Standardization Of The English Language Essay

This essay has a total of 1688 words and 8 pages.

Standardization Of The English Language

Standardization of the English Language

There are several important events before 1500 that when listed together show a
series of steps in the struggle for English language supremacy. These steps are
mainly governmental, legal and official events that pushed English usage. In
1356 The Sheriff's Court in London and Middlesex were conducted in English for
the first time. When Parliament opened in 1362 the Statute of Pleading was
issued declaring English as a language of the courts as well as of Parliament,
but it was not until 1413 that English became the official language of the
courts everywhere. Thirteen years later in 1423, Parliament records start being
written in English. 1400 marks date that English is used in writing wills, a
seemingly small step, but one that impacted many people and began a legacy of
record keeping in English. In 1450 English became the language used in  writing
town laws and finally 1489 saw all statutes written in English. But it was not
until 1649 that English became the language of legal documents in place of Latin.


The formal rules intended to keep the use of French in official capacities were
not enough to combat the effects of the Black Death and the Hundred Years War
between France and England, which both contributed greatly to the rise of
English and fall of French. By the fourteenth century, English was again known
by most people, although French was not forgotten, and the people who spoke
French were generally bilingual. The  Statute of Pleading made it law that
English and not French would be used in the courts. However, it needs to be
emphasized that at the end of this statement, it says that after the pleadings,
debates, etc. in English were finished, they should be entered and enrolled in
Latin. English became the official language of the court in 1413, but French was
permitted until the eighteenth century.

More than the official bureaucratic changes in rules and law were the changes in
the use of the language by the everyday speakers. The changes that distinguish
Early Modern English from Middle English are substantial. The rules for spelling
were set down for the first time. The key is the new consistency used by
teachers, printers and eventually by the general populace. The sign of maturity
for English was the agreement on one set of rules replacing the spelling free-
for-all that had existed.

Out of the variety of  local dialects there emerged toward the end of the
fourteenth century a written language that in course of the fifteenth century
won general recognition and has since become the recognized standard in speech
and writing. The part of England that contributed most to the formation of this
standard was the East Midland type of English that became itst basis,
particularly the dialect of the metropolis, London. East Midland district was
the largest and most populous of the major dialect areas. There were also two
universities, Oxford and Cambridge. In the fourteenth century the monasteries
were playing a less important role in the spread of learning than they had once
played, while the two universities had developed into important intellectual
centers. So far as Cmbridge is concerned any ist influence was exerted in
support of the East Midland dialect. That of Oxford is less certain because
Oxfordshire was on the border between Midland and Southern and its dialect
shows certain characteristic Southern features.

Written London English of the close of the fourteenth century as used by a
number of Middle English authors, such as John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer, had
not achived the status of a regional standard but was soon to become the basis
for a new national literary standard of English. It was the language of the
capital. Geographically, it occupied a position midway between the extreme North
and the extreme South. Already by 1430, this new standard had assumed a
relatively mature form. It was spread throughout England by professional clerks
in the administrative apparatus of the country and also became the model for
business aand pri-vate correspondence in English. It was this Chancery standard,
the normal language for all official written communication by the time when
Caxton set up his Printing Press in West-minster (1476), which became the direct
ancestor of Modern Standard English. As a result of this developments, the use
of regional dialects in writing receded more and more in the course of the 
fifteenth century until, in the Early Modern English period, writing came to be
exclusively done in the standard literary language.

The language of Chaucer's late fourteenth century and of the fifteenth were
often describe as Late Middle English. It could as well be called Early Modern
English. Ich and I ran side by side in Chaucer's language, and the distinction
between  ye  and  you was still that of nomina-tive versus accusative. Northern
they had replaced the earlier Anglo-Saxon hie, but hem was still alive. Such
became the preferred Chancery form which had ousted sich, sych, seche and swiche.
Which was replacing wich. The auxiliary verbs appear more regularly in their
modern forms: can, could, shall, should and would. A standardised spelling was
developing which was divorced from the phonetic environment so that sound and
spelling were becoming two separete systems.

An important linguistic change was also in syntax. Syntax governs the structure
of a sentence as well as the structure of verbs. Auxiliary verbs came into use,
for example the use of  do and  have which extended the capability of expression
for verbs. The subtle differences between  I walk, I do walk, and  I am walking
are not available in many other languages. This improvement assisted English in
differentiating itself from other languages. The use of  do as a "helping" verb
led the way for a host of other helping verbs: be, have, can, may, will and so
forth. This significant innovation set in motion a new way for verbs to be used.
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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