The English we hear when watching a Shakespeare play is not how Shakespeare spoke. Watch this video and be amazed how familiar he would have sounded.
One of the fascinating things linguists do is trace accents back through history to try to find the “root” accent. I’ve long known that people in Appalachia, Australia, and New Zealand probably speak an English closer to 16th-18th century English than any other English speakers in the world. That’s because they left England during those eras and, being sparsely populated and without a lot of population movement, preserved the English that they brought with them from the “Mother Country.”
Knowing that, though, and actually hearing it are two different things. Here is a short, delightful disquisition about Shakespeare’s English versus the modern “received” version. Incidentally, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the Shakespearean version easier to understand. Perhaps that’s because I have an American ear for language:
Oh, one more thing — about that semi-literate post title: That’s my own little joke when it comes to the English language. One of the funniest books ever published was an 18th century Portuguese guide to the English language. Its author was Pedro Carolino, who reputedly spoke no English. Instead, he put the guide together using a Portuguese-French dictionary and a French-English dictionary. Google Translate he was not. [Read more…]