This site is devoted to the production or performance of works from earlier periods of English spoken in original pronunciation (OP) – that is, in an accent that would have been in use at the time.

Introduction

The present-day movement to perform works in OP began in 2004, when David Crystal collaborated with Shakespeare’s Globe in an OP production of Romeo and Juliet. This was so successful that the following year the Globe mounted a production of Troilus and Cressida in OP, and since then over twenty plays have been performed in OP, most of them reported in the Events archive below. 

I’m sure there must be other OP initiatives around the world, and until now there has been no place where they can be brought together. This website was created to enable people to find out about OP, archive their events, announce plans, raise queries, and share their experiences of working with it and listening to it.

Breadth

Although Shakespeare was the stimulus for current interest in OP, the notion is much broader. Any period of English history can be approached in this way, and indeed there have been several projects where people have tried to reconstruct the pronunciation of earlier works in Old and Middle English, notably for Chaucer. 

More than literature is involved. There are opportunities for people interested in the vocal dimension of early English music, as well as for those involved in heritage projects which present original practices, such as Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. Several examples from the musical world can be found in the Events archive below.

Variety

It’s important to appreciate that there is no ‘single’ OP. All periods of English contain many accents, and this allows for variant OP performances.

The evidence that allows us to reconstruct what was the case is often mixed, and choices have to be made about which sound qualities to go for. Variations in spelling can point us in different directions. Observations by contemporaries can indicate that some words had different pronunciations (as they have today). Deductions by historical linguists can reach different conclusions about the quality of a sound. Any attempt to reconstruct an earlier period of pronunciation is based on as much scientific evidence as is available, but inevitably involves a certain amount of guesswork. The more OP illustration and discussion we have, therefore, the sooner we will be able to arrive at a consensus about best practice.

This site therefore aims to act as a first point of call for those interested in promoting an OP dimension to their activities. It will include only work that is grounded in a serious investigation of the sound system of a period. There are plenty of comic pastiches of the ‘ye oldee speech’ kind and wild imaginings of how people once spoke, such as the ‘oo-arr’ voices traditionally given to pirates. These will not be found here.

Why bother with OP?

OP performance brings us as close as possible to how old texts would have sounded. It enables us to hear effects lost when old texts are read in a modern way. It avoids the modern social connotations that arise when we hear old texts read in a present-day accent.

In relation to Shakespeare and other poets...
  • Rhymes that don't work in modern English suddenly work.
  • Puns missed in modern English become clear.
  • New assonances and rhythms give lines a fresh impact.
  • OP illustrates what is meant by speaking 'trippingly on the tongue' (Hamlet).
  • OP suggests new contrasts in speech style, such as between young and old, court and commoners, literate and illiterate.
  • OP motivates fresh possibilities of character interpretation.

473 comments

 
 
Kenneth
Beesley
says

Jan 16, 2021

19:05

Many thanks for the pointers on non-rhotic speech.
 

Jan 13, 2021

23:38

original comment
This isn't an area I've personally researched, I'm afraid, so I've nothing to add to the standard accounts. The topic does come up from time to time, though, such as this contribution by John McWhorter to Language Log a few years ago: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=19486.  Paul Meier might also have some leads: https://www.paulmeier.com/links/
 
 
Kenneth
Beesley
says

Jan 13, 2021

22:39

On the subject of non-rhotic pronunciations: The usual story that one hears, following Labov, is that non-rhotic pronunciations arose in New York in the 19th century as the upper classes aped the speech of prestigious non-rhotic English immigrants and visitors; and then non-rhoticism spread to all classes. Then, after World War II, rhoticism was generally adopted by the upper classes, leaving non-rhotic pronunciations heard mostly from the working classes. However, Richard Bailey ("Speaking American," 2012, p. 40) argues that "as late as the 1820s, British purists decried the absence of 'r' among 'the natives of London' in such words as 'pearl,' 'girl,' and 'card,' (Vulgarities 1829, 256)" as did Isaac Pitman and Alexander J. Ellis as late as the 1840s, but "In the second half of the seventeenth century, however, the r-less pronunciation was already emerging as a distinctive feature of American English." I.e. he appears to be claiming that non-rhotic pronunciations in places like Boston and New York were emerging even before they became a consistent feature of upper-class British speech. Any corrections or pointers to further reading on the rise of non-rhotic pronunciations on East Coast America would be much appreciated.
 

Jan 06, 2021

21:38

original comment
Yes, I think so. John Walker's Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, published in 1791 - very much aimed at people who wanted to speak in an elegant way - has a postvocalic /r/ throughout. There were several other features too, compared with a century later - many words showed a difference in stress, for example. The RP that we hear in the Nightingale recordings was beginning to emerge around 1800, so it's likely that some elderly people in 1790 would still have traces of the local accents they grew up with, while others would be trying to leave these behind (often by taking elocution lessons).
 
 
John
Toyne
says

Jan 05, 2021

01:22

Hello David, While listening again to the recording of Florence Nightingale from 1890 I started wondering how an elderly, well-bred woman of 1790 might have sounded. Perhaps something on the far edge of Florence's accent, something even more clipped, with (possibly) an echo of older vowel sounds ? And If we incorporate your earlier replies to me regarding the post vocalic /r/ and possibly an aspirated WH/hw/ sound ... Well, would it have been something like that ? Once again, many thanks
 

Dec 30, 2020

11:48

original comment
Yes. The traditional pronunciation rhymes wind with behind, find, mind, and so on, and it remains so today in several regional dialects, as well as in poetry. There are some lovely Middle English spellings that show the length, such as wyynd and wijnd - you can see the range in the online OED. Wind with a short vowel emerged during the 18th century - Johnson actually mentions this example as a current change in his Plan for the Dictionary -  and achieved some use in poetry in the 19th. Swinburne, for example, rhymes wind and sinned. So why did the poets keep the older form? Probably because there are far more rhymes using it. There aren't many like sinned.
 
 

Dec 29, 2020

23:30

The final couplet of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" is: "The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,/ If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" Can we assume that in 1819, when Shelley composed the poem, "wind" was pronounced as an exact rhyme of "behind"?
 

Dec 29, 2020

12:12

original comment
These rhymes have been much discussed. In cases like this, you have to begin by looking at all instances of the words, to see what is likely.
 
The 'ow' words seem to have had two pronunciations - as some still do today, as when flower is pronounced as monosyllabic 'flah' or 'floor' as well as disyllabic 'flow-er'. The sequence in LLL 4.1.138 of foul, bowl, and owl clearly suggests that bowl rhynmed with owl. And foul and fowl are a pun in MW 5.5.10. On the other hand, bowl clearly rhymes with foal in MND, and fowls rhymes with controls and souls in other places. So one has to take a view, and in the LLL case my preference would be for having bowl go in the direction of owl, rather than the other way round.
 
