondsey. Barmondsay, Creation of Duke of York a Knight of 

Garter, L. and P. i ; Barmsey, Machyn 303. 
Dunfermline. Dunfarlin, Sir J. Temple, Verney Mem. ii. 249. 
Derby. Darby, Rede me, &c., 59, 1528; the yerle of Darbe, Machyn; 

Darby, Tom Verney in Verney Mem. iii. 174, 1659. 


Guernsey. Garnesey, Machyn 271; Garnsea, Sir Ralph Verney in 
Verney Mem. iv. 289, 1658; Baker, Rules for True Spelling, &c., 
1724, says that this name is pronounced Garnzee. 

Herbert. Included by Jones, Pract. Phonogr. 1701, among words 
where -er- is pronounced -ar-. 

Jerningham. Jarnyngham, Marg. Paston ii. 29. 

Jersey. Lady Wentworth in Wentw. Papers, Lord Jarzys (Possess.) 
84; Garzy 55; Jarzy 149. 

Ker of Fernihurst (family name). Written Car by Q. Elizabeth. 

Verney. This name occurs, with very few exceptions, in this form 
throughout the Camden volume of Papers, and the four volumes of 
Memoirs, in which nearly all the letters are by members or near 
connexions of the family. The only exceptions I have noted are 
Varny, Lady Sussex, ii. 82, 1641 ; Sir R. Burgoyne, ii. 166, 1641 ; 
Susan Verney, same date, ii. 167, 170; Lady Hobart (a Denton), 
iv. 285, 1657, and iv. 49, 1662. The family now call themselves 
Verney [' 

List of words which now have [d] in pronunciation whether 
spelt -er-, -ear-, or -ar-, but which occur spelt -er- in the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

Barley. Barley, Lord Level's Will 1455, Line. Dioc. Docs. PI. Name 
now Barley. The first element is O.E. here, barley. 

Barn, berne, Palladius c. 1420; bernys, Marg. Paston; berne, Bury 
Wills 21, 1463; ibid. 94, 1501 ; ibid. 100 bern, 103 beern 1504. 

Carve Vb. kerver, Short Eng. Chron. 1465; kervyr, Gregory; kerved, 
kervyr, Cr. D. of York 1495 ; kerued, keruinge, Sir Thos. Elyot; 
kervers, Cavendish, L. of Wolsey 1577. 

Clerk, clerkis, Bp. Pecok c. 1449; clerk, Lord Level's Will 1455; 
clerkes, Marg. Paston ; Lord Berners ; clerk, Machyn. 

Dark, derk, Shillingford Papers 1447-50; Bp. Pecok; Bk. of Quin- 
tessence 1460-70; derke, Caxton, Jason 1477; Gregory's Chron.; 
Jul. Berners, Fysshynge 1496 ; derkness, Lever's Sermons 1550. 

Far. ferre, Pallad. c. 1420; /er, Hoccleve, Reg. of Pr. 1412; Bp. 
Pecok; Rewle of Sustris Men. c. 1450} ferre, Sir J. Fortescue; afer, 
Shillingford 1447-50; ferre, Bury Wills 20, 1463; /er, Exeter 
Taylors' Guild 1466 ; ferre, Caxton, Jason 1477 \ferr, Lord Berners ; 
ferre, Sir T. Elyot. 

Farther, &c. ferther, Pallad.; ferdyr, Marg. Beaufort (1443-1509), 
Ellis i. i ; Bp. Pecok; ferther, Shillingford; ferthermore, ferthest, 
Marg. Paston; ferther, Gregory; ferthest, Caxton, Jason 1477; 
ferther, Skelton t i 529 ; ferther, Sir T. More. 

Farthing, ferthing, Bury Wills 1463, p. 15. 

Farm, &c. fermed, Bp. Pecok; fee-ferme, Lord Lovel's Will 1455; 

fee ffermys, Sir J. Fortescue ; ferme, Shillingford ; ferme, fermor, 

Marg. Paston; ferme, Gregory; Bury Wills, many times from 

1467-80; Sir Thos. Elyot ; Lever's Sermons (ferme, four times); 

ferme, Latimer ; Cavendish, L. of Wolsey. 


Harvest, hervcst, Pallad. c. 1420. 

Heart, herte, hertely, Judge Paston 1425-30; Bp. Pecok; Shillingford ; 

herte, Gregory ; Marg. Paston ; Marg. Beaufort (letters) ; heries, 

Fortescue ; Caxton ; Jul. Berners ; hert, hertiest, Bp. Knight of Bath 

and Wells 1512; Dean Layton of York 1535; Lord Berners; Bp. 

Fisher of Rochester ; hertes, herted, Latimer ; hert, Ascham ; heart, 


Harbour. Colde Herborowe, Gregory ; Cole herber, Machyn. 
Hark, herke, Skelton ti529; Lever's Sermons 1550. 
Hearken, herkened, Latimer. 
Jar ' discord '. ierre, Wilson's A. of Rhet. 166. 
Marvel, mervilyous, Cely P.; mervelous, Bp. Knight 1512. 
Parson, &c. person, Gregory ; person, personage ' parsonage ', Lever's 

Sermons 1550; personage, Latimer. 
Partridge, pertrych, Jul. Berners. 
Serjeant. Serjeants, Machyn. 
Smart, smertli, Bp. Pecok 1449. 
Star, sterre, Bp.. Pecok; sterres, Gregory; sterns, Bk. of Quintessence 

1460-70; sterres, Caxton, Jason 1477; Sir T. Elyot; Bp. Fisher. 
Starve, sterue, Hoccleve, Reg. of Pr. 1412; Pallad. 1420; Latimer; 

Cavendish, L. of Wolsey ; sterue, Shakespeare, First Fol., Hen. IV, 

Pt. I, Act i, Sc. iii. 

Start, stert, a Lines. Inventory, 1527, Lines. Dioc. Docs. 
Tarry, terryed^ Marg. Paston. 

e becomes i by a combinative change. 

Before certain consonants or combinations of consonants there was an 
early tendency to raise e to i. The traces cf this have almost faded from 
Received Standard at the present time, except in a few words where the 
change is recorded by the spelling, e. g. wing from M.E. weng, O.N. veng-, 
string, M.E. strenge; and in England, English, where the old spelling 

In Early Modern, and even in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 
a certain number of spellings with i are found, chiefly before -n + con- 
sonant, but also before -s, and, more rarely, before -/. 

England occurs with the spelling Ing- fairly often, quite apart from 
Northern texts, already in M.E., and Ing-, Yng- forms are scattered 
throughout fifteenth- and sixteenth-century texts. A few references are : 
Gregory 63; Fortescue 113; Wm. Paston (the Judge) i. 29; Cr. Duke 
of York 414; Inventory of J. Asserly, Line. Dioc. Docs.; Letter of 
Thos. Pery, Ellis 2. 2. 146 (1539); Letter of J. Mason, Ellis 2. 2. 56 
(1523); Lord Berners, passim; &c., &c. 

The Short English Chron. 1465 still writes bowes strenges, 73. 

Before -nch : Gregory, Kynges Bynche, 194 ; also Short English Chron. 
68, &c., and Machyn 195 (twice); Ascham has wrynchynge, Tox. 145. 

Before -n + d, t, s: Gmtlemen, Laneham's Letter 40, 1575; repmt, 
M. Faulkiner, Verney Mem. ii. 56 (1645); atinding, Doll Leake, ibid, 
iv. 113 (1665); rintes 'rents', Lady Sussex, ibid. ii. 84 (1642); 
sincible, Peter Wentworth, Wentw. Papers 211 (1711). 

Before -s: Latimer, opprision, Serm. on Ploughers 22; Q. Elizabeth, 


opprissing, Transl. 26; Lady Sussex, requist, Verney Mem. ii. 121 ; Gary 
Verney, bist ' best ', ibid. ii. 70. 

Before -/: Fortescue, rebillion 129 (twice), rebyllion 130; Gary 
Verney, will 'well', Mem. ii. 63, '//'// 'tell', ii. 70; Mrs. Basire, will 
'well', 134 (1654). 

Gary Verney, who seems fond of the i- forms, also has lit for let. 

M.E. / in the Modern Period. 

The present-day development is the well-marked diphthong [at]. The 
first stage in the process was most probably [?'], that is, the latter part of 
the old long vowel was made slack. We must consider this stage as 
already diphthongal. The next stage was probably a further differentia- 
tion between the first and second elements of the diphthong, the former 
being lowered to [e]. The subsequent career of the diphthong may well 
have been (V aez' at]. A point of importance is that at one stage the 
diphthong became identical with that developed out of old oi. This 
identity is still preserved in some Regional dialects e.g. that of Oxfordshire, 
where the sound in both line and loin appears to be something approach- 
ing [ai]. The rhymes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries tend to 
show that the identity still survived, and it seems to have existed as early 
as the fifteenth century (see history of ot 1 , p. 250, also 324, below). The 
fact of this one-time identity to some extent affects the views we shall take 
concerning the precise path followed between the starting-point and the 
present stage. The stage [ei] may be represented by the occasional 
spellings with ey, ei in the fifteenth century. These spellings are not 
particularly common I have noted more in St. Editha (c. 1420) than in 
any other text and although they occur here and there as late as the 
seventeenth century, it seems clear from other evidence that they do not 
always express the same diphthong. The scattered spellings I have 
found ^are St. JL$tfhz.y-leyche Mike', 399; neynthe 'ninth', 668; ley$t 
1 light ', 904 ; weyjf ( wight ', 960 ; feyre ' fire ',1294; myelde ' mild ', 1408, 
2833 ; seyjf, 1517 ; bleynte 'blind ', 2731; bkynde, 2822 ; bleynasse, 2937; 
feyndi Inf. 3254. Meynde 'mind', 3858, rhymes with hende 'end', and 
therefore probably represents the form mende, rather than minde. Marg. 
Paston has abeyd Inf. ' bide ', ii. 26. The Hymn to the Virgin, in Welsh 
spelling (c. 1500), writes meichti, breicht, setcht, geiding, abeid, deifyrs 
' divers ', ei ' I '. Sir Thos. Seymour has Eylle of Wyght, and trey ' try ', 
St. Pprs. Hen. VIII. i. 780 (1544); Machyn writes feyre 'fire', 41 ; and 
mety occurs in a letter of John Hotham of Scarborough, Ellis 2. 2. 

In the Verney Memoirs we have obleiged, Sir R. V., ii. 358 (1647), 
obleige, M. Eure, Hi. 336 (1657). The English and French Orthoepists 
of the sixteenth century generally describe English I as consisting of e 
and z', though Smith and Bullokar appear to regard it as a single long 
vowel, a view which we cannot take seriously. In the seventeenth 
century, Butler (1634) and Howel and Sherwood, independently, in 
Cotgrave's Dictionary (1672) all say that the sound is the diphthong ei. 
By this time, probably [sez'J is intended, and we may suppose that the 
same type of pronunciation is referred to as that used by the writers o 
the occasional spellings et\ ey just quoted. 


There is no difficulty in assuming that such a diphthong as [ez] could 
;come [at]. We find the M.E. diphthongs ei and at levelled under 
a single diphthong, apparently [at] in the M.E. period, and at the present 

time London Cockneys have made the early nineteenth-century diphthong 
[ez'J (cf. p. 196) into something approaching to [at], although the former 
remains in Received Standard. 

On the other hand, during the same period throughout which the ei 
spellings are found for old [I], other spellings are found which seem to 
establish the existence of another type of pronunciation of this, identical 
with that of the old diphthong oi. 

St. Editha has the spelling anynted ' anointed ', 376 ; Gregory writes dys- 
tryde for 'destroyed', p. 59, pyson for ' poison ', p. 161 ; in the Cely Papers, 
p. 69, we have voyage ' voyage ', where the first syllable may, it is true, 
represent either i or oy in M.E. Shakespeare in V. and A., 1 1 1 5-1 6, rhymes 
groin with swine ; the rhyme tryall disloyal occurs in Marston's Insa- 
tiate Countess (1613), Activ ; Lady Sussex in 1639 writes kainde t V. Pprs. 
206 ; in the Verney Memoirs the following spellings may be noted : 
gine 'join ', Gary Stewkley, vol. iii, p. 433 (1656) ; byled leg of mutton, 
Dr. Denton iv. 227 (1670); implyment 'employment', C. Stewkley, iv. 
276 (1686); Mrs. Basire writes regis 'rejoice', Corresp, 137 (1654). In 
1712 we find voiolence, Wentworth Papers, p. 280. The spelling joyst 
for original jlste is found in 1494, and boyle (on the body) from bile, 
in 1529 (cf. Jespersen, New Eng. Gr., p. 320). To Jesper sen's early 
examples of oy for i we may add defoyled, Mnk. of Ev. 59, 1482, Obroyn 
' O'Brien ', St. of Irel. St. Pprs. Hen. VIII, iii. 9, and defoylynge in Rede 
me and be not wrothe (1528). 

The spelling might ' right ', Cely Papers, 46, 158, &c., clearly expresses 
a diphthongal pronunciation, possibly [a*'], at any rate it could hardly have 
represented the same pronunciation as that expressed by the spelling ei. 
These spellings can only mean one thing, namely, that those who used 
them pronounced old ; and old oi in exactly the same way. What was 
the probable character of the diphthong thus expressed ? Certainly not 
\oi\ but very possibly a sound not unlike [a/] now heard in Oxfordshire 
for both old t and old oi. The spelling voyage cited above from Cely 
Papers points to the first element being already unrounded, in fact, 
to either [a/] or [at], and this is not necessarily contradicted by 
ruight from the same source. A curious spelling, loay ' lie ', used by 
Gary Stewkley in 1656, Verney Mem. iii. 434, shows that this lady did 
not regard o in diphthongal combinations as expressing a rounded 

But the testimony of the writers on pronunciation also confirms the 
identity of pronunciation of i and oi already proved by the occasional 
spellings cited. Thus Wallis (1653) says that 'long i' is composed of 
' feminine e ' followed by i. He has previously described ' feminine e ' 
(of the French) as an ' obscure sound ', which is heard in English when 
' short e ' immediately precedes ~r-, the examples given being liberty, 
virtue. It is impossible to be sure whether Wallis means [a] or [aj. 
That he is either trying to describe one or other of these sounds, or that 
he is confusing them and making one description apply to both, is pretty 
certain. At any rate, the first element is not a front vowel and not 


a round vowel. Cooper, thirty years later, is more explicit. He says 
that there is a diphthong composed of the sound u in cut + i, which is ex- 
pressed in English sometimes by i as in wine, wind, blind, &c., and 
sometimes by oi as in injoin, joint, jointure, broil, &c. Concerning the 
sound of u in cut he tells us (i) that it is different from the vowel in bull, 
and (2) that it is made in the throat and resembles the groans of a man 
afflicted with illness or pain. The English pronounce this short sound 
almost everywhere, as in nut, even in Latin, except when the preceding 
consonant is labial as mpull. He gives a very precise analysis of the way 
the sound is made, saying that guttural u is formed if when pronouncing 
long o the lips are retracted into an oblong form. This appears to be 
another way of saying that the sound is ' unrounded o ', which is precisely 
the analysis we now make of the English vowel [a] in cut, &c. ' mid- 
back-(tense) '. 

From this combined evidence of occasional spellings and the statements 
of grammarians, it appears (i) that from the fifteenth to well into the 
seventeenth century old I was pronounced by many speakers as a 
diphthong of which the first element was a front vowel, the diphthong 
thus being either [ei', ez] or [gei] ; (2) that during the same period other 
speakers pronounced old i and old oi with one and the same diphthongal 
combination ; (3) that, at any rate from the seventeenth century onwards, 
the first element of the diphthong was either [a] or [a], most probably 
the latter, giving the diphthong [a/]. The transition from this to the 
present-day sound consists merely in making the first element slack. 

It seems thus to be established that there were, in the fifteenth, six- 
teenth, and seventeenth centuries, two types of pronunciation for this J, 
as for so many other sounds in English. Two questions arise, namely, 
by what process did old l pass into the [ai] type, and from which type is 
our present pronunciation descended ? 

The most probable answer to the first question appears to me to be 
that the [ai] type branched off from the other at the [e/*] stage, and that 
the process was one of simple retraction from a mid-front to a mid-back- 
tense vowel. We may illustrate the development of the two types by 
a simple diagram. 

It seems to me that it is impossible to reconcile the undoubted exis- 
tence of the two pronunciations [ei", ai] at the same time, as proved by the 
evidence, without some such theory. 

As regards the second question, it may be said that either type could 
become [ai]. Possibly both types had this development, so that they 
were finally reunited thus : 

Type A. 

[i* < ei / Type B. \ < at] 
\ a/' ai 

On the other hand, A may have died out altogether in Received 
Standard, leaving the field entirely to B. Or it may have survived only 



in provincial dialects, and in some of these its descendants may still linger, 
offering more or less strange variants from the Standard, and constituting 
a characteristic feature of rustic speech. This is a question for the 
' dialectologists ' to solve. 

The word oblige was commonly pronounced with [!] during the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries. In the Verney Memoirs, Lady Verney 
writes obleged, ii. 305 (1647), Lady Gaudy ends a letter ' your obleged 
humble sarvant Vere Gaudy', iii. 224 (1650), and Sir Richard Browne 
refers to ' your most obleginge letter \ iii. in (1653) ; Lady Hobart has 
disablegin, iv. 55 (1664), obleg, 139 (1666). On the other hand, Sir 
Ralph Verney writes obleiged, ii. 305 (1647), and Mary Eure obleige, iii. 
336 (1657), and Mrs. Basire's spelling ableiage, Corresp. 141 (1655), 
certainly suggests [&i\. Pope, as is well known, rhymes obliged with 
beseiged, and Jones (Practical Orthographer, 1701) says that oblige con- 
tains the sound of ' ee '. 

As may be inferred from the above spellings of Sir R. Verney and 
Mrs. Eure, the word was also pronounced with a diphthongal sound [at] 
as now, even in their day. The old [I] pronunciation survived among 
some speakers far into the nineteenth century, and according to The 
Bookman, May 1907 (cit. Jespersen, Mod. Eng. Gr., 8. 33), Wilkie Collins 
retained this mode. It has been said that the dying out, even during the 
eighteenth century, of the old pronunciation is due to the influence of 
Lord Chesterfield, who, it is alleged, warned his son against [l] in this 
word. This statement seems to have been repeated without verifying the 
facts, or at least without considering the meaning of words, among others 
by myself in my Short Hist, of EngL, 254, Note. I cannot excuse the 
statement, nor indeed even explain how I came to make it, since I was 
acquainted with the passage in which Lord Chesterfield refers to the 
word. His words are these : ' The Vulgar man . . . even his pronun- 
ciation of proper words carries the mark of the beast along with it. He 
calls the earth yearth ; he is obleiged not obliged to you/ The plain 
meaning of this, written 1749, Letter 195, in my Edition, is that 
[oblflzdzd] is the vulgar pronunciation, and some other presumably 
[oblidzd] the polite pronunciation. 

Lord Chesterfield has been made to say exactly the reverse of what he 
intended, and a theory which is not even consonant with the facts has 
been based upon a misinterpretation of his words. 

We must suppose that [obWdz] is derived from a M.E. form with t, 
while [oblidz] owes its second vowel to late French influence. 

Lowering of i to e. 

In documents of all kinds, public and private, during the fifteenth 
century and in the successive centuries until the eighteenth, there are 
numerous examples of e written for original *. It cannot be doubted that 
these spellings reflect an actual tendency in pronunciation, since late in 
the eighteenth century Edmonston censures 'fell' for 'till', and ' seme* 
for ' since ', &c., as London vulgarisms. Whatever may have been the 
history of the introduction of these forms in London and Court English, 


there is no doubt that from the middle of the sixteenth century or so, 
down to the first third of the eighteenth century at any rate, they were 
current in circles whose speech, however much we may now take exception 
to this or that feature, was certainly not the vulgar speech of the day. 

Among the various forms with e instead of i that occur scattered 
through the documents during the four centuries with which we are con- 
cerned, there are some in which the quantity is doubtful, and we hesitate 
whether to class them under our present heading or under that of/, which 
became e in open syllables in the M.E. period. (See pp. 207-8, above.) 

But even if it is certain that the quantity is short, e. g. in knet ' knit ', 
some doubt may arise whether we have to do with e lowered from 7, or 
whether we have the survival of an old dialectal type with the ' Kentish ' 
or South-Eastern vowel, from O.E. y. 

We have already seen (p. 30. (3)) how this vowel became i in E. Mid- 
land, but e in the South-Eastern dialects, and that the London dialect of 
M.E. has many examples of the latter type (cf. pp. 41. (3), 53). Thus knet, 
or for the matter of that, the present knell, which both contain a develop- 
ment of O.E.^, might be explained either from the South-Eastern type, 
or as the E. Midland z-type with the lowering which we are considering. 

As regards the antiquity and dialectal origin of the change of I to e, 
a minute and far-reaching examination of the M.E. sources would be 
necessary to arrive at very definite conclusions, and at present I am only 
able to indicate that apparent examples e. g. gresly ' grisly ', grennyng, 
merour are found in Robt. of Brunne's Handlyng Sinne, and Lenne for 
Lynne several times in the Norfolk Guilds. In the fifteenth century, so 
far as my observation goes, forms with e are more frequent in definitely 
E. Midland or Essex writers such as Palladius, Marg. Paston, Bokenam, 
the Celys, or in writers who came from Norfolk and Suffolk such as 
Lydgate and Gregory, than in documents written by Westerners, or in 
the pure London dialect. 

In the following century the forms are found more frequently than 
earlier, in documents which exhibit no Regional features, but are more 
common in Machyn's Diary than in any other work of the period with 
which I am acquainted. ^ 

From the by no means complete material at present at my disposal I 
draw, tentatively, the conclusion that the tendency to lower i to e arose in 
the E. Midlands, probably in the northern part of the area, and that it gradu- 
ally extended southwards and found a footing in the dialects of Norfolk, 
Suffolk, and Essex. How far westwards the tendency spread I am at 
present unable to say, though the Oxfordshire Oseney Register (1460) 
and a Bucks. Will of 1534 show some traces of it. During the fifteenth 
century a certain number of forms showing this change penetrated into 
the London dialect, perhaps from Essex, and they gained an increasing 
currency first, probably, among the lower orders of the population. 

It would be unwise to press too far the view that the *-forms in London 
English belong to a lower Class dialect, although Machyn, as has been 
said, has more of them than any of his contemporaries, since they are 
found in fair numbers in letters of Sir Thos. Seymour (1544), and later 
in Queen Elizabeth's Letters and Translations. I have noted the follow- 
ing examples : 

Q 2 


Fifteenth Century. 

Definitely E. Midland and South-Eastern writers. 

Palladius rhymes children eldron 26. 713, and myrour terrour 36. 
976 ; Marg. Paston has well 'will' i. 83, Beshopys i. 236, hese ' his' i. 
245, I- 355, Welyam i. 438, vetayll i. 371, Trenyte i. 43, 355, &c., 
' Trinity'. Chene 'chin ', i. 69, has perhaps a long vowel, and week, ii. 
217, might be otherwise explained. Bokenam has smet P. P. Marg. 431, 
sneuelyng Marg. 482, to grenne Marg. 661, contenuely Ann. 465, flekeryngs 
Fth. 232, menstralsy Marg. 743, merour Pr. Marg. 166 ; Bury Wills 1463, 
merours 21 ; Cely Pprs. havey/' fit '(Noun) 77, 1504, and cheldren, 47 ; 
beche i bitch' 74, sen 'since' 41, fenyshe 47, sweffte 48, wendow 82, 
scheppe 'ship' 70, dfcrfoj 182, smethe 'smith'. The Will of Sir Thos. 
Cumberworth, Lines. 1451, has peter 'pillar', L. D. D. 51. 2. 

Writers who on the whole write London English, but who were born in 

Lydgate has merours, glemeryng ; Gregory schelyngys 79, pejon ' pigeon ' 
80, lemyted 123, pelory 183 ; denyr is doubtful and may have either e 
or e (cf. Machyn's forms, below). The three-syllabled words just quoted 
have almost certainly a short e. 

Other writers fifteenth and following centuries. 

The Western writers Shillingford and Bp. Pecok and the Ordinances 
of Worcester and the Exeter Tailors' Guild, appear not to use these 
forms. The last mentioned has es ' is ', and hes ' his ', p. 314, but these 
are both unstressed. Fortescue, however, has contenually 147, lemited 
128, deficulte 144, 147, 149 (probably e), inconsederably 143 (probably , 
cf. Lady Wentworth's forms, below), and the rather doubtful wech ' which ' 
1 1 8, &c., by the side of usual wich. Short Engl. Chron. has Beshoppes 
55, Caxton shellyngs ' shillings ' Dial in Fr. and Engl. 1 6. 6. Seek ' such ', 
knetted}-&s. 174. 31, and besines Jas. 96. 31, are most probably to be 
reckoned as ' Kentish ' forms. 

Skelton has gletteryng, Magnyf. 855 ; Will of R. Astbroke (Bucks. 
1 534)> cheldryn, L. D. D. 169. 3 ; Lord Berners' Froissart, mengled i. 379, 
hedeous i. 230; Sir Thos. Elyot's Gouernour, sens 'since' i. 197, 208, 
221 ; Sir Thos. Seymour 1544, St. Pprs. Hen. VIII, vol. i, fesshermen 
784, Premrose 790, weteleres 778, Beshope 777, begennyng 776, fenyshed 
776, shepe 'ship' passim (vowel probably short, cf. spelling in Cely 
Pprs.); Bp. Latimer, sence 'since', Serm. of Ploughers 24 and 25, Sev. 
Serm. 119, Chichester ibid. 120, mestris 166 (may be intermediate form 
from mastres1\ thether 166; Ascham, splettyd, Tox. 109; Wilson, A. of 
Rhet. grenning 221 ; Q. Elizabeth, bellowes ' billows ' Letters to J. VI, 29, 
weshing ibid. 4 (might be 'Kentish', but this is improbable), rechis 
Transl. 49; Euphues, father 60, hetherio 83; sheuering 161 (probably 
short?); Machyn, pelere 'pillory' 14, pelorie 22, vetell 20, deleverd 23, 
chelderyn 24, pelers 'pillars' 27 (twice), Rechard 38, sent Necolas 42, 
sennet 'signet' 51, essut 'issue' 71, menyster 79, velyns 'villains' 82, 
Eslyngton %$, prtmepalles 90 (Noun), selver 90 (might be fr. O.E. eo if in 
a Western text, but not here), red ' rid ' Pret. of ride 167, vesetars, veseturs 


206, 207, beliefs 211, denner 2, &c., &c., also deener 138, leveray t livery* 
passim, prevelegys 61, ennes of the cowrt 131, consperacy 104, &j 'is' 139, 
sterope ' stirrup ' 139. 

The following are found in Verney Memoirs : M. Falkiner, fefty> ii. 
52, strept 'stripped' 52, pettyful 52, cheldren 53, sence 'since' 55, melch 
1 milch ' 55, resestance 56, mesry ' misery ' 56, stell ' still ' 52 (all 1642) ; 
Sir R. Verney, untel ii. 24 ; Anne Lee, shelings ii. 235 (1646) ; Lady V., 
untel ii. 249 (1646); Mall Verney, sence ii. 379 (1647); Lady Elmes, 
thenck 'think* ii. 381 {\btf\consedowring 381 ; Lady Hobart, bet 'bit', 
pell ' pilP iv. 53 (1664) ; Doll Leake, peted ' pitted' iv. 51 (1664). 

Lady Sussex's speriets 'spirits', ii. 102, has probably a short vowel, 
since [sperrts] still survives as a vulgarism. Mr. H. Blaxton, Corresp. 
of Dr. Basire, has to vesit 35, 1638, and conteneiv 36, and Mrs. Basire 
herself has sens ' since ' 108, presnor 108, relegos ibid., ret for ' rit ' ' wrote ' 
109, all 1651 ; cheldren 135, 1654. Aubrey writes 'he would sett up 
very late at nights ', Lives, i. 150, Clark's Ed. 

In the next century the ^-spellings are pretty numerous in Wentworth 
Pprs. Lady W. has tel ' till ' 84, hender ' hinder ' Vb. 95, setting ' sitting ' 
107, veseting day 39 ; consperacy 40, delever 46, contenew 40, condedder 
41, senc 'since' 50, spetting 51, sesterns 'cisterns' 65, beger, begest 
'bigger, biggest' 129, well (unstressed) 'will' 129; Peter Wentworth 
has hetherto 435 ; Lord Wentworth (a child) has sesters ' sisters ' 461. 

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu rhymes wit with coquet, and gift with 
theft, which may imply a pronunciation [wst, geft]. 

These examples, though less copious than could be desired, aje suffi- 
cient to establish the wide currency which the -^-forms once enjoyed. 
That they have so completely died out of Received Standard English 
must be put down to the increasing tendency, to which attention has 
so often been called, to approximate pronunciation to the spelling. 

The i in Bishop. 

It is perhaps worth noting that from the fifteenth to the beginning of 
the eighteenth century this word is fairly often spelt bushop, busshop, &c. 

I have noted the following instances: Marg. Paston, Archebusshop ii. 
372, 373; Lord Berners, Froissart i. 28; Archbp. Cranmer, Busshope 
(at least nineteen times in a letter of 1537), Ellis 3. 3. 23, &c. ; Ascham, 
Scholem. 127; Roper's Life of Sir Thos. More, Bushopps xlv. 14; 
Dr. Denton in Verney Memoirs iv. 430, 1688; Cooper (1685) includes 
Bushop among the pronunciations to be avoided as belonging to a 
'barbarous dialect'; Jones (1701) notes that the word is 'sounded 
Booshop by some '. 

With all this evidence we are bound to take the early spellings as 
meaning something. It looks rather as if the /' had been rounded to [y] 
through the influence of the initial b-, and this vowel then retracted, along 
with the other [y] sounds, to [u]. It is impossible to say whether this 
underwent unrounding, or whether it was preserved after b. It is possible 
that some speakers said [ba/ap], while others said [bujap], Jones's 
spelling rather suggests the latter pronunciation. In any case, in spite of 


Cooper, the pronunciation was not always a vulgarism; witness Cranmer, 
who ought certainly to have known the best pronunciation of the word. 

It is strange that this word should be apparently the only instance of 
the rounding of i after b. 

M.E. u in the Modern Period. 

This vowel has been diphthongized to [au\. Typical examples are 
house, mouse, how, bow (Vb.), cow, shroud, &c., &c. All these words had 
[u] in Old and Middle English, written at first u, and later, after the 
French fashion, ou or ow. Thus while no change has taken place in the 
spelling, the change in pronunciation has been considerable. The actual 
process probably began, as in the case of M.E. i, by a differentiation of 
the first and latter parts of the long vowel into tense and slack respectively, 
a condition which may be expressed as [u 1 *]. The first element in this 
homogeneous diphthong was then lowered to [o], and this was sub- 
sequently unrounded, which resulted in a diphthong approximately the 
same as that in use to-day in Received Standard. The whole series 
would thus be : [u u tt ou a# au]. At the present time there are 
several varieties of pronunciation of the old u. In the dialects of the 
North no diphthongization has taken place, and ' house ' is still pronounced 
[hus], with a single vowel, although various sounds, all of an u-like 
character, are heard in different areas. In some parts of Yorkshire, on the 
other hand, diphthongization apparently took place, but the second 
element of the diphthong was lost, and the remaining vowel lengthened, 
so that instead of [h0#s] we get [(h)as]. Again, in some parts of Lanca- 
shire the development seems to have been [hflws, hae^s (h)sws e' l s 
es], the last being actually in use. In Middle-Class London Cockney 
the first element of the diphthong has been fronted, and a typical mark 
of the beast, as Lord Chesterfield would call it, in certain circles, is the 
pronunciation [haews]. 

