A changing English

Friday, 10th July 2020 ◆ Development cycle without lead (9) Linguistics

Linguistic evolution happens just fast enough that we can watch it happen in front of us. What an exciting prospect!

Even so, it is interesting to step back and look at the larger picture from time to time, in order to get a sense of just how quickly our language changes.

Here are a few examples from the past to illustrate this change:

Approximate date Original Modern translation Source
670 nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard Now we must honour the guardian of heaven. Cædmon's Hymn
1000 him wæs geomor sefa, murnende mod Grave were their spirits, mournful their mood. Beowulf
1100 Her Cnut wearð ge coran to kinge. Here Cnut was crowned as King. The Peterborough Chronicles
1390 The Mynotaur, which that he wan in Crete. The Minotaur, which he defeated in Crete. The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer
1485 And so this lady lyle of Auelion toke her this swerd that she broughte with her. And so this Lady Lyle of Avelion took this sword that she brought with her. La Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Mallory
1609 Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Shall I compare you to a summer's day? Sonnet 18, Shakespeare
1720 This was a good market, but our misfortune was we had no merchandise Captain Singleton, Daniel Defoe
1811 "I think you will like him," said Elinor, "when you know more of him." Sense and Sensability, Jane Austen


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