As for note and pot... there's no hint of pot ever having had a long vowel, and it rhymes with got in Macbeth. So, if this is a good rhyme, it would mean note being pronounced as not. But all the other rhymes in Shakespeare with note are long vowels - dote, quote, coat, throat. So one has to look elsewhere for evidence. Spellings like nott and not in Middle English show that there was a short variant, and the OED has an example of this spelling from as late as the 1580s. So again. one has to take a view, and I would say that in this LLL text, note was pronounced like pot.
 
 
Ethan
Schoales
says

Dec 29, 2020

07:54

In "Winter" from LLL, Shakes rhymes "bowl" with "owl" and "note" with "pot". Is this due to the pronunciations being different then, or were these simply free rhymes to begin with?
 
David
Crystal
says

Dec 28, 2020

11:07

original comment
It was never like say, in its usual modern pronunciation as a diphthong. It was a pure vowel, in Shakespeare's time, as it is today. A better similarity is to think French é as in bébé - in other words, it was just slightly more open than the modern sound, which in RP is very high and front, and there would have been variations in the degree of openness, just as there is today.

Because this is a phonetic difference, it's unlikely that anyone would have tried to describe it before the growth of phonetics at the end of the 19th century. The only factual observation I can think of is in the early audio recordings. Florence Nightingale, for example, has the modern sound. So, given what we know about the general rate of phonetic change, I would guess that, by the end of the 17th century, sea would have developed its modern sound, and definitely by the end of the 18th.

Incidentally, I changed my mind about the best way of transcribing the Shakespearean sound of this vowel. In my early OP transcriptions, I used an <e> symbol, to draw attention to the more open variant. But working with actors, I found that this misled them into thinking it had the quality of the /e/ in a word like set. So I now use /i:/, as in my Oxford Dictionary, and tell people about its more open phonetic character in the introduction. Also incidentally, in April I'll be adding an audio dimension (modern alongside OP) to Shakespeare's Words, where the contrast will be frequently illustrated.
 
Ethan
Schoales
says

Dec 28, 2020

04:53

When did "sea" stop sounding like "say"?
 
Quinton
J Kappel
says

Dec 17, 2020

17:33

In the fall of 2020, I reached out to David through this website with the hopes of getting his input on a scene that was performed in Original Pronunciation for an audio drama that I was directing. Truth be told, my scene partner and I arrived at our rendition of the accent by ear - predominantly through videos featuring Professor Crystal and his son Benjamin. Miraculously, David not only got back to me with thoughtful and comprehensive notes on what he heard, but he took it one step further and offered to coach us over Zoom. Needless to say, his involvement and interest was a big deal and I was positively geeking out when he responded to my very “cold-call” email. Over the course of the two hour workshop, he scoured the sound of every word in the scene and even searched for opportunities to enrich the language with more dialect-appropriate phrases just to add that little extra layer of polish and pop. I am profoundly grateful for his interest, faith, and investment in this little folktale of ours and I am humbled to have been privy to his wisdom and his art. The final show shines all the brighter because of it. Thank you so very much, David. You can check out the final version of the scene that he workshopped here as well as a link to download the full audio drama: https://soundcloud.com/trinacria-theatre-company/colapesce-an-audio-adventure-prologue-featuring-quinton-kappel-clara-francesca/s-lM1zMT9zx19 http://www.trinacriatheatre.com/colapesce-an-audio-adventure
 

Jul 12, 2020

19:21

original comment
Proper names are usually a problem for OP, as they’re so prone to personal idiosyncrasy (as they are today); but I think we can rely on hints from older spellings of Biblical names, which are likely to have been more conservative. The online OED can be helpful, as it usually shows spelling variations. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I treat the names as following the same sound system as any other word – so Messiah with a centralised diphthong, Jehovah with a pure /o:/ vowel, and Jah the same as today. The only likely difference is Selah, which today has a long vowel, but in OP probably had a short /e/ as in set (there’s a similar example in east, pronounced /est/).
 
Bianca
H.
says

Jul 12, 2020

18:18

Dear David, I've been working on recording music from the Ainsworth and Allison Psalters from around 1600 and have been attempting to use OP by working from your Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation and videos of you and Ben I've found online. I'm currently working on Psalm 84 from Ainsworth's Psalter, but don't know how to pronounce words like Messiah, Jehovah, Selah, and Jah. Do you know how they might have been pronounced, and could you recommend a resource for working with these names and words particular to biblical texts? Many Thanks! Bianca
 

May 15, 2020

16:47

original comment
Yes, OP goes down very well in schools. I've only ever illustrated it to A-level students, but son Ben has illustrated it many times for younger kids. They love it because it's closer to their own accents, in most cases, than when they hear RP. And they especially like the way the rhymes work. Take a look at the paper I wrote for a collection on teaching the English language that appeared in 2017: 'Teaching original pronunciation'. You can read it on my website: go to Books and Articles, filter on Shakespeare, and scroll down a bit.
 
Edward
Perrins
says

May 15, 2020

14:06

Dear David, I hope you are keeping well in this peculiar time. I am a trainee English teacher with a background in Linguistics. I am currently completing a research piece for my PGCE, and I am exploring how OP could be used in the classroom, as an integral part of the curriculum, to enhance pupil engagement in learning Shakespeare. I wondered if you had any thoughts on this, whether you were aware of any initiatives to bring OP into schools, or if other education professionals have discussed or trialled teaching Shakespeare and using OP either to add to student's knowledge of the texts or be able to reinterpret them through the new meanings that OP brings to light. Thank you for bringing such an interesting linguistic and historical discovery to the forefront. As a Linguist and a lover of Literature, the findings around OP research interests me endlessly. Best wishes, Edward Perrins
 

Apr 06, 2020

19:48

original comment
I've never studied the N Am evolution, but what you say seems right. Not just London speech, though. There were several dialects in the English of the Mayflower settlers, for example. If you get in touch with Paul Meier (www.dialectsarchive.com), he might have some relevant observations.
 
Rich
Rhodes
says

Apr 05, 2020

02:38

I've been using OP as a starting point for looking at the development of North American dialects, in a class I teach. The timing is right 1607-1690. The continued influence of London speech throughout the colonies is provable from the spread of r-vocalization in the period around the American War of Independence. Have you considered looking at N. American dialects as potential evidence for the pronunciation of particular words that might lack attestation in crucial environments in the Shakespearean record? I noticed that OP "our" is with [o] rather than [??] which the forms in N. America would point to.
 