When did the beginning of the diphthongization take place ? My own 
collections of spellings throw no light upon the question, but Zachrisson 
(Pronunciation of English Vowels, p. 79) has brought forward a few 
spellings with au, aw, for old u, during the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries, collected some by himself, some by others. Of these the most 
convincing seem to me abaught ' about ', faunde, withaught, from Paston 
Letters ; aur ' our ', Cely Papers, 20 ; Register of Godstow, sauth ' south ', 
faul (cit. ' More ', and no reference except to a German Dissertation 
which I have not seen) ; Henslow's Diary, hause ' house ' (from Diehl). 
With regard to some of these spellings it has been maintained that the 
writers merely wrote au ' by mistake ' for ou, and that they are not phonetic 
at all, and therefore cast no light upon the matter in hand. Who shall 
pretend to decide with absolute certainty the meaning of these spellings, 
unless it be some foreign philologist who is, naturally, infallible ? It must 
be admitted on the one hand, that if the sound was still [a] au would 
be the very worst way of expressing it, and on the other, that these occa- 
sional spellings do not inspire quite the same confidence as do some 
others of the kind, and this from their extreme rarity. I have found none 
in the thousands of documents I have looked through, and have even 


overlooked, owing to slowness of vision, the few that there were in some 
of the documents which I did examine. It may be asked, Why should 
these tell-tale spellings (if indeed they be such in this case) be so rare in 
respect of old ft, when in the case of some other vowels we find them so 
frequently ? The answer, I think, is not far to seek. The traditional 
spelling ou, if taken literally to mean o + u, was by no means a bad 
representation of the pronunciation of the diphthong as it probably was 
during perhaps the greater part of the sixteenth century. In fact, 
Salesbury (1547) and Hart (1569) appear to describe the sound as made 
up of these two elements. The other English grammarians of this 
century are so obscure on this vowel that it is mere waste of time to try 
to wring some meaning out of their accounts. The French grammarian 
Mason (1622) transcribes how as haow, which certainly suggests a pro- 
nunciation not far removed from our own. Diphthongs are always 
difficult to analyse exactly. 

Wallis, in 1653, describes the sound in house, mouse, out, our, owl, foul, 
sow, &c., thus : ' obscuriori sono efferuntur; sono nempe composito ex 
b vel u obscuris, et w.' Cooper (1685) says: ' composita ex u guttu- 
rali et oo labiali, sonatur.' Both of these descriptions indicate approxi- 
mately [a] or \?u], that is to say a diphthong differing from our own, if at 
all, only by a difference of tenseness in the first element. It may well be, 
however, that Wallis and Cooper are really referring to a diphthong to all 
intents and purposes identical with that now in use. 

It is doubtful whether any further torturing of the other sixteenth- and 
seventeenth-century French grammarians, not mentioned above, will bring 
us any nearer the truth with regard to the history of this sound. As for 
the early spellings in au, supposing they do mean something, how shall 
we interpret them ? If we take Salesbury and Hart seriously at all, it is 
reasonable to believe what they tell us, when for once they are intelligible 
and even plausible, and not to attempt to make their perfectly definite 
statements mean something quite different from what they appear to 
mean. But to believe Salesbury and Hart is to assume that in the 
sixteenth century, at least in the form of English which they are describ- 
ing, the first element of the diphthong was rounded. In this case, either 
the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century writers who occasionally wrote au 
were using a very unsuggestive mode of expression, or they were 
representing a different pronunciation altogether one more like that 
suggested by the French writer who transliterates aou forty or fifty years 
later. It is quite possible that some speakers pronounced [au] while 
others still said [ou], the first element in the latter case being perhaps 
only slightly rounded. It must be remembered that the diphthonging of 
old u must have begun very early before old <? 1 had developed into , 
and this, as we shall see (pp. 234-5), was probably completed during the 
fourteenth century at latest. From the moment, therefore, that old 1 has 
become [a] we may be sure that old u has started on that career of change 
which subsequently brought it to its present sound. But the process was 
not necessarily equally rapid in all areas, or among all sections of 
speakers. It is extremely probable that a full-blown [au] had arisen 
perhaps in the Eastern parts of the country during the fifteenth century. 
When we remember how many of the Modern sound changes first appear 


in the South-East or E. Midland dialects, it will perhaps not seem to be 
without significance that the earliest in fact, the larger number of the 
spellings with au are found in the letters of the Pastons and Celys. 

It is absurd to dogmatize where, at the best, intelligent speculation must 
take the place of certainty. 

Unrounding of M.E. u. 

M.E. u, which had originally the pronunciation of a short (probably 
tense) [u], underwent in the Modern period a process of unrounding 
and then of lowering, whereby the present peculiar sound, so character- 
istic of English, was reached. 

The short u thus affected had four distinct origins, only one of which 
we are perhaps really entitled to describe as M.E. u. The latter, which 
we may call (i), was undoubtedly the sound in such words as buck, run, 
hunt, suck, summer, &c., &c. In addition to this, earliest Modern u 
sprang (2) from original English it, O.E. y, where this survived, as in 
bundle, thrush, cudgel, &c. ; (3) from M.E. u of French origin, as in 
judge, just, study, public, &c., &c. ; (4) from the new u derived from 
earlier 1 , as in blood, flood, glove, done, &c. (cf. pp. 236-7 on this last group). 

Since the unrounding process involves the three later groups, it is 
evident that it is later than the retraction of earlier [y] to [u], later than 
the development of the new [u] from 1 , and later than the shortening of 
this new sound. In 1528, vnjust rhymes with must, Rede me, &c., p. 105. 

As to the approximate date of the development of u from [^/] we have 
no precise evidence, but we know that o l had become [u] already in the 
fourteenth century (see pp. 234-5), and we shall see there is good reason 
for believing that the shortening had taken place at any rate by the 
middle of the fifteenth century, if not earlier. We are therefore free to 
assume that the process whereby short u was unrounded began any time 
after the latter date. 

From the direct statements of Wallis and Cooper, quoted above, 
p. 224-5, it appears that the sound had attained to all intents and purposes 
its present stage by the third quarter of the seventeenth century. If that 
is so, the unrounding must have begun some time before. In 1580 
a French writer states that the u in upon sounds like the French o, 
and in 1620 another French writer, Mason, says that French o is heard 
in hungrie, while yet another in 1625 identifies the vowel in up, butter, 
sunder, &c., with French o. Now there are several vowels in present-day 
French expressed by o, of which that in homme, bonne, has a very distinct 
acoustic resemblance to the English sound in but, &c., especially to 
untrained and uncritical ears. In fact, in a French Grammar which 
I used as a boy, it was definitely stated that bonne is pronounced like 
the English word bun \ This theory is still held by many Englishmen, 
apparently, and they put it into practice in pronouncing French. 

Therefore, if in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the 
English sound in butter was pretty much what it is now, the French 
writers who described it as being like the French o were not wider of the 
mark than the Englishmen above referred to, at the present time, nor 
than present-day French writers who write tob for tub. The most 


reasonable inference is that as early as 1580 the old u had reached 
a stage of pronunciation not very different from that of our own time. 

The occasional spellings, which we have found so helpful in indicating 
the pronunciation of other vowels, are less frequent in the present instance 
than in some other cases, but they are none the less convincing. 

In the chapter on the vowels in unstressed syllables it will be seen 
that in this position u and o are not infrequently written a, in the fif- 
teenth century, a spelling which certainly expresses our unrounded vowel. 
Whatever the precise sound, therefore, a vowel, the result of unrounding u 
and o, was already in existence in the language, if only in unstressed syllables. 
But there are fortunately a few instances of spellings with a, for #, in 
stressed syllables also, from the middle of the fifteenth century. The 
following are all that I have found : gannes ' guns ', Marg. Paston, 
ii. 372 (twice); sadanly 'suddenly', Sir John Fortescue, p. 126; camyth 
( cometh', Cely Papers 146, and warsse, wars 'worse', Cely Papers 
159; Samersett, Machyn 182; Chamley ' Cholmondely ', Machyn 38. 
Zachrisson (Eng. Vowels, and Contributions, p. 319) has all of these 
except the form from Fortescue, and warrse, &c., from Cely Papers, but 
he also adds farniture and Saveraigne. I regard all these forms as 
establishing beyond a doubt that those who wrote them pronounced an 
unrounded vowel in place of the old ii in the words given. (It is possible 
that Machyn's Wat Ion = Wot ton [waton] ? should also be included with 
the above examples.) 

The precise nature of the vowel may be uncertain, but it certainly was 
no longer u ; the process of unrounding has begun, and that is all we are 
concerned with. 

I regard Cooper's account, given about 200 years later than the 
Celys and Sir John Fortescue, as an accurate description of our 
present sound in Received Standard; the French writers, respectively 
sixty, and a hundred years, earlier than Cooper, are evidently describing 
a sound which is not very far from our present one, and the fifteenth- 
century writers, by their spellings, clearly indicate a vowel which is no 
longer u. 

The confusion which we find in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies between [a, 9, A] I regard as perfectly natural. Many people 
at the present day are unable to distinguish between the two former, 
and consider the last as merely a lengthening of one or both of these. 
i If the above view is accepted, it follows that we must regard the 
early shortenings bludde, sutt, &c., instanced on p. 236-7, below, as con- 
taining the sound [a] or at least a stage in the development of this 
sound, .that is, an unrounded vowel. 

It will be noted that in words containing genuine M.E. u, the 
unrounding does not always take place, or rather, perhaps, a new 
rounding has sometimes taken place, when a lip consonant immediately 
precedes the as in bull, pull, put, push, &c. On the other hand, this is 
not invariable, for we have the unrounded vowel impulse, bud, but, butter, 
Puck, pug, mug, mud. It is therefore probable that we have here a 
duality due to difference of dialect, perhaps of Social rather than Regional 
character. We may remark that the Frenchman's example upon is 
unfortunate, since u here is unstressed, and we have several examples 


(cf. p. 278) of the spelling apon, which I regard as illustrating unround- 
ing in an unstressed position. If he had mentioned up, he would have 
been right. Probably, however, like many of his countrymen to-day, he 
pronounced [#p0n]. 

It will be observed that before original r, which has now disappeared 
in pronunciation, [a] has been lengthened, and altered in character. 
Originally, purse, hurt, word, worse, &c., were pronounced [pars, hart, 
ward, wars] as in Scotch. As the r was weakened, the vowel was 
gradually lengthened and passed into the present-day [A]. Already in 
the seventeenth century, Wallis identifies the vowel in turn and burn 
as being like eur in French serviteur. This makes it probable that [A] 
was already pronounced. Many Englishmen to-day believe that cur 
and cceur are identical in pronunciation, and, indeed, although the 
articulation of the two sounds is absolutely different, the inherent pitch 
of both is very close, and the acoustic effect is very similar to a more or 
less superficial observer. 

M.E. 1 [6] in the Modern Period. 

In the fourteenth century there is evidence from widely separated areas 
of England that old tense o had either developed completely its present 
sound [u], or progressed far in this direction. While as a rule the most 
careful scribes still write gode or goode, &c., for O.E. god ' good ', others, 
more enterprising, occasionally adopt the spelling goude, &c., or gude. 
The former is the ordinary spelling for the sound [u] from the middle of 
the thirteenth century. I have come across a fair sprinkling of these 
spellings for 1 in the fourteenth and early fifteenth century. Thus R. of 
Brunne's Handlyng Sinne, 1303, has fre tourer ' other' 406, doun, O.E. don 
'do', mysdoun rhymes enchesoun 1 101 ; William of Shoreham (Kent, 1320) 
has roude 25. 685, O.E. rod 'rood', douj> ' doth', O.E dop, PI. Pres., 53. 
1471, bloude ' blood ', O.E. blod, goud 'good ', O.E. god 60. 1 701, &c., &c., 
loukep 'looketh', O.E. locep 75. 2142, touke 94. 256 'took', O.E. toe, and 
so on; the Feudal Aids of 1370 or so have Boucland, O.E. Boc-, 
Lollelrouk, O.E. -broc, Curypoule, O.E. -pol ' pool ', Caresbrouc, Cokepoule, 
&c., which are PI. N.'s which occur in documents dealing wiih Dorset- 
shire, Somersetshire, and Hampshire; Alliterative Poems (Cheshire or 
Lanes, c. 1350) write goud, Patience 336, Pearl 33 (twice), &c. ; St. 
Editha (Wilts, c. 1420) has gowde 'good' 1472, brouk 'brook' 1363; 
Bokenam (Suffolk, 1441) not infrequently writes usuthly 'soothly', 
St. Agn. 524, &c.,forsuk, O.E. -sok, St. Faith, 68, stude 'stood', St. Eliz. 
206, and so on. One of the commonest words to be written otherwise than 
with o is earlier mdste ' must ', often written must, mwst during the fifteenth 
century. This may not really be a case in point at all, as it may represent 
the unstressed form and stand for some sound quite other than [u]. The 
spelling at any rate is found in Palladius (1420), Rewle Sustr. Men. 
(c. 1450), Bp. Pecok (1449), Marg. Paston, passim, and Cely Papers, and 
Monk of Evesham (1482) to mention no more. As we know, this has 
become the Received Spelling, and it is one of the few cases where old 
o is now spelt otherwise than o or oo. Marg. Paston also writes Munday ; 
London Records (1419, cit. Morsbach) hwegud; Cely Papers have gud 
and tuk. 


The ou- or ow- and w-spcllings in words of this class persist through- 
out the sixteenth century in private letters and in published books ; the 
w-spellings are less common. The former are found amongst other places 
in a letter of Thos. Pery, Ellis 2. 2 (mounth 'month'); Rede me, &c., has 
shues ' shoes ' 81, 82, must rhymes vnjust 105 ; in Edward VI's First P. B. 
(floude, &c.) ; Latimer's Sermons (bloud, gould, shutyng) ; Machyn (sune 
'soon', bludshed, &c.); Ascham, bowne 'boon', lowse-, Fisher, Bp. of 
Rochester's Sermons; Sir Thos. Smith, De Republ. (bloud); Queen 
Elizabeth's Letters (houke ' hook ') ; John Alleyne, dueth ' doth ', Alleyne 
Papers 16, 159- ; &c., &c. Such spellings as blud, in Ascham, Fisher, &c., 
may indicate the shortening of the vowel, on which see below, p. 236, &c. 
On the other hand, Latimer's shutyng ' shooting ', Serm. 161, and Ascham's 
' it buted not', Toxoph. 81, almost certainly represent the long vowel. 

Few will doubt that ou in the words from the fifteenth century onwards 
implies [u] ; how much sooner the sound was fully developed, and when 
the new sound was first pronounced exactly as in present-day Received 
Standard, is more questionable. The spellings just illustrated from writings 
from the South and Midlands, or from the London dialect, have nothing to 
do with such spellings as gude, guid, &c., in the Northern texts of the four- 
teenth century and later. In the North, old o pursued quite a different 
path of development from that which it followed farther South, and the 
rhymes of fourteenth-century Northern texts show an approximation to 
the sound of French u [y], e. g. stude fortitude, &c. 

Even the sixteenth-century grammarians agree in describing [u] as the 
vowel heard in words containing old 1 . 

As regards the phonetic process it seems certain that it resembled that 
now in progress in Swedish in bo ' live ', &c., where the old long 5 is 
strongly over-rounded, so that to unaccustomed ears it sounds rather like 
some kind of [u]. The full development of the latter sound, however, 
demands also the raising of the back of the tongue from a mid to a high 
position. It is quite possible that the early fourteenth-century 0#-spellings 
in English may indicate only that the over-rounded stage is reached, and 
that the sound pronounced at that time was the same as the Swedish 
vowel just referred to. 

If all words containing old long 1 were pronounced with [u] at the 
present time, the history of this sound would offer no difficulties. The 
fact, however, is that we note a threefold development of the sound in 
present-day English. 

!i) Words which have [u] : rood, spoon, moon, food, fool. 
2) Words which have \u\ -.good, stood, hood, hook, book, shook, forsook, 

(3) Words which have [a] -.flood, blood, glove, done, month, brother, 
mother, other. 

In class (i) the Early Mod. or Late M.E. vowel has remained unaltered ; 
in (2) it has been comparatively recently shortened ; in (3) it wasshortened 
much earlier, and underwent a further change. This change also involved 
original M.E. (or O.E.) short [], so that at the time when it came about, 
the latter sound and original o l in certain words were pronounced exactly 
alike. In other words, at a certain period, short [u], whatever its origin, 
began to alter in the direction of [a]. This question has been treated above 


under #, pp. 232-4 ; it is our business here to inquire what information 
is available (a) of the early shortening of the new [u] which gave us 
class (3), and (b) of the late shortening which gave us class (2). 

Early Shortening of [u] from b\ 

I assume that when, in M.E. and later, the consonant following a vowel 
is doubled, this implies that the preceding vowel was short. When in 
texts which express long u, whether original or derived, by the process we 
have just discussed, from original 1 in some words by ou, we find u 
written in other words even when the following consonant is not doubled, 
it is probable that we are justified in assuming that this represents a short 
vowel, since, except in the North, u was not commonly used for a long 
vowel, apart from French , which had quite a different sound from [u]. 
The conditions under which old long vowels were shortened in M.E. have 
often been formulated (cp. my Short Hist. pp. 113-15), but the shortenings 
of the kind we are considering belong to a different category from any of 
those mentioned. If on the strength of blood and flood we assume that the 
-d exercised the shortening influence, this appears to be contradicted by 
rood and stood, for although we pronounce a short vowel in the latter at 
the present time, the fact that the short vowel here is [u] and not [a] 
shows that it did not undergo the early shortening of [uj, otherwise it 
would have shared the fate of flood and blood. Again, why was the vowel 
in done shortened but not that in moon and spoon ? 

I believe it to be impossible to formulate the precise combinative con- 
ditions under which these forms were produced, and am inclined to think 
that the explanation of the three pronunciations of old 1 , or at any rate 
the existence of the [a] pronunciations, must be explained by assuming 
a mixture of dialect, probably of Social origin. This becomes more 
probable when we consider that while the group of words with [a] in 
Received Standard is now quite fixed, the distribution of these forms has 
varied according to the usage of different periods, and a greater latitude 
seems to have existed formerly in this respect. 

The earliest shortened form of the new u which I have found is sunner 
' sooner', R. of Brunne's Handlyng Sinne, 1. 386 (Lines. 1301). This is 
a remarkable form as showing how early the attainment of the new pro- 
nunciation was in this dialect. The shortening may be explained as due 
to the same process which has shortened the vowel in done, in which case 
it implies a Positive sun ' soon ' and is a very early instance of the process, 
or on the other hand it may be due to the analogy of other Comparatives 
which shortened the vowel, when the word ended in a consonant, before the 
suffix -re. This is an early M.E. shortening. Palladius (Essex c. 1420) 
has sonner ' sooner', 83. 615, which may represent the old M.E. Comp. 
when the shortening of 5 before it had become [u] would produce o, or 
it may represent the new form sunner as in R. of Brunne, the old spelling 
with o being retained as elsewhere in Palladius. Mzchyn's/otfman 126 
probably stands for a M.E. shortening before [u] developed, but may be 
identical with Bp. Fisher's foimfutt below. St. Editha (Wilts, c. 1420) has 
floddt ' flood ' rhyming with gode, and in view of the present pronuncia- 
tion of the former word I am inclined to accept the spelling here, as 


standing for [flud]. We know that this dialect had already developed 
the new [u] from d l , cf. p. 234. In the will of Sir Thos. Cumberworth, 
Lines. 1451, Lines. Dioc. Docs., the spellings gud, 46. 29, utherwise, 
56. 15, occur, but these may be Northern spellings. In the sixteenth 
century Berne rs, Froissart, has fludde, i. 221, 241, 291 (three times); 
Edward VI's First P. B. has fluddes and bludde\ Spenser, On the State 
of Ireland, has flude ; Bp. Fisher has blud and bloud in his Sermons ; 
Gabriel Harvey in his Letters has blud 32, futt 'foot' 121, and in 
a poem, whudd 'hood' rhyming with budd, Letter Bk., p. 125. In 
Sackville's Induction (1563) undone and done rhyme with run, 119. 
Marston has hudwinkt, What You Will, Act i, Sc. i (1607). In 1621 
Gill (Logonomia) gives the following as containing short u : blood, glove, 
good, brother, done, does (Vb.), mother, other. Butler (1634) gives gud, 
blud as short. Sir Edm. Verney in 1639 writes bludd, bluddynose, 
Verney Papers 212. Daines (1640) mentions the pronunciation swut 
= [swut or Pswat], but says it is 'better written and pronounced soot' 
= [sut]. Wallis (1653) mentions done as having 'obscure o' .= [a]. In 
1653 Wil. Roades, the Verneys' bailiff, writes tuck 'took', Verney Mem. 
iii. 275. Cooper (1685) gives flood, hood, other, sool, stood, as having 
labial o shortened, which according to his teiminology = u, which again 
he defines as being the sound of oo shortened, that is [u]. Cooper also 
has fut l foot ' as a ' barbarous ' form. Does this mean [fat] or [fut] ? 
At any rate it is represented also by Bp. Fisher's form futt given above, 
and would be [fat] at the present time. Sir R. Verney writes sutt ' soot ', 
Verney Mem. iv. 358, 1686 (= [sut or sat] ?). Jones (1701) has a list 
with [ii] which corresponds to our present usage, brook, cook, foot, 

forsook, good, hood, look, soot, stood, took. The one word in this list which 
we should not now include is forsooth. Jones's list of words with [a] is 
another, mother, brother. He appears to recognize both [u or u] as well 
as [a] in foot, forsooth, good, hood, look, -sook, stood, took. He further 
says that the sound of u is written ou ' when it may be so sounded ' as in 

floud, bloud, which seems to imply the pronunciations [flad, blad ; flud, 

In the Gr. of the Engl. Tongue, 1713, attributed to Steele, brother, 
mother are said to contain an ' obscure sound like u short ' = [a], and the 
same sound is said to occur in flood, blood. Bertram (1753), the writer 
of an Engl. Gr. for Danes, in Danish, and an excellent observer, gives 
book, look, and other words ending in k, and also hood and foot as con- 
taining the sound of Danish u, while blood, flood, soot are said to contain 
Dan. o, e.g. blodd, &c. This clearly means the sound that is now [a]. 

From the above brief account it seems to be established that the new 
[u] was shortened by the first quarter of the fifteenth century at any rate, 
if we disregard the somewhat doubtful evidence from Robt. of Brunne, 
or if we accept it, more than a century earlier. Until there is more 
evidence forthcoming of the development of the new [u] at this early 
period, it is safer not to build too much upon this. At the same time it 
may be pointed out that the w-spellings in this text for old d l may well 
dispel the suspicion which some might attach to the u in sunner, if this 
stood alone. In that case it might be said that the Lines, dialect was 
influenced by the Northern English. But since, so far as I know, the 


Northern w-spellings for o l which express the sound [y] are not founa as 
early as 1303, since in any case Northern texts do not write ou for old d, 
and since Handlyng Sinne is quite definitely E. Midland (though of 
a N. Midland type certainly) in dialectal character and not Northern, we 
may, I think, take the 0-spellings in this text seriously as representing 
an E. Midland sound change, especially as the rhyme s/owe vowe 
[slu(e) -vu(e)] occurs lines 1887-8. 

Probably further investigation of fourteenth-century texts would show 
that during the first half of this century old & became, in the Eastern 
dialects, from Lincolnshire to Kent and Essex, a sound approximating 
to if it not quite attained the character of [u]. From thence it passed 
into the London dialect. We ought probably to regard the spelling must 
in fourteenth-century texts as representing the unstressed form, with 
a vowel shortened after the [u] -stage had been reached. 

In any case, the forms with short [u] are the ancestors, so far as they 
survive, of those with [a] of a later date. The question of the unround- 
ing of \u\ has been discussed in its proper place (cf. pp. 232-4, above). 

In the meantime we are left in doubt by the statements of the gram- 
marians down to the middle of the seventeenth century as to which of 
the forms which they describe as having ' short u ' really had [u], and 
which had [a] or its immediate ancestor. They appear to correspond 
very largely with our [a] type, and include the words most commonly 
indicated as short by the occasional spellings. So long as we are not 
sure of the existence of [a] we cannot say with certainty whether the 
forms with ' short u ' are the descendants of those which had [u] in the 
fifteenth century, and are the ancestors of our [a] type, or whether they 
are the beginnings of the second or later shortening which has pro- 
duced our [] in cook, &c. It does not follow even when once the 
[a] forms had come into existence in some dialects, that they were used in 
the best type of London and Court speech. The shortened forms from 
which they came probably came in slowly and sporadically, and it is 
certain that many speakers still said [Mud] long after others said [flud], 
and may have continued to do so after the latter had gone on to the next 
stage [flad]. 

The Later Shortening of New []. 

While Wallis and Cooper undoubtedly recognize the three types 
[u, u, a] in the class of words we are considering, by far the larger 
number of words, according to them, have one or other of the two former 
vowels. This being so, and bearing in mind what was said in the last 
paragraph of the preceding section, we may be inclined to assume that 
the forms with short [u] which these writers mention, are really rather 
survivals of the early shortening, which in this dialect underwent no 
unrounding because they were only adopted after original short u had 
been unrounded, than the ancestors of our present type of words like 
hood, cook, &c. This view becomes more probable when we consider 
that words such as foot, stood, good, and look, all of which at the present 
tiwe show the late shortening, occur in the lists of Wallis and Cooper 
among those with [u]. This is even more strongly emphasized if we 
compare Gill's list of shorts already given above (which all correspond to 


our [a] type) with his list of longs, which include both of our other types 
\u and u\. Gill's list of words with long [u] is : soot, soon, moon, 
book, shook, forsook, look, brook, hook, food, foot, brood, stood, goose, smooth, 
tooth, doth. 

When we come to Jones the case is different. As has been said, his 
account points to a considerable variety of usage in the pronunciation of 
the same words. Evidently the [a] type has become much more wide- 
spread than in the periods which Wallis and Cooper describe, and his list 
of words with [u] is, as has been shown above, pretty much the same as 
our own. 

On the above grounds I am therefore inclined to put the late or 
second shortening of [u] as late as the end of the seventeenth or the 
beginning of the eighteenth century. 

Henceforth the chief interest lies in the distribution of the several 
types of pronunciation among the different words. There is no further 
question of sound change. The whole question is a very difficult one, 
and I see no solution to it except on the lines already suggested, of the 
influence of Social or Class dialect. 

At the present time the distribution of the types in the various Modi- 
fied Standards still differs more or less considerably from the usage of 
Received Standard. The only variations of usage in the latter appear to 
be in groom, and to some slight extent in soon, in which words [u, ii] are 
both possible. Within my own memory some old-fashioned speakers of 
Received Standard still said [sat] instead of the no\v universally received 


The present pronunciation of Rome, instead of the historically normal 
[rum], is comparatively recent and is due to the influence of the French 
or Italian pronunciation of the name, perhaps also to the spelling. 
Cooper, Jones, and Steele all give [rum] as the normal pronunciation. 
In some verses on Sir J. Davenant, by Sir J. Menis (1641), cit. Aubrey, 
Lives, i. 206, Rome rhymes with groome. 

The present-day pronunciation of gold goes back to a M.E. short form 
gold, which may be derived from an adjectival goldne, or from such 
a compound as goldsmith, &c. 

The normal O.E. and M.E. forms of the noun had a long vowel, and 
would yield a Modern [guld]. This type was in use among some 
persons who lived far into the nineteenth century, though by that time it 
was doubtless old-fashioned. An old lady who died in 1855, aged over 
So, a very near relative of my own, always, so I have heard from her 
children, said [guld]. It was a very usual though by no means the only 
pronunciation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries among good 
speakers. It is indicated probably by the spelling gould, Latimer, Serm. 
7 and 26, G. Harvey's Letters, p. 86, and it is recognized by Elphinstone. 

On the other hand, the ancestor of the present-day type is referred to 
by the grammarians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 
Rede me, &c., gold rhymes with cold sold. In Alphabet Anglois (1621) 
gaould is supposed to represent, for French speakers, the pronunciation 
of the English word. 

For 1 - < wo, and ho- < who, &c., cf. p. 308, below. 


The Unrounding of M.E. o in the Modern Period. 

During the fifteenth century, especially in documents written by men 
from the West Country, but not here alone, we find a written for M.E. o. 
In the sixteenth century a certain number of these spellings are found in 
London English, a few in Machyn, and one in Queen Elizabeth's letters. 
In the following century the 0-spellings occur occasionally in the Verney 
Papers, and the habit of unrounding o, by this time evidently a fashion- 
able affectation, is pilloried by Vanbrugh in The Relapse in the well-known 
character of Lord Foppington. Early in the eighteenth century Lady 
Wentworth and her son Peter each have, so far as I have observed, one 
of these spellings. 

This unrounding is at the present day heard chiefly in the South- 
West of England, but at least as far East and North as Oxfordshire. It 
has been suggested that Raleigh and Drake both Devon men, the former, 
as we have seen (p. 109), speaking with a Devon accent all his life made 
this pronunciation fashionable and current in the Court English of their 
day. This may be so, but the largest number of a- forms in any one 
writer in the sixteenth century are found in Machyn, who was not likely to 
reflect fashionable habits of Court speech, and who wrote at a time when 
Drake was still a boy, and Raleigh a baby, the former having been born, 
according to the Did. of Nat. Biogr., about 1540, the latter about 1552. 
Evidently then, the habit was current among the inferior orders of the 
metropolis long before either of the two heroes were in a position to exert 
any influence upon London English. It is certainly possible that at 
a later date the courtiers may have adopted Raleigh's pronunciation of 
words containing 0, though it does not seem very likely that the haughty 
Queen would follow another's lead in matters of this kind. As the 
following examples show, traces of the <z-spellings are found also in 
Palladius and Margaret Paston. If the pronunciation were in vogue also 
in the South-East and South-East Midland, it is comprehensible that it 
should penetrate into London speech, along with many other features 
from these areas. 

At any rate, wherever the habit came from, there is no doubt that it 
existed, and that it rose in the linguistic world. It has even left a few 
traces at the present time, notably in Gad y a weakened blasphemy, and 
in strap by the side of the unrounded strop. We have now restored the 
rounded vowel in plot (of ground), where the Authorized Version has 

These are the examples I have noted : 

Palladius, strape ' strap ', 92. 870 ; St. Editha, starme ' storm ', rhymes 
'harm', 932, crasse * cross', 1387; Shillingford, aftetymes, 53, 'oft-'; 
Marg. Paston, last Most' Pret. Subj., ii. 373; Lord Berners, yander 
'yonder', Froissart, i. 205 ; Machyn, the marrow ' morrow ', 47, Dasset 
' Dorset ', 48, 57, caffen ' coffin ', 120 ; Q. Elizabeth, ' I pray you stap the 
mouthes ', Letters, 64. This last word will cause a thrill of pleasure to 
those who know Lord Foppington's celebrated ' stap my vitals '. A 
certain number of these forms occur in the Verney Memoirs \-becas 
'because', Lady Sussex, ii. 77 (1642), cf. also the shortened form becos, 
Cary Verney, ii. 68, from which becas is derived ; faly 'folly ', Mall V., ii. 


380 (1647); sassages, Dr. Denton, ii. 318 (1648); 6 a clake 'o'clock', 
Luce Sheppard, iii. 78 (twice, 1652) ; Sir ^4rlandoe Bridgmen, Lady 
Rochester, iii. 434 (1656). Mrs. Basire prays for Prence George in 1655, 
Corresp. 139. To these should probably be added naty 'naughty', Lady 
Sussex, ii. 154, and dater (see p. 305). These forms presuppose probably 
the unrounding of a shortened vowel from [o]. On the other hand, the 
vowel in both may still be long, and in that case we must assume that it 
was pronounced as pe]. In Marston's Eastward Hoe occurs the rhyme 
after daughter, Act v, Sc. i, and here we must suppose an earlier 
form ' dofter'. 

Lord Foppington, already referred to, has stap, Tarn, Gad, pasitively, 
harse, plats, bax, &c. Lady Wentworth writes Anslow for ' Onslow ', 
p. 67 (1708), and beyand, 127 (1710). 

This habit must have been fairly widespread in the seventeenth 
century, since it survives to-day in the English of America. 

The fact that several French writers on English pronunciation from 
the third quarter of the sixteenth century onwards find a resemblance 
between English o and French d certainly suggests that the former was 
commonly pronounced with but slight rounding. Bellot (1580) says that 
the English vowel is almost like French o. U Alphabet Anglois (1625) 
says ' O se prononce souvent A, come Thomas, short, qu'il fauct prononcer 
thames, chart*. Mauger, Grammaire Anglotse (16*19), savs f ' Quand 
il est lie* a m, n, r, t, d, g, p, st, ss, sk, il se prononce comme notre a 
from Mst'ifram, anon anan, nor nar, not nat, God Gad, lodge 
ladge, frost frast. 

