Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Johnson’


Saturday, October 18th, 2008

I’ve been polishing up my paper about Benjamin Britten’s settings of English texts that predate modern English (the youngest text is by John Donne, who scholars generally consider to be in the “Early Modern English” era, although a few scholars still argue that there isn’t any such thing).  It is amazing to me (though perhaps it shouldn’t be) that something that seems as static as language… really isn’t.  One of the best courses I took in graduate school was “The History of the English Language” with Terence Odlin–just absolutely fascinating.  It gets me to thinking about whether we can notice language drift in our own lifetimes.  I’m not just thinking of neologisms, or changes in vocabulary.  Of course those will take place… five years ago “blog” was some kind of word out of a Lewis Carroll poem.  I’m thinking of the kinds of pronunciation changes that occured between, say, Chaucer and Donne, or between Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson; or the huge grammatical shift that happened in the hundred years after 1066.  Is there anything like that happening now?