Mar 07, 2020

22:55

original comment
Interesting question. A few people have told me they've experimented with selective OP - for certain characters or for certain lines or scenes. I saw this in practice working with Ralph Fiennes when he was playing Richard III. He felt that in the last scenes, when Richard has his back against the wall, it would be interesting to have him revert to his roots - which might have been a modern Yorkshire, but he preferred to try the lines in OP. I suppose the principle isn't any different from the multilingual production of Dream from India some years ago, where characters switched from their mother-tongue into and out of English. But the decision has to be a dramaturgical one. As a linguist, all I can do is draw attention to the possibilities: it's up to the director and actors to decide how to exploit them. But as a playgoer, I do think the need for intelligibility should always be respected, so I'd be inclined to support your intuition in such cases. And if it doesn't work, for some reason, then - well, we've learned something.
 
Jane
Emma Barnett
says

Mar 07, 2020

21:06

Hello David! I'm curious about your thoughts in the occasional employment of OP in a production that would otherwise be performed in a contemporary dialect. For example, if a certain pun or rhyme scheme was understood only in OP, do you think it would be grievously distracting to utilize the sounds of OP in only those words? In other words, is it necessary to perform entirely in one dialect if it means sacrificing understanding of certain rhymes, wordplay. etc.? Thank you! Jane Emma
 

Jan 28, 2020

16:28

original comment
Yes, there are several online sources, such as the one from the International Phonetic Association: https://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/content/ipa-fonts
 

Jan 28, 2020

15:26

original comment
Thanks for catching that. I'll take note of it. I suppose I will have to learn at least the small roster of IPA symbols you used in the "streamlined" notation in your 2005 book. Is there a source for downloading the IPA symbols that I can put into my early-spelling scripts?
 

Jan 27, 2020

22:45

original comment
Thanks for this. Yes, I know several actors who have developed an individual respelling system, and if it helps, good luck to them! The main problem with a person-based system is that it may not travel well, as people from a different accent background will interpret the respellings differently. That's where the IPA wins, as anyone who has learned it can be sure it will be interpreted in the same way everywhere. But individual systems, such as yours, can have great personal value for people who have a similar phonology. Your transcription reads well - but note that there's no 'ch' in natural.
 

Jan 27, 2020

21:55

Hi David, Now that I am cast as a character in an OP production (Kent in "Lear" at the BSF), I finally got around to starting your "Pronouncing Shakespeare" book, which I've had since 2008. I quickly found your comments on annotation, about having considered and rejected modern-letter spellings in favor of the IPA. I had already experimented with such re-spellings for my own use. I believe that, while the result is certainly imperfect, it provides a fairly helpful version I can read aloud quickly, and correct for the phonic parallax. I'm getting better at sight-unseen pronouncing text in OP, but do a whole lot better when reading my spelled-out text because it at least reminds me of all the little things I often botch. Here is one of my attempts, the famous Hamlet passage: Ta beh, uhr not ta beh, that is the Questeeun :   Hwether 'tis Nohbler in the muhynd ta suhffer Th’ Slings an' Aaras of ohtrageeus Fortun, Uhr ta tehk Aarmes agehnst a Seh a trohbbels, An' bai opposin’, end 'um : ta dai, ta slehp Na mahr ; an' bai a slehp, to seh weh end The Haart-ehk, an' dha t'ohsan' Natch’rall shocks Thet Flesh is eyre ta ? 'Tis a cahnsuhmehseeun Devohtlai ta beh wish'd. Ta dai, ta slehp, Ta slehp, parchaunce ta Drehm ; Ai, dhehre's the ruhb, Fuhr in dhat slehp a' dehth, hwut drehmes meh cohm,   Hwen weh have shufflel'd ahf this mahrtall cuhyl, Muhst give 's pahz. I only need to bear in mind a couple rules to read it, like: if the terminal "-y" is spelled "ai" (bai, mai) the "a" takes the schwa sound as in "about." (This is, after all, the sound in 'ta' in unaccented syllables throughout.) And the "i" is the European i, as in "vino." I used "uhi" or "uhee" at first, before trying "ai." I welcome your comments. It is quite a pickle. But since many folks don't have the time* to learn the IPA symbols, and can't readily type them, and since we use early-spelling texts cut for production, even the fully-IPA-transcribed texts available (thank you!) won't be usable in practicum, for us anyway. So I may keep at it. Be well. *maybe "can't be bothered" is more often accurate, but in my case I run a custom woodworking business with five employees, live in an 1860's house in constant need of work, and pursue the Plays in my "spare time." Oy.
 

Dec 19, 2019

16:45

original comment
I wouldn't be surprised if there were such comments, but I've never come across anything. The very slow rate of change (it wasnt a 'shift' in any sudden sense) over at least two generations may have made it not so noticeable.
 

Dec 19, 2019

16:42

original comment
Well, only if one breaks the rhyming convention of the text, which is couplets. It wouldn't be a perfect rhyme, but it's certainly close.
 

Dec 19, 2019

00:10

While the Great Vowel Shift was going on, did anyone ever notice and complain about “what the younger people are doing to our language,” as people often complain today?
 

Dec 18, 2019

23:47

original comment
“Sphere” seems explicable on the grounds of “there” three lines earlier.
 

Oct 30, 2019

10:20

original comment
I give this point quite a bit of space in the introduction to my Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakesperean Pronunciation. There are only 269 rhymes that don't work perfectly out of the 7000 that do, in OP. And of those, 168 differ by only one distinctive feature, including many instances where the phonetic distinction is so slight that the rhymes might well have been perceived to be identical (eg /s/ vs /z/ in cases like amiss/is and precise/flies, where the final /z/ would have had some degree of devoicing). The remaining pairs include 71 instances separated by two distinctive features (eg favour/labour - labio-dental vs bilabial, fricative vs plosive), 29 by three (eg opportunity/infamy - voiceless, alveolar, plosive vs voiced, bilabial, nasal), and one by four (readiness/forwardness - mid-high, front, unrounded, short vs mid-low, back, rounded, long).The best example I know of a plausible visual rhyme is in Sonnet 81, 'Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read / When all the breathers of this world are dead.' Visual rhymes were not fashionable - nor reliable, given the uncertain spellings of the day.
 
Eduardo
Esavoa
says

Oct 30, 2019

02:21

Dear Professor, I'm interested to know whether Shakespeare employed various rhyme patterns in his plays and sonnets, such as: slant rhyme, lazy rhyme, identical rhyme etc. or did he just use "perfect rhyme"? It seems that there were many examples of slant rhymes in his works, but I'm not familiar what the pronunciation of that time. Can you enlighten me? Thank you.
 