It is, I think, impossible not to believe that there is a connexion 
between these statements, and the above spellings, taken from documents 
written by English people during the same period. It does not much 
matter whether these Frenchmen got their ideas of English pronuncia- 
tion from lower-class speakers or from the ultra-fashionable. They 
cannot be misleading us altogether, for their statements agree so well 
with the testimony of the occasional spellings and other known facts. 
An interesting and I think a valuable light is thrown by these French 
writers upon the probable character of the vowel sound implied by the 
spelling a in the English documents. It cannot have been [se], the sound 
of the ordinary English ' short a ', because these Frenchmen, or some of 
them, have fixed this as a front vowel ' quasi comme le premier e du 
verbe etre ' (Gr. Angl.) ; * comme e Latin . . . master lisez mester, man 
lisez men ' (Mauger). Since lodge, &c., are described as having a sound 
rather like French a, we must suppose that the French writers heard 
a back vowel for the English short d, and that vowel I take to have been 
approximately a more or less slightly unrounded form of d (i. e. mid- 
back, or perhaps low-back with slight rounding). This is, I believe, 
pretty nearly the sound now heard in America and in many South- 
western English dialects. The Frenchmen's description is the nearest 
they could get to such a sound, since even if they had perceived, as they 
apparently did, that the vowel was not precisely the French a, not being 
phoneticians they would be unable to fix upon the essential factor the 
slight rounding which differentiated the English vowel from their native 


When the unrounding was complete, as it subsequently became in the 
politer forms of English, the resulting vowel was advanced (fronted) and 
levelled under the ordinary English [ae], the old sound of short a having 
long disappeared. This is what has happened in Gad and strap. 

During the eighteenth century the old fully rounded vowel was 
restored, partly from the spelling, by purists, partly by the influence of 
a large body of speakers who slill preserved it unaltered. We must 
remember that Lady Wentworth is to be regarded as a fashionable 
speaker of the late seventeenth century, although her letters were written 
in the opening decade of the eighteenth. 

If proof is needed that the French writers sometimes do intend a 
slightly rounded vowel when they refer to French a, it is, I think, found 
in Mauger's statement that the a in water is pronounced like French a. 
There is little doubt that the vowel of water was rounded by the time at 
which Mauger writes, and even if it were already [5] as now, this has 
always been a most baffling sound for French people to apprehend. If 
Mauger had been referring to the other pronunciation of the word he 
would not have hesitated to write it wfter for French speakers. 

M.B. u from French ti [y] ; and M.E. eu ; eu [su] ; m ; 
become [ju]. 

The sounds have all been levelled in present-day English under the 
combination [ju], which after [r, dz, tj] and sometimes after /- becomes 
[u] ; e.g. due, duke; knew, grew] dew, few; Tuesday, steward] blue, true, 
fruit, &c., &c. The O.E. J>, where it survives in the single word bruise 
(cf. p. 34. (3)), has the same history. The questions involved are (i) 
when did the levelling take place, (2) what was the path of development 
towards the present sound, and (3) how long did the old sound of 
French u [y] survive, and when, on the other hand, did the present sound 
appear ? The answer to the first is, during if not before the fifteenth 
century; to the third, that the old [y] still existed, apparently, among 
some speakers in the sixteenth century, possibly later, but it is no less 
(and no more) certain that in the sixteenth century many speakers clearly 
pronounced the present sound. 

As to the process, the three diphthongs probably became [iy] (eu and 
eu, having first been levelled under the former sound), while old long ti 
also became [iy] or [jy]. This stage was apparently reached in the 
fifteenth century. Then the second element was retracted, giving [ju], 
which is the present sound. Shillingford's spelling knywe [knjy] ' knew ',14, 
M.E. knew, shows the change in the first element of this diphthong. All 
words which now contain this combination derive it from one of the 
above sources. From the fifteenth century, we find in occasional spellings 
u, eu, ew, &c., written indifferently for the old diphthongs and French H. 

Examples of this are : St. Editha, blwe = ue [bljy] for M.E. blew Pret. ; 
hue and slew, Robt. the Devil, 922 ; here the first word is M.E. heu from 
the O.E. Pret. hebw ' hewed '; greu ' grew ' (O.E. greow) rhymes with 
vertu, Bokenam, Pr. Marg. 159, and with isew, pursew, Bokenam, Ann. 
261; Bewford 'Beaufort', Gregory, 219; nyew 'new', Rewle Sustr. 
Men. 96. 25 ; Cely Papers have several examples of French u written 


ew sewer ' sure ', 77, Dewke ' Duke ', 112, dew ' due ', 112, continew, 78, 
indewer, 2 7 ; Q. Elizabeth \vritesfortiune, which doubtless represents the 
type fortune with an accentuated second syllable, Letters, 27; Gabriel 
Harvey has blue ' blew ', Letters, 144, and nu ' new ', ibid. 14; Mrs. Sherard, 
Verney Mem. iv. 16 (1661), writes fortewen andfortewn, representing the 
same type as Q. Elizabeth's. Nan Denton has shued ' showed ' (M.E. 
schewed O.E. sceaw-), Verney Mem. iv. 107, 1663; Mrs. Sherard has 
hewmor 'humour', Verney Mem. ii. 392, 1648. What vowel sound is 
expressed by ew, m, u, &c. ? 

Those who appeal primarily to the Orthoepists sometimes get very 
dubious answers ; at other times, in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies, some authorities state as definitely as they are able that the English 
sound is [zu, ju], while others, with equal definiteness, maintain that it is 
[y, jy]. The present-day writers who put these old writers on the rack, in 
the endeavour to wrest their secrets from them, generally take sides in this 
question. One school backs the accuracy of observation and general 
veracity of the quite numerous body of old writers, going down far 
into the seventeenth century, who appear to assert that [y, jy] is the 
sound ; the other school is much perturbed by this attitude and stakes 
its credit on [u, ju]. Apparently it must have been one thing or the other. 
An enormous amount of learning and ingenuity has been expended by 
both sides. Personally I am not at all convinced that either side has the 
whole truth. Did the sound [y] exist at all in English after, say, the middle 
of the sixteenth century ? It practically resolves itself into whether the 
old grammarians can be trusted when they say that French u in sure was 
identical with the English sound in the same word. Did they really know 
what the French sound was ? When they appear to be describing [y] are 
they not in fact attempting to describe something quite different ? Are 
there not plenty of Englishmen at the present day who believe, for 
instance, that French pu and English pew are identical in every respect ? 
It is absolutely certain that there are many such, and I think equally 
certain that there must have been many in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 
who would have been unable to distinguish the sound of these two words, 
even if the difference had existed, still less to describe it. But is it not 
probable that there were some Englishmen in the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries who could distinguish between [ju] on the one hand, 
and [y, jy] on the other ? I think that such men existed, and I therefore 
believe the strong body of testimony which asserts that what we may call 
the French sound did still exist in English well into the seventeenth 
century. But I think it is equally well established that there were other 
speakers who did not habitually pronounce this sound, who in fact were 
probably unable to pronounce it. 

I know several highly educated, not to say learned, Cockney speakers 
at the present time, who, if they were to give a descriptive analysis of 
their ' long u '-sound, would with perfect accuracy give a totally different 
account from that which I should give of my own sound in boot, but not 
different from that which I should give of theirs. I can imagine that if 
the students of Historical English Grammar in the year 2200 should 
dig up our books from the British Museum, the fiercest war may rage 
among them, unless they realize that both schools are perfectly right, 

R 2 



but were describing two quite different sounds. They might say, 
* X. is a fairly reliable authority on the whole for the pronunciation of 
his period, but he has gone off the lines here, and was evidently under the 
impression that the sound in boot was almost identical with that in German 
hut (hat). But here are the "London writers" Smith, Brown, and 
Robinson, who all agree that the sound in boot, at the beginning of the 
twentieth century, was a diphthong, and that the second element was 
not, as X. asserts, the full, high back-tense-round, but a back vowel 
very much advanced and partially unrounded.' A still more disastrous 
attempt of the future grammarian would be to try to square the two 
descriptions as referring to one and the same sound, and to check one 
against the other, with the result that both parties would be credited 
with something quite different from what either had, quite rightly, 
described, and an utterly wrong statement would emerge from the 

I am certainly not inclined to repose blind faith in the old grammarians, 
even in the best of them, but if I were convinced that all of those who 
appear to describe the sound [y] were entirely wrong, or that they were in 
reality describing quite a different sound, I should certainly despair of 
ever learning anything from these old writers. 

As for the approximate period at which [ju] first appeared, from old 
jy], &c., I do not know when to place it, but I think there can be no 
oubt concerning the interpretation of the following spellings \yousefull> 
Mary Verney's Will, Verney Mem. ii. 17, 1639; youst ' used ', Mall Verney, 
ibid. ii. 380, 1647; youseg ' usage', ibid. iii. 214, 1655; youmore 
' humour ', Wentw. Papers 320 ; youmored, ibid. 107, 320 ; buity ' beauty ', 
ibid. 94, and Buforde 'Beaufort', 118, 119, 130. Mrs. Basire writes 
ashoure 'assure', 112 (1653), quewre 9 quewored 'cure, cured', 112 
( J 653); I take these spellings to indicate [a/uXr), kjua(r)], &c. The 
spelling yewthe ( youth ' in a letter of Richard Layton to Lord Cromwell, 
Ellis 2. 2. 60, 1535, is ambiguous, as the origin of the present vowel 
in this word is doubtful. The above spelling may either point to an 
early identity in sound with the M.E. u, eu, &c., and suggest g$g}> as the 
original type, or if we take the present form to be from a Northern 
w-type, it points to ew, &c., being a symbol for [ju] as early as 1535. 

M.E. u (O.E. J). 

It has been clearly stated (pp. 30. (3), 34. (3), 41. (3), &c.) that O.E. 
y already in the O.E. period was differentiated into e in Kentish and 
South-Eastern, while the old sound remained elsewhere apart from 
combinative unrounding before front consonants in the South- Western 
dialects. In M.E. both types e and^> (the latter written u from the twelfth 
century onwards) are found, but a new type with complete unrounding 
to i is characteristic of the North and of the E. Midlands, and apparently 
also of certain areas in the South- West. 

The London dialect, as we have seen (pp. 9, 53, 57, &c.), has all three 
types in currency from an early period, the E. Midland gaining in fre- 
quency as time goes on. The history of the three types falls under that of 
the vowels ;', e, and ii respectively. We are concerned primarily here with U, 
whose history may be briefly summed up. It was retracted to u, at any 

DISTRIBUTION OF -*-, -*-, -w-TYPES 245 

rate before the period in which this was unrounded, and it shared the 
common fate of all short ^-sounds no matter what their origin. Thus we 
have today [a] in rush (the plant), thrush, shut, dull, bundle, blush, 
drudge, clutch, cudgel, burden, hurdle, and probably much and such should 
be included here. The same sound in French words, judge, just, &c., 
had the same history. Cp. p. 232. 

.Busy and Bury appear from their spelling to belong to this type, 
but the former is pronounced [bi'zt] according to the E. Midland type, 
and the latter [ben] according to the South-Eastern. We noted con- 
siderable fluctuation in the distribution of the various types in the literary 
English of the fourteenth century and later (pp. 53, 57, &c.), but by the 
end of the fifteenth century the London usage was, on the whole, pretty 
much as at present, and even provincial documents show the influence of 
the speech of the Metropolis in their distribution of these forms. On the 
other hand, certain fluctuations continue during this and the following 
century, which show that a certain latitude still existed. The following 
lists, which do not profess to be complete, will give some idea of the 
principal deviations from our present distribution in Early Modern. 
I have not enumerated the forms, generally more numerous, which agree 
with our present usage. 

I begin with some of the provincial texts, which are roughly classified 
into Eastern (including Suffolk and Essex) and Western (including South- 
western and South- West Midland). 

Eastern Group. 

Palladius, burstels 'bristles', 27. 724, cornel ( kernel', 56. 332, curnels, 
98. 1032 ; besily, 11.28, werst ' worst ', 14. 356, wermes ' worms ', 32. 783 ; 
rysshe rush ', the plant, 4.69. 

Bokenam, thrust ' thirst ', Chr. 444 ; mech ' much ', Pr. 97, besy, passim, 
berthe 'birth', Pr. Marg. 131, werst, Chr. 1015, kechyn, Eliz. 899; Marg. 
Paston, hyrdillys 'hurdles', ii. 84, swich 'such', passim; beye 'buy', 
i. 224, meche, i. 69, werse, ii. 61, 65, seche, ii. 130. 9. 

Western Group. 

Fortescue, though a Devonian, can hardly count as a provincial writer ; 
his forms agree on the whole with our own, except for furst ' first ', 
sturred ' stirred '. 

St. Editha, />#//* ' pit ', 1. 4169 ; Shillingford has myche * much ', ^yuell 
* evil ', 13, myry, myryly, 16, shitie P. P., ' shut ', and y shitte, 88 ; furst, 
stured, luste Vb., 'list', 90; werche 'work' Vb., O.E. wyrcan, ferst 
' first', tt^yshette, 86 ; Reg. of Oseney, mynchons ' monks ' O.E. myncen, 
Medehulle, 26, buturhulle, 26, brugge, 27 and 49; Exeter Tailors' Guild, 
furst, 318; Ord. of Worcs., putts ' pits', brugge, 374; Coventry Leet, 
to wurche, i. 33; Pecok's Represser, yuel, i. 3, rische 'rush', i. 166; 
Reg. of Godstow, werste, 55, unschette Inf., ' unshut, open ' ; ben'ed agrees 
with our pronunciation, but not with our spelling. 

I now pass to the non-dialectal sources. 

Hoccleve has thursteth, but otherwise seems to agree with our present 
usage; Lydgate, who has certain East Country tendencies, has sterid, 
besynesse, felthe ' filth ', furst] Rewle Sustr. Men., gerddlts, schet P. P., 
91. 36, schette 'shut', 91. 38, besily, 93. 3; Gregory, who it must be 


remembered was born in Suffolk, has lyfte ' left hand', 86. 139, syche, 
131, schytte Fret, 'shut', 159; steryd, 85, Yelde halle, 101 ; Caxton, 
shitte Pret., ' shut ', Jason, 48 ; knetted, 174. 31, shette 92. 13, seche 'such ', 
96. 16, besines, 96. 21; burthe, 4. 16; Bk. of Quint., ^w/z'j 'evils', 10, 
<r^ 'such', 13, wzir^ 'much', 3, biriede, 2, sterrid, n ; Skelton, Magnyf., 
agrees, apparently, with our present usage; Cr. Knt. of Bath,/**/, 389, 
/*/?Meft hand', 391; Bp. Knight (1512), mych, Ellis 2. i. 190; Rede 
me, &c., fe// P.P., 21 ; Sir Thos. More, wy^, Ellis i. i. 197; Thos. 
Pery (1539), bessy, Ellis 2. 2. 140; John Mason (1535), mych, Ellis 
2. 2. 54, sick, ibid.; Lord Berners, hyrdell ' hurdle', i. 38, ,r^i'//i ' shut' 
P.P., i. 155, yvell, i. 200; besynesse, i. 25, 96, &c., j/Vr^ Vb., i. 136, 
&c. ; Adm. Sir Edw. Howard, steryd, Ellis 2. i. 214; Sir Thos. Elyot, 
ketchyn, i. 71, stereth, i. 145, sterynge 'stirring', i. 149, stere Inf., 208, 
kendled, 2.51; thursty 'thirsty', i. 189, thurste, 2. 155; Bp. Fisher, 
j/wm?, 372; Latimer, sterryng, 204; slurred, 46, sturrs, 471; Machyn, 
wy<:A, 2, ymberyng days 'Ember 1 , 4, rjw^r 'rushes' (the plant); faro/ 
'buried', i, 2, &c., &c., besiness, 4, Crepulgatt, 125, belded ' built', 174, 
&c., kechens, 203 ; /#r.r/, 2 ; Cavendish, wyr/fo, 9 ; ^r<? ' stir ', 52, j&// 
' shut ', 242 ; Sir Thos. Smith, suich, ' such ', Letters, Ellis 2.3. 16 ; furst, 
ibid. 2. 3. 19; Ascham, rishe, Scholem. 54; Q. Elizabeth, ivel 'evil', 
Letters to James VI, 20, 65, btsy, Tr. 73; j/wr, Letters, 23; weshing 
'wishing', Letters, 4 ; Euphues, creeple, creple ' cripple', 131 (butcf. p. 247, 

It is unnecessary to pursue the subject farther. Throughout the six- 
teenth century we find that these forms correspond exactly to our own 
usage, and the above exceptions are comparatively insignificant by the 
side of the overwhelmingly larger number of forms which call for no 
mention at all. It should be pointed out that a certain proportion of the 
^-spellings may in reality represent the lowering of i to e according to 
the account given on pp. 207-8, 226-9, above. 

M.E. u from O.E.^. 

The long vowel was treated in O.E. and M.E. in the same way as the 
short, and the three types u, I, i also exist. In Modern Standard 
English, however, the 7-type is the only one which survives with the 
exception of the single word bruise, O.E. brysan, and the English origin 
of this is disputed, it being alleged that bruise is derived from Old French 
bruser, which, however, is itself a loan-word. 

Some East Country dialects still preserve a few /-forms e.g. meece 
'mice', face Mice'. Otherwise the descendants of the M.E. J-type hold 
the field. The development of this vowel has been that of all other M.E. 
/-sounds, namely, that it has been diphthongized to [at] (cf. pp. 223-6 

Words of this origin are hide Vb. and Noun, hive (for bees), bride, 
kind, fa-file, fire, mind. 

All these had y in O.E. 

The dialectal distribution of the various types &, e, I in M.E. appears 
to have been pretty much the same as that of the corresponding short 
vowels i in the North and in the E. Midlands ; e in the South-East and 
part of the E. Midlands, perhaps as far north as Lines. ; U in the South, 


South-West, and West Midlands. In the South-East both U and e seem 
to have been current. The E. Midland J-type seems to have gained 
ground in areas where it did not originally belong, earlier, and more 
rapidly than in the case of the short vowel, and the <?-type is next in 
frequency, u being less widespread outside the South-West and West- 
Central Midlands. In the London dialect all three types were in use in 
M.E., I and e being the commonest, but the latter was gradually elimi- 
nated and is, I think, not found in Literary English much after the middle 
of the sixteenth century. The long H is often written ui or uy in M.E. 
and later. 

I give a few examples of survival of other types than that which we now 
use, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

Provincial Sources. 

East Country. Palladius, bresed ' bruised ', 25. 679; Bokenam, feer 
'fire', Agn. 537, &c., also fyre> Chr. 629, rhymes with chere, mende 
'mind', Ann. 389 ; Marg. Paston, mende, ii. 362. 

West and South-West. Reg. of Oseney, beeldid 'built', 56; Ordi- 
nances of Worcs., fuyre ' fire ', 371, 372, huydes ' skins ', 374. 

London Sources and Literary English. 

Hoccleve, themel ' thimble ', Reg. of Pr. 682 ; Lydgate, fuyre 'fire ', 
unkende ; Skelton has no disagreement with present-day usage in those 
words which survive, but the interesting archaism lyther ' bad ', O.E. lyfor, 
may be noted; fyre ' fire ' rhyming byre ' beer', Rede me, &c., is a phonetic 
spelling for the M.JL./eer type ; cp. also Bokenam's rhymes above ; Dives 
Pragmaticus (1563), heeves * hives'. 

I have included crepul, cre(e}ple (see above, under Machyn and 
Euphues) under short U because I take it to be from O.E, crjjpel from 
*crupil. It might, however, be from Pr. O.E. *crupil, in which case 
these forms should come here. 

In the same way there is a difficulty about build. The vowel in O.E. 
byldan was originally short, but lengthening generally takes place in late 
O.E. before -Id. On the other hand, our own present-day form is clearly 
derived from an unlengthened form. The lengthened form, however, 
seems certain in beeldid (Reg. of Oseney). Machyn's beldyd, 174, might 
be either long or short. 

M.E. at] ei in the Modern Period. 

These diphthongs, originally different, were pretty generally levelled 
under one in M.E. at latest by the fourteenth century. In different dialects 
this single sound may have tended towards either [at] or [e/]. By the 
first quarter of the fifteenth century the sound, whatever it was, had 
evidently been very widely monophthongized, and the single vowel thence 
resulting was a front vowel, either [ae] or []. This levelling is proved 
by the occasional spellings a, ea for former at, ei, and further by the fact 
that at, ey are sometimes written for old d. That the sound into which 
both ai and d had developed was a front vowel is shown by rhymes in 
which old d is coupled with old e (cf. discussion of the history of 
d, pp. 194-6, above), and by the fact that ey is sometimes used for old 
e == [e or e], and that ea which is written for old ai never does nor could 
stand for anything but a front vowel. 


The history of at, ei should be considered in connexion with that of old 
a, since from the moment that they have converged into a single sound, 
whatever is true of the one is true of the other. 

To show the levelling of the diphthong with old a and that the same 
symbols are used to express both, the following appear to me con- 
clusive : 

(1) at] ei, written a : sa ' say', Mary Beaufort (1443-1509), letter in 
Ellis i. i. 47 ; Duke of Buckingham (1442-5), y//;/#//, Past. Letters i. 
62 ; panes 'pains ', 1528, Anne Boleyn, Ellis i. i. 306 ; agane, 1553, 
Q. Elizabeth, letter in Ellis 2. 2. 213 ; 1642, pade ' paid', Lady Sussex, 
Verney Mem. ii ; wate 'wait', ibid. 103 ; pra ' pray ', Gary V., Verney 

(2) Old a written 02': 1421, maid P.P., Cov. Leet i. 24; 1529, 
trayvell, Lord Berners i. 222; 1533, waiter 'water', Will of Sir 
J. Digby (Leicestershire), Line. Dioc. Docs. 142. 9; 1539, Letter of 
Thos. Pery, Ellis 2. 2, spqyke, 141; bqyde 'bade', 146; laydinge, 142 ; 
tayking, 146; mayde 'made', 142; Q. Elizabeth, matk, Transl. 148; 
maid, ibid. 143; 1550-60, stayffes 'staves' M.E. staves, Machyn 51, 
mayde 'made ', ibid. 53 ; 1642, saifly, R. Verney, Verney Mem. ii. 137 ; 
shairer, Ed. V., ibid. 141. 

(3) Rhymes: Donne are dispair, Heroical Epistle, 21, 22; are 
aire 'air ', ibid. 41, 42 ; faire compare, ibid. 15, 16; Lord Rochester, 
are dispair declare fair in ' Insulting Beauty you misspend ' ; Playr*s 
cares in poem entitled ' The Rehearsal '. Shakespeare, in the song 
' Orpheus with his lute ' (Hen. VIII, Act in, Sc. i), rhymes play with sea. 

The evidence that at] ei had become a front vowel as early as the 
fifteenth century is that in St. Editha (c. 1420) we find deythe for death, 
445; meyle, iooi,for meate, M.E. mete\ eyer, 2908, for ere, M.E. er O.E. 
xr ; eysterday for Easterday, 3104, 3105, and that Shillingford writes 
feale for fail, p. 19. Q. Elizabeth in Transl., p. 100, writes cheane for 
chain. Sir Thos. Elyot's waiker 'weaker', Gouernour i. 173, and 
Bp. Fisher's weyke 'weak', Serm., p. 312, may represent a traditional 
spelling of the Scand. veik though this seems to me extremely unlikely. 
If these forms represent the normal M.E. weke then they are good illustra- 
tions of our point. 

(For proofs that M.E. a had been fronted by 1420 or so, see under 
that heading, pp. 194-6.) 

As early as 1303 Robert of Brunne, in Handlyng Synne (Lines.), 
writes deyl, 826, for M.E. del ' part ', and weyl for wel ' well ', but it may be 
thought that this represents the Northern method of expressing length. 
In the North, O.E. a as well as M.E. a were undoubtedly fronted in the 
fourteenth century, and the sound is often expressed by at, ei, but this 
does not concern us here. 

At the present day the old diphthong is preserved in some dialects, for 
instance in that of Oxfordshire; the normal forms for rain, way, and 
even for fair being [rain, wa;', faz'r (or v0*r)]. This has nothing to do 
with the Modern Cockney pronunciation, which is quite recent, but is an 
interesting survival. It is probably to this type that Sir Thos. Smith and 
Gill allude as the ' rustic ' pronunciation, a ' fat ' sound. Unfortunately 
these writers appear, together with others of their kind and period, to assert 


that a diphthongic pronunciation [at*] was also the educated habit, the first 
element, however, being less ' fat '. The French writers of the sixteenth 
century who deal with our pronunciation often observe accurately, and 
they give an intelligible account of the facts when they identify the sound 
of English at with French e and ai. It is unnecessary to follow in detail 
the ambiguous or misleading statements of the English grammarians on 
the point. They may be read, together with those of the French, most 
industriously collected and ingeniously discussed by Zachrisson, Engl. 
Vowels, pp. 124 &c., 190 &c. As an example of the sort of help we get 
from them we may quote one passage from Mulcaster's Elementarie 

1 Ai is the mans diphthong and soundeth full, ei the womans and 
soundeth finish in the same both sense and use a woman is deintie and 
feinteth soon, the man fainteth not because he is nothing daintie ', p. 119. 
Gill, Logonomia, p. 33 (reprint), asserts that [ai] is the proper pronun- 
ciation, and that to substitute [e] for this is an affected mode of speech. 

Charles Butler, in 1634, says ' The right sound of at . . . is the sound 
of the two letters whereof (it is) made. . . . But ai in imitation of the 
French is sometime corruptly sounded like e as in may, nay, play, pray, 
say, stay, fray! 

Cooper says that in bait, caitiff, praise the diphthong consists of the 
sound of a in can, joined to that of i pronounced ee. This would 
presumably mean [sei]. ei, ey in height, weight, convey, may be pronounced 
as regards the first element with either e in km or a in cane, which would 
suggest either [e* or ei]. But as if to show what nonsense all these 
refinements are, he winds up with what is clearly the simple truth 
* plerumque autem in colloquio familiari, neglegenter loquentes pronun- 
ciant at prout a simplicem in cane '. Which one may perhaps interpret 
to mean that everybody who spoke naturally pronounced a single long 
front vowel in words where ai, ei were written, but that some rather 
pedantic speakers, misled by the spelling, and wishing to be very 
'correct', still said [ae*' or e/'] in these words. It must not be taken as 
certain that any of the above-mentioned grammarians really pronounced 
a true diphthong, in spite of their theories. Later on, under the heading 
of ' a exilis ', that is, the development of old long a, Cooper gives a list of 
ai words which have the same sound as a in cane, e. g. bain bane, main 
mane, hail hale, maid made, tail tale, &c., &c. 

In addition to the various arguments which have been already adduced, 
to show the early monophthongization of this diphthong, there is the fact 
that from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries inclusive a pronuncia- 
tion [ei] existed for M.E. J, present-day [at]. (See on this point, 
p. 223, &c., above.) If we are to assume that M.E. ai, ei were still pro- 
nounced as diphthongs in the seventeenth century we shall, I think, land 
ourselves in inextricable confusion. 

M.E. oi in the Modern Period. 

It has been shown above, p. 224, in dealing with M.E. i, that early 
in the Modern Period the new diphthong derived from the latter was 
identical in pronunciation with M.E. oi\ and that this diphthong was 


probably [ai], at any rate in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
The accounts given by the grammarians of the seventeenth century 
regarding the pronunciation of old oi suggest that there was more than 
one pronunciation. While, as stated on pp. 224-5, tne 7 confirm the con- 
clusions drawn from other evidence as to the identity of i and oi, the 
sound thus described is mentioned under the treatment of /, and additional 
information regarding the^pi'onunciation of of is often given under that 
diphthong itself. Mulcaster on pp. 117 and 118 of his Elementarie 
(1582) distinguishes clearly two pronunciations of oi : one ' sounding vpon 
the o ' as \nboie, enioie, toy, anoy, toy, and another * which soundeth vpon 
the u ', or again, ' which seme to haue an u ' as in anoint, appoint, foil. 
This would appear to imply a spelling-pronunciation [o*'j, here illustrated 
by the larger number of words, by the side of another pronunciation [a/]. 
Thus Wallis says that in noise, boys, toys, oil (i) the sound is o 'open, 
clear but short' +y, that some pronounce either (2) u as the first 
element in certain words, or (3) ' u obscure '. He illustrates two types 
of pronunciation toil, oil, or tuyl, uyl. Cooper groups together (i) 
wine, blind, wind, injoin, broil, ointment, &c., as having the same diphthong, 
namely, the sound in cut followed by i. This agrees with the Wallis's 
sound described in (3) above and denotes [ai]. (2) Cooper gives joy, coy, 
coif as containing a diphthong consisting of the o of loss followed by t. 
This agreesjwiih Wallis's (i) and refers to [pi]. (3) Cooper says that in 
boil, moil, point, poison the sound is u in full, or o in fole (= ' fool ' ?), 
followed by i, but that except in these words this diphthong, ' apud nos 
non pronunciatur '. This apparently refers to a pronunciation [ui] or [uY] 
and corresponds to Wallis's (2). 

These three pronunciations may be easily accounted for. The old 
sound seems to have been more like [ui] than [of] just before its trans- 
formation. The first element appears to have been unrounded, and to 
have been lowered to [a], just like old short u (cf. p. 232). This was 
the diphthong that was levelled with that produced from old I (p. 224). 
This unrounding, however, did not take place after lip-consonants, hence 
[but'l, muzl], &c. (Cooper's type (3)). This retention of the rounded first 
element after lip-consonants was not universal, however (cf. Dr. Denton's 
byled ' boiled ' [ai], p. 224). 

The [oi] pronunciation indicated by Mulcaster, Wallis, and Cooper 
represents probably an artificially ' restored ' pronunciation due to the 
spelling, and this is the Received pronunciation at the present time. The 
[of] pronunciation occurred among some speakers in both [ui] and [a/] 
words, since in another place Cooper indicates it as possible for join, toil, 
&c., as well as for boil, poison, &c. The * restoring ' tendency has been 
carried too far in boil ' inflamed swelling ' (M.E. bile), and in joist (jzste). 
Jespersen (N. Engl. Gr., p. 320) thinks that the spelling of these words 
cannot be explained in this way because joyst occurs as early as 1495, 
and boyle in 1529. But these early spellings do not necessarily prove 
that [of] was pronounced in these words, but merely that old i and old oi 
already had a common pronunciation, so that they were written indiffer- 
ently to express the same sound. See also p. 224. 

The curious spelling junant ' joining ' is found in Shillingford, p. 86, 
&c., who also writes joynant, p. 89, and Gregory, a few years later, writes 


cunys for 'coins', p. 185. This may mark the change of the first 
element to [u], but it is not a satisfactory method of expressing [uz]. 

Jones (1701), p. 113, says that the sound of u is written o in boil, coil, 
coin, foil, moil, voyage, &c. It is rather doubtful whether he means to 
imply the pronunciation [u/] or [at], but as he includes in the list words 
without a diphthong, in which [aj was certainly the vowel intended, such 
as mother, door, work, &c., it is pretty evident that he intends to express 
the pronunciation [a/]. 

In Baker's Rules for True Spelling and Writing English, among a list 
of { words commonly pronounced very different from what they are 
written ', we find the pronunciation of coin expressed as quine. 

The twofold pronunciation [o/, a/'] is recognized in Growth of the 
English Tongue, published by Brightland, 1712 (or 1714?), attributed to 
Steele. In boil, toil, oil the first element is said to be * sometimes obscure 
u' (= [a]). But * I grant by the pronunciation of some men open (o) 
is used in these words '. 

The frequent rhymes such as join line which occur in the eighteenth 
century (in Pope and other writers) show that the 'unrestored* pronun- 
ciation of oi, which identified it with ' long z", was not an offence against 
the taste of the fastidious. The final adoption of [a*', at] as the Received 
pronunciation was a slow process, and by some arbitrary standard in 
some words the restored pronunciation was fixed while others were ex- 
cluded. This is seen by the remark of Kendrick (1773) quoted by 
Jespersen (New Engl. Gr., p. 329), that it is an affectation to pronounce 
boil, join otherwise than as bile, jine, and yet it is ' a vicious custom in 
conversation ' to use this sound [a/'] in oil, toil, which thereby ' are 
frequently pronounced exactly like isle, tile \ 

In Received Standard at the present time there is, so far as I know, no 
exception to the [o*'] pronunciation. One rather remarkable exception 
to this rule used to, and probably still does, occur in the Place Name 
Foynes, in the County Limerick. Twenty-five years ago, when I lived 
there, the local peasantry and farmers, and the middle classes of Limerick 
City, pronounced it [fomz], but the neighbouring gentry, including the 
landlord himself, all called the place [fozhz]. 

The type [uz'] seems to have vanished after the seventeenth century. 

