Formation of the National language
There were several causes contributing to the use of the dialect of East Midland and particularly the dialect of London as Standard English. In the first place, as а Midland dialect the English of this region occupied в middle position between the extreme divergences of the north and south. In sounds and inflections it represents а kind of compromise, sharing some of the characteristics of both its neighbors. In the second р1асе, the East Midland district was the largest and most populous of the major dialect districts. А third factor was the presence of the universities, Oxford and Cambridge, in this region. These two universities had developed into important intellectual cent- res. By far the most influential factor in the rise of Standard English was the importance of London as the capital of England. It was the seat of the court, the center of social and cultural activities of the country. We should say that the history of Standard English is almost a history of London English.
In the latter part of the 15th с. the London standard had been accepted, at least in writing, in most parts of the country. Caxton, the first English printer, in his numerous translations used the current speech of London, and the books gave а currency to London English that assured its rapid adoption as well. In confirming the establishment of London English as а specific literary standard for the rest of the country, Chaucer’s writings exercised а certain influence.
In the Modern English period, the beginning of which is usually placed at 1500, some new conditions came into р1ау. The new factors were the printing press, the rapid spread of popular education, the increased communication and means of communication, and the growth of what may be called social consciousness.
The printing press was а powerful force for promoting а standard form of language and spreading that language throughout the country. The education was making rapid progress among the people and literacy was becoming much more common. Literacy meant contact with written texts in English (the standard, speech of London). In other words, as а result of popular education the printing press was able to exert its influence upon the establishment of the standard national form of English.
The changes in the class structure of England affected the 1inguistic situation precisely at the time when the standard form of the national language was being definitely established.
The beginnings of the modern period saw the growth of social consciousness. It is every one’s natural tendency to identify himself with а certain social group with the efforts to adopt the standards of grammar and pronunciation peculiar to this group.
In the Middle Ages the development of English took place under conditions which, because of the Norman Conquest, were largely peculiar to England. But by the close of the Middle English period the language faced three great problems like the other important European languages: (1) recognition in the fields where Latin had for centuries been supreme, (2) the establishment of а more uniform orthography, and (3) the enrichment of the vocabulary.
Although Latin had the advantage of universal currency, so that the educated all over Europe could freely communicate with each other, both in speech and writing, the recognition of English in this field was assured as the real force, behind the use of English was а popular demand of all sorts of men in practical life to use the national language in all social and cultural spheres.
The spelling of the modern languages in the Middle Ages had attempted with fair success to represent the pronunciation of words, and this is true of English in spite of the fact that Norman scribes introduced considerable confusion when they tried to write a language which they imperfectly knew. The confusion was increased when certain spellings became conventional while the pronunciation slowly changed. To many people it seemed that English spelling was chaotic. For instance, in one of Greene's Coney catching pamphlets (1591), we find 'соnеу' spelled 'cony', 'connу', 'соnуе', 'соniе' 'соnniе', 'соni', 'cuny' 'conny,' 'cunnie'. But in spite of all variety of spelling, by 1550 many of the features of English spelling were clearly becoming established.
In order to appreciate the importance of the Renaissance in enriching the English vocabulary it is worth while to count new words added at this time. А calculation based, upon the data available in the Oxford Dictionary gives а figure somewhat above 12,000. About half of the total number has become а permanent part of the language. Most of the new words entered English by way of the written language they are а striking evidence of the new force exerted by the printing press and the rapid spread of popular education. The mobility of English workers in the 16th с. was the chief social factor, besides the expansion of education, which affected the language. We know that the enclosure of farm lands, the depopulation of villages, the closing down of monasteries and the dissolution of feudal households cast adrift а large number of people who were not only made homeless and workless; they were also subject to severepunishment by the state for being so. Some of them, those who became citizens of London under- world - developed а jargon of their own. By the way, the same phenomenon can be observed in the history of all major European languages.
Other social changes had а more limited influence on the language. Thus, the increased trade and cultural exchange with other countries enriched the language with new words and new turns of expression.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the rise of experimental science and the rationalist trend in philosophy, both of them of course socially conditioned. contributed a strong additional influence reinforcing the tendency to regularity in language.
One of the achievements of early 17th -century scholarships was the translation of the Bible into English (1611) by а commission of scholars.The outcome of their labours wasnot merely а more accurate version but it was also а document of Early Modern English that entered everyfamily in England to be read and listened to every day or so. The intellectual tendencies are seen quite clearly in the 18th century efforts to standardize, refine, and fix the English language.