Sep 23, 2019

08:38

original comment
The best way of developing an intuition about a dialect is to study the underlying phonology, i.e. the sound system. In a historical case, the easiest way is to draw up a table in which one column lists all the sounds in the modern system (using whatever accent you know best) and the other lists the historical equivalents. So, for example, any word that contains the diphthong heard in modern English may, say, way, etc will be a monophthong with a more open sound, like the vowel at the beginning of RP 'air'. /r/ will always be pronounced after vowels. And so on. I give a simplified introduction to the phonology in my Pronouncing Shakespeare. There's a very large literature in English historical phonology, and I refer to some of it in the introduction to my Oxford Dictionary. There's no quick way to learn word-stress, as there's so much variation based on the position of a word in a line. So yes, the best way of mastering that is to read as much verse as possible - but not necessarily in original spelling. The stress patterns will manifest themselves in modern editions. Listening to modern accents (e.g.on Paul Meier's IDEA site) will help develop a sharper awareness of the nature of sound differences in English, and some will show echoes of OP, but remember that OP isn't identical with any of them. No modern accent sounds the -tion ending as 'see-on', for instance.
 
Ryan
S
says

Sep 20, 2019

13:26

Hi David, I was wondering if you had any advice on how to best improve the ability to intuitively guess the pronunciation of individual words and reduce the amount of words looked up in OP dictionaries. I've been listening and re-listening to the OP recordings I have from you and others, after that would it make sense to start reading long poems in their original spelling, and using the rhymes and meter to start building an intuitive sense of where the stress probably was and what words they rhymed with? Are there specific texts or sources that were most helpful for the linguists who did the work of getting down pronunciations of specific words? Would listening to different modern English dialects possibly help as well, or do you think that would be more likely to cause interference?
 

Sep 06, 2019

08:36

original comment
prove, approve, move, remove... all had a short vowel, like the one in love. See my Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakesperean Pronunciation for all the instances in the canon.
 
Shane
Hartry
says

Sep 05, 2019

23:52

Hello professor. I am playing Kent in an upcoming production of King Lear. In lines 211 and 212 he seems to clearly rhyme "approve" and "love". How would these have been pronounced so that they would rhyme?
 

Aug 04, 2019

17:15

original comment
This has come up a couple of times before (if you scroll down on this page, or search for Blake or Tyger); but I've got a separate section on it in my Sounds Appealing,if you want to see a fuller discussion.
 
Thad
Suirs
says

Aug 04, 2019

16:06

original comment
In this connection, how long might the -ly ending have preserved a diphthongal quality? I am thinking of Blake’s “The Tiger” with it’s eye/symmetry rhyme as a possible late example. Thank you.
 

Jul 28, 2019

08:40

original comment
The s vs z contrast (in items like use, abuse, excuse...) was there in Middle English. Rhymes in Shakespeare show the contrast too: excuses (n) with e.g. sluices in Lucrece, and excused (v) with accused in MA. See the Oxford Dictionary for a complete list. So, if you take the Cor instance as a noun, then it would be /s/.
 
Anthony

says

Jul 28, 2019

06:10

Hello Professor Crystal, I am currently in a rehearsals for a production of Coriolanus and I have a question about the pronunciation of the word 'excuse'. On line 101 of the Arden Shakespeare edition Virgilia says, "Give me excuse, good madam, I will obey you in everything hereafter. " Would "excuse" be pronounced with a z sound (as in accuse) or with a soft -ess sound (access)? Thanks muchly, Anthony
 

Jun 18, 2019

10:31

original comment
Nice to hear of your interest, Theo. Counterfeit would have ended to rhyme with set - indeed, exactly that rhyme turns up in the Sonnet 53 (and unset in Sonnet 16). The spellings of the word are very variable, but -fet is found, as is counterfetting.
 
Theo
Antonov
says

Jun 18, 2019

10:18

Dear David, I am an undergraduate student at the University of Bristol reading English. Recently I took a Shakespeare module, and I found some of your research very interesting. I wrote about how OP can contribute to our understanding of Shakespeare's dramatic works in my final assessment. I just wanted to contact you to thank you for your work. Furthermore, I wonder how the word 'counterfeit' might be pronounced in OP? I had in mind Falstaff's speech in 1 Henry IV Act V Scene iv ll. 110-127 where he stabs the body of Hotspur. Regards, Theo Antonov
 

Apr 21, 2019

08:47

original comment
Many examples of the time (most famously, Oberon's speech 'purple dye' speech) indicate that the -ly ending must have had a diphthongal quality, as well as an emerging pure vowel quality (the one RP eventually adopted), so yes, this pair of lines would have rhymed. John Hart, in his Orthographie (1569-70) is one who transcribes the syllable in a way that suggests a diphthong: boldlei, sertenlei, partlei, etc.
 
Name

says

Apr 19, 2019

20:52

Hi David, I have been asking myself whether the last syllable of 'eternally' in John Donne's sonnet "Death, be not proud", has been affected by the Great Vowel shift after the poem was written. Otherwise, the final rhyming couplet ('eternally' l.13 - 'die' l.14), which is so typical of the Shakespearean sonnet would be missing in this poem. I hope you can answer my question. Many Thanks!
 

Apr 14, 2019

07:43

original comment
Yes, I think these features would have been a characteristic. No postvocalic r in Derbyshire today, as in most of the North, so that's an open question. Short a still there, though.
 
Chathan
Vemuri
says

Apr 13, 2019

08:22

original comment
I see. That's very interesting regarding this refined accent from the late 18th century that you mention, which still used the postvocalic r and the short a. Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Swift, etc would have written before this so I'm guessing postvocalic R would probably have been strong in at least some of them. Idk about Richardson as he was from Derbyshire in the East Midlands and I don't know if postvocalic rs and short as would have been used there. Another reason I ask is I'm interested in the shared roots of American and British English in this period, the nature of their divergence and to what extent the accent patterns in the colonies and Great Britain would have still more or less resembled each other in the accents of educated speech (as opposed to more regional and colloquial accents) before the rise of RP around 1800 or thereabouts and the general evolution of American English from 1800 onwards as well?
 
Matt
Petersen
says

Apr 10, 2019

22:29

original comment
Thank you very much! I would very much be interested in the recording on Purcell. I am familiar with at least some attempts to use your work for singing, and have very much enjoyed them. One very interesting (and lovely) feature of some is that vowels that would, in spoken OP, have been r-colored, are sung with the r-coloration, even though, in modern classical singing diction, r-coloration is dropped. (This may, partially, be because neither RP nor Mid-Atlantic have r-coloration.) The r-coloration does show up in some modern folk singing, (I'm thinking in particular of some of Tim Eriksen's Sacred Harp songs); but I'd be curious to know if you have any thoughts on its presence in sung English of the 17th and 18th centuries. (Though, admittedly, that's not exactly a linguistic question.)
 