The testimony of rhymes during the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries also confirms the evidence of the occasional spellings and of 
the grammarians as to the identity of oi and z in the pronunciation of 
those times. A few examples will suffice : Spenser, guile assoyle, 
Prothalam. ; Shakespeare, R. of L., swine groin, 1115-16; Suckling, 
in the poem ' There never yet was woman made ', rhymes find joined ; 
Habington, shin'djoynd, Castara, 83. 

On the development of a lip-glide afier a consonant, before oi, leading 
to ' twoil\ &c., see p. 310, below. 

The M.E. Diphthong au in the Modern Period. 

The diphthong au, which, besides its development from -0/- as 
described above (p. 201), had various origins in M.E., has long been 
monophthongized to [5]. It is not difficult to determine in which words 


the diphthong formerly occurred, as the old spelling au or aw is gener- 
ally kept, apart from the cases of later development before -/, and here 
the spelling is preserved in caul, haul, &c. 

Examples are draw, hawk, law, saw, gnaw, slaughter, cause, taunt, 
haunch, &c. 

The process of change followed was probably [au, ou, 6 M , D M , 5], that 
is to say, the first element of the diphthong underwent rounding through 
the influence of the second element ; the former became longer and more 
important, and the latter proportionally weaker until it disappeared 

It is naturally impossible to fix the precise period at which complete 
monophthongization took place, but it is reasonable to suppose that the 
[o u , D] stage had been passed before old u had become [ou] (see 
pp. 230-1), otherwise these two diphthongs, which must have been closely 
alike in sound, would have been levelled under a single form, and would 
have shared an identical fate. It is evident, however, that this did not 
happen. On the contrary, the period in which speakers tended to get rid of 
the second element of such a diphthong as [5 M ] and to turn this into some- 
thing which has become [5] must have preceded that during which the 
speakers preserved this or a very similar diphthong (from old u), and 
gradually unrounded the first element, thus producing approximately [au]. 
There is nothing to prevent us supposing that u had become [ouj or 
even [au] early in the sixteenth century ; on the contrary, this is highly 
probable (see pp. 231-2). The older [ou] from au may therefore have 
been monophthongized in the preceding century. 

The occasional spellings in early documents which are enlightening 
are of two kinds : (i) those which write ou or o for older au, showing 
either that the first element was rounded or that, in addition, the second 
element had been lost ; (2) those in which au or aw is used to express 
a sound which we know could never have been diphthongic. 

I see no reason to distrust the obvious testimony of some of the forms 
adduced by Zachrisson, Engl. Vowels, E. St. 53, pp. 313 and 314 e.g. 
stolkes 'stalks ', Cely Papers (this form, however, is of doubtful identity) ; oil, 
1505, defolte, ofull ' awful ' ', after 1500, which are given as from ' Suffolk 
Records ', without further reference than to ' Binzel 49 ' ; further, olso from 
Sir Thos. More, c. 1535. Among my own collections are these from 
Machyn : hopene ' halfpenny ', solmon 'salmon', 170, ontt 'aunt', 64, 
(all these are mentioned by Z.) ; further, from Machyn a nobe 62, c an 
alb ' = [5b] from aulb. Surrey has the spelling fought ' taught ' rhyming 
with ywr ought, cf. Tottel, p. 7, Compl. of a Louer, &c., n and 12 ; and 
Thos. Sackville rhymes wrought caught, Compl. of Duke of Bucking- 
ham, 125, also draught thought fraught, ibid., 127. Of spellings 
belonging to the second class may be mentioned saufte ' soft ', cit. Zach- 
risson as being from Tyndale, 1525; I have noted also caumplet 
'complete', Machyn, p. 12, which has not escaped the eagle eye of 
Dr. Zachrisson, and clausset 'closet' in Latimer, Seven Serm., p. 38. 
A much earlier spelling which has not yet been mentioned in this 
connexion, but which may well be a case in point, is y-fole ' fallen ', 
St. Editha, 522. These spellings satisfy me that the writers no longer 
pronounced the old au as a diphthong, but rather as a single vowel, 


not very different from that we now use. The French grammarians 
of the seventeenth century insist that the sound in English awe resembles 
or is identical with French a long. If this refers to a sound like that now 
heard in French dpre, pdte, the description is as near to that of [5] as 
a Frenchman could be expected to get. At the present time French 
provincial speakers pronounce the vowel in pdte, &c., very low with 
a slight rounding, so that the sound is not far removed from our [5], It 
is instructive to compare with the Frenchman's statement the spelling 
Spaw of Sir R. Verney, Verney Mem. ii. 23 (1641), for Spa, and of Lady 
Elmes, iv. 120 (1665). 

Other interesting spellings from the Memoirs in the present connexion 
are Sent Obornes ' St. Albans ', Lady Sussex, ii. 81 (1642) ; sossy ' saucy ', 
Pen. Verney, ii. 78 (1642); cose ' cause ', M. Faulkiner, ii. 56 (1642) ; smol 
' small ', Betty Adams (ne'e Verney), iv. 131 (1665). 

Mrs. Basire (Corresp. of Dr. Basire) writes sow 'saw', 108 (1651), 
doter 'daughter', 112 (1653), colling 'calling', 135 (1654), also fool 
' fall ', 134, at the same date. 

Otway writes Gaud for God in Soldiers Fortune, Act v, Sc. i (1681), 
which certainly implies the now vulgar pronunciation [god], a pronuncia- 
tion also exhibited by Pope in the lines : 

Slave to no sect, who takes no private road 
But looks through Nature, up to Nature's God. 

Essay on Man, Epistle iv, 320, 

and more unmistakably in : 

Persist, by all divine in man unawed, 

But learn, ye dunces! not to scorn your God. 

Dunciad, 223-4. 

Lengthenings and Shortenings of Vowels in the Modern 


This whole question is beset by various difficulties. Lengthening and 
shortening of vowels has occurred at various periods during the history of 
English, sometimes under conditions which are clear and can be formu- 
lated without hesitation, since the results are found with regularity, and 
the apparent exceptions can be explained by a specific analogy, sometimes 
under conditions which are more or less obscure, since the lengthening 
or shortening is apparently intermittent, being present in some words, 
but absent in others in which the phonetic conditions seem to be identical. 
A further difficulty, when the quantity itself is sufficiently clear from the 
spelling, is to be sure whether this or that particular quantity is attribu- 
table to a M.E. change or to one of later date. This difficulty arose in 
discussing the various developments of M.E. 1 in the Modern Period. 
(Cf. pp. 236-9, above.) 

The handling of these various problems needs caution, since many of 
them cannot be settled without reference to other sound changes, and a 
certain view respecting one may involve much else besides. 

Thus it would seem that the lengthening of M.E. o as in lost, croft [lost, 
croft] must be later than the change of M.E. o 2 from a slack to a tense 
sound, so that whatever approximate date we may fix for the former we 


are bound to admit that by that time the new tense b must have been 
already in existence, since if this were not so, and if the lengthened M.E. 
o had caught up M.E. 0* before this had become tense, then the process 
of ' tensening ' must have overtaken both together and we should now 
pronounce lost, to rhyme with boast, and there would be no distinction in 
pronunciation between cost and coast. 

We may get some guidance as to the approximate period of these 
Early Modern shortenings if we examine their effect on vowels whose 
quality changed during Late M.E. or very Early Modern. 

Both M.E. e 1 [e] and later M.E. e 1 [e], as we know, have become [i]. 
Now in sick, silly, rick (of hay), riddle, breeches = [bn'tjzz], and the now 
vulgar divvle ' devil ' we have a vowel produced by the shortening of 
M.E. e 1 after it had become [i]. 

On the other hand, in head, dead, breath, sweat, &c., we have a 
shortened form of M.E. P. In no case, so far as I know, have we [*] as 
the result of the shortening of this vowel. We have no reason to suppose 
that this shortening process, in one and the same dialect, affected one 
vowel earlier than the other. If the shortening of both was synchronous, 
then it is evident that this took place not earlier than the period when e 1 
became [i], and not later than that during which <? 2 was still a mid-vowel, 
although it may have become tense. 

We have seen (p. 206, above) that the raising of P to [I] was possibly 
a Late M.E. process it was certainly a very Early Modern change and 
we have seen further (p. 209) that <? 2 became tense very soon afterwards ; 
that in some dialects at least it, too, became [i] before very long. This 
argument would place the shortening period at least as early as the 
fifteenth century, and sure enough we have some fifteenth-century spellings 
which indicate a shortening of e 1 and that the change to [I] had already 
taken place. I take Gregory's schyppe ' sheep', 162, and Marg. Paston's 
kypt 'kept', ii. 179, from the new formation kept, as quite conclusive. 
Marg. Paston has also kype, and keeped is a form found as late as Lady 
Wentworth. Shillingford has sike 'sick', 64, and Rewle Sustr. Men. has 
the same spelling, 89. 19, but it may be said with reason that it is not 
absolutely certain that a short vowel is intended here. Coming to the 
next century, Lord Berners has wyckes ' weeks', i. 219, and Latimer has 
the unambiguous braincicke, Seven Serm., 28. Lord Berners's form might 
be from M.E. wtke, but this is not nearly so common as weke or woke, &c., 
in the South. Silte is found, Ascham, Scholem. no, and sillye, Euph. 
260. Sir Thos. Smith, Republ., has divils, 18, corresponding to the 
pronunciation ' divle ', now common in Ireland, fr. M.E. devil, Early 
Modern [divil], Thos. Lever has diuilysh, Serm. 45. 

Another important shortening is that of M,E. o l after it had become fu]. 
The effects of this process are heard in the pronunciation of blood, flood, 
must, glove, month, mother, &c. We have seen that the change of 1 to [u] was 
accomplished in some dialects as early as the fourteenth century (cf. p. 234, 
above). The shortening was therefore later than this. On the other 
hand, it cannot have been later than the other, isolative change, whereby 
all short ^-sounds were unrounded to a vowel which subsequently 
became [a]. But this change, in spite of the silence of the grammarians 
until well on in the seventeenth century, we have reason to think had at 


least begun in the fifteenth century, even in stressed syllables. (Cf. 
p. 233, above.) 

Therefore the shortening of the vowel in [blud], &c., must have 
occurred early in this century. Thus we are led to place the shortening 
of the three vowels we have discussed at approximately the same period. 
(See pp. 236-8 for examples of early shortening of o l and discussion 
of probabilities in regard to this vowel.) 

In fixing the shortening of these three vowels at such an early date, it 
is not asserted that all speakers of all types of English had carried out 
these changes by the end of the fifteenth century. On the contrary, it is 
quite certain that this was not the case, otherwise we should have a far 
larger number of words involved ; indeed, all words of each class, that is 
to say, wherever e\ e* t and o 1 stood before d, v, th (voiced or voiceless), 
and so on. The comparatively small number of words involved, and the 
impossibility of formulating the conditions under which the shortening 
took place, show that we have here, not a change of universal scope, but 
one which obtained in a Regional or Class dialect. From this certain 
forms have passed in Received Standard, but they have not always been 
the same forms. 

What we have tried to establish is the approximate date at which 
shortened forms, from which certain forms now current in Received 
Standard are derived, were in existence. The fact that this or that seven- 
teenth-century grammarian maintains that a certain form, which is now 
short, was pronounced long in his time does not upset the inference drawn 
above. In the first place the grammarian may be misleading us as to 
the facts, and even if he is not, this simply means that he is describing 
a different type, the possible existence of which is not denied. Thus it 
does not disturb us if we are told that in the seventeenth century the 
vowel \nfoot was long. 

We suspect that already in the fifteenth century a shortened form of this 
word was in existence, but we know that this would have produced [fat] 
in the seventeenth century, a form which still survives at the present time, 
and that side by side with this there was also a form [fut] with 
unshortened vowel which is no doubt the ancestor of our [fut]. 

The following are a few examples of old longs (other than those 
already illustrated), or possible longs, which may apparently be regarded 
as shortened in the forms given. Some of them are M.E. shortenings 
which we have now lost, preferring the alternative, unshortened forms ; 
others we still use. 

S. of Rouen horshedde ; Pallad. woddes ' woods ', rhymes goode ts, 
93. 1 169 (this may be either the old short wude retained or a shortening of 
wode ; the rhyming word in either case must be an early example of the 
shortening of the new u\ hottest, 64. 275, watter 'water', 62. 33 (from 
inflected watres, &c.), sonner, 83. 615 (M.E. shortening; on analogy of 
Comparative), channge, 86. 708. 

Lord Berners A^?'loaP, i. 52, roffes 'roofs' (M.E. shortening?), 
fludde, i. 221 (shortening of new [u] fr. <?'), bottes ' boats', i. 228, rodde 
'rode', i. 350 (M.E. shortenings?), Arch press/, i. 399 (M.E. shorten- 
ing); Elyot hedde, 2. 242, yocke 'yoke' (unlengthened form fr. Old 
Nom.) ; Sir Thos. More cummtn, Ellis i. i. 299 (1533, retention of old 


u or shortening of u from o ?) ; Latimer waiter, 86 ; Edw. VI First 
P.R.cummeth', Machyn ;*// 'meat', passim, swett ' sweat ', 71, ' sweet ', 
136, 310, heddes 'heads' 138; Cavendish, L. of Wolsey slrett 'street', 
3 (M.E. shortening), Fid Street, 12; bak howsse 'bakehouse', 24 
(M.E. shortening before k + h], botis 'boats', 150, swett \ Ascham 
yocke of oxen, Tox. 73 (unlengthened Nom.); Euphues hotte, 41, 
beheaddest, 316; Lord Burghley z;/fo// 'hot', Ellis ii. 3. 99 (1582); 
Spenser craddle ' cradle ' (M.E. absence of lengthening fr. inflected 
cases before d + /) ; Shakespeare, First Fol. smot P. P., M. N. D. ; 
Gabr. Harvey, Letters bridegrumme, 136 (shortening of u fr. o 1 ), bind, 
22, futt, 121 (shortening of new u fr. 1 ), hedd, 68, halliday (M.E. 
shortening of a in first syll. of three syll. word), boddies, 22 (M.E. absence 
of lengthening fr. bodyes, before d + y) ; W. Roades, the Verneys' 
steward tuck 'took', V. Mem. ii. 275 (1656), Sir R. Verney suit, 
Mem. iv. 358 (1686). The two last forms are almost certainly early 
shortenings of the new u fr. d\ comparable to fludde, blud, futt, in Lord 
Berners and Harvey. These would give rise to present-day [flad, blad, 
sat, fat], the two first being the forms in normal usage now, the two last 
having disappeared from Standard usage. (Cf. also pp. 236-9, on the 
early and later shortening of new [u].) 

There is, however, evidence that by the side of the shortened or short 
forms whose existence seems to be established by the spellings quoted, 
there were in existence at the same time, among other speakers, or perhaps 
among the same speakers, forms which maintained the length of the vowel. 

It is sometimes taught that vowels were shortened, or not lengthened 
in open syllables, in M.E. before the O.E. suffix -ig, body being given as an 
example. The fact is the O.E. bodi'g became normally body in M.E. in the 
Nom., but not in the inflected cases bodyes, &c. where the combination 
-dy- preserved the short vowel. The Standard pronunciation of body is 
derived from the inflected type. On the other hand, the Nom. type, with 
lengthening, is seen in the Coventry Leet boodies, boody, 26, and in 
Gregory's boody s, in. 

The unshortened form of head, as in M.E., is seen in Lord Berners's 
beheeddyd, i. 34, of pretty in Latimer's preaty, 85, of hot in hoate, 293, &c., 
of thread in Euphues, threed^ 157. Gabriel Harvey has moonie, 59, 
' money', and coover, 63. Lengthening before r + consonant is seen in 
teerm ' term ', Bk. of Quint., 24, in/oorde, Euphues, 276, and in Gabriel 
Harvey's kerne, 138; in woorse, woorde, woorke, woorthie, &c., in the 
First Prayer Book ; and many other instances occur. 

In M.E. doublets arose, as we have seen in the forms body body, 
owing to the different treatment of vowels in open and close syllables. 
Words like bak 'back' retained the short vowel in the Nom., but 
lengthened it in inflected forms, so that the PI. would normally be bakes. 
Either or both types might be generalized for the whole declension. In 
Modern English we have often the type with the lengthened vowel, as in 
dale, fr. M.E. dale, yoke, ii.yoke, &c., by the side of the Nom. ddl zrv&yock. 
On the other hand, we have back, black, &c. ; unlengthened. Traces 
remain in Early Modern of long forms which we have now lost. Thus, 
Palladius has saak 'sack', 90. 814, and on his bake, rhyming with take, 
stook ' stock '. Elyot has bldke ' black ', rhyming with quake, 1.47. 


Perhaps the variants which we have noted in head, sweat, &c., should 
be explained in this way. For reasons already apparent from the dis- 
cussion above and on pp. 235-6, &c., this principle cannot be extended 
to the differences in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries between 
bludd, &c., and bloud, &c. 

The lengthening of the vowel in God, referred to on p. 253, above, is 
an Early Modern rather than a M.E. process. Pope's rhyme of this 
word with road, however, may conceivably reflect a M.E. lengthening in 
the inflected cases. 

A very important group of vowel lengthenings took place in the 
Modern period before the sounds [f, s, \, $] f, s, th and before these 
consonants followed by another consonant. It is this lengthening which 
has given us after, laughter [<zft9, lafta], &c. (see pp. 203-5, above). It 
is probable that the lengthened vowel in cost, cough, froth [k5st, kof, 
fr5f>], &c., belongs to the same period, and the now old-fashioned pronun- 
ciation [m5f>] for moth, instead of [m^J?]. These lengthenings, as has 
been said, are by no means universal, even among speakers of Received 
Standard. In Coventry Leet crooft occurs 43 (1422), and again 46 
and 47 (1443), an ^ geestes 'guests', p. 29. I have not noted other 
examples until we come to Euphues, in which work we find moathes, 34, 
toossed ' tossed ', 208 ; clausset, Latimer, Seven Serm., 38 ; Lady Verney 
writes moathes, V. Mem. ii. 270 (1647). 

Now it would seem from the above, that before the middle of the fif- 
teenth century vowels were lengthened before ft and st, in the dialect of 
Warwickshire at any rate. 

If e and o were lengthened, why not d too ? Cely Papers have marster 
' master ', which, while it shows that r could not have been pronounced 
before s, also shows that the vowel was long. Rede me, &c., rhymes after 
carter, 119-20. Are we to assume that this lengthened vowel was [a], or 
[ae] ? From what has been said above (pp. 196-201), we shall assume 
the latter if we think that M.E. a had already been fronted. If we 
reject this evidence and assume that the lengthened vowel was [d] we 
shall find it difficult to fit in the subsequent development with that of 
old d (cf. pp. 195-6, above). 

Are we to assume that old d had been lengthened before the end of 
the fifteenth century among those speakers who were affected by it in 
the whole group of words where d stands before s, f, th t that is, in path, 
father, bath, grass, fast, chaff, laughter, &c., &c. ? 

As a matter of fact Palladius has graas, 4. 69, and on his baaihe, 40. 
1080. Are these forms to be derived from the inflected forms, M.E. 
grdse, bdpe, or are they lengthened by the same process which, as we have 
seen, had shortly after this time certainly produced crooft, geestes, master ', 
and which, as we know, assuredly did at some time produce lengthened 
vowels in all these words ? 

The question is far too difficult, and involves too many others to be 
settled hastily. The whole question of Modern lengthenings and shorten- 
ings requires special investigation, which at present is lacking. Having 
indicated some of the problems and possibilities we leave the matter 
unresolved for the present. 



FOR the student who wishes to acquire some knowledge of the treat- 
ment of vowels in syllables devoid of stress during the Modern Period, 
it is a great advantage that the early writers on English pronunciation 
have avoided the question altogether. We are thus spared the labour of 
reading through, and comparing, a number of statements which, to judge 
by other parts of the work of these writers, would not have been very 
enlightening. We are even more grateful for the absence of endless 
discussions and explanations by more recent authorities of what the 
earlier writers meant or did not mean. Speaking generally, we may say 
that it is not until the eighteenth century that we find direct accounts of 
the pronunciation of unstressed vowels, and by that time we are in a 
position to know from other sources many at least of the principal facts. 
The eighteenth-century writers often describe the unstressed syllables by 
means of a rough and ready but quite intelligible phonetic spelling, and 
these transcriptions frequently establish, for the period in which they were 
made, pronunciations which we know had been in existence for centuries 

The present chapter deals with the subject as from the fifteenth century. 
I have not attempted to follow the weakenings of vowels back into the 
M.E. period. My collection of material from M.E. sources, although 
not inconsiderable, is not yet by any means adequate for generalizations 
of value to be based upon it. Many of the phenomena here exhibited 
are no doubt much older than the fifteenth century. This is notably 
true of the weakening of the inflexional endings -ed, -es, -efi, -en to -id, 
-t's, &c. 

From the material contained in the following pages one may venture 
to formulate one or two statements of a general character. 

(1) At least as early as the middle of the fifteenth century vowels in 
unstressed syllables were shortened, reduced, or confused, very much as 
in Colloquial English at the present time. 

(2) This may be inferred from numerous occasional spellings which 
reveal either (a) a sound of an undefined character, different from that 
expressed by the traditional spelling, which the writer is undecided how 
to express, or () a definite sound different from that expressed by the 
traditional spelling. 

(3) The spellings which indicate a reduction of the unstressed vowel 
are not used consistently by any writers, except in the case of such 
suffixes as -t's, -id, &c., and even here the consistency is only relative. 

(4) While a violent and definite departure from the traditional spelling, 
whether sporadic or habitual, must be taken to imply some change in 


pronunciation, the adherence to the conventional spelling does not neces- 
sarily imply that no change has taken place. (N.B. The examples given 
illustrate, as a rule, only departures from the older spelling.) 

(5) Varieties in spelling may express only indecision on the part of 
a writer in transcribing a sound (cf. (2), above); but they may also 
indicate the existence of more than one type of pronunciation. 

(6) Different types of pronunciation in the same vowel may represent 
(a) the results of different conditions of stress in the same word, or 
(3) they may be due to different tendencies which coexisted among 
different classes of speakers. 

(7) Examples of indecision in transcribing a vowel sound are : 
-ely transcribed in Cely Papers in four different ways in the same word, 
e. g. stapell, stapyll, stapal, stapuL Here possibly -ell and -yll represent 
approximately one and the same type of pronunciation, and -al, -ul 
another. The same confusion is found in the spelling of the unstressed 
ending -er. It is evident that already in the fifteenth century the vowels 
in -er, -ar, -or, -ur, -our were all levelled under one sound [ar] or 
syllabic r. 

(8) Examples of varieties due to different conditions of stress are : 
certin from M.E. certein : certayne, &c., from M.E. certein ; battel from 
M.E. bdttaille : and battayl from M.E. battdtlle ; forten, fortin from M.E. 

fSrtune: fortune, present-day [fotjan], from M.E. fortune ; aventer from 
M.E. ave'nture : aventure from M.E. aventure ; &c., &c. 

(9) Examples of varieties due to different tendencies are : sesyn, reasyn 
compared with sesoun, resoun, &c. This difference of treatment of -OH 
in unstressed syllables is still heard to-day, when some speakers pronounce 
pigeon [pidzYn], others [pt'dz'dn]. The type represented above by sesyn, 
&c., has almost died out in Received Standard, although formerly the 
chief type, and has given place to that represented by resoun, &c., now 

frizn]. Pigeon is perhaps the only word still commonly pronounced with 
m], and this pronunciation is considered by many as old-fashioned. 

(10) The differences which exist between the pronunciation of un- 
stressed vowels at the present time, and that indicated by the spellings as 
existing in former centuries, are chiefly due to the adoption in recent 
times of a different type (cf. remarks on unstressed -on in (9), above), 
and not to new developments in changes of sound. These have hardly 
occurred since the late sixteenth century. Some of the pronunciations 
of to-day are due to the influence of the written form, and the recent 
efforts in some quarters to ' restore ' the full forms of vowels in stressless 
positions, cf. the spelling-pronunciation [p5p02*z] instead of the historical 
[popzs] of the one type, or [papas] of the other. The distribution of the 
different types among the various words in which the same original vowel 
occurs in an unstressed position, as well as the selection of the unstressed 
vowels in certain words for 'restoration', while in others the ancient 
historical reduced form is still pronounced, are matters, as it would seem, 
of arbitrary chance and the fashion of the moment. 

I now pass on to give a brief summary of the actual changes which 
resulted from the weakening of vowels in unstressed syllables, so far as 
these can be gathered from the material, far from adequate, although not 
altogether contemptible, which I have collected and classified. 

S 2 


I may say here that, so far as I can see, the results are the same, 
provided a vowel is unstressed, no matter where it stands in relation to 
the principal stress of the word or breath-group in which it occurs. The 
nature of the surrounding consonants probably exerts some influence, 
but the present material does not suffice for formulating the conditions 
or nature of such influence, except in respect of vowels before -/, -, 
and -r. 
Front Vowels are raised : a = [ae] becomes e [s] ; this e levelled later 

under original e which becomes z. 

/ u and o probably levelled under the same sound, 
Hounded Vowels I (written a) = [a] which becomes [9]. 

are unrounded j French u [y] becomes [i, z'] ; the result of this un- 
\ rounding written i and <?. 

foi becomes i [z'J, written e, t. 
at (ei) (which had become [el) result in a front vowel 
written e or i, probably = [z'J. 
au, ou, monophthongized to [0,0] which is unrounded to [a] 
written a ; this often fronted to a vowel written e or i (y). 

There appear to be two quite different tendencies at work from early 
in Modern period among different sections of speakers. One group tends 
to level all weak vowels under some front vowel, written i or e ; the other 
to level all weak vowels under the ' obscure ' vowel [3] or some such sound, 
written variously a, o, u. It is probably safe to infer that the symbols for 
old back or back-rounded vowels, a, o, u, generally imply some sound 
corresponding to [9] at the present time, and that the symbols for front 
vowels i, e imply the kind of vowel now heard in the second syllable 
of ladies, here written [z], although it may have been the high-flat-slack 
vowel [*']. 

The two tendencies above referred to are specially observable in the 
treatment of vowels before -n and -/. One tendency results in developing 
and preserving the ' clear ' vowel, so that we get [zh, zl] for earlier -en, -el, 
and even for -on (cf. (9), above, and pp. 271-2, 274-5, below). The other 
tendency results in [9n, 9!], which are further weakened to syllabic n and 
/ respectively as present-day button, beaten, cradle^ rebel (Noun), &c. We 
know both from practical experience and from the records of the past of 
the existence of both these types, [in, zl] and [n, 1]. 

As regards the treatment of vowels in unstressed syllables before -r, 
although -yr, -ir are common spellings for old -er, it seems very doubtful 
whether the genius of the English language ever tolerated such a combina- 
tion as [-zr] in actual speech, at least finally. On the other hand such 
spellings as fadr, remembr, both fifteenth century, suggest that a syllabic [r] 
was pronounced. The various spellings or, er,yr, ur, ar for the same 
syllable er seem to imply a vowel which it was difficult to identify, 
probably [a, 9]. The ' murmur ' vowel [9] probably developed quite 
early before -r t and [9r] was later reduced to syllabic [r]. This in its 
turn was weakened and gave place to the present [9]. We have appa- 
rently no confirmatory evidence from any living form of English of the 
existence of an [zr] type, and the records of the past are ambiguous. 

After these general remarks I now pass to consider, as briefly as 


possible, the details which are exhibited in the lists. The latter are for 
the most part so arranged as to show the prevailing tendencies, so far as 
these may be inferred by the particular kind of departure from the 
conventional spelling in each century. I have tried to avoid needless 
subdivision, but a certain amount, especially under the heading -a and -o 
in unstressed syllables, seemed necessary and unavoidable. 


e in Unstressed Syllables. 

(N.B. The reader of the following brief comments may refer, if he 
please, to the lists, pp. 267-82, upon which the views here set forth are 

The Suffixes. 

-ed. The suffix -ed in weak Prets. and P. P/s appears as -id very 
commonly in all kinds of texts throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries. The Adjective wretched appears with -id as early as 1451. 
Even St. Editha, alongside of the Western -ud, has not a few -id endings 
in Prets. and P.P.'s. This form -ud is no doubt the ancestor of the 
present-day provincial or vulgar [ad]. It is evident that the [Yd] form, 
now universal in polite speech, was established very early. Coote's 
warning against -id proves the existence of the pronunciation in his day, 
although such proof is quite superfluous. His statement that the pro- 
nunciation is Scottish is sheer nonsense. He might as well have said 
that it was Devonshire, and Norfolk, and London, and so on. 

-eth. The present pronunciation of this suffix [#], which only survives 
in Liturgical and Biblical language or in Poetry, was established in the 
fifteenth century in a wide circle and over a large area. 

-es. The present-day pronunciation [iz] was established beyond dis- 
pute from the fifteenth century onwards. The old Western -us repre- 
sents doubtless the type [az], which still exists as a provincialism and 

-est. The [-ist] type was evidently as widespread during and since 
the fifteenth century as among good speakers to-day. The spelling 
intrust in the Verney Memoirs is the ancestor of present-day [mtrastl 
which is provincial. The more j polite forms are [?ht(a)nst, mtrestj. 
Every other form in the list might stand for the present pronunciation, 
including Sir T. Elyot's harm'st. 

-er. The early forms of -er as an ending point to at least two types, 
[ar] and syllabic r. Is it possible that the -^--spellings represent the 
ancestor of the present-day vulgar pronunciation with a tense vowel ? 

Lady Sussex's spelling misirabk stands, if we may draw any conclusion 
from -ir- t for a type no longer heard. The present-day possibilities are 
either [m/zarabl] or [mzzrabl]. 

-en, -em. The spellings suggest three types of pronunciation : 
[m, an], and syllabic [n]. All three types exist in present-day polite 
English, variously distributed. Of these [an, n] are perhaps the com- 
monest. Still, most good speakers preserve ph] in woollen, kitchen , 
chicken, women, linen, Latin, rosin, &c. = [wulm, krijVn, tJVkm, wf'rm'n, 


lihm, r?zm]. On the other hand we have [9n] or syllabic n in golden, 
earthen, wooden, even, often, sudden, children, heaven, and in P. P.'s in -en, 
such as forgotten. 

-em, as in solemn and 'em, is now usually [9m]. Note Sir R. Verney's 
solome, which doubtless expresses this pronunciation. 

-el. The early spellings show a preponderance of -yl forms, with 
a few -ul [si], and Sir Thos. More's Russll = syllabic /. This is the 
prevailing type at the present day, after consonants, whether in words like 
evil, devil, fossil, where [Yl] is also heard, or in those spelt -le. It is 
probable that many speakers who wrote -yl in earlier centuries often 
pronounced [9!, 1]. 

After a vowel the best usage on the whole now favours [Yl], as in cruel 
(cf. also forms from Verney Memoirs in lists, fuel, towel \ vowel). 

Other Suffixes and Endings containing -e-. 

-less. Now always [Iz's] in Received Standard. This pronunciation 
is established in the fifteenth century by Marg. Paston's spelling harmlys. 
The provincial [las] and the spelling-pronunciation [Iss] may often be 

-ness. Present-day [nis], I have not noted any spellings with -nis 
earlier than Queen Elizabeth, who makes frequent use of them. 

[is] is also the normal pronunciation of -ess, as in mistress, &c. 

-Chester. The spelling Rochister of the Wentworth Papers, 1710, 
agrees with present-day usage in this and other similar names Chichester 
[tptJVstal Manchester [msentJYsta], &c. 

-le(d)ge. Knowledge, college are pronounced [n^h'dz, k^l/dz] at the 
present time. This pronunciation of the weak vowel in the former word 
dates at least from the fifteenth century, that of the latter word I have 
not found recorded earlier than Gabriel Harvey. The 1482 spelling 
collage of the Bury Wills corresponds to the present-day provincial 

-et. This ending is pronounced [*'] after consonants, in covet, helmet, 
bullet, blanket, &c., but [9] in diet. These conditions are expressed by 
the sixteenth -century spellings given in the lists. 

e-. Unstressed e- followed by strong stress is now usually pronounced 
[t], as in estate, escape, elect, erroneous, &c. = [Ystez't, z'ske/p, zlekt, troimjds], 
&c. The spellings fairly numerous in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries 
ascape, astate, &c., apparently imply a pronunciation with [9]. 

-a- in Unstressed Syllables. 

