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Shakespeare’s linguistic setting: Early Modern English

Watch Jonathan Culpeper explain that Shakespeare's language was part of so-called Early Modern English.

Shakespeare’s language was not an island but part of “Early Modern English” (or EME). Early Modern English is a conventional label applied to the period of English, spanning approximately 1450 to 1750.

EME had its own linguistic characteristics, and was partly shaped by technological development (e.g. the development of the printing press) and by socio-cultural events (e.g. the declaration of American Independence, when English began to go global).

Above all, Early Modern English was not as standardised as it is today. Think about the pressure we experience today to conform to written “standards”, to write in particular ways. Think about how, for example, how you yourself use certain models (what is in dictionaries) to spell.

What are the implications of having fewer constraints of this kind? Give your thoughts in the comments!

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Shakespeare's Language: Revealing Meanings and Exploring Myths

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