Apr 08, 2019

22:23

original comment
There are some examples of people who have had a go at these composers in OP, in the archive page of this website, and the feedback I've had about their performances certainly supports your intuition. As for materials... I put together a recording, focused on Purcell, a while back, and I can send this via Dropbox to anyone interested in this period. Contact me at davidcrystal1@icloud.com.
 

Apr 08, 2019

22:18

original comment
RP as we know it today didn't emerge until the turn of the century, around 1800. A refined accent was being taught by the elocutionists in the last few decades of the 1700s, and John Walker captures aspects of it in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary in the 1790s. But a postvocalic /r/ was still there in Walker, and lasted into the next century. So certainly, local accents would have still been present, though doubtless modified by living in London. Similarly, they probably wouldn't have used the other very noticeable feature of RP, the long /a/ as in 'bath'. Difficult to be more precise without contemporary personal descriptions.
 
Matt
Petersen
says

Apr 08, 2019

20:53

I am interested in learning to sing Purcell and Handel in their original pronunciation. Do you know any resources on that? In particular, I'm finding relatively little on 18th century pronunciation--especially on how their class would have affected their singing. (Ben Crystal comments on how his RP Shakespeare can sound like it's only from the head up, and that using OP makes the language much more earthy: Singers of Handel often end up, similarly, sounding like they're only singing from the head up; and I think changing the accent may fix that.)
 
Chathan
Vemuri
says

Apr 06, 2019

00:36

Dear Professor Crystal, Hi, I hope you're doing well. My name is Chathan Vemuri and I'm a 29 year old law student in Chicago, IL, US with a strong interest and passion for English literature. I love your demonstrations of original pronunciation in Shakespeare's era as well as the history of English accents so I thought perhaps you'd be a good person to ask about this. I don't know if you work on this particularly but perhaps you might know more than me. I've often wondered about accents of key authors in the 18th century, the last century in England where rhoticity seems to have been somewhat prevalent in different varieties of regional speech before the rise of RP towards the end of the century and beginning of the next. I watch period dramas based on the work of Henry Fielding, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Jonathan Swift and Laurence Sterne, yet all use a standard RP for the characters' accents, except for some characters. Do you know if modern "RP" would have been used by these authors inasmuch as they were working in London? Or would they have rather used their own regional accents that they grew up with? So for instance Fielding would have spoken with a Somersetshire accent with its hard r or Samuel Richardson maybe with a southern English accent? I apologize if any of this sounds like a stupid question and I look forward to hearing your reply if you're available to answer this. Sincerely, Chathan Vemuri
 

Feb 13, 2019

12:58

original comment
No, it would be ABBA, but not very noticeably so.The lay/obey pair had a mid-open front vowel (close to the sound at the beginning of air). The tree/be pair had a quality closer to the present-day vowel in these words, slightly more open, but enough to distinguish this vowel from the other one.
 
Olivia
Hurton
says

Feb 13, 2019

12:51

Hi David, I'm reading Shakespeare's 'The Phoenix and Turtle' for the first time and it has struck me that although critics have identified the first section of the poem as having enclosed rhymes (ABBA), the first stanza seems to be mono-rhyme in OP (lay/tree/be/obey). Please could you confirm this! Best wishes, Olivia
 

Feb 03, 2019

09:34

original comment
Indeed. Incidentally, the ee spelling in bear was very common in the Middle Ages, with several variants, such as beeyre. The ea spelling is the norm in the First Folio.
 

Feb 03, 2019

04:05

Hi. The other day I came across an excellent one-word argument for OP: The famous 1647 View of London by Hollar shows the Glode Theatre and a Bear-Baiting Arena... although I’ve heard they are labeled backward. The thing is, the latter’s label spells bear, “Beere.” Certainly the OP for that spelling is consonant with the modern word. But we also have a word “beer!” So in modern pronunciation (MP?”) the label could easily be read “Beer Garden,” which is not even just plain innocent nonsense, it is actually misleadingly incorrect! If so much damage can be done to a single word on a drawing, how much more can befall the Canon by pronouncing it in MP?
 

Jan 28, 2019

21:27

original comment
Lots of evidence in the rhymes that haste was pronounced hast, to rhyme with fast, last etc - all with short 'a' vowels as in northern British accents. And then lezer and plezer to follow. Very nice sound.
 
Kai
LeFranc
says

Jan 28, 2019

20:59

Hi David, My choir is working on Thomas Morley's "Sing We and Chant It," and I'm wondering about the pronunciation of "hasteth" in the lines "Not long youth lasteth, / And old age hasteth; / Now is best leisure / To take our pleasure." It seems like most groups pronounce this HASTE-eth, which just sounds ugly and wrong especially since each other pair of lines clearly rhymes. (as here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciIvhB-zTfc) Any ideas? Should lasteth and hasteth rhyme here? And if so, how?
 

Jan 24, 2019

10:44

original comment
Do you mean how was Othello pronounced in OP? There would have been two pronunciations. The popular one would be Otello - no ‘th’ (as in modern Irish accents). Spellings show that medial ‘th’ was often pronounced ’t’, as in words like ‘apothecary’. But people who could read, and who would be influenced by the spelling, would have pronounced the ‘th’.
 
Lewis
Baker
says

Jan 21, 2019

11:49

Hi David, I am writing an essay for my English literature A-Level and the question is whether Othello should be written in OP. I would just like to know your opinion and whether this can help my essay and develop it further. Thanks in advance, Lewis
 

Dec 05, 2018

20:29

original comment
Yes, this is a good rhyme. The -y ending of words like company (and of course throughout Oberon's 'purple dye' speech) had the same diphthong as in eye - though, being in an unstressed syllable, it would be said more quickly.
 
Ylva
Öhrnell
says

Dec 05, 2018

16:58

Hello David! I would just like to ask you about a line from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"! "And thence from Athens turn away our eyes To seek new friends and stranger companies" This is one of Hermia's lines, quite early in the play. I would just like to ask about the pronounciation of the word "companies". I found it quite odd these two verses didn't rhyme, given that all of the others do, at least when pronounced in modern English. Did "companies" have a differnt pronounciation during the Elizabethan Era? And if so, how did it sound? Thank you in advance for your help! (And I do apologize for my English, as I am not a native speaker)
 

Nov 28, 2018

10:11

original comment
Replacement of /wh/ by /w/ is referred to by several writers over a long period of time. It was going on in Middle English in some dialects, but doesn't attract real attention until the 18th century. It seems clear that at the beginning of the century the merger was taking place, e.g. John Jones in his Practical Phonography (1701) says that 'what, when etc [are] sounded wat, wen, etc by some'. By the time of George Johnston (in his Pronouncing and Spelling Dictionary 1764), 'the h is very little heard'. Not everyone liked it. John Walker in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary (1791) says that 'not sounding h after w' is a fault of Londoners. He is thinking mainly of Cockneys. But slowly the vulgar associations disappeared. The merger begins in the south among educated people and moves north (but not as far as Scotland). I grew up in North Wales and never had it. So whether you recognize it in the early 18th century will depend on your interpretation of the social setting. The 'see-an' pronunciation of -tion etc had long gone. This was already 'shee-an' in the 17th century. It is routinely recorded as 'shun' in 18th century dictionaries As for your timbre question... No idea. I doubt it.
 