Today the linguistic situation in England is such that there is a divergence between the English officially used and taught in the schools, and, the various forms of native speech current among many people. This situation can be observed in the Early Modern English period as well. The regional forms of Middle English include the native Lowland English of Scotland, the Northern dialects, the Southern English dialects and town dialects such as Cockney and Scouse of Liverpool.
The Lowland English of Scotland in its literary form as Literary Scots was used first in the 15th с. by an important school of writers who carried on Chaucer's literary tradition in the North. Scottish poets of the 15th and early 16th c. wrote in two contrasting styles: а fairly simple one and an artificial style decorated with the learned terms of poetic diction. In the second part of the 18th century Robert Burns wrote in this grammatical form of Middle English and made it extremely popular; Sir Walter Scott used it in dialogue passages in his famous historical novels.
The dialects in the North of England have had no such literary tradition in modern times as that enjoyed by the Scottish. The reasons lie of course in the quite, different social and political conditions. Vanished and forgotten by most were the days of Richard Rolle who in the 14th с. wrote lyrical prose in the Yorkshire dialect. For Northern English we have а curious body of songs, which have come down to us from the mid-19th с. а period of bitter proletarian struggles in the mining and textile industries.
А few of the most striking characteristics of Southern Middle English, persisting into the 16th and 17th centuries, were used by dramatists of that time to represent а kind of generalized rural speech. Among the modern English writers it was Thomas Hardy who used scraps of local dialect in his stories about the Southwest region he called Wessex (cf. the speech of Tess of the D’Ubervilles).
In the Southeast, the dialect, which has attracted most attention in literary treatments, is the dialect of London speech known as Cockney. Dickens as spoken by the uneducated first recordedCockney in "Pickwick Раpers"; and G.В. Shaw's play "Pygmalion" clearly portrays the sосiа1 implications"- of the contrast in speech using this kind of Cockney side by side with Standard English. Cockney is an urban dialect; no 1еss а dialect than that of Devon shire or Yorkshire. The same words may be said about Scouse - the dialect of Liverpool speech.
It is to be noted that in the neighboring island of Ireland, the English language has had a special history. When Ireland was reduced to the status of an English colony, to political and economic oppression there was added a harsh discrimination against the native Irish tongue. Ireland is a classical example of a situation in which national oppression was related to linguistic discrimination. The modified form of English spoken in Ireland is termed Anglo-Irish.
Despite the pressure of Standard English regional speech lives on in Dover and Inverness, Newcastle and Bristol. Different types of English are spoken and the form of speech that is often called King's or Queen's English is not always in general use. The broadest forms of regional speech are local dialects. Historically these are developments of the parent tongue and are as 'correct' in their own areas as Standard English. Through the Middle English period (1100-1500) many forms of the language were acceptable. Writers had no standard spelling system to guide them and so tried to spell phonetically, writing their words as they were pronounced locally. In the 16th century the growing social importance of the court of London increased. The scholarly influence of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the establishing printing in London exerted a combined pressure towards a standard form of English.
Although the local speech of London and the South-east Midlands became increasingly important throughout the 16th century. It was still influenced by the speech of nearby areas. Provincial pronunciations were accepted from time to time and resulted in different pronunciations forspellings that had become standard: thus daughter and laughter, which at one time rhymed, now have quite different vowel sounds.
Writers about 1600 began to be very conscious ofthe variants in the language and to set out arguments for what was 'right' and 'wrong'. Early dictionary makers strengthened the growing belief that one type of English was 'better' than others.
From the time when the language of the South-east Midlands became predominant as the speech of the upper and edl1cated classes, the speech of the ordinary people ofthe area continued to develop separately as a local dialect. The north and west, which were outside the area of great prestige, had also continued their separate speech development.
The modern local dialects of all these areas and not merely slipshod versions of Standard English, but the products of linguistic history, often more regular in their forms and development than the standard language.
Various factors combine to weaken local speech traditions and. it is increasingly difficult to find in any community lifelong natives who use only local language habits. It is uncertain whether dialects will survive modern pressures towards standardization but for the moment fascinating variants in sounds and words are used by the people of different areas (Cf., for instance, she - -sheer, shur, shoo, shay, oo, her; I am - I bin, I is, I be, I are; children — baims, bairns, weans, children; to brew (tea) - mask, mash, wet, soak, make, draw, dame, scald, steep).
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