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Great Vowel Shift

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The period between fifteenth to eighteenth century (although it actually began in twelfth century and ended until eighteenth century) saw a major sound change sound change affecting the long vowels of English. The results of this change contribute to the difference, which we can see between Middle English and Modern English. The name ?Great Vowel Shift? was first used by Danish linguist Otto Jespersen (1860-1943).

In most cases the Great Vowel Shift influenced only the pronunciation, whereas spelling usually remained unchanged. Namely, the long vowels changed their place of articulation, i.e. how the sounds are produced. In general, the key principles of the GVS can described as follows:

* /a:/ in Middle English in was replaced by /?:/, /?:/, /e:/ in early Modern English, which were replaced by /e? / in Modern English (e.g. make).
* /?:/ in Middle English was replaced by /e:/ in early Modern English, which was replaced by /i?/ in Modern English (e.g. beak).
* /e:/ in Middle English was replaced by /i:/ in Modern English (e.g. feet).
* /i:/ in Middle English was replaced by /?i/ and /??/ in early Modern English, which were replaced by /a?/ (e.g. mice).
* /?:/ in Middle English was replaced by /o:/ in early Modern English, which was replaced by /o?/ and /?? / in Modern English (e.g. boat).
* /o?/ in Middle English was replaced by /u:/ in early Modern English, which remained unchanged in Modern English (e.g. boot).
* /u?/ in Middle English was replaced by /?u/ and /??/ in early Modern English, which were replaced by /a?/ in Modern English (e.g. mouse).

Of course, all of these changes occured as gradual long-time processes. Similar changes happened also in other languages, e.g. German, Dutch and Icelandic, but on the contrary to English, they kept the spelling more consistent with the pronunciation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Vowel_Shift
2. http://facweb.furman.edu/~mmenzer/gvs/what.htm
3. http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/vowels.html
4. http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wielka_przesuwka_samog%C5%82oskowa

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