John
Toyne
says

Nov 28, 2018

06:16

Hello, David I've been away for a few days and have just read your reply to the Queen Anne question. Thanks. One or two questions that I forgot to ask. Was the wine/whine merger completed by then in England ? Or was the distinction still more or less preserved, as it is (for instance) in Scotland/Ireland today ? What about the -cian/-sion pronunciation ? And beyond all that.... is it possible early 1700s voices had in general a timbre or quality that would strike us as odd if we could somehow hear them ? Once again, many thanks John Toyne
 

Nov 26, 2018

18:38

original comment
It certainly is (to answer your last question first). As for resources, there are two from me. One is the audio file accompanying the third edition of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, out this week, which has some recordings of Caxton and others from that time. Info via the CUP website. And then there's my recording of the Tyndale Matthew Gospel, available on CD from the British Library, which has an OP from around 1530. Hope these will help.
 
Ryan
S
says

Nov 26, 2018

17:25

Hello David, I really enjoy your recordings of Shakespeare, and I've also been listening to any Middle English recordings I can find. I'd like to learn to read transitional texts between these periods and texts immediately after Shakespeare in their original pronunciation and possibly do my own recordings one day. Do you have any advice for resources to learn how the pronunciation would be at the various stages from Middle to Early Modern, to Modern English? Is it feasible to learn a decent pronunciation of these as an amateur enthusiast?
 

Nov 24, 2018

19:31

original comment
By then it as well on its way to sounding like Modern English, but some properties of Shakespearean OP were still there, notably the pronunciation of /r/ after vowels, which lasted until the early 1800s. Short /a/ (in bath, father, etc.) would still have been there too. And lots of stress differences in polysyllabic words - as shown a few decades later in John Walker's Dictionary. Certainly enough to make the accent of the early 1700s sound different to what we have today.
 
John
Toyne
says

Nov 24, 2018

17:27

Hello, David I saw the trailer for "The Favourite", the new film about Queen Anne and wondered how much different from Shakespeare's OP that of the Addison and Steele generation circa 1711 when the Spectator first appeared. I know this is a general question, David. Many thanks, John Toyne
 

Oct 30, 2018

09:58

original comment
Got it wrong.It was Mary COY. She's a voice coach. (I was thinking of her name in OP - sorry!)
 
Chris
K
says

Oct 29, 2018

23:27

original comment
Valuable information indeed -- thank you. Is Mary Key an actor? A journalist?
 

Oct 23, 2018

08:06

original comment
I don't think I ever knew exactly what they did. I have a vague recollection of some of Hamlet. But the person who would know is Mary Key, as she was the one who was at the Globe performance and who took the idea back. If you can track her down...
 
Chris
K
says

Oct 23, 2018

00:01

Hi David! I'm trying to learn more about the OP Shakespeare extracts that were presented in 2006 during the 400th anniversary of Jamestown. (I heard about this event from your 2016 OUPblog article, here: https://blog.oup.com/2016/03/original-pronunciation-shakespeare/.) I can't seem to find any details about Shakespeare in the official record of that Jamestown commemoration; I'd be very grateful if you happened to remember which Shakespeare extracts were presented, or if you could point me toward any information about OP Shakespeare in Jamestown. Thank you very much, and thank you for your wonderful scholarship!
 
Albert
Soler i Cruanyes
says

Sep 22, 2018

10:46

original comment
I had only focused on individual words pronunciation, and so I hadn't noticed the syllable timing/stress-timing difference. The more I've been looking into it these past days, the less I found the resemblance to be strong. Thank you very much for your rapid answer!
 

Sep 21, 2018

10:44

original comment
It's possible to do a phoneme by phoneme comparison of OP to any other accent, to get a rough idea of the similarities. No modern accent is identical, of course. (None,for instance, pronounces -tion endings as -see-on.) When I did this informally, a while back, I found Irish to come closest - which corresponds to a common first impression. I didn't do Jamaican, but there are some important differences, such as the 'j' glide heard before the vowel in the second syllable of Jamaican. Also, the syllable timing of Caribbesn English is a contrast with the stress-timing of Elizabethan OP.
 
Albert
Soler i Cruanyes
says

Sep 19, 2018

12:19

Hi David! In my own experience, I've found that, when it comes to Standard Englishes, the one resembling OP the most is Jamaican. Is that really so? Or is there another standard accent that holds a closer similarity? Thank you for your great work!
 
Drew

says

Aug 27, 2018

18:02

original comment
found it. thank you
 

Aug 27, 2018

17:21

original comment
My recording of all the sonnets in OP are available in the Shop section of this website.
 
Drew

says

Aug 27, 2018

16:52

Hi David, I'm a junior in college and for one of my classes one of the assignments is to memorize sonnet 121, I've already done so (for a previous class) and I think it would be interesting to recite it in the original pronunciation instead. Could you direct me to a recording of 121 I could listen to in order to improve my understanding of how it is meant to sound, or if a recording of this sonnet doesn't exist and you're willing to help out a college student, can you create one? Thank you.
 

Aug 13, 2018

17:59

original comment
The central quality of the first element of the diphthong is based on an estimate of how far the shift to modern /ai/ would have travelled from its Middle English value as /i:/. The essential difference with immediately is that the final syllable is unstressed. John Hart is one who writes such endings as a diphthong in the mid 16th-century, and this was surely still present in Shakespeare's day, otherwise the rhymes (in e.g. Oberon's 'purple dye' speech) are lost, and the mystical atmosphere evaporates. But there are also some cases where that unstressed ending rhymes with /i/, as today, suggesting that the diphthongal ending was on its way out. The rhymes also show that there were many cases where words had two pronunciations, just as many do today (think scone rhyming with both on and own). Fear is a case in point (and also several other words with an ea spelling). It sometimes rhymes with (e.g.) cheer and deer and sometimes with there and swear. You'll find a complete listing of rhymes in the dictionary you mention. This is the Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, published by Oxford University Press, with an accompanying audio file of all the entries (accessed through a personalized code that you get with the book).
 
