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Great Vowel Shift

It's as though somebody held a wild party at my own house, but never invited me—and somehow I slept right through it, then woke up amidst the wreckage! I've just learned about the Great Vowel Shift. Nobody ever told me that English pronunciation changed abruptly (on linguistic time scales) between the years 1400 and 1700 or so. Before that, vowels sounded like those in most European languages (Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, etc.). After it, "long" vowels moved up a notch and took over different sounds, pronounced more toward the front of the mouth. When Chaucer wrote f-e-e-t it was said the way we now say fate; when he wrote t-w-o it rhymed with the way we still say so, and likewise for him p-o-s-t and c-o-s-t were rhymes. It's hard even to write about. And it all happened within relatively few generations. Maybe a new-pronunciation meme spread suddenly because of the Black Plague, or the wars with the French, some folks speculate. Wild stuff, which I never suspected could happen in "my own language" ...

(cf. [1], [2], [3], [4], Valentine's Day 2009 (2009-02-14), ...) - ^z - 2009-02-18