The early spellings, and even the late spellings of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries show a more widespread tendency to weaken a to 
\f\ than at present prevails in Received Standard. Many of the spellings, 
from each of the centuries, represent pronunciations which it is true still 
obtain in English, but only in Regional or Class dialects. The mere fact 
that a is weakened to a sound written i or e is not in itself surprising, 
when we consider that one of the sounds for which a stood was, in the 
fifteenth century, in many areas, especially in the E. Midlands and South- 
East, in process of being fronted. This process may well have begun 


earlier in unstressed positions. It is most probable that an antecedent 
stage to the front vowel, written e, or more often i, was [ae]. This was 
apparently raised to a sound intermediate between [e, / J, and from this 
stage the differentiation into a full [i] on the one hand, or [al on the 
other, took place. Received Standard has now adopted the [a] type in 
most of the cases illustrated in the lists. Attention may be drawn to the 
spelling Up- for Ap- quoted from Capgrave. This form shows that u in 
unstressed syllables was already unrounded, and that the symbol expresses 
[a] or [3] when used for a vowel in this position. 

I note first the points of agreement in type between the early spellings 
and present-day usage. Both agree in having [a] in the following : as 
when unstressed in sentence ; cf. os in Cely Pprs. ; -mass in Christmas, 
&c., cf. Machyn's form in -mus, and Lady Sussex's crismus in 1639; in 
-as, Thomas, &c., cf. Gary Verney's tomos in 1642; -an, musician, &c., 
cf. musition, Italionated in Euphues ; -ac as in stomach, cf. Gabr. Harvey's 

Present-day usage agrees with the early spellings in having [Y] for 
unstressed -a- : 

-ange, messenger (M.E. messager), cf. fifteenth-century form messynger ; 
-ac, in obstacle, character = [j?bzt?"kl, kaerzktd], cf. obsticle, Verney Mem. 
1647, and carecter, Wentw. Pprs.; -age in cottage, courage, marriage, 
advantage, message, &c. = [k0tidz, kaendz, maendz, advantzdz], cf. Lever's 
cotingers which implies *cotige, Lady Sussex's corige, Cranmer's and 
Roper's marriges, &c., and Mrs. Sherard's advantig. The pronunciation 
[tf/z*'k] still survives, indeed it is my own, but probably [#/zak] (from the 
spelling) is now more usual. Note Baker's Izic for Isaac. Many 
speakers, including present writer, pronounce [d.?nkista], with which 
compare Donkisitr in Verney Mem. 1665. \ also say [sembaesz'da], cf. 
Cavendish's ambassiter, though many now pronounce [aembaesada]. 
As regards -ate, we say [praivit tpkah't], &c., cf. pryvit chockolet in 
Wentw. Pprs. 

Present-day usage favours [a] for old -#-, in the following words and 
their likes, where earlier spellings have i : 

as, in unstressed positions = [az], but cf. es in the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries ; -an = [an] in company, -land, -man, but cf. Machyn's com- 
peny, Lady Sussex's compiny, and inglende, and Lady Rochester's Bridge- 
men^ where we have [kampan;, ingland, bndzman]. 

-as in purchase, Thomas = [pAtJas, tomas] with which compare 
Gabr. Harvey's purchise, and Lady Sussex's tomis. I remember hearing 
[pXtfzs] in my boyhood from excellent speakers who preserved the habits 
of an earlier generation. 

-ac as in stomach = [stamak], but cf. Anne Lee's stomichers in Verney 
Mem., and Baker's spelling stomick. I have heard the latter word so 
pronounced by very old speakers whose speech was merely old-fashioned 
though it contained no vulgarisms. At the present time [stamzV] survives 
chiefly in lower-class speech. In almanac we have * restored ' [aek] in 
final syllable. I have heard [olmzhzk], cf. form in Cely Pprs. 

-ant : we now say [infant] with which cf. C. Stewkley's infints in 
Verney Mem. ; -ark in Southwark, now = [saftak], but cf. Baker's 
Southwick, probably = [saoYk], 


The spellings -er for -ar probably show no more than that -er and -ar 
were levelled under one form [a(r)J. 

The only example where [e] is suggested for a where we now pro- 

nounce \i\ is passengers (earlier passager) in Cely Papers. 

Initial a- followed by the strongest stress, which is now always 
in annoyed, anoint, &c., was apparently sometimes weakened to fe] or 

[t] (?) in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Cf. enoyd, enointed, &c., 
p. 275, below. 

o in Unstressed Syllables. 

The early spellings indicate (i) that o when unstressed was unrounded, 
and (2) that in a large number of words, chiefly, though not exclusively, 
before -, and -/ in the same syllable, this unrounded vowel was fronted. 
The simple unrounding is expressed in the fifteenth-century spellings 
dysabey, sa ( ' so'), abedyenses, Byshap, &c., and in the sixteenth century 
men a warre, apinions, tenne a clocke, &c., &c. This vowel, which was 
either [a] or [a], has survived at the present time when we still say [akbk, 
maen 9 w5, dz'sabez, bzjap], though a rounded vowel is generally pro- 
nounced in obey, and often in opinion and obedience. 

More interesting, and remarkable, are the fairly numerous forms of 
the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, in which a front vowel is clearly 
intended, although we now pronounce [3] in Received Standard. 

Taking first the words in which -on occurs finally, we find a consider- 
able number of spellings of the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and 
eighteenth centuries which point unmistakably to a front vowel, generally 
written -yn, -in, but also occasionally -en. Of this class the only ones 
which retain the old pronunciation in Received Standard at the present 
time are pigeon, widgeon, and even in these the usual [an] is probably 
now more common. Several other words, however, retain [Vn] in vulgar 
speech, e.g. wagon, ribbon, cushion, &c., though the schools are fast 
eliminating these old forms from the language altogether. As a boy 
I knew several old people whose English was the Received Standard of 
the beginning of last century, who pronounced [m] in luncheon, puncheon, 
cushion, surgeon, dungeon, to my clear recollection, and possibly in other 
words also which I never heard from them, or which I have now forgotten. 
I remember noticing at the time the difference between these old people 
and myself in respect of the words just mentioned. I notice that Baker 
gives inin as the pronunciation of onion. Whether this was not a vul- 
garism already in his day it is impossible to say, but it apparently 
represents a pronunciation [azhm] which I know is used at the present 
moment by at least one man, a labourer, in Oxfordshire. At an earlier 
period of my life I remember hearing [n'bmz, pad/h, padirj] from 
domestics. Passing to words of other classes, I am inclined to believe 
that I have heard [prjvist] comparatively recently, but I am unable to 
indicate the position of the speaker. 

Faggot is still pronounced [faegzt] by some vulgar speakers (cf. Lady 
Hobart's/tfg^/f, 1663), and carrots is [ksents] in the same circles. 

Unstressed -o- in the middle of words is now either [a] or [0], e. g. 
accommodate, &c., but cf. Lady Sussex's acomidasyon and sorifull. In the 
last word ' sorry ' may have influenced the form, now 


Unrounding of Unstressed u and ou = u. 

The unrounding of this vowel perhaps took place earlier in weak than 
in stressed syllables. It can hardly be doubted that in such spellings as 
apon, sapose, anethe, a vowel without lip-rounding is indicated. Unstressed 
o and u were levelled under a single vowel, which ultimately became [a]. 
So far as I know, there is no evidence to show that u in unstressed 
syllables was fronted after being unrounded. The spellings /aver, semer 
(Seymour), &c., of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries merely indicate 
that '-our together with -er had become [a(r)]. 

Unrounding of French u = [y] in Unstressed Syllables. 

This process is a simple one, and its results are repeatedly traceable in 
the collection of spellings given below from documents of the fifteenth, 
sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. On the forms in -tr 
(feutir ' future ', &c.) and in -in (fortin ' fortune '), see remarks below, 
pp. 277-8, at the end of the lists. 

The present-day types [fotjan, vsntja, vaeljw, rspjwtezjn], &c., which 
have taken the place of the old forms [fot/h, vsnta, vseh', repitefn], &c., 
demand a few words. It is possible to explain all these new forms as 
due to the influence of the spelling, but I am inclined to agree with 
Jespersen that this cannot be the explanation in all cases. I have already 
propounded an explanation of the double forms (Short Hist, of English, 
265, and in Mod. Lang. Teaching, June 1915) which still appears to me 
to be sound. It is briefly this. The only normal forms developed when 
there was no stress on the -, are those in *', or its subsequent develop- 
ments [sr] and sometimes [an], by the side of [m]. Forms such as 
[fotfan, ventja, vaelj#], &c., are due to a different type of accentuation, in 
which u was not, as a matter of fact, unstressed at all, but fully stressed 
fortune, valu, aventure, under which circumstances French u became iu 
[jfi] in Early Modern English, as in duke, virtue (from vertue), &c., &c. \ 
This type coexisted with the other, possibly into the early sixteenth century, j 
At any rate its descendants, so far as the vowel is concerned, survived, \ 
and, after fSrtune had already become for tin, fortune survived in the form 
for/tune, although by the beginning of the sixteenth century, if not earlier, 
this type, too, had very likely been assimilated to the commoner (English) 
mode of accentuation, so that it was pronounced fSrtiune. The com- 
bination -ti became [tj] (cf. p. 293, below); hence we got [f6rtjun, 
f6rtjun, f6rt/9n]. This theory, which is based on known facts, explains 
the present-day pronunciation of all the words of this class. The 
adoption of this type wholesale in Received Standard may well have been 
encouraged by the fact that it seemed to agree better with the traditional 
spelling. In some words analogy helped, e. g. reputation on the pattern 
of repute. 

While it so happens that I have found a fair number of spellings which 
show the unrounding of French u, it stands to reason that in the vast 
majority of cases the traditional spelling is preserved, This has no value 
for our purpose, since many who pronounced 'fortin* from habit and 
training continued to write fortune, &c., and while we may be certain as 


to which type is intended when the former spelling is used, we cannot tell 
whether the latter really implies that the writer pronounced the word with 
the accent on the final syllable, and therefore also pronounced the vowel 
in that syllable as [ju] or not. 

There are, however, among the forms collected in the lists a few whose 
spelling, while departing from the tradition, seems to imply a type of 
pronunciation derived from the accentuation of the final syllable. Such 
are Queen Elizabeth's/0r//^ Lady Verney's pictuer, Mrs. Eure's cretuers, 
and Mrs. Sherard's fortewen. I regard these spellings as definitely 
expressing [ju] in the final syllable, or at least the type of pronunciation 
derived from this. It is probable that Queen Elizabeth, and still more so 
that the Verney ladies, already pronounced [f<?(i )tjan, p/ktJ9(r)z, krltj9(r)z], 
that is to say that they used the same type, and pronounced it in the same 
way, as we do now. 

On the other hand, if any importance is to be attached to the statements 
of the grammarians, it seems certain that during the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries [pz'kta, krita], &c., were chiefly in vogue. It is 
enough, however, if we can establish the coexistence of the other type in 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as this would go far to prove that 
our modern pronunciation is not wholly new and inspired by the spelling, 
but rather that it is the survival, now in universal use, of a type which has 
always existed alongside of that which has now been discarded. 

The forms volupteous, Wilson and Cavendish ; verteous, vertious, Roper 
and Lady Wentworth ; sumptious, &c,, Cavendish, may owe their e or i 
to confusion of the suffixes -uous, -ious, and -eous. That can neither be 
definitely proved nor disproved. It is quite certain, however, that vertious 
is a perfectly normal development vertue becomes [vXtJw], ve'riuous 
becomes [vert&s]. 

Lady Wentworth's yousyal 'usual' [juzzal] seems an excellent example 
of the unrounding process. 

The process also affects French unstressed u when final, and this 
is well illustrated by Machyn's newys ' nephews ', and by Lady Sussex's 
valy ' value ' (Vb.), and Lady Wentworth's vallyed. It is wonderful what 
education has done for us nowadays ; nevy ' nephew ' hardly survives 
outside the pages of comic writers, and vally, I suppose, is now never 
heard, and has ceased even to be a traditional vulgarism. 


ai, or ei (=at). When this diphthong stood before /, n, as in travail, 
battail, counseil, certain, villain, &c., it was first reduced to [/], giving -i7, 
-in, and these combinations eiiher remain or are further weakened to syllabic 
[1, n] or to [al, on] respectively. Thus we say either [kawnsl] or [kaansz'l] 
and either [sAln] or [sAtm]. On the other hand the early spelling battle 
has left no choice in pronunciation even to the most fastidious. We have 
differentiated travail at the present time in spelling, pronunciation, and 
meaning, travel and travail being now felt as quite independent. The 
pronunciation of travail as [traeve/1], while partly due to the spelling, may 
also be accounted for by assuming that it represents the form which 
would naturally occur in the verb when this was followed by an inflexional 


syllable, with the accent on the second syllable travdille (N.). The 
form so accentuated would survive the weakening undergone by trdvaille. 
Later on the accent was shifted back to the first syllable without further 
altering the now unstressed vowel. 

Before other consonants the unstressed syllable is \i\ in Received 
Standard, [a] in other forms, cf. [pseh's, paebs]. 

oi. Not much comment is needed beyond pointing out that we have 
now 'restored' the diphthong oi in nearly all words except chamois 
leather, and the family name /<2rz>/'.r (horn fervotse). 

It is satisfactory to find shammee gloves in Sir Ralph Verney's letter of 

We learn from Spenser's spelling how the name of the author of the 
Steele Glasse was pronounced by his contemporaries. The form Gaskin 
still survives as a name by the side of the more usual Gascoigne, pro- 
nounced [gsesk0m]. 

Our present pronunciation of turquoise [tXkwoz, tAkwozz] is shown to 
be quite recent. The only possible lineal descendant of Milton's turkis 
would be [tAkzs]. 

The early forms of this word, as well as that of tortoise, show the two 
tendencies which are found in nearly all unstressed syllables in English 
towards [z's] and towards [as]. The present-day usage favours [as] in 
porpoise and tortoise^ but we may note Gregory's porpys, and the two 
types tortes and tortus in the Verney Memoirs. We may regard [totoi'z, 
popwz] as mere schoolmaster's pronunciations. It is possible that iortis, 
&c., should be placed in the list illustrating the unrounding of French u, 
as there is a M.E. tortuce, cf. Jespersen 9. 332. The form quoted from 
Euphues at any rate shows that the ending might equally well have been 
-ois. There may have been two forms, one in -uce and one in -ofs. The 
early spellings might represent the reduction of either of these. 

Note. This process is apparently identical with that assumed to have 
taken place in Primitive Aryan, whereby ei, of appear as * in the 
'Reduced Grade', cf. Gk. oid- and 18- corresponding to Gothic watt, 
wit- from *woid-, *wid-. 

The Pronunciation of the Vowels in Unstressed Syllables. 

Examples of Occasional Departures from Traditional Spelling. 


i$th Century. 
-ed (Pret. and P. P.), &c. 

St. Editha (1420). clepud P.P., 50; dwellyd, 46 (corrected from 
dwelt), scomfytyd, 67 ; y-cronyd, 60. 

Archbp. Chichele (1418). assentyd, Ellis i. i. 5. 

Card. Beaufort (c. 1420). belovid, Ellis, Letter, i. i. 8. 

jth Lord Level's Will (1455). beeldid 'built', Line. Dioc. Docs., 

PP- 7 6 - 37> 77- 23. 

Bp. Pecok. feelid, schewid, strengthid, hurtid, i. no. 

Sir T. CumberwortK s Will (Lines. 1451). L. D. D., wrechid, 45. 6; 
accordid, 46. 4; offendid, 46. 13. 


Sir J. Fortescue. keepid, callid, 109, tredit 'treated', 109. 

Marg. Pas ton. gid*'t, ii. 241; pardonyd P.P., i. 115; -yd, the usual 
form of this suffix. 

Gregory s Chronicle, i-callyde, 61, i-halowyde, 65, 

Capgrave (Chronicle), punchid, 291. 

Rewk of Sustris Menour -esses (c. 1450). bilouid, 81. i, encresid, 81. 7, 
blessid, 81. 12, &c., &c. 

Bury Wills, 1480. blessid, fotyd, 23, steryd, 15, &c., &c. 

Cely Papers (Essex, 1475-88). -yd by far commoner than -ed, e.g. 
depertyd, 31; blessyd, 33; whelbelovyd, 34; mendyt, 35; alectyd, 162; 
derectyd, 274. 

Bokenam. hundryd, 980. 

i6th Century. 

Admiral Sir Edw. Howard (1513). steryd, Ellis i. i. 214. 

Dr. Knight (Bp. of Bath and Wells), 1512, to Wolsey. -id, -yd more 
frequent than -ed. 

Sir Thos. Elyot (Gouernour). causid P. P. 2. 51 (generally -ed). 

Sir Rauf Verney's Will (152$). aduisi'd, bequeth/d. 

Anne Boleyn (1528). preservyd, Ellis i. i. 306. 

R. Pace to Wolsey (Ellis 3. i ; 16 Hen. VIII). contentidde, 195. 

Sewers' Froissart (1523-5). (Generally -ed), also -id, -yd. 

Cavendish (Life of Wolsey). providyd, commandyd, &c. (also -ed). 

Latimer (Sermons}. Generally -ed. 

Thos. Levers Sermons (1550). Nearly always -ed. 

Gabriel Harvey (Letter Book, 1573-80). offendid, 13, persuaded, 13, 
reiectid 'rejected', 14, &c., &c. 

Q. Elizabeth (Letters-, Trans!.). Generally -id] -ed rarer; preventid, 
acquaintid, L. 3. 

Sir Thos. Smith (Letters ; De RepuU. AngL). -id, -yd frequent, but -ed 
more usual. 

Euphues. Very conventional in spelling, unstressed syllable always -ed. 

Ascham. Generally -ed, auoyded, &c., sometimes syllable dropped 

Puttenham. -ed, counted, &c. 

ijth Century. 

Coote, English Schoolmaster, 1627. 'Take heed that you put not (id) 
for (ed) as unitid for united which is Scottish ', p. 27. 

Vowels in Unstressed Positions. 

M.E. -e)> = -ith. ifth Century. 

1420 Palladius. wexiih, 51. 193 (PL). 
T 4 2 5-3 Paston Letters, namyth, i. 19; affermnh, semyth, ibid, (all 

fr. Letter of Wm. P., Judge). 

1443 Coventry Leet Book. holdithe, 47, streechith, 50, holdyth, 50, 
&c., &c. 

THE SUFFIXES -eth, -es 269 

1443 Bokenam. always -yth. 

1447-50 Shillingford 's Letters, menyth, p. 12. 

1447 Bp. PecoKs Represser, him likith, i. 113. 

Marg. Paston. sendyth, faryth, &c. 
1450 R. of Sustris Menouresses. fey etrih, in, 17 ; redith, 116. 17 

and 20 ; singif>, no. 9. 

1455 Will of ^th Lord Lovel. folowith, Line. Dioc. Docs. 72-4. 
147- Sir J. Fortescue. makyth, 109; praisith, no. 
1470, &c. Cely Papers, camyth, 146. 

1480 Bury Witts, foluith, 16, longith, 16, stretchith (PL), 20. 
1494 Cr. of Dk. of York Knt. of Bath. Letters and Papers, endentith, 

i. 388, purposith, justithe, 389, gevyth (PI.), 398. 
1496 Jut. Berners, Treaty se of Fysshynge. folowyth, makyth. 

i6th Century. 

1513 Sir R. Wing field to Hen. VIII. dwellith, Ellis, Letters, ii. i. 

167, holdith, ibid. 

1525 R. Pace to Wolsey. makyth, Ellis, Letters iii. i. 196. 
1533 Sir J.Digbys Will (Leic.). appen'th, Line. Dioc. Docs. 142. 34. 
1560 Cavendish, L. of Wolsey. extendyth, 14, tornyth, assuryth, 15, 

&c., &c. 
1573-80 Letter Bk. of Gabriel Harvey, askith, 16. 

Q. Elizabeth (Letters toj. VI). bestoith ; burnith, Transl. 13. 

-es. i$th Century. 

c. 1420 Siege of Rouen, clerkys. 

1420 St. Editha. monnys, 8; goddis (Possess.), 1056; thingus, 7; 

my^tus (PL), 2. 

1443 Cov. Leet. mannys, 51, croftys, 47, fellys, 49. 
1450 Rew. Sustr. Men. massis, no. 16 ; versis, in. 7. 
1455 Lord Level's Will, chargis, Line. Dioc. Docs. 77. 31. 
147- Cely Papers, -ys far outnumbers other forms. 

i6th Century. 

1512 Dr. Knight (Chaplain to Hen. VIII). fortresses, Ellis ii. i. 193. 

1 6 Hen. VIII, R. Pace to Wolsey. Hostag/s, Ellis iii. i. 195; 

causz's, ibid. 196. 

1530 Sir Thos. More (Letter), promesszs, Ellis i. i. 209. 
1530 Sir T. Elyofs Gouernour. princ/s, i. 44; horszs, i. 63 ; sicke- 

nesszs, i. 169; placz's, i. 45, &c., &c. 

1532 Cranmer. barg/s, Ellis i. 2. 36. 

1533 Leic. Will, hallo wys, Line. Dioc. Docs. 161. 10. 
1560 Cavendish, L. of Wolsey. horses, ^s, 7; cross/s, 35. 

Q. Elizabeth, scus/s, Letters, 109 ; practis/s, ibid. 60. 

ijth Century. 

1629 Mrs. Wiseman, necis (PL), Verney Papers 144. 
1642 Mrs. Eure in Verney Mem. ii. justis/s, p. 86 (1642); tax/'s 91 ; 
Mrs. Isham, ibid., purss/s; Pen. Verney, expenses, 354 (1644). 


i8th Century. 

1705-11 Lady Wentworth. Jarsz's, St. Jams/s, 47 (Possess.); glasszs, 
n i ; oringis (PI.), 107; freezzs, in. 

-est in Unstressed Syllables. 
= 2nd Pers. Pres. of Vbs. and Superl. Suffix, &c. 

-est. ijth Century. 

Bokenam (1443). clepyst (Vb.), Pref. Marg. 281. 

Bp. Pecok (1449). studiedist, enhauncidist. 

Northants Will (1450). In Line. Dioc. Docs., grettist. 

Gregory's Chron. (1450-70). eldyste, 101. 

Cr. of Dk. of York a Knt. of Garter (Letters and Papers ii), 1490, 

fairyst (Superl.), p. 389. 
Will of Richard Welby (Lines., 1465), L. D. D. eldist, 123. 2. 

i6th Century. 

Anne Boleyn (1528). humblyst, Ellis i. i. 305. 

Lord Berners' Froissart (1529). weky st, i . 1 6 1 . 

Sir T. Elyots Gouernour (1533). kepist, 2. 76 ; askidist, 2. 76 ; 

haruist, 2. 256. 
Gabriel Harvey (Letter Bk., 1578-80). dearist, 13; deadist, 12; 

surist, 14; hardist, 14 ; haruist, 14; honist, 14, &c., &c. 
Q. Elizabeth (Letters and Transl.). expertist, L. 29; largist, 50; 

fullist, Transl. 4 ; hottist, Transl. 97. 

i*]th Century. 

Anne Poyntz, Alleyne Pprs. honyst, 31 (1605). 

Verney Memoirs, vol. ii. eldist, Marg. V.'s Will, 18 (1639) ; gretist, 

Gary V., 71 (1642); sadist, ibid.; greatist, 121, Lady Sussex; also 

intrust 'interest', M. V.'s Will, p. 18. 
Mrs. Basire. greatist, 140(1658). 

i8th Century. 
Wentworth Papers (1705-39). deanst, passim; modist 'modest', 

IJ 3- 
-er. i$th Century. 

Bokenam. aftyr, Pr. 54, &c. ; phylosophyr, Pr. 54 ; mynystyr, Marg. 

978 ; lengur, Ann. 438 ; wondurful, Ann. 641. 
Marg. Paston. fadr, i. 544; massangr, ii. 390; remembr, ii. 419. 
Bury Wills, ovyr, 15; fadir, modir, 29; powdyr, 15; anothir, 17; 

aftir, 17 ; bettyr, 20; tymbyr, 20, &c., &c. ; also preyours 'prayers', 

21 (1463); soupar 'supper', 21. 
Gregory's Chron. ovyr. 
Fortescue. remembr, 123, 124; vndr, 135; but also aftir, undir, 


THE ENDINGS *r, -en 271 

Caxton (Jason), murdre, 12. 35, 36; watre, 78. 5; vndre, 96. 21; 

writars, 3. 22 ; helpars, 13. 31. 
Cely Papers, bettyr, 6 ; nwmbyr, 33 ; ovyr, 6 ; dowttyr, 105 ; 

remembyr, 28; lettyrs, 33; manner < manner', 69; annsor, 78; 

sumor, 9; octobor, 21 ; dynar, 76; manar, 17; wryngar, 7; finar, 

30; answare, 8; brocur, 24. 

i6th Century. 

Q. Elizabeth, sistar, Ellis i. 2. 163-4 (1549); bettar, Letters to 
James VI, 13 ; murdar, ibid. 19. 

ijlh Century. 
In middle of word'. misirable, Lady Sussex, Verney Mem. ii. 88. 

-en and -en + Cons. i$th Century. 

St. Editha. y-writon P.P., 367; lokedone, 285, throngedone, 461 

mournedone, 461, burydone, 462 ; prayden, 287, putten, 1880, 

deden, 1888, &c. 

Bokenam. oftyn, Pr. 205 ; Inf. in -yn. 
Marg. Paston. eronds, i. 201; Infinitives: askyn, i. 49; heryn, i. 

67; getyn, i. 68; tellyn, i. 68; sellyn, i. 69; Pres. PI.: owyn, 

i. 68 ; Pret. PI. : ze badeyn, i. 69 ; zedyn, i. 70 (z = j) ; haddyn, 

i. no. 
Bury Wills, gravyn, 15; euyn, 19 (Adv.); wretyn, 19; opynly, 18; 

erthin, 22. (Also -en forms.) 
Shillingford. aunsion, 10. 
Pecok. thousind, i. 215. 
Rewle Sustr. Men. opunli, 100. 22 ; opynli, no. 30; songoun P.P., 

105- 7- 
Sir T. Cumberworth's Will (Lines., 1451), L.D. D. opyn, 45. 8; 

kechyn, 49. 12, 24. 
Fortescue. writun, 130, gotun, 137. 
Cely Papers, wryttyn P. P., 35 ; gevyn, 26 ; hosyn (N.), 28 ; lynyn 

(N.), 200; happen, 30; hofton 'often', 81. 
Cr. Duke of York, evyn, 389, brokyn (P. P.), 395. 
-ent. Cely Papers, carpyntter, 180. 

i6th Century. 

Lord Admiral Sir Edw. Howard to Hen. VIII (1513). burden, Ellis 

ii. i. 216. 
State of Ireland (St. Pprs., Hen. VIII. i (1515)). waypyn 'weapon', 

1 8. 

Lord Berners Froissart. havyn, i. 33 ; opyn, passim. 
Inventory of J. Asserley (Lines., 1527), L. D. D. wholyn 'woollen 1 , 

i35-i8; kytchyn, 135. 30. 
Sir Thos. Mores Letters. Ellis i. 2 ; hevyn, 52. 
Thos. Lever s Sermons, chikynnes, 56. 


Cavendish, L. of Wolsey. opyn, 15; tokyn, 19; hosyn, 88; rysyn, 

116; Latten 'Latin', 71. 

Gabr. Harvey (Letters), chickins, 31 ; tokins, 150. 
Q. Elizabeth, heauin ' heaven ' , Transl. 6 1 . 

ijth Century. 

Gary Verney. takin (P. P.), V. Mem. ii. 70 (1642). 
Mrs. Isham. childrin, V. Mem. ii. 220; suddnly, ibid. 200. 
Mrs. Eure. wimin (PI.), V. Mem. ii. 86 (1642). 
-em. Sir R. Verney. solome, V. Mem. ii. 67 (1642). 

i8th Century. 
Lady Sir afford, kitching, Wentw. Pprs. 540. 

igth Century. 

John Kemble said sentimmt, innoczht, conshmce according to Leigh 
Hunt, Autobiogr. i, p. 180. 

-el. ijth Century. 

Bokenam. appyltre, Ann. 441 ; lytyl, Pr. 55, &c. 

Marg. Paston. tempill, i. 81 ; unkyll, i. 202. 

Bury Wills, litil, 20; bokyll, 16; nobil, 17; candylstikke, 19; 

pepill, 19; sympil, 21 ; stepyll, 19; ladyll, 23; tharchangill, 62. 
Rewle Sustr. Men. dobel, 107. 25, dubbil, 107. 12, double, 107. 18. 
Will of Sir T. Cumberworth (Lines., 1451) L. D. D. stabul, 50. 4. 
Will of Richard Moulton (Lines., 1465) L. D.D. stabull, 124. 37. 
Caxton (Jason), sadyl, 7. 34 ; sadle (Inf.), n. 29; litil, 13. 22, &c. ; 

nobole, 12. i, noble, 12. 4, &c. 
Cely Papers, myddyll, 34; saddyl, 34; stapyll, 5; craddyll, 157 ; 

medell, ii; stapell, 6; fardel, 71 ; stapal, 4; stapul, 77. 

i6th Century. 

Skeltons Magnyfycence. startyl, sparky 1, 741 ; dyvyls, 944 ; clevyll, 


Inventory of J. Asserley (Lines., 1527). tabyl, L. D. D. 135. 28. 
Sir Thos. More (Letters, Ellis i. i). Sir John RusslI, 205. 
Machyn. postyll ' apostle ' ; castyl ' castle ', 1 1. 
Sir Thos. Smith (1583). evangill, Rep. 123, 

ijth Century, 
Doll Leake. cruilty, V. Mem. ii. 213 (1644). 

-e in Unstressed Syllables. 
i$th Century. 

less. 1465. Marg. Paston. harmlys, ii. 226. 
-mest. 1447-50. Shilling/ord. utmyst. 


i6th Century. 

-ness. Q. Elizabeth, kindm's, Letters 40 ; wekenis, L. 4 1 ; happim's, 
L. 50, &c., &c. ; darkems, Transl. 4 ; businis, Transl. 126. 

I'jth Century. 
-ess. Shakespeare, First Fol. mistn's, passim. 

Habington's Castara (1630-40). mistris, 51, &c. 
-ness. Doll Leake. bisnis, Verney Mem. iv. 114 (1665). 

l8th Century. 

-ester. 1710. Wentworth Papers. Ld. Roch/ster, p. 118. 
-ess. 1701. Jones, mistriss, p. 62. Lady Wentworth. dutchiss, W. 
Pprs. 45. 

i$th Century. 
-lege (-leche) and original -lege. 

Marg.Paston. knowlych, ii. 185. 

Bury Wills, collage, 66 (1480). 

Shillingford. knowliche, 67. 
-et. Cely Papers, markyt, 17. 

-et. i6th Century. 

Lord Berners 1 Froissart. helmyttes, i. 362. 

Thos. Lever's Sermons, couitous, 84. 

Euphues. dyot 'diet ', 276. 

Gabr. Harvey, interprit, Letters 15. 
-lege. Gabr. Harvey (Letter s\ collidg, 54. 

-ledge (earlier -leche). 17 ih Century. 

Betty Verney. acknowliges, Verney Mem. iv. 21 (1661). 
-et. Lady Lambton. inter pritt, Basire Corresp. 80 (1649). 

i8th Century. 

-et. Wentworth Papers, bullits, 81; blanckitt, 62. 

Initial e'-. astate 'estate', Bokenam, Pr. Marg. 877 ; Fortescue, 143; 

Gregory, 132 ; Elyot, passim; Berners, passim; alectyd, Cely Pprs. 

162; ascuse 'excuse', Cely Pprs. 9; ascapyn 'escape', Bokenam, 

Marg. 877 ; ascaped, Lord Berners, i. 72 ; aronyous 'erroneous', 

Machyn, 81. 

-a + consonants. i$th Century. 

-ac. Will. Paston, Jun. stomechere, Paston Letters, iii. 237 (1478); 

'Cely Papers, almyneke^ 1 56. 
as. Cely Papers, os 'as', i. 30; Cr. Duke of York, ys as for 

as moche ys (= 'as') at so noble feast, &c., 389. 



-ave. John Russe. Seynt Olejfes, Paston Letters, ii. 112 (1462). 
-age (-ange). Siege of Rouen, mesyngers, 31. Gregory, messyngere, 124 ; 
longege ' language ', 214. 

Cely Papers, passengers, 153. 

State of Ireland (St. Pprs. Henry VIII, iii). messengers, 14. 

