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Early modern English loanwords (part 2)

Watch Jonathan Culpeper explain the words available to Shakespeare, providing further insights into loanwords.

Following the previous video-talk on English loanwords in general, and Latin in particular, this video-talk focuses on what Shakespeare was doing with those loanwords.

Many of Shakespeare’s specific uses reflect the general stylistic characteristics of Latin in English that were mentioned in the previous video-talk. For example, the fact that Latin loanwords tended to be polysyllabic expanded Shakespeare’s metrical possibilities. An English or Anglo-Saxon word could be swapped for a Latin loanword of similar meaning but with extra syllables to help get the metre or rhythm of a particular line right.

Latin loanwords, with their “high style”, could also contribute to the characterisation of high-status characters, and in fact low-status characters who would inevitably misuse Latin loanwords to humorous effect.

Do you think French and the way it is used by Shakespeare is similar to Latin or are there particular differences? How is Latin and/or French used by English authors today? Does that differ from Shakespeare? Write your thoughts in the comments.

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Shakespeare's Language: Revealing Meanings and Exploring Myths

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