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History of English spelling

Discussion in 'English' started by mashabell, Mar 17, 2012.

  1. Some of u may already have heard of me and know that I don't believe in the 'vowel shift' explanation for the chaotic nature of English spelling. David Crystal in his Encyclopedia of the English Language has expressed doubts about it too.
    I was recently asked on Opinion to produce a bibliography for my view how English spelling has ended up in the mess it is - i.e. being ruined mainly by succession of foreign printers who printed the first English bibles, speaking little or no English.
    I therefore pasted in some sentences from my main source - W Pollard's 100-page introduction to his 1904 facsimile edition of the 1611 KIing James Bible.
    Some of u might the extracts interesting.
    They concern the printing of Tyndale's New Testament.
    ...before December 1925, copy had been handed to a Cologne printer and ten quires (eighty pages) of an edition of 3,000 copies in small quarto had been printed off, when an anti-Lutheran controversialist, Johann Dobneck, better known as Cocklaeus, anxious to ingratiate himself with the king of England, persuaded the magistrates of Cologne to interfere.

    To escape arrest, Tyndale and his amanuensis, William Roy, fled along the Rhine to Worms, taking the printed quires with them, and it was thus at Worms, not at Cologne, that the first printed edition of the New Testament in English was brought out. By a lucky chance a single copy of eight of the ten quires of Tyndale’s New Testament printed at Cologne has been preserved, wanting only the first leaf, and is now in the British Museum.

    Our knowledge of Tyndale’s Testament in its unrevised form rests on actavo edition which has been identified from its types and illustrations as printed at Worms by Peter Schoeffer. This has survived in a copy at the Baptist College, Bristol, lacking only the first leaf. After the octavo printed at Worms, no fragment of the test of any subsequent edition earlier than August 1534 is known to exist.

    Tyndale was at work on the Old Testament and refused all requests to supervise reprints of his version of the New. Copies of this are heard of as selling in England as early as the spring of 1526, and they were episcopally denounced in the following autumn. (Acc. to George Joy, the editor of the unauthorised edition of 1534),The ‘Dutchmen’ got a copy and printed it again in a small volume.A second reprint was in a larger form, and with larger type and with figures.

    Of these two editions there were about 5,000 copies printed and these were all sold out some time in 1533. A third reprint of 2000 copies Joy was asked to revise, but refused.When, however, yet another was in preparation, rather than allow 2000 additional copies to be placed on the market with the errors which by this time a succession of Dutch compositors had introduced, he undertook to correct the edition which appeared in August 1534.
    Unhappily, Joye did not confine himself to press-correction. He botched Tyndale’s English in places where he thought it obscure..
    In December 1534 the Upper House of Convocation of the province of Canterbury had departed so far from its attitude of mere resistance as to petition the King that the Bible might translated by authorized translators, and the progress which this denotes accounts for the rapidity with which one edition of Tyndale’s New Testament follows another at this period.

    Tyndale himself revised one more, printed for him by Godfrid van der Haghen, ere he was enticed from the house of the English merchants at Antwerp in May 1535, with the result that once beyond the wall of the free city he was arrested by the imperial authorities and carried to imprisonment and death at Vilvorde.

    Yet another 1535 edition may be noticed because of its strange spellings (faether, mother, &) which commentators attributed to the vagaries of Flemish compositors. But several similar spellings are found in a letter written this year by Tyndale’s friend, Thomas Poyntz, and it is possible that they should be looked upon as among the phonetic devices by which many bookish people in the sixteenth centrury tried to express their view of pronunciation.

    All these phonetic devices without exception were bad, but many have remained to trouble us in the twentieth century... Seven different issues or editions of Tyndale’s New Testament appeared in 1536, the year of his martyrdom (Oct 6), and between 1525 and 1566, when the last dated edition was issued, more than forty editions were printed, of which definite evidence has been preserved. From the fact that many of these are known only from a single copy, or fragment of a copy, we may be sure that other editions have perished entirely.

  2. Some of u might find the extracts interesting...
  3. Yes: the ridiculous self-promoting spammer Masher.
    Ask us if we're surprised.
    There was no standard spelling at that time.
    I live in the 21st century, myself.
  4. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    Spam, spam, spam, spam...
  5. Twaddle, twaddle, twaddle.

    The lame duck of the academic world is twaddling more nonsense.

    I wonder why no University is interested in her 'research project'. Is it because it's twaddle?
  6. It's you not the rediculous u that you insist on writing.
    How many times do you have to be told?
  7. Why did you not post this in response to the posters who actually challenged you on this subject.? Is it perhaps because you were scared they knew more about it than you do?
  8. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    Not possible, surely?
  9. What shocked me when I began to study the history of English spelling was that I had done A level English, yet knew so little about it. Nobody ever mentioned it, not even in the context of studying Chaucer.
    I had taught A Man for all Seasons for O level and had gone along with the general view that Sir Thomas More was a heroic figure. I had not even heard of Tyndale until quite late in life.
    Tyndale is the English equivalent of Luther. Nearly every German 10-year-old knows who Luther was. How many English 10-year-olds have heard of Tyndale and his martyrdom?
    I realise that most people's knowledge of history is minimal, but I find this particular lacuna amazing.
  10. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    I've known about Tyndale for as long as I can remember, but my family does come from Gloucestershire.
    This might interest you:http://www.grenville-media.com/product.asp?pid=816
    and this: http://www.grenville-media.com/product.asp?pid=33

  11. Thanks for those.
    I have found the history of English bibles extremely fascinating, perhaps because of studying philosophy.
    I am more annoyed by the fact that so few people are aware of Tyndale's influence on the English language.
  12. The focus here tends to be on the King James bible rather than Tyndale's translations, although obviously the one fed into the other.
  13. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    And Shakespeare used The Geneva Bible. This history of The Bible in English is far more complex - and political - than most people realise
  14. I wonder what evidence this claim is based on?
    But the Geneva Bible also consisted mainly of Tyndale's text,
    but embellished with numerous woodcuts, acc. to W Pollard.
    I agree that
    And the more I study it, the more evidence I find for its impact on English spelling too.
  15. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    The plays.
  16. Its hard to believe how ill-informed this is.

  17. Meet mashabell. She has barely managed to master English as a second language and is therefore demanding that it is changed to make it easier.

    She loves English she says, calling it "putrid", "abominable," "horrid," and a whole host of other negatives.

    Did you know that Samuel Johnson made his dictionary the way it is because "he was weird and didn't like children." One of masha's best.

    I used to try discussing things with her, but she is abusive when you disagree. These days she's a figure of fun.
  18. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    I'm glad she reminded me about the various translations of The Bible pre James, though. I've done a lot of work on Wycliffe in the past and I love the history.
    Since she doesn't believe in the Geneva Bible, I guess she won't be interested in the language of the King James. Or care that The Psalms were farmed out to poets (one of whom was almost certainly Bill the Bard) once they were translated. Or that the language was deliberately archaic when it was written.
  19. Your idea of study and mine are obviously very different, Masha me old duck,
  20. That's because it should be 'studdee'.

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