Will of R. Astbroke (Bucks., 1534). messynger (Pers. N.), L. D. D. 

169. 21. 

ap 1 . Capgraves Chron. Uphowel, 96 (= Ap-). 
-a-. Bury Wills, testement, 15. 43 (1463). 

-ar-. i6ih Century, 

Archbp. Cranmer (Letters), particulerly, Ellis i. 2. 172 (1549). 

Lyly, Euphues. perticulers, 234. 

Machyn. secretery, 10. 

Spenser, Pres. State of Ireland, schollers, 626. 2. 
-a-. Cavendish, L. of Wolsey. ambassiter, 7. 
-aster. Machyn. Lancaster, 244. 
-mas. Machyn. Cryustynmus, 122. 
-an-. Machyn. compeny, 303. 

Euphues. must/ion, 213, Italtonafed, 314. 
-ac. Gabr. Harvey s Letters, slummock, 14. 

as, -as. es = as, Sir Thos. More's Letters, Ellis ii. i ; such entreprises 
es shold if they mought, &c., 289. 

Gabr. Harvey's Letters, purchisse Vb., 67. 


-ant. infints. C. Stewkley, V. Mem. iii. 433 (1656). 

-man. Bridgemen. Lady Rochester, V. Mem. iii. 466 (1660). 

-an-, compiny. Lady Sussex, V. Mem. ii. 133 ; mglende, Lady Sussex, 

V. Mem. ii.88 (1642). 

-aster. Donkister. Verney Mem. iv. 121 ; Lady Elmes (1665). 
-ac-. stomtchers, Anne Lee, V. Mem. ii. 235 (1646); obsticle, Sir R. 

Verney, Mem. ii. 357 (1647); carictor, C. Stewkley, Mem. iv. 226. 
-mas. crismus, Lady Sussex, Verney Pprs. 205 (1639); mickelmust, 

M. Falkiner, V. Mem. ii. 52 (1642); Doll Leake, crismus,^. Mem. 

iii. 287 (1656). 
-as-. Sir tomis Chike, Lady Sussex, Verney Mem. ii. 153 (1643); 

Sir tomos, Cary Verney, V. Mem. ii. 68 (1642). 
-a-, contrydicting, ibid. 

i8th Century. 

-ac-. stomtck, Iztc = Isaac, Baker, Rules for True Spelling (1724); 

carecter, Wentw. Pprs. 50. 
-ark. Southwick for South wark, Baker (1724). 
-ave. (St.) Olive = S/. Olave, Jones (1707), p. 59. 
-able. ' Sounded abusively ', $/<? in Constable, Dunstable, Jones, p. 59. 
-ate. pryvit, Lady Went worth, Wentw. Pprs. 94 (1709), chockolet, Lady 

Strafford, Wentw. Pprs. 213 (1711). 
-dale. Dugdets Baronage, Peter Wentworth, Wentw. Pprs. 88 (1709). 


-age. i6th Century. 

Archbp. Cranmer, Letters, maneges, Ellis i. 2. 36 (1533). 
Roper's L. of More (1556). marriges, xliv. 10. 
Tho s. Lever's Sermons, co fingers, 82. 

John Alleyne. Alleyne Pprs., marrige, 15, incurrich 'encourage', 16 
(159-?); Ph. Henslow in Alleyne Memoirs, spenege spinach, 28 

ijth Century. 

Vicaridge, Agreement for purchase of the Manor of Dulwich, Alleyne 

Memoirs, 191 (1605). 
corige 'courage', Lady Sussex, ii. 38 (1641), disadfantige, mesege; 

advantig, Mrs. Sherard, iii. 317 (1657) ( a ll m Verney Memoirs); 

vicaridge, Dr. Basire, 303 (1673). 
Saucidg and cabbidg are mentioned by Cooper. 

Initial &. i$th and i6th Centuries. 

Cely Papers, enoyd 'annoyed ', 106 ; Elyot, enointed, 2. 235 ; Ascham, 
emonges, Tox. 37. 

O in Unstressed Syllables. 
^on. i$th Century. 

St. Editha. caren ' carrion', 4328. 
Marg. Paston. sesyn 'season', v. i. 201. 
Gregory's Chron. Devynshyre, 216; -un- t Aryndelle, 101. 
Cely Papers, questyans, 153; ressenabull, 74; rekenyng, 34; 

resenably, 14. 
-o : . Marg. Paston. dysabey, i. 252 ; sa m^ch, ii. 308. 

Cely Papers, abedyensses, 69. 
-og. C ax ton. genelagye, Jason, 336, 38. 
o'-. Short Engl. Chron. (1465, Cam. Soc.). toward, 62. 
-ost. Marg. Paston. provest, ii. 187 (perhaps survival of Early Engl. 

-op. Bokenam. bysshape, Elev. Thous. Virg. 108, no. 

l6th Century. 

-on. Dr. Knight (Chaplain to Hen. VIII). reasyn 'reason' (1512), 

Ellis ii. i. 203. 

Sir Thos. Elyot (1528). burgine Vb., ' bud ', Gouern. i. 30. 
Rede me, &c. (1529). mutten ' mutton'. 
Richard Layton to Lord Cromwell (i 538). Marten Colege (= Merton), 

Ellis ii. 2. 60. 

Thos. Pery (1539). commyshin, Ellis ii. 2. 140. 
Cavendish, L. of Wolsey. waggans, 88. 
Bishop Latimer. dungen, Seven Serms. (1549), 119. 
Gabriel Harvey's Letter Bk. (1573-80). duggin 'dudgeon', 29; 

to reckin, 16. 
Edm. Spenser, scutchin, F. Q., Bk. iii. 7. 30. 

T 2 


John Alleyne, Alleyne Pprs. (159-?). posshene 'portion', 16; 
fashenges, 'fashions', 16. 

Sir Thos. Smith (1583). recken, Republ. 76. 
of. Lord Berners* Froissart. men a warre, i. 156. 

Machyns Diary. Justus a pesse, 122. 

Gabr. Harvey's Letters, seaven a clocke, 72 ; tenne a clocke, 129. 
-ord. Inventory o/J. Asserley (Lines., 1 52 7) L. D. D. Cobberdes, 1 36. i . 
^o-. Bishop Latimer, Seven Sermons (1549). riatous, 51. 
-ost. Ely of s Will, provest, 311.^ 
o-. Machyn. apinions, 81. 

ijth Century. 

-on. Chapman's All Fooles. fashin'd 'fashioned' (1605). 
Verney Memoirs. 

parden, Mall V., ii. 381 (1647); surgin 'surgeon', Pen. V., iii. 201 
(1657), ribins, Doll Leake, iv. 66 (1664); fashing, Mrs. Edm. V., 
iv. 71 (1664); priszVzer, Sir R. V., ii. 122. Lady Verney has the 
inverted spelling reasons for raisins, ii. 285 (1647). 

-o-. sonfull, Lady Sussex, ii. 121. 

-o'-. acorm'dasyon, Lady Sussex, ii. 153; and Mrs. Basire, opperf unity, 
.104 (1651), abay 'obey', ibid. 135 (1654); Sir ^rlandoe Bridgmen, 
Lady Rochester, iii. 466 (1660). 

^ot. fagets, Lady Hobart, iv. 46 (1663) ; Pigit (Piggot), Pen. V., Lady 
Gardiner, iv. 327 (1685) ; Cham?t (?), Edm. V., iv. 397 (1687) 

l8th Century. 

-on. Jones, 1701. 'Sound of e written io in carrion, clarion, contagion, 
cushion, fashion, lunchion, opinion ', p. 45. Truncheon trunsheen, 
p. 102. 

Peter Wentworth. beckinged 'beckoned', W. Pprs. 108 (1710); 
Lady Wentworth, Comten f Compton ', W. Pprs. 98 (1709) ; Baker, 
1724, sturgin, dungin 'dungeon', punchin 'puncheon', flaggin 
' flagon ', cooshin^ carrin ' carrion ', inin ' onion '. 

-ot. Jones, chariot, p. 45 ; somewhat sounded som'at (= [samst]), 
Jones, p. 26. 

-oard. cubberd, Jones, 33. 

Early Forms ^Cushion. 

It is doubtful how far the forms of this word which end in -in are to 
be regarded as weakenings from -on-. Both endings may have been in 
use from an early period. 

Bury Wills (1463) kusshownes, cusshonys, 23 ; Sir Thos. Elyot's 
Will cusshyns, 311 ; Thos. Pery kwsching, Letter, Ellis ii. 2. 50, 
I 539; Cavendish, Life of Wolsey cusshons, 16, cusshens, 65; 
Knaresborough Wills qwhissinges, 29 (30 Hen. VIII); Wm. Baker 
( I 7 2 5) cooshin. 


French u in Unstressed Syllables, 
l^th Century. 

-ur. to paster, St. Ed. 3767 (c. 1420); moister, Palladius (1420) 29. 

773; a venter, Cely Papers 5, the venter, C. P. 6. 
-un. commyne, $hillingford Papers (1447-50); comynlaw, Shillingford 

40; comyned togeder, 12, comyners, comeners, Gregory's Chron. 

-ut. savecondyte, C. P. 45 (-condute, ibid. 163); condytte, Gregory 

71 ('conduit'); byskitt, C. P. 182; mym'te 'note'. Statement 

concerning Edm. de la Pole (1501), Letters and Papers i. 147. 
-us. letuse, Bk. of Quint. 22. 
-u-. reputation, Marg. Paston, P. L. ii. 340. 
-u-. argument, Shillingford 10. 

i6th Century. 

-un. comyne (Vb.) (1503), Negotiations of Ambassadors, Letters and 

Papers i. 205, &c., &c. ; comyngcasion, Wolsey to Hen. VIII, L. 

and P. i. 446 ; mysseforten, Machyn's Diary 139 (c. 1550). 
h\&o:fortiune, Q. Elizabeth, Lttrs. to J. VI. 27. 
-ur. unscripterlye, Latimer's Sermons, Arber, 7. 48 ; jointer, E. of 

Bath, Ellis, Letters ii. 2. 157 ; venterous, venturer, Machyn 67, 161 ; 

jointer, Roper's L. of Sir T. More (1556), xliii. 18; venterous, 

Euphues, Arber, 39 ; manuring (the ground), Wilson, Arte of Rhet., 

Oxford Ed. 53; tortering, ShaJkespeare (First Fol.), Titus Andron.; 

John Alleyne, gointer 'jointure', Alleyne Pprs. 16 (1593?). 
-uous. verteous, Roper's L. of More (1556), vi. 29 ; volupteous, Wilson 

73; voluptious, Cavendish, L. of Wolsey 116; sumptiously, 3; 

sumptious, ibid. 25; tortious, Spencer, F. Q., Bk. vii. 7. 14. 
-u-. newys c nephews', Machyn 302; momment, Spenser, Globe Ed., 

F. Q., Bk. U. 7. 5; cit. Elyot's Gouernour ii. 375, Wks., vol. v, p. 51. 

ijth Century. 

-ur. Verney Memoirs, venturous, Gary Verney, ii. 70 (1642); jointer, 

Mrs. Isham, ii. 74 (1642); venter (Noun), Mrs. I., ii. 203 (1643); 

ventir, Lady Warwick, iii. 313 (1657); feutir, Mrs. Sherard, iii. 324 

( l6 57); f uter > Lady Hobart, iv. 66 (1664). 
Also: picktuer, Lady V.'s Will, ii. 18(1639) ; cretuejs, Mrs.Eure, ii. 

96; lesuer, Lady Sussex, ii. 31 (1641). 
-une. misfortin, Gary V., ii. 70 (1642) ; fortine, Mrs. Isham, ii. 220 

(1645) ; fortin, Pen. V., ii. 353 (1644); unfortunate, Gary V., iii. 439 

(1659); fourtin, Lady Hobart, iv. 56 (1664); fortme, forting, 

Mrs. Isham, iv. 108 (1663). 

Also: fortewen, fortewn, Mrs. Sherard, iv. 16 (1661). 
-u-. miraczlous, Edm. V., iv. 233 (1677); continual, W. Roades 

(Steward), iii. 234 (1655). 
u-. m^nishone, ii. 56, ' munition '. 
-u. valy (Vb.), Lady Sussex, ii. 87 (1642), 'to value'; neuie 'nephew 

Mrs. Basire, 142 (1655). 


i8th Century. 
-u-. Lady Wentworth. vertious, vallyed, Wentw. Pprs. 52 ; yousyal, 84, 

' usual ', ibid. 84. 
-une. Goldsmith, ' She Stoops to Conquer ', Act n. Tony Lumpkin : 

' If I'm a man, let me have my for tin! 
-lire. Jones (1701). ' " er " written -ure when it may be sounded -ur 

better than -er', p. 52, as in debenture, accwrate, saturate; * when 

it may be sounded -er' t adventure, azure, censure, conjecture, 

cincture, conjure, culture, departure, failure. 

Wentw. Pprs. erectors, 475 (Capt. Powell) ; /or/er, 64, picturs^ 63. 
Fr. u = [y] is unrounded already in the fifteenth century in unstressed 
syllables, and written i or e. The inverted spelling profutez ' profits ' in 
Lord Level's Will, 1455, L. D. D. 73. 21, shows that in unstressed sylla- 
bles u was pronounced like i. Before -r this short front vowel probably 
becomes [3] pretty early in common speech, as is suggested by Machyn's 
venturer, and later by Gary Verney's ventaros. 

The seventeenth-century venttr, feutz'r are probably not indicative of 
a pronunciation with /, any more than is -i'r t -yr for earlier -er, which is 
so common in the fifteenth century and later. Before -n the front vowel 
was probably preserved, though there was doubtless a tendency in certain 
speakers to reduce -in to [an] or simply to [n]. See remarks on pp. 264-5 
on the fondness for the [in] types generally, down to the eighteenth cen- 
tury and beyond. 

Back Vowels in Unstressed Syllables. 

uA. apon, Shillingford 6; Fortescue 123; Gregory 107, 238, 259; 

Cely Pprs. 14, 47 (twice), 203; Machyn 12. 
-un ; un-. Swythan ' Swithun ', St. Editha 188 ; anethe ' hardly ' (O.E. 

unepes\ Bokenam, Marg. 971; Aryndelle, Gregory 101. 
^our. Gregory, faverynge, 134; Cely Pprs., faverabull, 137; Ascham, 

unsauery, Tox. 76 ; Machyn, Semer, 27 (= Seymour) ; Mall Verney, 
faver, V. Mem. ii. 381 (1647). 

-ous. Ph. Henslow, greavesly, Alleyne Memoirs 28, c. 1593. 
-aw, -ow. Bokenam, felas, Agn. 377, 395; Cely $r.s.,feleschyppe, 120, 
felyschepe, ^fellyschyp, 6. 

Shortening of Vowels in Final Unstressed Syllables. 

-ite. Shakespeare (First Fol.). Muscouits (rhymes witts\ L. Lbr's Lost ; 
Lady Wentworth, infenitt. 

-ile. Cavendish, Life of Wolsey, fertill, 1 1 ; Shakesp. (First Fol.), 
stirrill ' sterile ', First Pt., Hen. IV, 4. i. 

-meal. Dr. Denton, oatmell ' oatmeal ', Verney Mem. iii. 209 (1657) ; 
Wm. Baker, Rules for True Spelling, &c. (1723) also gives the pro- 
nunciation of this word as otmell, in this case apparently implying 
also a shortening of the vowel in the first syllable. 

-night. Gary Stewkley, senet, Verney Mem. iii. 434 (1656); fortnet, 
Mrs. Basire 132 (1654); (Roger) L'Estrange his Appeal, that day 
sennet 'se'nnight', 56 (1681). 


-u. Marg. Paston often writes zu ' you ' in unstressed positions e. g. 
i. 67 ; otherwise generally zow, yaw, &c. This may express the 
shortened form in a weak position. 

M.E. ai, ei in Unstressed Syllables. 

i$th Century. 
-ein, 'ain. St. Editha. vyleny, 2. 384. 

Shilling ford (1447-50). certyn, 53. 

Marg. Paston. meynten, ii. 83. 
-ain-, ein-. Shillingford. synt Stevyn, 9; sent Paull, n. 

Gregory's Chron. (1450). Syn Le'narde, 61 ; Syn J6hn, 94; men- 
tayne, 86. 

Cely Papers, bargen, 40. 

Letters and Papers, ii. certen, 59 ; abstinence (?). 
-ei. Shillingford. curtessy, 20. 

Cely Papers. Calis ' Calais ', 200. 

-ail, -eil. St. Editha. coiinselle, 3; consyler, 725; bdtelle, 35; 

Shillingford. counselle, 18. 

Sir J. Fortescue (1470). ve'sstflls, 123, vltalles, 132 (also vessdilles, 

Capgraves Chron. councelle, 171. 
-eir. Gregory s Chron. devyr, 152. 
4 ai. Cely Papers. Thursdfl, 12. 

-ail. i6th Century. 

Lord Berners Froissart. battel, 1.121, batelles, i. 19 ; counsell (N.), 

i. 34; ve'ssdl, i. 36, r&scalle, i. 50; travdl, i. 222; trayvell (N.), 

i. 222, traveled (P.P.), i. 222; applied, i. 43 (also batayle, i. 

121); vitaylle, i. 33; aparailed, i. 30; counsaile (Vb. and N.), 

i. 28. 

Ascham. battell, Tox. 76 (also battayle, Tox. 73). 
Sir Thos. Smith, Rep. Angl. councils, 15; battell, 15, 63. 
Cavendish, L. of Wolsey. council, 5; travelled 'worked', 57; travel 

(present-day sense), 62. 

-ain, -ein. Lord Berners' Froissart. certenly, i. 194; capten, i. 255. 
Thos. Lever's Sermons, bargms, p. 96; citizms, 101. 
Roper's Life of Sir 2. More (1566). certyne, vi. 35; Ann Bullen, 

xx. 7. 

Ascham. mdynteners. 

Sir Thos. Smith, villens, Rep. Angl. 130; forren, Rep. Angl. 59. 
Cavendish, Life of Wolsey. chappekns, 25 ; certyn, 90 (also chapeleyn, 


Q. Elizabeth, vilanous, Letters 53; Transl. 14. 
-ais, -eis. Lord Berners' Froissart. curtesy, i. 30 ; burgesses, i. 205, 

&c., &c. ; unharn^st, i. 46. 
Sir Thos. Smith. Rep. Angl. 128, courtzsie. 
Cavendish, Life of Wolsey. palzce, 77 ; Calice (Place N.), 67. 


-ai, -ei. Gabriel Harvey s Letter Bk. Mundy (day of week), 40 ; ther 

'their', 23. 
Q. Elizabeth, the ' they ', usual form. 

ijth Century. 
-ain, -ein. Verney Memoirs, vol. ii. sartinly, Lady Sussex, 82 (1642); 

captin, Lady Sussex, 103; chapkn, Lady Sussex, 152. Vol. iii. 

villin, Pen. Denton, 228 (1655). 
-ail. Aubrey s Lives, travills, ii. 15. (A letter from Isaac Walton 

said to be in his handwriting.) 
-air, -eir. Vol. ii. the 'they', Lady Sussex, 81 (1642); ther ' their', 

Sir J. Leeke, 48 (1641). 
-ai, -ei. Vol. ii. Fridy, Lady Sussex, 156 (1642); Mundy, Mall V. 

380 (1647). 


The diphthongs at" 'and ei, already in M.E. probably, levelled under 
[aez] or [ei'] in stressed syllables, are simplified in unstressed syllables to 
a simple front vowel, probably [A written sometimes e, sometimes ;", at 
least as early as the first half of the fifteenth century. 

Before / and n the spelling is also generally e or i, the latter becoming 
increasingly more frequent in course of time. Certain speakers seem to 
tend to [a] expressed by a, cf. vitolles (Sir J. Fortescue) ; rascfllle (Lord 
Berners); viknous (Q. Elizabeth). Present-day usage leans, on the 
whole, to [9] or syllabic / in [v/tlz, bsetl], &c., but keeps [/'] before n [v/'lm, 
kaeptih], &c. 

Finally, we find a = [3] in Cely Papers Thursda but more fre- 
quently [/'], as at present written y by Gabriel Harvey and the ladies of 
the Verney family. 

In the unstressed prefix saint = [sn] or [san] we get apparently the 
type corresponding to the Early Modern an in \i\an-ous [vibn-as], the 
old forms syn [sm], &c., only surviving in St. John, St. Clair (or Sinclair), 
St. Leger as family names [smdzan], &c., where the stressing of the first 
syllable is clearly more recent than the unstressed forms in which [sm] 

Machin has selenger, and must have stressed the first syllable, since the 
intrusive -- (cf. messenger, &c.) is only found in unstressed syllables. 

See p. 329 for weak forms of old they, theym, theyr. 

M.E. oi in Unstressed Syllables, 
ijth Century. 

-ois. Gregory's Chron. Camyse < Camoys ', 178; porpys 'porpoise', 


Bury Wills (1501). toorkes < turquoise ',91. 
-oir. Will of Joan Raleghe (Oxf., 1455). [my maner of Ilvenden, 

L.D.D. 68. 14. 

Will of Lord Lovel (Oxf., 1455). manoirs, L. D. D. 74. 9 ; manourys, 
ibid. 73. i. 


l6th Century. 

-ois. Cavendish, L. of Wolsey. turkkas ' turquoise', 167. 
Thos. Wilson (1560). turcasse, 206. 
Euphues. torteyse, 61. 

-oin. Machyris Diary. Gaskyn, 292 ; Spenser, Close to Shep. Cal., 
1 Mr. George Gaskin, a wittie gentleman, and the very chefe of our 
late rymers '. 

ijth Century. 

-oin. Verney Memoirs, vol. ii. Borgin (Burgoyne), Gary V., 71 (1642). 
-ois. Vol. ii. torteshell, Lady V., 315 (1648). 

Vol. Hi. tortus shell, Mrs. Spencer, 50 (1652). 

Vol. iv. Shammee Gloves, Sir R. V., 327 (1685); Mrs. Aphra Behn 
Lucky Chance (1686), 2. i, has shammy breeches. 

Miltoris Comus, Sabrina's Song, turkz's. 

Sir Thos. Browne, Vulgar Errors, porposes, bk. iii, ch. 26. 

Marstoris Eastward Ho. porpice. 

Confusion 0/"-eous, -ous; -iour, -our, &c. ; -ier, -er. 

Cely Papers, marvylyusly , 165. 
Jul. Berners. laborous. 

Sir T. Ely of. labor ousely, 2. 275. 

Latimer's Serm. rightuous, 181. 

Ascham. barbariousnes , Tox. 28. 

Shakespeare, First Fol. ieallious, Merry Wives, iv. 5. 

Lady Hobart. serus ( serious ', Verney Mem. iv. 41 (1663); Sir 
R. L'Estrange, stupendous , Dissenters Sayings, pt. 2. 56 (1682). 

Weniworth Pprs. covetious, 102, mischevyous, 174. 

Reg. for Council of the Nth. mysbehavors, Lttrs. and Pprs., i. 57 

Lord Berners' Froissart. behavour, 1.69. 

Sir T. Elyot. hauour 'good behaviour', 2. 409. 

Q. Elizabeth, behavor, Lttrs. to J. VI, 28. 

We may note that Lady Wentworth's mischevyous [m/stjivzbs] is now one 
of the worst possible vulgarisms, and covetious would run it pretty close. 

Much has been written on the confusion of these suffixes, cf. Jespersen, 
Mod. Engl. Gr. 9. 82, &c., and Muller, Engl. Lautlehre nach James 
Elphinston, 208-1 2. 

Lord Berners' Froissart. fronters, i. 72, i. 125; barrers, i. 129; 
currers, i. 137. 

Loss of Vowel. 
Initial weak syllable. 

St. Editha scomfytyd, 67; Pecok pistle\ Cely Pprs. pwoyniment, 

71 ; Lord Berners poyntment, i. 215 ; a great rayne and a clyps, i. 

297; Latimer poticaries, 86, leauen 'eleven', 102; Ascham 

spence l expenditure ' ; Machyn posiyll ' apostle ', salt ' assault ', 

282; Q. Elizabeth scusis 'excuses'. 

Lady Hobart. 'amel ( enamel', Verney Mem. iii. 25 (1650). 
Peter Wentworth. Querry 'equerry' (now generally [ekwan']), 

Wentw. Pprs. 409, 433, 443 (twice). 


Loss of -i before -ah followed by suffix. 

Bokenam embelshyn 'embellish', Ann. 341; Capgrave's Chron. 
banchid ' banished ', 187, punchid ' punished ',29. 

Loss of vowel (-i-) in super L suffix. 

Siege of Rouen ryalste ' royalest ', 27; Lord Berners the moost 
outragioust people, i. 311 ; Q. Elizabeth carefulst, Lttrs. 48, thank- 
fulst, ibid. 66 ; Otway ungrateful? st, Friendship in Love. 

Loss of vowel immediately after chief stress, before -n. 
Cely Papers, reknyng, 145. 

Loss of -e-, &c., before -r + vowel. 

Marg. Pastbn Margretys, i. 236 ; Elyot robry, Gou. i. 273, ii. 86; 
Latimer Deanry, 67 ; Lever's Sermons robry > 27, brybry, 34 ; 
Gabr. Harvey's Lttrs. trechrously, 73. 

Loss of vowel (-i?) before -n. 

Gabr. Harvey's Lttrs. reasnable, 13; Edw. Alleyn parsnage, 
Alleyne Pprs., p. xiii (1610). 

(a) Loss of vowel after and before another cons. ; (b) also after -r and 

before a vowel, with shifting of stress. 
(a) Bokenam spyrtys 'spirits', Pr. Marg. 48; Capgrave barnes 

'barons', 171 (twice). 
() Latimer shriues ' sheriffs ', 154. 

Loss of vowel following first, stressed syllable, between consonants. 

S. of Rouen enmys, 24; singler, Cov. Leet 72 (1424); Marg. 
Paston-^/aw/^y, ii. 83 ; Gregory, cytsyn ' citizen ', 64 ; Doll Leake 
bisnis, Verney Mem. iv. 113 (1665); Wm. Baker, Rules for True 
Spelling (1724) medson ' medicine', venzin 'venison'. 

Loss of vowel immediately after stressed syllable, before weak vowel or (h-). 
Gregory, unt hym (unto), 218. 

Loss of-i- after front vowel. 

Marg. Paston. payt ' pay it ', i. 256. 

Other losses after stressed syllable. 
Marg. Paston. yts 'it is', ii. 386. 

Loss of syllable in the middle of words. 

Machyn. Barmsey ' Bermondsey ', Chamley ' Cholmondeley '. 



THE consonantal changes which we have now to consider are remark- 
able in that while the results were undoubtedly characteristic of English 
speech for several centuries, a very large number of those pronunciations, 
the existence of which can be proved by occasional spellings oft-times 
repeated, by rhymes and by the statements of the grammarians, have, 
during the last hundred years or so, been eliminated from polite speech, 
and survive only in Provincial or Vulgar forms of English. Such are 
the added -d in gownd, or -/ in sermont, &c. Others, again, survive in 
what is rapidly becoming archaic usage, although, like ' the dropping of 
the g ' in shilling &c., they are still widespread among large classes of the 
best speakers, no less than among the worst. Yet other tendencies in the 
pronunciation of consonantal combinations are repudiated altogether by 
purists as slipshod, while many persons who slip into them quite naturally 
in rapid speech would disavow any such habits if questioned upon 
the subject. To this class belongs the dropping of / in mostly, roast 
beef, &c. 

If we could recall speakers from the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 
turies it is probable that what would strike us most would be the pranks 
that even the most refined and well-bred persons would play with the 
consonants. From this point of view the English of these periods would 
appear to us with our modern standards as a mixture of rusticity, slip- 
shodness, and vulgarity. It is, I think, impossible to doubt that speakers 
who, from their education or their social experience, or both, must have 
been among the most irreproachable of their time, who could and did 
mingle with the great world, really did speak in what we should now 
consider a most reprehensible manner. The testimony from all sources 
is too strong to be ignoted. We might disbelieve, or hesitate as to the 
interpretation of any one authority, if unsupported by other evidence, but 
when all tell the same tale, when we find Pope rhyming neglects with sex, 
the Verney ladies and Lady Wentworth writing respeck, prospeck, strick, 
and so on, and the writers on pronunciation before, after, and contem- 
porary with these personages deliberately stating that final / is omitted in 
a long list of words which includes the above, then we must admit that 
if all this is not conclusive evidence on the point, it will be impossible 
ever to get any reliable information regarding the modes of speech of past 

But the case for taking these various indications seriously becomes 
stronger when we discover that the existence of many of these, to us, 
peculiar pronunciations* is established by occasional spellings reaching 


far back to the fifteenth century, and beyond that into the M.E. period 

In fact the more persistently the records of English speech are studied, 
the more it becomes apparent that the same general tendencies of change 
which are even to-day in force have been active for centuries. This is 
nowhere truer than of consonantal changes, but it holds good also of 
the treatment of vowels in unstressed positions, and, to some extent also, 
of the isolative changes in vowels in stressed syllables. 

It has been pointed out earlier in this book that down to far on in the 
eighteenth century the natural tendencies were allowed more or less 
unrestricted play, and this among speakers of the Received Standard of the 
period no less than among the more uneducated. Purists, as we know, 
existed, who protested against this or that usage, but few listened to 
them. Standards of refinement were certainly recognized, there were 
fashionable tricks which had a vogue and died away, vulgarisms and 
rusticities were unquestionably clearly perceived, and laughed at by those 
who had the entrance to the beau monde and were conversant with its 
usages. But the standards of this class of speakers were not those of the 
self-constituted authorities on ' correctness ' who abound from the seven- 
teenth century onwards. Habits of speech which provoked the mirth of 
the former because they were not those of persons of quality and fashion, 
were not, in most cases, the kind of * errors ' which came under the lash 
of the purists. It is characteristic of those who set out to instruct the 
public at large how they ought to pronounce, that they almost invariably 
fix as subject for their censure, among other things it is true, upon 
those very features in the natural speech of their time which are most 
deeply rooted in traditional habit and destined to remain as bases for the 
language of the future. This is true of Gill in the first quarter of the 
seventeenth century, to some extent of Cooper in the last quarter of 
the same century, of Swift early in the following century, and of Elphin- 
ston towards the end of the eighteenth century. With all respect be it 
said, it is true of Mr. Bridges in his heroic if unavailing onslaughts upon 
the present treatment in ordinary English of the vowels of unstressed 
syllables, grounded as this is upon tendencies which have prevailed in our 
language from its earliest history. 

Among all the writers on pronunciation during the eighteenth century, 
Jones, in the Expert Orthographer, 1701, appears to be one of the least 
censorious. He records unblushingly, and without hostile comment, 
omissions and additions of consonants which we know from other 
sources, indeed, were habitual, but which it must have made some of his 
colleagues in the art of English speech extremely angry to see set down in 
this cool matter-of-fact way. Jones's business is primarily to teach English 
spelling, but his method of introducing each rule with the words ' When 
is the sound of such and such a letter written in such and such a way ? ' 
enables him to shed an amount of light upon the genuine pronunciation 
of his time which greatly exceeds that thrown by mo^t other books of the 
kind before and for a long time after him. Now nearly all Jones's state- 
ments are shown to be true to fact by the enlightening spellings of the 
Verney family and of Lady Wentworth, to say nothing of the rhymes of 
good poets, but they must have appeared very outrageous to those whose 


main object was to get as far away as possible from realities, and to 
construct a fantastic form of English from the spelling. 

But if the protests of the purists passed unheeded among ' the wits of 
either Charles's days' and those of James II, Anne, and the first two 
Georges, it cannot be denied that the grammarians came to their own at 
last up to a point. The process of ' improvement ', so far as one can 
see, but it is absurd to attempt great preciseness in these matters, began 
roughly in the third quarter of the eighteenth century, and has gained in 
force and volume ever since. 

