Trivia/Brain Teaser: Damn vowel shift! Come, weep with Zdrew78...

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    Jan 11, 2008 4:42 PM GMT
    ...and,as long as he brought the topic up, explain to him why (not how) our English vowels shifted.

    The Great Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of the English language that took place in the south of England between 1200 and 1600.[1] The Great Vowel Shift was first studied by the Danish linguist and Anglicist Otto Jespersen (1860–1943), who coined the term.

    The values of the long vowels form the main difference between the pronunciation of Middle English and Modern English, and the Great Vowel Shift is one of the historical events marking the separation of Middle and Modern English.

    Originally, these vowels had "continental" values much like those remaining in Italian and liturgical Latin. However, during the Great Vowel Shift, the two highest long vowels became diphthongs, and the other five underwent an increase in tongue height with one of them coming to the front.

    [There is no known answer to this question. But there is a fun sociological theory for it. ... icon_biggrin.gif ]
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    Jan 11, 2008 5:01 PM GMT
    The French. They had to be behind it. That damned Eleanor of Aquitaine was trouble, she was. icon_razz.gif
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    Jan 11, 2008 5:19 PM GMT
    Tangentially, French was part of it.
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    Jan 11, 2008 5:27 PM GMT
    Yes, Eleanor was quite the hussy. My great great...etc. grandfather was the chief rabbi of Aquitaine at the time...often she would call him into her throne room and say to him "Pinchas, is it true what they say about Ashkenazic men?" Pinchas tugged at his beard and replied "would your Majesty like to find out?"

    Which is why we have a French branch of the family.....
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    Jan 11, 2008 5:35 PM GMT
    ahem....the thread has seemed to have wandered. ... icon_rolleyes.gif
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    Jan 11, 2008 5:39 PM GMT
    it wasn't the high schools in los angeles?
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    Jan 11, 2008 5:39 PM GMT
    Come on, Caslon, can't we be serious AND have a little fun at the same time?

    By the way, what IS your sociological theory? On account of this is something I've actually read about from time to time, but no one ever really had a very good explanation of it.
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    Jan 11, 2008 6:09 PM GMT
    JP! I thought one of the guys in the Bayeux Tapestry bore a startling resemblance to you!

    In all seriousness, Caslon, did it have anything to do with the results of the Norman Invasion and subsequent "Frenchification" of the English aristocracy?

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    Jan 11, 2008 6:12 PM GMT
    yes, zdrew....but you have to keep going with what happened after that. In fact, come to think of it, the English Aristocracy still do it and for the same reason.

    Yes, FF. For you, it was the high schools in los angeles. You can stop answering now. tee hee hee ... icon_rolleyes.gif
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    Jan 11, 2008 6:18 PM GMT
    Geez, Caslon...let's dredge the memory a bit more. Anything to do with that whole fiasco between the pope, King John, and Philip Augustus (or was that Louis Phillipe?)?

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    Jan 11, 2008 6:20 PM GMT
    Caslon said In fact, come to think of it, the English Aristocracy still do it and for the same reason.


    to quote myself, because I edited my answer above.
  • jarhead5536

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    Jan 11, 2008 6:38 PM GMT
    Another occasion to shill my all-time favorite film - The Lion in Winter, starring Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins and others. The fictitious (?) events of Christmas 1183 told in the most biting black comedy ever written. Do yourselves a favor and see this 1967 film. Hepburn won her third Oscar playing Eleanor of Aquitane (the year after Guess Who's Coming to Dinner).
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    Jan 11, 2008 6:43 PM GMT
    Great film, jarhead!
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    Jan 11, 2008 6:55 PM GMT
    Ok, a possible reason for the Great Vowel Shift...

    It does have to do with the Normans taking over England. With the coming of the Normans, the aristocracy spoke Norman French for several centuries. But eventually, French gave way to English amongst them. Eeeekkkkk! How to know who was an aristocrat and who was common scum?!?!

    So one hypothesis posits that the aristocracy took to altering the way they spoke English to give them a different speak. This change took the form of shifting their vowels.