Colleen
Malfara
says

Aug 13, 2018

12:07

Hi David! First of all, just wanted to say that you for all of your work on Shakespeare in OP!! My friends and I just saw A Midsummer Night's Dream last night and so I came back to read Paul Meier's transcription for A Midsummer that was posted on your website and have a few questions about some sound choices: 1. /i:/ There are several examples of rhymes where modern English now has /a?/ and /i/ respectively, cf. nigh and immediately, which are both transcribed as /??/. "No? then I well perceive you all not nigh Either death or you I'll find immediately" I was wondering how you decided that both words would be mid-shift at this point, even though modern English 'immediately' appears to have reverted back to /i/? Is the hypothesis that all /i:/ words began the shift to /??/ but then some reverted back to /i/ and others shifted all the way to /a?/? 2. Perhaps a similar question with the spelling for /?:/ There are some examples where is transcribed as /?:/: "And yours of Helena to me bequeath, Whom I do love and will do till my death" But others where it is transcribed as /e:/: I will lead them up and down: le?d I am fear'd in field and town: f??r'd In these cases, modern English has bequeath, lead and feared all becoming /i/, so I was wondering how the choice was made to transcribe them at different points in transition here? Further, do we assume as with death /?/ that if it did not transition in modern English, that it never began the transition at all? Even to words with the same roots? cf the example, "with leaden legs" is just left as modern English /l?d/ vs. will lead is /le:d/. Thank you so much! I apologize if you have answered these questions previously! You mentioned in some of these comments having an OP Dictionary? But I can't seem to find it online? If my questions are answered there, I would be happy to look there instead. Thanks again! Colleen
 

Aug 08, 2018

19:18

original comment
There's been a distinctive Scots accent since the early Middle Ages, judging by the various texts that are spelled in a recognizably Scottish way. and people commented on the Scots way of talking in the 16th and 17th centuries - though of course very politely, after 1603. But there were indeed some similarities, such as the pronunciation of /r/ after vowels in southern as well as Scots accents (though probably with different phonetic qualities, e.g. trilled in Scotland, as often today). Northern accents would certainly have been closer than southern, as they are today, but information is hard to come by, as writers of the time don't often describe regional differences.
 
John
Toyne
says

Aug 08, 2018

13:56

Hello again David, I'm halfway through Jasper Ridley's biography of John Knox and was fascinated to learn that he was one of Edward VI's favourite Court preachers in 1552. Would Knox's Lowland Scottish accent have seemed weird to Londoners of that time ? Or was 1552 sufficiently long ago for the lowland Scots accents and the Northern English accents to be more similar-sounding than they are now ? Many Thanks. John Toyne
 

Aug 06, 2018

21:05

original comment
Thanks for your message. It was a time when 'half' rhymes were coming into fashion, so there would probably have been some degree of assonance between 'knew' and 'below', but what 'sphere' is doing there can't be explained by any linguistic theory I know of! Similarly, 'along' and 'sung' echo each other but 'taught' is anomalous. It's a curious bit of writing. Or is there a joke in 'jarring sphere' - a deliberate non-rhyme? Purcell would have approved of such a thing, I suspect.
 

Aug 06, 2018

14:45

Dear David, My early music ensemble The Broken Consort will perform John Blow's Ode on the Death of Mr Henry Purcell from 1695 and I'll help the countertenors with the pronunciation of the text; however, I'm doubtful about certain rhymes: the 3 last lines of the second stanza (knew, Sphere, below) and lines 3 and 4 of the third stanza (along, taught, Sung). Thank you very much. I. Mark how the Lark and Linnet Sing, With rival Notes They ?train their warbling Throats, To welcome in the Spring. But in the clo?e of Night, When Philomel begins her heav'nly lay, They cea?e their mutual ?pite, Drink in her Mu?ick with delight, And list'ning and ?ilent, and ?ilent and list'ning, and list'ning and ?ilent obey. II. So ceas'd the rival crew when Purcell came, They Sung no more, or only Sung his Fame. Struck dumb they all admir'd the God-like Man, the God-like Man, Alas, too ?oon retir'd, As He too late began. We beg not Hell our Orpheus to re?tore, Had He been there, Their Sovereign's fear Had ?ent Him back before. The pow'r of Harmony too well they knew, He long e'er this had Tun'd their jarring Sphere, And left no Hell below. III. The Heav'nly Quire, who heard his Notes from high, Let down the Scale of Mu?ick from the sky: They handed him along. And all the way he taught, and all the way they Sung. Ye Brethren of the Lyre, and tunefull Voice, Lament his lott, but at your own rejoyce. Now live ?ecure and linger out your days, The Gods are pleas'd alone with Purcell's Layes, Nor know to mend their Choice. FINIS.
 
Matt
Hutchinson
says

Jul 21, 2018

04:41

original comment
Thank you very much David.
 

Jul 20, 2018

13:56

original comment
Yes, it's possible. The Old English word had such spellings as spearua and spearewa, which developed into an e-vowel in Middle English. This was a short vowel, as shown by such spellings as sperrowe. The final syllable in colloquial speech would probably have been a schwa ('sperra' - compare fellow as fella, etc). The a-spelling develops in Middle English, and eventually became standard, but it would be perfectly usual for the older pronunciation to continue regionally. That would allow a homophone with the second syllable of Shakespeare, bearing in mind that this was also pronounced short, as suggested by such spellings as Shaksper.
 
Matt
Hutchinson
says

Jul 20, 2018

13:42

original comment
Dear David, In the play "Guy, Earl of Warwick", there is a character named Philip Sparrow who some scholars, such as Katharine Duncan Jones, believe might be a caricature of Shakespeare. I read on a forum that 'Sparrow' may have been pronounced 'Spear-O' In some parts of England at the time, is this likely to be true? Thanks
 

Jul 17, 2018

11:27

original comment
VERDICT - Yes, this would have been an alternative form esp among older speakers. SATIRE - you mean the second vowel? also a good point FIERCE - I was very much influenced by the ee spellings here, but agree the other pron is possible SERVILE - agreed, the spellings certainly suggest this alt INVEIGLE - possible, I suppose, but I don't see much evidence in the spelling lists PHLEGMATIC - as with VERDICT, the older form I suppose would still have had some currency RETINUE - Yes, this did have an alternative accent, but the only metrical instance (in KL) has stress on the first syllable. In a bigger work (a guide to EME pron), it would have to be there. SUCCESSOR - by the same argument, yes, this should have an initial stress recognized. I've made a note. Thank you for taking so much trouble with all this.
 

Jul 17, 2018

11:03

original comment
Here too I was influenced by the rhymes, with old, sold, enscrolled, and so on. And I recall Walker regretting that the 'oo' form was in his time becoming frequent, replacing the older one. I wouldn't put too much money on it!
 