But if the triumph of the pedagogue is thus unquestionable, the success, 
as has been suggested repeatedly in this book, must be set down rather 
to social causes than to a sudden capacity on the part of the Orthoepist 
to persuade those to whom he had so long preached in vain. It was 
assuredly not the Verneys and Wentworths, the Lady Hobarts, or ' my 
sister Carburer ' who first adopted the new-fangled English. These and 
their like, and long may they flourish, have hardly done so completely at 
the present time. It was the new men and their families, who were 
winning a place in the great world and in public affairs, who would be 
attracted by the refinements offered by the new and ' correct ' system of 
pronunciation which they learnt from their masters of rhetoric, or from 
their University tutors. That this new, wealthy, and often highly 
cultivated class should gradually have imposed upon society at large the 
gentilities of the academy of deportment, and have been able to insist 
with success upon gown instead of ' gownd ', strict instead of ' strick ', 
vermin instead of * varmint ', richest instead of ' richis ', and so on, would 
have seemed incredible to Lady Wentworth and her friends. But so it 
has come about. Possibly the relations of Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Piozzi 
are types of the process at its best, and one may suppose that the great 
man would not hesitate to correct what he took to be improprieties of 
speech in his circle, and that pronunciations which received his sanction 
would rapidly gain currency far and wide. In fact, it is not wholly 
fanciful to attribute in no small measure to the personal prestige of 
Johnson, a prestige of a very peculiar kind, more powerful perhaps than 
that possessed by any purely learned man before or since, the very 
marked reaction in favour of a certain type of ' correctness ' in speech 
which set in about this time, and which has continued ever since to make 
fresh inroads upon established tradition. But even so mighty a force as 
Samuel Johnson required suitable social conditions in which to exert his 

The gradual penetration of those circles of society whose speech con- 
stitutes the Received Standard with something approaching the ideals of 
elegance and correctness maintained by the purists has been a slow 
process, and though each generation probably sees something of the old 
usage given up, there are many strongholds of ancient habits which still 
resist the encroachments of innovation. ' EcFard\ ' husbari\ ' edjikate', 
1 Injun ', ' ooman ', ' masty' (mastiff), ( pagin ' (pageant), and the like, have 
gone, but [gnh/dz, n.?n'dz, ofn, l/tratja, bousan], and many others, survive 
from the wreckage. These natural and historic forms are growing 
steadily less, and every ' advance ' in education sweeps more of them 
away. It will be interesting to see what fresh pranks the rising genera- 


tion will play, and with what new refinements they will adorn our 

As regards the dialectal origin of the consonantal changes, it is difficult 
to assign any specific Regional starting-point to most of them. It seems 
probable that the loss or assimilation of consonants in groups, the drop- 
ping of final consonants, the development of parasitic consonants between 
certain combinations, and so on, belong to the universal tendencies of 
English speech. We find evidence of all these changes East, West, and 
Centre in the dialects of the South and Midlands, in the fifteenth century. 
An examination of the early forms of Place Names would certainly reveal 
earlier examples of these and other processes than any given below, and 
might also enable us to say in which areas they were most prevalent. 
Other changes, such as the loss of initial w- before rounded vowels, the 
development of w- before certain other rounded vowels, the development 
of initial y- [j] before certain front vowels, might be localized with more 
precision were our knowledge of the distribution of Regional dialect 
features during the Late M.E. and Early Modern periods more complete 
than it is at present. 

Whatever be the area whence these various consonant changes 
started, nearly all of them are found fairly early in the London dialect, 
and later in Received Standard. 

For the sake of clearness it has seemed best to deal with the various 
phenomena in groups, according to the general nature of the process 
involved, rather than by taking every consonant separately and discussing 
everything that may happen to it. 

The following general classification of consonant changes includes under 
its several heads most of the chief points that demand attention. 


A. Isolative Changes without either Loss or Addition. 

-h becomes -f- ; (a) final, (b) in combination, -ht. 
-ng becomes -n, i. e. [n] becomes [n]. 

ft 1 


th [J>] becomes/; and PS] becomes z>, initially, medially, or finally. 
-s- becomes -sh, i.e. [sj becomes [|], medially and finally. 
Interchange of w- and v-, and of v- and w-. 

B. Combinative Changes involving neither Loss nor Addition. 

(1) ty, i.e. [tj] becomes [tj] initially and medially. 

(2) [sj] becomes [f] initially and medially. 

djl becomes Tdz] initially and medially. 
Yjj becomes [z] medially. 
Assimilation of -nf- to -/f-. 

C. Loss of Consonants. 

. (i) Loss of initial h-\ (a) stressed, (b) in unstressed syllables. 
^ (2) Loss of w- : (a) in stressed, (b) in unstressed syllables. 

(3) Loss of -/- before certain consonants, immediately following. 

(4) Loss of r : (a) medially before a following consonant, (b) finally. 

(5) Loss of consonants, especially of d, /, when final, immediately pre- 
ceded by another consonant. 


(6) Loss of consonants between vowels, or after a consonant before 
a following vowel. 

(7) Loss of back or front-open-voiceless consonant, written h or gh 
(a) finally, (b) in combination with -/ (written -gh/). 

(8) Loss of final -f. 

(9) Loss of n before other consonants, in unstressed syllables. 

D. Addition of Consonants. 

( i ) Of w- before rounded vowels. 

(2) Ory- [j] before front vowels. 

Of [j] after -, g- before front or originally front vowels. 

(4) Of </, medially in combination -nl- ; of b in combination -ml-. 

(5) Of -d- or -/- finally after -r, -n, -/, -s, -/. 

(6) Of h- initially before vowels. 

E. Voicing of Voiceless Consonants. 

(1) Of initial wh- = [w]. 

(2) Of other consonants: (a) initially, (b) medially; (i) between 
vowels, (2) after a voiced consonant before a vowel. 

F. Unvoicing of Voiced Consonants. 

It will be observed that the terminology employed in the above system 
of classification is not in all cases strictly accurate from the phonetic 
point of view. Thus h- the aspirate is not a consonant, but a ' rough 
breathing', or stressed-breath-on-glide. Again, when gown is pro- 
nounced gownd there is in reality no ' addition ' of a consonant at the 
end ; all that happens is that denasalization takes place before the 
tongue-position of -n- is dissolved. The effect to the ear is that a new 
and different consonant is added to the -n ; but from the phonetic point 
of view there is a diminution, not a renewal of activity. Similarly, we 
talk popularly of ' dropping * a final consonant when husban* instead of 
husband is pronounced. As a matter of fact, all that happens in the 
former case is that nasalization continues to the end of the articulation. 
With this warning there can, I think, be no danger in adopting for the 
sake of convenience a popular terminology which regards the acoustic 
effect upon the listener, rather than the actual activities of the speaker. 

A. Isolative Changes without either Loss or Addition. 
M.E. -(g)h becomes [-f]. 

M.E. h, gh (back-open-voiceless cons.), at the end of a syllable, or 
before -/, either disappears altogether in the South or becomes -f. For 
the disappearance see p. 305. 

The change to /is the result of a strong lip-modifying (' labializing') 
tendency, which at last was so pronounced that the back consonant 
which it accompanied was gradually weakened and finally lost altogether, 


leaving presumably a lip-open consonant, which generally tends to 
become the lip-teeth [f]. In some dialects the latter sound was probably 
developed in M.E. It cannot have been fully formed in London English 
much before the fifteenth century or it would have been perpetuated in 
the spelling of some words at least. The following examples in some 
cases show -f in some forms which in present-day Received Standard 
have lost the consonant completely. Some of the examples are from 
documents which may show Regional usage differing from that of the 
London Standard of the period. The spelling Edyngburth ' Edinburgh ', 
in Berners' Froissart i. 85, shows that the old sound still preserved in 
the North was unfamiliar to him. 

Spellings with -f are : thorf 'through', M. Paston ii. 197, 1465; 
troff* trough', 1553, R. Bradley' s Will (Leics.), Line. Dioc. Docs. 164. 
14 ; to laffe, Letter of Barnabe Googe, Arber, p. 12, 1563 ; Az^? rhymes 
distaff e, Gabr. Harvey's Letter Bk. 117, 1573-80; troffe rhymes skoffe, 
ibid. ; ' hold their hips and loffe, Shakesp., First Fol., 1621, Midsummer 
N. D. i. i ; * and coffing drowns the parson's saw ', L. L. Lost (Song at 
end of Play) ; also chuffes, First Pt., Hen. IV, Act 11, Sc. ii ; Butler, 1634, 
' laugh, cough, tough, enough commonly sound like laf, cof, tuf, enuf ' ; 
'I laft at him', Mall V., Verney Mem. ii. 379, 1647 ; Cooper, 1685, 
notes -f in rough, trough, and that enough as a ' numeral ' is ' pronounced, 
and better written enow '. 

It seems clear from the above that -f was pronounced, from early in 
the sixteenth century, in those words of this class in which we now use 
the sound. (For the vowel sound and the spelling of laugh cf. p. 205.) 
No doubt other words were included by some speakers. It is probable 
that thofivc though, which Fielding puts into the mouth of Mrs. Honour, 
Sophia Western's waiting- woman in Tom Jones (1748), was at that time 
provincial or vulgar. 

-ht- becomes ft. 

The curious spelling unsoffethe 'unsought*, Gregory's Chron. 192, 
1450-70, is undoubtedly put for ' unsoft'. The rhyme manslaughter 
laughters Roister Doister, 1553, is ambiguous. 

Marston rhymes after daughter, Eastward Hoe, v. i, 1 604 ; the 
Verney Papers have dafter (e\ 1629, Mrs. Wiseman, p. 143 ; Butler, 1634, 
' daughter commonly sounded dafter ' ; Verney Mem. dafter, ii. 203, 
Mrs. Isham, 1645, "- m - 3 X 5 (three times), 1657, and again, iii. 232, 
1655; Jones, 1701 'some sound daughter, bought, naught, taught, 
nought, &c., as with an/j saying daufter, boft* , &c., pp. 54 and 55. It is 
hard to say how far Jones is to be trusted not to include provincialisms 
or vulgarisms among his pronunciations. Mrs. Honour, the waiting- 
woman in Tom Jones, writes soft 'sought' in a letter. Probably by 
Fielding's time, at any rate, many of the -ft pronunciations given by 
Jones were becoming antiquated among the best speakers. To judge 
from the statements of the grammarian, and the evidence of the occa- 
sional spellings, it certainly looks as though throughout the seventeenth 
century the usage was not definitely fixed as regards the distribution of 
the various types, so that dater, daughter, dafter [dsetar, dotar, dseftar, 
slsetar, sloter, slsefter, toft, b5t], &c., were all in use. 


There is no assignable reason beyond the fortunes of apparently 
arbitrary selection from among the various types why we should say 
[slots] on the one hand, and [l^fta] on the other. 

Substitution of -th [J>] for -gh = [ x ] or [j], 

We sometimes get a substitution of [))] for the old voiceless back or 
front open consonants, where these still survive among an older genera- 
tion, or occur in words introduced from another dialect. I take the 
spelling Edyngburth 'Edinburgh', Berners' Froissart i. 85, and 
Machyn's Luthborow ' Loughborough ', 309, to be examples of such 
a substitution, and likewise Peter Wentworth's Usquebath ' Usquebaugh ', 
W. Pprs. 196, 1711; Jones's sith for sigh must also be a survival of 
such an imitative pronunciation. The same is true of the modern 
pronunciation [kij>l/] for Keighley, Yorks., the younger generation of 
the district no longer using the old sound, and finding it more convenient 
to adopt one which can be mastered by speakers from farther south. 

Substitution of \_-ni\for [rj], popularly known as ' dropping the g ' in 
the Suffix -ing. 

Such pronunciations as hunting shilling &c., which for some reason are 
considered as a subject of jest in certain circles, while in others they are 
censured, are of considerable antiquity, as the examples which follow will 
show. The substitution of ' n ' for ' ng ' [rj] in Present Participles and 
Verbal Nouns was at one time apparently almost universal in every type 
of English speech. At the present time this habit obtains in practically 
all Regional dialects of the South and South Midlands, and among large 
sections of speakers of Received Standard English. Apparently in the 
twenties of the last century a strong reaction set in in favour of the more 
' correct ' pronunciation, as it was considered, and what was in reality an 
innovation, based upon the spelling, was so far successful that the [rj] 
pronunciation (' with -ng') has now a vogue among the educated at least 
as wide as the more conservative one with -n. 

It is probable that a special search would reveal far more numerous 
and earlier forms of the -n spellings than those I have noted. 

Norf. Guilds (1389), holdyn, 63, drynkyn, 59, 66, 1389; Marg.Paston, 
wrytyn (N.), i. 49, 1443, g^yn (N.), ii. 74, dyvysen (N.), ii. 92, hangyn 
(Part.), ii. 124; Agn. Paston, walkyn, Past. Lttrs. i. 114, 1450; Gregory, 
I 45-7o> blasyn sterre 'comet', 80, hayryn 'herring', 169; Guild 
of Tailors, Exeter, hyndryn, 317, 1466; Sir Richard Gresham, 1520, 
hanggyns, Ellis iii. i. 234, 235; Machyn, 1550-, syttyn, 33, rydyn, 
183, standyn, 191, syngyne, 281; Q. Elizabeth, besichen^ Letter to 
James VI, 60. 

The following are taken from Verney Memoirs : seem, missin, ii. 63, 
betn, 70, comin, 71, plondarin, 71, all written by Gary Verney, 1642; 
I may go a beggin, a beggen, Mrs. Isham, ii. 207, 220, 1645; shillms, 
Doll Smith, iii. 409, 1657; disoblegin, Lady Hobart, iv. 55, 1664; 
lodgens, Lady Elmes, iv. 121, 1665, lodgins, Lady Hobart, iv. 126, 



Cooper, 1685, includes among words having the same sound though 
differently spelt, coming cummin, coughing coffin, jerkin jerking', Lord 
Rochester, 1647-80, rhymes/tfrMz>^ \)Z2cc-garden [fserdan], in 'Against 
Disturbers of the Pit*. 

Lady Wentworth has takin, dynin-room, 47, lodgins, 45, levin ' living', 
54, Feeldin, 58, approachm, 66, buildin, 84, Haystins, 56, devertin tricks, 
tf, prancin along, 57, ingagin, 60, digin 'digging', 6i,fardm, 99, want 
of dungin ' dunging ', iii,mornin, 113, stockins, 126, wr tints, 275, the 
Anthem for the Thanksgivin, 321. Swift in the Introd. to Polite Con- 
versations puts learnen among the words 'as pronounced by the chief 
patterns of politeness at Court, at Levees', &c., to which he objects. 
Pope, 1713, rhymes gardens -farthings -, Epigr. to Lord Radnor, where 
the latter word is doubtless pronounced as by Lord Rochester and Lady 
Wentworth. Walker, Rhet. Gr., 3rd ed., 1801, hedges a good deal. He 
says that he can assert that the best speakers do not invariably pronounce 
-ing to rhyme with king, but rather as in. He recommends -in in the 
Present Participles of words like sing, fling, ring, but prefers -ing in 
others. ' Our best speakers universally pronounce singm, Iringin, flinging 
After saying ' What a trifling omission is g after n ', he goes on : * Trifling 
as it is, it savours too much of vulgarity to omit -g in any words except 
the -ifl^-type. Writing, reading, speaking are certainly preferable to 
writin, readin, speakin, wherever the language has the least degree of 
solemnity.' Walker is here trying to run with the hare and hunt with the 

-ng written for -n. 

The pronunciation implied by this spelling may be heard occasionally 
at the present time, sometimes from those speakers who ' leave out the -g ' 
in the ending -ing. A few scattered spellings of this kind, one from the 
fifteenth and others from the sixteenth century onwards, may be recorded. 

Lupinge ' lupin ', the plant, Palladius 46. 60 ; kusshing ' cushion ', Thos. 
Pery, 1539, Ellis ii. 2. 150; slouinglie, Latimer 55, 'slovenly'; evyngsong, 
Machyn, 119, &c., &c.; J. Alleyne, Alleyne Papers 16, 159-?, fachenges 
'fashions'; chicking 'chicken', Sir R. Verney, Verney Mem. iii. 115, 
1653; forting 'fortune', otherwise fortin, cf. p. 277; lining 'linen', 
Lady Hobart, iii. 305, 1657; Mrs. Isham, ibid. iv. 108, 1663; chapling 
1 chaplain ', Gary Stewkley (Verney), ibid. iv. 35, 1662 ; fashing ' fashion ', 
Mrs. Edm., ibid. iv. 71, 1664; childering * children', Pen. Denton, 
ibid. iv. 469, 1692. Lady Wentworth, early in the following century, 
writes ' Lady Evling Pirpoynt ', and her daughter-in-law Lady Strafford, 
kttching, W. Papers 540, her son Peter, becktnged l beckoned ', 108, 1710. 

It is difficult to say how far some of these are not inverted spellings 
implying that -ng has for the writer the same value as -n, and how far, on 
the other hand, they represent genuine pronunciations with [n]. Such 
pronunciations undoubtedly do exist. 

Among very vulgar speakers not in London alone we sometimes hear 
noihink' for nothing at the present time. Cavendish, L. of Wolsey, 1557, 

/ INSTEAD OF th 291 

writes hankyng, p. 97, and Q. Elizabeth, in 1548, ' brinkinge of me up', 
and 'our brinkers up', Ellis i. 2. 154. 

This pronunciation is referred to by Elphinston, 1787, who remarks 
* a common Londoner talks of anny think else, or anny thing kelse', and 
again, ' English vulgarity will utter anny think (dhat iz, thingK) '. 

Assimilation of\rj\ to [n] before point-consonants d, t, th. 

Shillingford has ley nth ' length ', 85 ; Elyot's Gouernour has strenthe, 
237; Lady Sussex, Verney Mem. ii. 90, has kaindom 'kingdom'. 
Elphinston regards lenth, strenth as * the Scottish shiboleth ', and Walker 
as ' the sure mark of provincial pronunciation '. 

Change of th [J>] to f ; [$] to v. 

The results of these changes are heard sporadically at the present time. 
It is doubtful whether such pronunciations as [tif, fri], &c., for teeth, three, 
&c., are characteristic of any Regional dialect as a whole. They appear 
to belong rather to individuals here and there, and they seem to occur more 
frequently in the speech of the lower strata of London speakers than else- 
where, though they may survive as uncorrected faults of childhood among 
individuals in all classes and belonging to any region. I have not found 
any very early examples, but the following are of some interest. 

Finally, Bk. of Quint., erf = ' earth ', 18, 1460-70; Gregory has 
Lambeffe for Lambeth, 229; initially, Machyn \&& frust for thrust, 21, 
and Frogmorton for Throgmorton ; medially, Q. Elizabeth, bequived ( be- 
queathed', Transl. 149; and finally, John Alleyne, Alleyne Papers, helfe, 
15 and 1 6 (159-?), and Middleton, Chaste Maid in Cheapside, has 
'neither kiff nor kin', Act iv, Sc. i (1630); Mrs. Isham has lofte for 
loathe, Verney Mem. ii. 220, 1645. In the last instance the -/ is a typical 
addition, cf. p. 309, and does not concern us for the moment. 

Elphinston, in 1787, refers to 'the tendency of the low English to 
Redriph and loph instead of Rotherhithe and loath', cf. Muller, 252. 
Readers of Cowper's correspondence are familiar with his pet name 
' Mrs. Frog' for Mrs. Throgmorton, which shows that a pronunciation 
of the name similar to that used by Machyn still existed. 

Lady Wentworth writes threvoles for frivolous, 127, which rather sug- 
gests that she pronounced ' th ' as '/* '. 

Final and medial a becomes ' sh ' = [J]. 

This isolative change does not appear to be widespread, but I include it 
because I find that I have a few early examples noted among my collec- 
tions, and it is referred to as a vulgarism by Elphinston in the eighteenth 
century. This fact makes it probable that the early forms mean some- 
thing, and are not mere scribal vagaries. 

The following are the examples I have noted : R. of Brunne, Handlyng 
Sinne, 1302, reioshe 'rejoice', 2032, vasshelage, 4610; Bokenam, 1443, 
vertush, Ann. 248, mossh 'moss', Ann. 360, reioysshyng ' rejoicing ', Agn. 
401, dysshese 'disease', Agn. 614; Engl. Register of Oseney, 1460, 
blesshyng, p. 13; M. Paston, a powter vesshell, ii. 75, 1461; Caxton, 
kysshed ' kissed', Jason 85. 35 ; Machyn has the pry nc he of Spaine, 51, 52, 

u 2 


66; Henslow's Diary (1598), Henshlow, 213; Sir J. Leake, Verney 
Mem., burgishes * burgesses', ii. 218, 1645; Lady Lambton, hushband, 
Basire Corresp. 79 (1649); Mrs. Basire, parshalles, in (1653); ' touch'd 
a gall'd beast till he winch' d\ Congreve's Old Batchelor, Act v, Sc. xiii 


Elphinston notes the vulgar cutlash, nonplush, frontishpiece, Poarch- 
mouth. In the last word the change is propably combinative ; an earlier 
example of this 'vulgarism' is Porchmouth, Sir T. Seymour, St. Pprs. 
Hen. VIII, i. pp. 775, 776 (twice), 1544 ; the same spelling is used by 
C. Verney, V. Mem. iv. 136, 1665. 

Those who are familiar with Martin Chuzzlewit will remember Mrs. 
Gamp's vagaries in respect of substituting ' sh ' for ' s '. 

Interchange ofv- and w- ; v-for w-, and vr-for v-. 

This was formerly a London vulgarism, but is now apparently extinct 
in the Cockney dialect. Personally, I never actually heard these pro- 
nunciations, so well known to the readers of Dickens, Thackeray, and of 
the earlier numbers of Punch. My time for observing such points begins 
in the late seventies or early eighties of the last century, and I never 
remember noticing this particular feature in actual genuine speech, though 
I remember quite well, as a boy, hearing middle-aged people say weal for 
veal and vich for which, jocularly, as though in imitation of some actual 
type of speech with which they were familiar. I used to wonder why 
these people introduced this peculiarity in jest, and whose pronunciation 
it was supposed to imitate. I have since come to the conclusion that my 
boyhood's friends must have heard these pronunciations in their youth 
say from twenty to thirty years before my time, which would bring us 
back to the forties and fifties of last century. Another possibility is that 
the generation to whom I am referring did not as a matter of actual 
personal experience hear this interchange of v- and w-, but that they took 
them over from Dickens. 

The forms which I have noted are the following, though I have come 
across many others from the fifteenth century onwards : Palladius, 1420, 
vyves ' wives', 25. 669; Bokenam, 1441, valkynge, Ann, 540, veye, Ann, 
565 ; avayte ' await ', Marg. Paston, ii. 249. 1465 ; Lord Level's Will, vyne 
' wine ', L. D. D. 17. 12, Oxf., 1455 ; Prynce of Valys, Gregory, 1450-70, 
192; Reception of Cath. of Ar., 1501, vele 'weal', 415; Machyn, the 
Cockney Diarist, has vomen, 56, 59, &c., Vohake ' Woolsack ', 91, veyver 
'weaver', 83, Vestmynster, 86, Vetyngton ' Whittington ', 96, voman, 98, 
Vosseter 'Worcester', 102, Voderoffe, otherwise Woodroffe, 303. 

Elphinston notes the habit of confusing v and w among Londoners, 
but, while disapproving, does not assert that it is confined to vulgar 
speakers only ; Walker regards the practice as ' a blemish of the first 
magnitude ', but says that it occurs among the inhabitants of London, 
1 not those always of the low order '. 

I have noted the following early examples of w- for original v- : 
St. Editha, wex 'vex', 47, awowe 'avow', 864; Bokenam, wenger 
* avenger ', Ann. 476, wyce ' vice ', Fth. 42 ; Marg. Paston, wochsaf, i. 49, 
i 354; Gregory, wery 'very', 192; Cely Papers, were 'very', 50, 

ANTIQUITY OF < sh- 'SOUND FOR -/*-, -, ETC. 293 

whalew 'value', 73, Wy liars 'Villiers', 76; Machyn, welvet ' velvet', 6, 
u, 12, 19, &c., walance 'vallance', wqyce 'voice', 58, wetelle 'victuals', 
wacabondes, 69, wergers, 141, waluw, 186, wue 'view', 293. 

B. Combinative Changes without Loss or Addition, 
-si-, -ti-, that is [-si-, -sj-], also su = [sju], become ' sh ' [/]. 

The examples date from the middle of the fifteenth century. Marg. 
Paston sesschyonys ' sessions ', i. 178, 1450, conschens ' conscience ', ii. 
364, 366, 1469 ; Cely Papers prosesschchon, 113, pertyschon ' partition', 
57, partyshon, 133, fessychens, 23, restytuschon, 152, oblygaschons, 114, 
commyngaschon, 5, derecschons, 137; Letters and Papers i huisshers 
'ushers', 136. 1501; Admiral Sir Thos. Seymour instrocshens, St. 
Pprs., Hen. VIII, i. 779. 1544; Thos. Pery to Mr. R. Vane cornmy- 
shin, Ellis ii. 2. 140. 1539; Gabr. Harvey's Letters ishu 'issue', 13. 
1573-80; Q. Elizabeth, Letters to James VI (1582-1602) alteragon, 2, 
expectation, 3, execufon, 3; Marston, What you Will, 1607 caprichious, 
Act v, Sc. i. The following are all from the Verney Memoirs : indis- 
creshons, disposishons, Mall V., ii. 380. 1647 ; suspishiously, Lady V., ii. 
245. 1646; condishume 'condition', Mrs. Isham ii. 206; menishone, 
M. Faulkiner, ii. 56; fondashon, Lady Sydenham, ii. 101 ; mentshoned 
' mentioned', Lady Sydenham, ii. 162 ; hobblegashons, ibid. ii. 125, 'obli- 
gations '; adishon, Mary V., iii. 28. 1650; condishon, Mall V. (Sir 
Ralph's sister), iii. 213. 1655; possession, Gary Stewkley (Verney), iii. 
434. 1656; pashens, Lady Hobart iv. 56. 1664. Cooper, 1685, notes 
that ct\ ce, ti have the sound of sh in antient^ artificial, conscience^ magician, 
ocean, Egyptian, essential, pacience, &c. Jones, 1701, says that ocean is 
pronounced oshan, and sh also in issue. Lady Wentworth writes : 
Queen of Prushee, 63, expressions, 50, pation 'passion', 49, fation 
'fashion', 169, Prutia, 1 18, Prution (Lady Strafford), 243. Baker, in True 
Spelling, says that dictionary is pronounced dixnery. This last form 
indicates a pronunciation now extinct so far as I know. The above 
examples are quite sufficient to establish the early development of the 
present-day pronunciation. 

Initial su- = [sju] becomes -' shu- ' = [ju]. 

The earliest examples of sh- spellings, initially, which I can record, date 
only from the late sixteenth and middle seventeenth centuries. The first is 
found in the Alleyne Papers sheute 'suit', J. Alleyne, 159-, p. 16; the 
next are from the Verney Memoirs : shur ' sure ', Gary V., ii. 71. 1642 ; 
shuer, Lady Sydenham, ii. 101; shuite (of clothes), Luce Sheppard, iii. 
1653; shewer, Mrs. Sherard, iii. 324. 1657; shewtid 'suited', ibid. iii. 
325. 1657. Mrs. Basire writes ashoure, 112 (1653), shut 'suit', 132 
(1654). Cooper mentions the pronunciations shure, shugar, 'facilitatis 
causa'. Jones says that sh- is pronounced in assume, assure, censure, 
consume, ensue, insure, sue, suet, sugar. 

The careful pronunciation ' according to the spelling ' has been 
restored now in some of the above, such as suit, suet, consume, &c. 


-di- [dj] becomes [dz]. 

Present-day usage varies considerably as to the pronunciation of this 
combination in different words. Thus, while soldier, grandeur are pretty 
generally pronounced [souldzo, grsendza] we do not, for the most part, 
say [/midzYt, zhdzsn, z'dzat, oudzas] for immediate, Indian, idiot y odious. 
The ' careful ' artificial pronunciation of these and other words which is 
now generally affected is, however, quite recent. 

I am only able to offer comparatively few spellings, and only one of 
these earlier than the seventeenth century Machyn's sawgears 'soldiers', 
302 to prove the [dz] pronunciation. The Verney Memoir^ furnish 
the following: teges ' tedious ', Mall V., ii. 381. 1647 ; sogers ' soldiers ', 
Lady Sussex, ii. 105, 153. 1642. 

Jones, 1701, says that contagious, soldier, Indian, are pronounced 
contages, soger, In/an. Lady Wentworth writes sogar 'soldier', 113, 
emedgetly 'immediately'. Bertram, 1753, transliterates (for Danes) 
soldier, Indian, could you, had you, as soldsjer, indsjan, kudsju, hdedsju. 
The last two examples are interesting as showing the same colloquial 
pronunciation of final -d, followed by^/ [j] in the next word of a sentence, 
as we now employ [kwdzw, hsedzw]. 

Walker, Rhet. Gr., 3rd ed., 1801, says that polite speakers always 
pronounce edjucate, verchew, verdjure, and that they ought also to say 
ojeous, insidjeous, Injean. John Kemble, according to Leigh Hunt, 
Autobiogr. i. 180, said ' ojus\ ' hijjus' , 'perfijjus'. 

[zj] becomes [z]. 

This occurs chiefly in such words as pleasure, measure, where, origin- 
ally, u was pronounced [ju], and in hosier, brasier, &c., though in the 
latter group probably [houzza, brezzza], &c., are more common. Gary 
Verney, Mem. ii. 62. 1642, writes pleshar, plesshur, and Jones says that 
1 sh ' here, clearly [z] is pronounced in measure, leisure, brasier, 
glasier, hosier. 

-nf- becomes -mf-, -kn- becomes -tn-. 

The assimilation of the point -n- to m before a following lip-consonant 
is a natural one, and may be heard even at the present time from persons 
who are not careful speakers, in rapid utterance. Thus, one may occa- 
sionally hear all om board ', ' he 's im bed ', &c. 

The following examples are worth noting as showing the tendency at 
work in the middle of words : imphants ' infants ', Wilson, A. of Rhet. 
52.; Lady Wentworth writes comfution ' confusion', W. Pprs. 113. 
1710; Twittenham 'Twickenham* is found in Verney Mem. iv. 417. 
1687; Lady Wentworth writes Twitnam, W. Pprs. 49. 1705, and this 
form is common in the eighteenth century, and often found in Pope's 
poems and letters; Lady W. writes Lord Bartly for Berkley, 174. 

C. Loss of Consonants. 

Loss of the Initial Aspirate. 

In discussing this question we must distinguish between h- in stressed 
syllables and in unstressed, and further between words of pure English 

' DROPPING THE h-' 295 

origin and those from French or Norman French. It is doubtful whether 
the latter were pronounced with an initial aspirate originally. As regards 
words of English origin, it is only in respect of stressed syllables that the 
question of ' dropping the h- ' arises. In unstressed syllables, e. g. the 
second element of compounds, and words such as Pronouns and Auxili- 
aries, which more often occur in unstressed positions in the sentence, the 
loss of h- is very early, and at least as early as the thirteenth century is 
frequently shown by the spelling to have taken place in Pronouns (madim 
for made him) in the second elements of compounds (-ham and -urn, &c., 
often confused in early forms of PI. N.s). The question, then, is when 
did the tendency arise to pronounce 'ill for hill, or 'ome for home, &c., 
when these and other words occur as independent words in the sentence ? 
Norman scribes are very erratic in their use of h- in copying English 
manuscripts, and we therefore cannot attach much importance to thirteenth- 
or even to early fourteenth-century omissions of the letter which occur 
here and there. The forms in Norf. G.'s (1389), alf a pound, 80, and 
alpenny, 98, seem genuine. I have found comparatively few examples in 
the fifteenth'century of spellings without h- ; even the Celys, although they 
write h- where it is not wanted, do not omit it so far as I have noted. An 
unmistakable ' dropping ' seems to be ov)sold ' household ', in the Will 
of Sir T. Cumberworth, Line. Dioc. Docs. 1451 ; Margaret Paston has 
astely, ii. 143. 1463. She also writes traftyr 'hereafter', i. 530. 1460, 
but as she does not write ere for here, the loss of h- in the former word is 
probably to be set down to lack of stress. The form erefter also occurs 
in a letter of Q. Mary of Scotland (daughter of Hen. VII), in 1503, Ellis 
i. i. 42, and the same letter contains the spelling oulde for hold, a genuine 
instance of ' dropping the h '. Fifty years later, the Cockney Machyn 
has a fine crop of ^-less forms : ede ' head ', 29, alff ' half, 13, 19, ard, 
107, yt 'hit', 139, alpeny, 7, Amton courte, 9, elmet 'helmet', Allalows 
'All Hallows', 6 1. 

Cooper does not include the loss of initial h- among his traits of 
' barbarous dialect '. 