    And as I mentioned, the upper class in England still use a difference in speech to distinguish themselves.
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    Jan 11, 2008 8:24 PM GMT
    Caslon--

    I like that theory; it meets the plausibility test.
  • jarhead5536

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    Jan 11, 2008 8:25 PM GMT
    I heard somewhere recently that French was not actually spoken by French "peasants" until modern times. They spoke regional dialects so far removed from the mother tongue as to be different languages. Anyone know if this is true?
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    Jan 11, 2008 8:43 PM GMT
    Jarhead -

    As best my very rusty memory of medieval Continental history goes...and Caslon (or one of our resident Francophiles) can correct me if I'm wrong:

    Throughout much of early/middle medieval history, there was no single ethnic or cultural group in what we now think of as France. "France" was first a politically united entity under Charlemagne and the early Carolingians. Their predecessors, the Merovingians, were largely Germanic in origin, and there are even (rather unfounded and ridiculous) myths that link the Merovingians to the founding of Rome (!). After the fall of the last Carolingians to Hugh Capet and his successors, there was a time when what constituted "France" was no larger than the current Ile-de-France region.

    So...long story shorter: no. There was not one unified language, just as there was no unified culture.

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    Jan 11, 2008 8:49 PM GMT
    Caslon said

    And as I mentioned, the upper class in England still use a difference in speech to distinguish themselves.


    New to me that one, we have regional dialects the same as you have in the US, other than that I see little fact in what you are saying. Our language has always been a bastardised language made up of many invaders and adapted also to suit the inbreeding of the European Monarchy. Modern English was very much as the result of the education of the masses where alot of phoenetic speak was used to replace the traditional spelling of words.

    its one of the reasons English is one of the hardest languages to learn as it follows no basic rules or patterns.

    What I am unsure of are the US English spellings of words wether they are Old English or they have simply evolved as well
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    Jan 11, 2008 8:56 PM GMT
    Caslon also mentioned, though, that it was a "possible reason," not a fact, and that there "is no known answer." It's all academic inquiry. icon_wink.gif

    As a possible explanation, it's interesting. I'd always assumed language - dialects included - evolved naturally. I'd alway believed the premeditated and deliberate accent shift was the intellectual copyright of Madonna, not early English aristocracy. icon_razz.gif


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    Jan 11, 2008 9:32 PM GMT
    bfg:

    I thought there was a distinct style of speech by your "upper" class...kinda like the way Di, Charles and the Queen speak...or, in Di's case, spoke.

    I think there is also something over there called "Received Pronounciation" or something like that. Is that same as the way Chuck and the Queen speak?

    Always willing to learn! ... icon_biggrin.gif
  • jarhead5536

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    Jan 11, 2008 9:43 PM GMT
    Another literary reference here. I feel so cultured today.

    The play "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw, later bastardized into the musical "My Fair Lady" was supposed to be a commentary on dialect, and how it directly relates (in Edwardian England anyway) to ones social station and mobility within society.

    Professor Higgins bet (correctly) that he could take a filthy, illiterate flower girl (the Walmart cashier of her day) and pass her off as a princess just by teachiing her the correct dialect of the King's English. Any diction coach (including mine, who banished forever my perfectly dreadful East Texas twang) will tell you that this is still possible today...
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    Jan 11, 2008 11:19 PM GMT
    bfg1 saidWhat I am unsure of are the US English spellings of words wether they are Old English or they have simply evolved as well


    American English began being standardized by Noah Webster, compiler of the first American dictionary. As I recall from some history class or other, the choice to use "z" rather than "s" in words like "standardize" and the collapsing of "ou" into "o" in words like "color" was a deliberate choice, made to distinguish our language from Corrupt Old Theirs.
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    Jan 11, 2008 11:31 PM GMT
    Caslon saidbfg:

    I thought there was a distinct style of speech by your "upper" class...kinda like the way Di, Charles and the Queen speak...or, in Di's case, spoke.

    I think there is also something over there called "Received Pronounciation" or something like that. Is that same as the way Chuck and the Queen speak?

    Always willing to learn! ... icon_biggrin.gif


    Wouldnt really say its a distinct style of speach. Its more clearer annunciation of the words. The same as any court this was the way of the land, initially you may have been right in that it was adopted as a way of segregation or rather showing eliteism but then it became part of culture. So its no longer class specific but area specific/regional dialect and does not reflect social standing.

    As to what on earth Madonna is doing she sounds like a bad US actor attempting a UK accent its totally cringeworthy!

    the way in which the royal family speak is a million miles different from anyone else. I used to work for a Private Bank with alot of landed gentry as clients, that was an experience but we did have to address correspondance in a similar way but none of them actualy spoke in that manner.