I have not noted any examples in the Verney Mem. except ombel 
' humble ', Gary V., ii. 63, and yumer * humour ', where the absence of 
the h- in pronunciation was normal ; Lady Wentworth also writes Umble, 
W. Pprs. 47, for Humble, a family name, doubtless on the analogy of 
the Adjective, zndyoumorc, ^2o,_youmored t 107, 320. The restoration of 
an aspirate in the last word is a trick of yesterday, and I never observed it 
until a few years ago, and then only among speakers who thought of every 
word before they uttered it. 

Mrs. Honour, in Tom Jones, writes : ' mite not ave ever happened ' ; 
' that as always ad', the last word being the only one stressed, except at 
ome. This phrase is still pronounced [atoum] by excellent speakers, and 
at6m is found as early as Layamon, c. 1 200. 

In the letter written by Mr. Jackson's fiance'e in Roderick Random, 
chap, xvi, there is not a single h- left out, although several are wrongly 
introduced, neither is there any in the letter written by Mr. Jonathan 
Wild to Letitia in Fielding's Life of that gentleman. 

Later in the century Elphinston, 1787, notes that 'many Ladies, 
Gentlemen and others have totally discarded ' initial h~ in places where 


it ought to be used; Walker, 1801, also draws attention to the habit, 
which he attributes chiefly to Londoners, and Batchelor does the same. 

The above evidence is too slight to found much upon, but so far as it 
goes, and its negative character is of some value, it would appear that the 
present-day vulgarism was not widespread much before the end of the 
eighteenth century. The gap in the evidence between Machyn and two 
hundred years later is remarkable. The practice, which apparently did 
exist in Machyn's day in London, must have been confined to a limited 
class. The evidence, from the spelling, for the wrongful addition of h- 
is, as we shall see, far more copious. 

It may be remarked that the habit of omitting initial h- is common to all 
Regional dialects except those of the North. In Modified Standard also, 
this was very widespread when I was a boy, even people, below a certain 
rank in society, who were fairly well ' educated ' being very shaky in 
this respect. This state of things has been very noticeably altered in the 
last few decades, presumably by the efforts of the schools. 

Loss of w. 

Initially before rounded vowels. 

Alice Crane (cousin of the Fastens) signs herself to Marg. Paston, 
* Youre pore bede oman and cosyn ', Past. Lttrs. i. 343 (1455). 

Machyn writes Odam for Woodham, 80. 

Jones, 1701, says ' the sound of o- written wo- when it may be sounded 
wo- ' in ivolf, Wolverhampton, worry, womb, woman, wonder, work, word, 
worse, worthy, woven, would, wound. Woad, he says, is pronounced ode. 
Mrs. Honour, Sophia Western's waiting-woman, writes uman ' woman ' in 
a letter. 

Tuckwell, Reminiscences of Oxford, records that Dr. Pusey's mother, 
Lady Lucy Pusey, who died well over 90 in 1859, always said ' ooman* 
for woman. 

-w- lost after a consonant before rounded vowels. 

Agnes Paston sor 'swore', Past. Lttrs. i. 219 (1451); John Alleyne, 
Alleyne Pprs. 15, has sord 'sword' (159-?); sowlen < swollen ', Thos. 
Watson, Teares of Fancie, Sonnet 35. 1593; Daines, 1640, says w is 
scarcely pronounced at all in swound ' swoon ', and but moderately in 
sword, swore, 51 ; Sir R. Verney writes sourd 'sword ', V. Mem. ii. 32, 
84 (twice), 164 (twice), 1641 ; Gary Stewkley, V. Mem. iv. 341. 1685, 
writes sord; Cooper, 1685, says ( w quiescit' in sword, sworn ; Vanbrugh 
writes gud soons = God's wounds, Journey to London, 1726; Baker, 
1724, gives the pronunciation of swoon as sound; Cooper, 1685, says that 
quote is pronounced like coat ; Jones gives sord, solen, sorn, &c., as the 
normal pronunciations. 

Qu- [kw] becomes k- : ' coting of ye scriptures', Euph. 320; 
Jones says k- for qu in banquet, conquer, liquid, quote, quoth. 

Loss of-w- before an unstressed vowel. 

This must be very old, cp. uppard, Trinity Homilies, p. in (c. 1200). 
Hammard ' homeward ' occurs several times in S. Editha. 

Except in PI. N.s Harwich, Greenwich, &c., -w- has usually been 
' restored ', from the spelling, in this position e. g. Edward, forward. 


Mrs. Basire writes forard, Corresp. 137 (1654); Mrs. Alphra Behn 
writes aukard, Sir Patient Fancy, Act n, Sc. i ; awkard is also found in 
Mountfort's Greenwich Park, Act 5. Sc. 2, 1691; Lady Lucy Pusey, 
according to Tuckwell, still called her famous son Ed'ard. 

Loss of -I- before Consonants. 

At the present time -/- is no longer pronounced in normal speech 
before lip-consonants, as in calf, half, balm, calm, &c., nor before back- 
consonants, as in walk, stalk, folk, &c. Before other consonants it is, on 
the whole, retained, e. g. malt, salt, &c. 

The evidence for the loss of this consonant, so far as my experience 
at present goes, begins in the fifteenth century. The loss of the sound 
itself is doubtless older than the earliest spellings which omit the letter. 

Bp. Bekinton, 1442, has behaf 'behalf, p. 86; Short Engl. Chron., 
1465, Fakonbrige, p. 70; Gregory, 1450-7, sepukyr, 233; Cely Papers, 
1475, &c.: -fawkyner, 81, Tawbot 'Talbot', 46, Pamar, 15, soudears, 
soudyears 'soldiers', 146; fawkener, Jul. Berners, 1496; Ascham, mouled 
'moulted', Tox. 26; Gabr. Harvey, Letters, Mamsey, 144; Mulcaster, 
Elementarie, p. 128, enumerates as examples the following words in which 
/ is not pronounced : calm, balm, talk, walk, chalk, calf, calms, salues, 
'as though cawm, bawm', &c. Q. Elizabeth, Transl. 20, 1593, writes 
stauke (N.); Machyn writes hopene 'halfpenny', swone 'swollen', 226, 
Northfoke, 149 (three times), sawgears 'soldiers', 302; Surrey, ti547, 
rhymes bemoan swolne, Tottel's Misc. 28, thus justifying Machyn's 

From Verney Memoirs come : sogers, Lady Sussex, ii. 105, 153, Sent- 
arbornes ' St. Albans ', Lady Sussex, ii. 104, my \mfafakeland, Lady Sussex, 
ii. 104, hop 'holp', Pret., W. Roades (Steward), iii. 274, 1656, Norfuck, 
Edm. Verney, iii. 282, 1656, Mamsbury, Lady Bridgeman, iii, 1660. 
Cooper, 1685, notes that there is no / in Holborn\ Jones, 1701, says 
that / is lost in Bristol (Bristow being the old type, and showing really 
no loss of I), folk, Cholmondeley, Holborn, Holms, holp, holpen ( = 'hope, 
hopen '), Leopold, Lincoln, Norfolk, Suffolk, soldier, yolk. Lady Wentworth 
writes sogars, sougar, 113. Jones, 1701, besides the ordinary words 
without -/ mentions Mulgrave, pronounced Moograve. 

The pronunciation of should and would without -/- may be due to 
absence of stress in the sentence. I have noted the following early 
examples: shudd, Elyot's Gouernour 70, 1531, shudd, Gabr. Harvey, 
Letters, 3, shud, Gary Verney, Verney Mem. ii. 71 (twice), 1642, wode 
'would', Lady Sussex, ibid. iii. 103, wood, W. Roades, ibid. iii. 275; 
Isaac Walton, in Aubrey's Lives ii. 15; sha't is written for shalt, Con- 
greve's Way of the World, Act i, Sc. ix (1700). 

At the present time soldier is no longer pronounced without /, though 
I knew an old cavalry officer, now dead, born about 1817, who always 
said [sodza], and the same old gentleman also pronounced falcon as 
[fokan], and spoke of having followed the sport of [fokann] in his youth. 

The ' restoration ' of / in these words is a modern refinement. Swone 
of Surrey and Machyn, two extremes of the social scale, has passed into 
the limbo of forgotten pronunciations, and I have not found the form in 
the following centuries, though it may well have existed. 

I have noted two interesting examples of the loss of / in unstressed 


syllables before following consonants: sepukyr, Gregory 283, and 
hosieries ' hostelries ', Lord Berners, i. 77. Aubrey writes Marybon 
' Marylebone', Lives, i. 67. 

The chief interest for our present purpose concerning this consonant 
lies in the conditions under which the sound is lost or retained. 

The quality of the sound itself varies in different dialects. In Received 
Standard, at any rate in the South, the sound has a very weak consonantal 
character that of a weakly articulated point-open consonant, generally 
voiced, but unvoiced after another voiceless consonant, e.g. in fright, 
pride, &c. = [frfl/t, pr<w'd] ; in the true Regional dialects of the South 
from East to West it is, or was until quite latterly, an inverted point- 
open, rather more strongly consonantal than in Received Standard ; in 
Northumberland, and among isolated individuals all over the country, 
a back -r, with slight trilling of the uvula, is heard ; in Scotland the sound 
is a strong point-trill. 

The conditions under which the sound is retained or lost in Received 
Standard are the following : it is retained : initially, and when preceded 
by another consonant, before vowels run, grass ; in the middle of words 
between vowels starry, hearing, &c.; and, though this is not always 
true of the speech of the younger generation, at the end of words when 
the next word begins with a vowel and there is no pause in the sentence 
between the words /0r ever, over all, her ear, &c. 

R is lost : in the middle of a word before all other consonants hard, 
horse, bird = [had, hos, bXd], &c., &c. ; at the end of words unless the next 
word in the sentence begins with a vowel. 

There is evidence that r was lost in the South, before consonants, at 
least as early as the fifteenth century, and it will be noted that so far as 
the occasional spellings, and, very rarely, the rhymes, throw light, it is lost 
earliest before -j, -sh. 

The following is the evidence I have collected, covering the period 
from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries inclusive. Bokenam (1441) 
rhymes adust wurst, St. Lucy 60 and 61 ; in the Will of J. Buckland, 
1450, cf. Line. Dioc. Docs., p. 41. 15, the spelling Red wosted qwisshens 
occurs; Cely Papers has passell 'parcel', pp. 31, 178, and the word 
master is written marster, p. 156, and farther for father, p. 83; Gregory 
has mosselle, 234, 'morsel'; church rhymes with such, Rede me, &c., 39, 
(1528); skaselye 'scarcely', Robinson's transl. of Sir T. More's Utopia 
( I 55 6 ), skasely, Sir T. Seymour (1544), State Papers, Hen. VIII, vol. i, 
p. 781; Machyn (1550-2) writes Wosseter, 46, Dasset 'Dorset', 48, 57; 
Masselsay 'Marshalsea', 255, &c.; Surrey, in Tottel's Misc., rhymesfursf 
dust, first must] Roper (1*1578), in his Life of Sir T. More, writes farther 
for father (this work not published till 1626 in Paris); dryardes ' dryads' 
occurs, p. 14, in Laneham's Lttr. (1575); John Alleyne, posshene 
'portion', Alleyne Papers, 16, 159-?; Sir Edm. Verney (the Standard 
Bearer) writes Fottscue and Fottescue ' Fortescue ' (i 635-6), Verney Papers, 
p. 170; the Verney Memoirs have the following spellings: from vol. ii: 
quater 'quarter', M. Faulkner, 54 (1642), dose/ 'Dorset', Lady Sussex 
(1642), 102, Senetabornes 'St. Albans', where clearly no r was pro- 


nounced, Lady Sussex, 155 (1642), passons 'persons'. Mrs. Isham, 203 
(1642), 'my sister Alpotts' 'AlportV, Lady V., 245 (1646), wood 
'word', Mall V., 380 (i 647), fust 'first', Mrs. Isham, 200, 208 (1642); 
vol. iii : P aster ne = ' Paston ', Sir R. V., 244 (1655), <no father then 
Oxford', Sir R. V., 292 (1656); vol. iv: quater, Doll Leake, 113 
(1665), drawers 'draws', Dick Hals, 307 (1674). Cooper (1685) says 
that wusted represents the pronunciation of worsted. Jones (i 70 1 ) indicates 
the pronunciation minus r in Woster, hash, mash for ' harsh ', ' marsh '. 
Lady Wentworth (1705-11) writes Gath, 63, 271, for the name of the 
physician Garth, and other correspondents write Albemal Street, 274, 
extrodinary, 321, Doichester, 153, A uthor = ' Arthur ', 77, 398, 399, 
Duke of Molbery, 113, &c. The spelling Dower ger = 'Dowager', 464, 
shows that the symbol r might be written without being pronounced. 
Baker, in Rules for True Spelling, &c., 1724, says that nurse, purse, thirsty, 
Ursula, sarsanet are pronounced nus, pus, thusty, Usly, sasnet. Jespersen 
quotes German writers on English pronunciation of 1718 and 1748, who 
assert that r is not pronounced in mart, parlour, partridge, thirsty^ but 
says that Walker in 1775 is the first Englishman ' to admit the muteness 
of -r\ In Bertram's Royal English-Danish Grammar, 1753, r is said to 
be 'mute' in Marlborough, harsh, purse. Batchelor, 1809, speaking of 
the vowel in burn, says it is difficult to ascertain what portion of the sound 
belongs to r, as the vowel appears before -r to be only slightly different 
from that of u in nostrum. In other words, the vowel is lengthened and 
the r-sound has disappeared. 1 

In the more rustic forms of English, r before consonants retained a more 
or less strong consonantal quality longer than in the East. This is 
indicated by such a spelling as morun 'morn', Shillingford, p. 6, and 
baron ' barn ', in the Will of R. Astbroke (Bucks.), Line. Dioc. Docs. 
167. 35 (1534). At the end of the fifteenth century, Cr. Duke of York has 
sundery, 389, and therell 'the earl', 392. To summarize the above evi- 
dence, it would appear that the weakening and disappearance of r before 
another consonant, especially, at first, before [s, J], had taken place by the 
middle of the fifteenth century at any rate in Essex and Suffolk ; that 
a hundred years later London speakers of the humbler sort (Machyn), as 
well as more highly placed and better educated persons in various walks 
of life, pronounced the sound but slightly, if at all ; that the tendency is 
more and more marked, not only before [s, J], but before other con- 
sonants also, until by the middle of the next century it seems that the 
pronunciation among the upper classes (the Verneys and their relatives) 
was very much the same as at present. The later evidence, from the 
eighteenth century onwards, confirms this view. 

It will be observed that the eighteenth-century pronunciations [nas, 
pas], &c., which are clearly foreshadowed in the rhymes of Bokenam, and 
later of Surrey, the Verneys, &c., have been ousted by another type [PAS, 
nA"s, &c.], in which the r was not lost until after lengthening had taken 
place. The modern semi-humorous vulgarisms, written cuss, bust for 
curse, burst, represent the older type. The lack of confirmation from the 
fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Orthoepists of the loss of r before con- 
sonants has no significance, since many people at the present time are 

1 The rhyme after carter w Rede me, &c., 119, must represent [seta kseta], and at 
least shows that r was not pronounced in the latter word. 


unable to realize that they no longer pronounce -r- in this position, being 
obsessed by the spelling. 

Note. The spelling dace, the name of the fish, shows that r must have 
been lost early before -s\ Dame Jul. Berners, however (1496), still has 
darse in Wynkyn de Worde's print of her Treatyse of Fysshynge. 

Loss of Final -r. 

I have very little early evidence regarding this, but have noted the 
spelling Harflew in Bp. Pecok's Represser (1449), i- 2 58> and in Shake- 
speare's Hen. V, First Fol., n. i ; Lady Wentworth's spellings, Operer, 66, 
Bavavior, 90, Lord Carburer = Carbery, must express the sound [a] in 
the final syllable, and indicate that an -r in this position expressed no 
consonantal sound. 

The vowel murmur [a], developed from the suffixes -er^ -or, &c., as in 
better [beta], may probably be regarded as a simple weakening of a syl- 
labic -r, which is still heard in provincial dialects. There are occasional 
spellings in which the termination is written without a vowel : remembr, 
Sir J. Fortescue, 124, 125, undr, ibid. 135, and Dr. Knight's modre, 1512, 
Ellis ii. i, probably indicate [nmsmbr, undr, mudr] respectively. 

Development of Murmur -vowel after Long Vowel + r. 

After old long vowels and diphthongs formerly followed by -r we have 
now [a], the long vowel being partially shortened thus bear, hear, fire 
become [bea, hi?, few]. It was formerly supposed that, as in the instances 
just considered, the murmur-vowel was merely a weakening of -r. There 
is reason, however, to suppose that [a] developed between the vowel or 
diphthong and the following -r, before the loss of the latter. 

The following sixteenth-century spellings appear to prove this : Anne 
Boleyn (1528), / desyerd, desyer, requyer, all on p. 306, Ellis i. i; Sir 
Thos. Elyot, hiare 'to hire', Vb., i. 113; Will of Sir J. Digby (1533), 
Leic., Line. Dioc. Docs. 147. 16, desyoring\ Gabriel Harvey's Letters 
(1572-80), devower, \2%,fyer 'fire', i^Q.youers 'yours', 139; Countess 
of Shrewsbury, Letter, Ellis ii. 2. 66, duaring (1581); Q. Elizabeth, 
1 desiar, Letters to James VI, 13, and Transl. 122, hiar 'hear', Tr. 76, 
fiars ' fires ', Transl. 76. Of these possibly hiar might be questioned, the 
ia might be put for ea, but the others, I think, quite certainly point to 
[azar, uar, ouar]. I have not pursued the investigation farther, and can 
only offer one example of such a spelling in the seventeenth century, 
desiar, Gary Verney, in Verney Mem. ii. 68 (1642). Dr. Watts, True 
Riches, has the couplet 

Or she sits at Fancy's door 
Calling shapes and shadows to her 

where it is evident the rhyme is [dua tua]. Baker, 1724, Rules for 
True Spelling, says words ending -re are pronounced as though with -ur, 
fire, hire, mire, &c. = [fo/a], &c. 

Metathesis O/T. 

In Received Standard we use many metathesized forms, such as wright 
O.E. wyrhta, through Q.E.J>urh, wrought O.E. worhte, third O.E.firidda. 


The metathesized forms are probably E. Midland (Norfolk and Suffolk) 
in origin, to judge by M.E. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries other 
metathesized forms besides those heard to-day were in use, thus Marg. 
Paston has drust ' durst ', ii. 191 ; Cr. of Duke of York a Knight of the 
Garter, wrothey, ' worthy ', 399 ; Peter Wentworth, crutid ' curbed J , W. 
Papers 236, 1712; gurge ' grudge ' occurs in 1515, State of Ireland, State 
Papers, Hen. VIII, i, p. 23; brust 'burst', G. Harvey's Letters 33, 
1573-80; Queen Elizabeth, shirlest 'shrillest', Transl. 46. 

On the other hand, thorf through ' is written by Marg. Paston, ii. 197 ; 
' a silke gridyll ', Will of Sir T. Comberworth (Lines.), Line. Dioc. Docs. 

50. 6, and strike ' stirk', ibid. 50. 5 (1451), and thrid in Rewle of Sust. 
Men. 107. 36, and Kyrstemes 'Christmas' in Cely Papers 22 (1479). 

Cooper notes that ( r is sounded after o' in apron, citron, environ, 
gridiron, iron, saffron, 'as though written apurn, &c.' He also notes 
the very common sixteenth- and seventeenth-century form hunderd as 
being pronounced 'facultatis causa '. Baker, Rules for True Spelling 
(1724), transcribes apron as apurn, Katherine as Katturn, saffron as 
saffurn. The Wentworth Papers have Kathern, Lady Strafford, 305 
(1712), childern, Peter W., 68 (1709), Chirstmas [kXstmas], Lord Went- 
worth (a child), 462 (1730). 

With regard to the general question of the loss of r medially, before 
consonants, and finally, a curious passion for eye-rhymes long obtained 
among poets, and to some extent still exists. 

To describe such rhymes as higher Thalia or morning dawning as 
Cockney rhymes is foolish and inaccurate. The former is made by Keats, 
the latter by so fastidious a poet and gentleman as Mr. Swinburne. This 
prejudice is gradually dying out among poets. If this or that poet still 
dislikes and avoids such rhymes, perfect though they be according to 
normal educated English pronunciation, simply on account of the r in the 
spelling, that is his affair and his readers need not complain. If they are 
objected to on the ground that the rhyme is not perfect, and that it is only 
in vulgar pronunciation that -r- is not heard in morn, &c., this is not 
consonant with fact. 

Loss or Assimilation of Various Consonants in Combination. 

Loss of d before and after other cons. 

Hocdzvefreenly, Reg. of Pr. 2064 ; St. Editha, 1420 bleynasse 
'blindness', 2 93 *j,pounse l pounds', 213; Shillingford, 1447-50 Wensday, 

51, myssomer yeven, 65; Marg. Paston Quesontyde ' Whitsun ', i. 43. 
1440, Wensday, ii. 201. 1465 ; Cely Papers hosbanry, 43; Gregory, 1450- 
70 Wanysday,$6\ Elyot chylhode, Gouernour, Pr. cxcii ; Latimer 
Wensday e, Ploughers %o,frensheppe,i2%] Machyn, i$$ogranefather, 274, 

granser, 169, Wostrett ' Wood Street', 242, Wyssunmonday, 158; Lever's 
Sermons -frynshyp, no; Shakesp., R. of L., rhymes hounds downs, 
677-8; John Alleyne, Alleyne Pprs. stane, stannes still, hanes 'hands', 
16 (159); Verney Pprs. Wensday, Sir Edm. V., 229, 242. 1639; 
grannam 'grandam', Dr. Denton, 242. 1639; Verney Mem. Wenesday, 
Lady Sussex, ii. 123, also Dr. Denton, iii. 207. 1656, and Wensday, Gary 
Stewkley (Verney), iv. 136. 1665; hinmost, Dr. Denton, iv. 227. 1674; 


Lord Rochester (died 1680), rhymes wounds lampoons, Rehearsal; 
Vanbrugh, in Journey to London, 1726, makes Lady Arabella say gud 
soons = wounds ; Jones, 1701 Wensday, and omits d in intends, com- 
mands, &c., ' men being apt to pass over d in silence between -n- and 
another consonant ' ; Lady Wentworth writes Wensday twice, 49, 
hansomly, Clousley for Cloudsley, Baker, 1724, notes absence of d in 
hansone. Jones also says that d is not pronounced in landlord, landlady, 
friendly, handmaid, candle, chandler, dandle, handle, kindle, fondle, and 
other words in -ndl- ; further, in children ( = [tjYlran]). 

The pronunciation of London as [lanan], which persisted among polite 
speakers far into the nineteenth century, deserves a few words. The 
process was probably [landn lann lanan] the assimilation of -d- when 
flanked by n. The earliest examples I have found are from Mrs. Basire, 
who writes Lonan, pp. 133, 135, 137 (1654), and Lonant, 147 (1656). 
Gray, in a letter to Horace Walpole (July n, 1757), says ' if you will be 
vulgar and pronounce it Lunnun ... I can't help it \ 

Elphinston, in his works from 1765 to 1787, says 'we generally hear 
Lunnon '. 

Loss of-t- before and after other consonants. 

St. Editha -fonstone ' font-stone ' ; Marg. Paston morgage, i. 69. 
1448; Machyn Brenfford l Brentford', 57; Q. Elizabeth attemps, 
Lttrs. to J. VI, 23, accidens, ibid. 23, off en ' often'; Edw. Alleyne has 
wascote, Alleyne Mem. 26. 1593; Verney Pprs. wascott ' waistcoat', 
Mrs. Poultney, 261. 1639; Chrismas, Lady Sussex, 205. 1639; Verney 
Mem. crismus, Doll Leake, iii. 287. 1656; Coven Garden, Gary V., ii. 
64. 1642; Sir Philip Warwick, Memoires of Charles I busling 'bust- 
ling', p. 141. 1701 ; Lady Wentworth Crismass, 66. 1708, Wesminstor, 
62, crisned, 62, Taufs = ' Tofts ', the singer, 66 ; Shasbury = Shaftsbury, 
59, 198. Jones notes loss of -/- in the pronunciation of Christmas, 
costly, ghastly, ghostly, Eastcheap, lastly, beastly, breastplate, gristle, bristle, 
whistle, &c. ; listless, mostly, roast beef, waistband, wristband, christen, 
fasten, glisten, &c., and further in coifs foot, maltster, saltpetre, saltcellar, 

Most of the above pronunciations may still be heard in rapid unstudied 
speech ; to some, such as the omission of / in mostly, roast beef, &c., 
purists might object. It is interesting to note that Q. Elizabeth pro- 
nounced often without a /, as do good speakers at the present time. The 
pronunciation [rftn, 5ftn], now not infrequently heard, is a new-fangled 

Loss of b between other consonants ; also between another consonant and 
a vowel. 

I have only noted a few examples of this : assemlyd, Cely Pprs. 145 ; 
tremlyng, Cavendish, L. of Wolsey 234. 1557; nimlest 'nimblest', 
Q. Elizabeth, Lttrs. to J. VI, 29. Camerwell occurs in a memo, of sale 
of a house, Alleyne Mem. 83. 1607. 

Machyn has Cammerell ' Camberwell ', 300. The loss of -w- before 
an unstressed syllable is normal (see p. 296). Lameth 'Lambeth' occurs 
in a letter of Cranmer, 1534 (see p. 304, below). This particular form 
may well be mentioned here. 


Loss of -n + consonant. 

Westmysier, Gregory's Chron. 142, and passim, 1450-70; Westmester, 
Short Engl. Chron., passim, 1465; Westmester, Cr. Knt. of Bath, L. and 
Pprs. i. 388. 1493 ) Wasmester, Mrs. Basire, 140(1655); both Jones, 1701, 
and Baker, 1724, indicate Westmuster as the pronunciation. 

Loss <2/*-n- after a vowel followed by a consonant. 

Son y lawe ( son-in-law ', Marg. Paston, ii. 195; Sune elaw, Machyn, 


maUicholie (twice), Shakespeare, L. L. L., Act iv, Sc. iii, said by 

Loss of Final Consonants. 

The omission of final consonants, especially -/, -d after another con- 
sonant, but also occasionally after vowels, and, to a less extent, of other 
final consonants, seems to have been a common practice among all 
classes far into the eighteenth century. Most of these final consonants 
have now been restored in the usage of educated speech. 

Apart from combinative treatment, in which respect our natural rapid 
speech does not greatly differ from that of earlier centuries, in dropping 
final consonants before another word beginning with a consonant 
[rousbif, bisli], &c. the loss of -b after -m- (lamb, &c.) is the principa. 
survival of the tendency to eliminate final consonants, once so widespread. 

Loss of -d. 

blyn 'blind', Norf. Guilds 35. 1389 ; 'God of Hevene sene jou', &c. 
= 'send', Constable of Dynevor Castle, temp. Hen. IV, Ellis ii. i. 16; 
husbon, Marg. Paston i. 42, hunder, do. ii. 201 ; my tor, Cely Pprs. 
63; Edwar the iiij, Gregory 223; rebowne 'rebound', Rede me, &c. ; 
blyne 'blind', Machyn, 105, cole harber 'cold-', do. 74; yron Mowle 
1 mould ', Euphues 152, ole drudge ' old ', ibid. 317 ; Verney Mem. -friten 
P. P., ii. 53. 1642 ; Cooper gives thouzn as the pronunciation of thousand ' 
Lady Wentworth haspoun ' pound ', 62, thousan, 55, Sunderlin ' Sunder- 
land', 1 1 8, own ' owned', 93, Rickmon, scaffeh * scaffold', 100; her son 
Peter writes Northumberlain, 418 ; Jones notes ' the sound of n, written 
-nd, when it may be sounded in almond, beyond, Desmond, despond, diamond 
(cf. Lady W.'s dyomons, 57), Edmond, Ostend, Raymond, riband, Richmond, 
waistband, wristband, scaffold, Oswald, &c. ; Baker, 1724, says that 
almond is pronounced almun. 

Loss of -t. 

Seynt Johan j?e babtis, Norf. Guilds 27. 1389; nex, Marg. Paston, ii. 
82, &c. ; excep, Cely Pprs. 58, nex, ibid. 68; JBraban, Gregory's Chron. 
80; uprigh, Reception of Cath. of Aragon, Lttrs. and Pprs. ii. 415. 
1503 ; Beamon ' Beaumont', Lord Berners, i. 21. 1520; Egype, Machyn, 
262; prompe, Ascham, Tox. 26 and 39; stricklier, W. Norris, Alleyne 
Pprs. 35. 1608; Verney Pprs. respecks, Mr. Wiseman, 143. 1629; 
respeck, Mrs. Isham, 262. Verney Mem. have the following : gretis 
(Super!.), Lady Sussex, ii. 123, Papeses 'Papists', Mrs. Isham, iii. 230. 
1655, horn's 'honest', Lady Hobart, iv. 52. 1664 ; Mundy nex, Mall V., 
ii. 380. 1647; n*x> Lady Rochester (Sussex), iii. 467. 1660; respeck^ 


Lady Hobart, iii. 305. 1657 ; the res of our neighbours, Mrs. Basire, 1 10. 

According to Jones, 1701, -/ is omitted at the end of rapt, script, 
abrupt, bankrupt, corrupt, manuscript ; distinct, strict, direct, afflict, reflect, 
respect, sect, &c., &c. He gives the pronunciation of pageant as pagtn, or 

Lady Went worth prospeck, 62; Peter W.< strick 'strict', 255; 
Lady ^.richis < richest ', Lord Dyzer ' Dysart ', tex ' text ', Lady W. 
221. 1711; Baker, 1724 Egip, poser ip, ballas ' ballast '; Pope rhymes 
sex neglects, Epilogue to the Satires, Dial. I, 15-16. 1738. 

Elphinston says that / cannot be clearly heard in distinct, but has not 
quite disappeared in distinctly. 

Loss of final -f. 

kerchys 'kerchiefs', Bokenam, St. Cecil. 862. 1441; kersche and 
nekkerchys, M. Paston, ii. 342. 1469 ; Sant Towleys ' St. Olaves ', Machyn, 
118; masties 'mastiffs', G. Harvey's Lttrs. 18. 1573-80; Marston 
handkerchers, Ant. and Mell., Pt. ii, Act n, Sc. i, 1602 ; masty, Middle- 
ton's Trick to Catch the Old One, i. 4 (1608); Lady Sussex baly, 
Verney Mem. ii. 156. 1642 ; Baker, 1724 handkercher, mastee 'mastiff'; 
Jones, 1701 mastee ', bailee, hussee, or hussy ' housewife '. 

Loss of final -b. 

We no longer pronounce -b in comb, lamb, jamb, &c., nor in inflected 
forms of these words before a vowel, such as combing, lambing, &c. On 
the other hand, we have restored the b in Lambeth, originally LambheJ* 
with the South-Eastern or Kentish form of O.E. hyp, a landing-place or 
wharf. As early as 1418 Archbishop Chichele writes Lamhyth, Ellis i. i. 
5; and in 1534 a letter from Archbishop Cranmer, though not, 
unfortunately, preserved in his own handwriting, contains the form 
Lameth, Ellis iii. 2. 319; lameskynnes occurs in Rewle of Sustr. Men., 
1450. 49 ; to clyme ' climb', Euphues, 185. 1580. 

lamme, Gabr. Harvey's Lttrs. 135, lamskin, ibid. 14. 1573-80; to 
come it = 'comb', Pen. Verney, V. Mem. ii. 177. 1642. 

Cooper, 1685, notes that -b is lost in climb, dumb, lamb, limb, thumb, 
tomb, womb. 

In limb and thumb the b is unhistorical, the O.E. forms being lim, 
puma. The explanation of the spelling in these two words may possibly 
be that the final -b was once pronounced, having been developed accord- 
ing to the tendencies illustrated on p. 309, below. 

Loss of Consonants between Vowels, or after Consonants before 

a following Vowel. 
Loss of open consonants. 

St. Editha, 1420 senty 'seventy', 414, swene = sweven 'dream ', 906, 
godmores 'godmothers', 2215, pament 'pavement', 2027; Caxton, 
Jason pament, 166. 27. 1477; Machyn Denshyre, 39, Lussam 
'Lewisham'; Marston 1 marie 'marvel', E. Hoe 3. 2. 1605; Jones 
gives Dantry as the pronunciation of Daventry ; Cary Stewkley senet 
'seven nights, se'nnight', Verney Mem. iv. 434. 1656; Aubrey, Lives 
(1669-96), has Shrineham ' Shrivenham ' Berks., ii. 47