Jul 17, 2018

10:55

original comment
Also very interesting and plausible, apart from your apparent disregard of the rhymes in 116 - a short vowel to love and a long vowel to remove, and then later different values for proved and loved. That doesn't make any sense to me, given the importance of rhymes in the sonnets. And I wonder just how much trust one can put in the distinction you make between, for example, your transcription of speak and disgrace. A lot depends on exactly where in the CV diagram you would locate a:. There may be a philological point here, but I don't think I could ever get a company of actors to reproduce it consistently.
 

Jul 17, 2018

10:40

original comment
Interesting. Jonson seems to be hearing vowel quality rather than vowel length. I felt that the length contrast in the all set was important, and I carried this through. But I can see the argument that this might not be necessary for ART and the like, and indeed at one point I did try using the same vowel symbol for both, and also for EARTH, but this seemed to be losing too much phonetic distinctiveness. I suppose in the end these points turn on what 'distinct' means - phonemic or phonetic.
 

Jul 17, 2018

10:12

original comment
Agreed. I just wish I could find some ee spellings to reinforce the point.
 
A.Z.
Foreman
says

Jul 16, 2018

21:21

One more thing. Last one I promise: Have you considered the following? For VERDICT: a form without /k/ pronounced For SATIRE: a form with the vowel of NATURE For FIERCE: a form with the same vowel as in PIERCE For SERVILE: a form with a non-tense BIT vowel in the second syllable For INVEIGLE: a form with the SEA vowel For PHLEGMATIC: a form without the /g/ pronounced Also, the following accentuations: retínue, súccessor
 

Jul 16, 2018

07:05

Tangential question (sorry to blow up your comment box like this) The pronunciation 'goold' for 'gold' is attested thru the 18th century. It is what you'd expect etymologically like Room for Rome. In keeping with the Early Middle English (or perhaps Late Old English) lengthening of originally short vowels before the combinations 'ld', 'nd', 'ng', 'mb', 'rd', 'rl', and 'rn' (when stressed and not followed by a third consonant or third syllable). Thus Anglian ald > aald, and then aa evolved like other long aa to ModEng OLD. Anglian gold should yield a long ME vowel producing the pronunciation goold. The MED lists Gold with a long high vowel of the kind that should yield GOOLD. And the spelling variants in the MidEng corpus are consistent with this. I had thought ModEng Gold with an O sound was a spelling pronunciation. But Shakespeare's rhymes using Gold all imply the prototype of the Modern word going back to an open O in Middle English. (On the other hand, Wyatt rhymes Gold with things like WOULD and LOUD and ROOD.) (I currently have a bet going with a friend that the GOOLD form predates the GOLD form in post-1066 Eng.)
 

Jul 16, 2018

06:52

Probably the best way to convey my perspective is with a transcription of my own. Since this comment section appears to be rather temperamental about IPA, here's a PDF. It aims at a somewhat cultivated accent of the 1590s. Picture, if you will, a young Ben Jonson getting his hands on a manuscript copy and reading it aloud. https://dl.dropbox.com/s/fef7pc9227zmhnh/TwoIPASonnetsForCrystal.pdf
 

Jul 16, 2018

06:12

Say you: that what you reconstruct as a long open back unrounded A "must have been a noticeable feature of OP as Jonson, among others, pays special attention to it, contrasting it with the normal use of a (‘pronounced less than the French a’): ‘when it comes before l, in the end of a syllabe, it obtaineth the full French sound, and is uttered with the mouth and tongue wide opened, the tongue bent back from the teeth’. He gives all, small, salt, calm among his examples." But what Jonson actually says in full is "With us, in most words, is pronounced less than the French a : as in art, act, apple, ancient. But when it comes before L, in the end of a syllabe, it obtaineth the full French sound, and is uttered with the mouth and throat wide opened, the tongue bent back from the teeth, as in all, small, gall, fall, tall, call. So in all the syllabes where a consonant followeth the L, as in salt, malt, balm, calm. " In other words, Jonson hears the words ART and APPLE as both containing the same kind of a-vowel. Furthermore, he finds this kind of a-vowel in ART and ACT is perceptually different from that of all, small etc. Yet you have the same open back unrounded vowel for both SMALL and ART, and then give a different vowel /a/ for words like ACT. It does not really seem to me like your OP is actually the English that Jonson is describing. (As I'm sure you know John Hart and others transcribe the SMALL vowel in a different and distinct fashion.) It seems more likely to me that ACT and ART did indeed have the same vowel at this point. The most straightforward inference would be that this vowel was simply /a/ or something fo the kind. And when the vowel of SERVE was allophonically lowered into the neighborhood of AE, it tended to near-merger with /a/ when and where the latter in its turn began to shift higher. While I'm on the subject, I'm not sure I follow the logic of putting OP through a completed NURSE merger. Over the 17th there seem to be competing Englishes merging DIRT/TURN but keeping EARTH distinct, and others merging DIRT/EARTH while leaving TURN distinct. The merger cannot have complete in normative London English until the 18th century or so. Shakespeare interrhymes all three of these, but not with the same frequency with which he rhymes these words inside their own lexical set. It does not follow from any of this that all three were merged in a single variety of speech at his time. At most it implies that there existed different varieties with different mergers.
 

Jul 16, 2018

05:55

original comment
Reason/treason/season could be moved together in either direction as a set, I should think. All three of them alternate in ME spellings (but then what doesn't). Etymologically "Treason" comes from an ME/AN diphthong which in your reconstruction is merged with the reflex ME long a. But "Season" is listed in the MED as having only an open long vowel of the kind that yields the SEA vowel. I think one would have to assume alternating possibilities for all three words. Even the word "Raising" itself, having ME /ai/, could rhyme with the normal EA vowel, or not, depending on whether or not the speaker had the Mopseyish merger reflected in the play/sea rhyme in Henry VIII III.i.4-5.
 

Jul 15, 2018

16:16

original comment
Thanks very much for this. It's the kind of debate I was hoping would emerge, for in so many cases I am aware that I had to 'take a view'. In the present case, I think one has to look beyond this particular pairing: not just reason and raisin, but also treason and season, and the further pun set involving raising (Kökeritz gives examples), which points towards a more open pronunciation. Yes, there was a close-vowel pronunciation, as you say, and I should have mentioned this. But the existence of two pronunciations is acknowledged by Walker, who cites Sheridan and others preferring the diphthong, and himself and others preferring the pure vowel (so the usage isn't a recent one). Sheridan actually gives the diphthongal form [his a2] for raisin. The OED reflects all this too, in its third edition revision, the spellings for reason showing two distinct patterns going back to ME - one set, mostly with ei or ey, suggesting a diphthongal pronunciation; the other, mostly with ea, but with a couple of ee, suggesting a pure vowel, presumably quite close. So, I guess I should allow that the Shakespeare pun could have gone in either direction. I've made a note, in case I ever get a chance to do a new edition.
 

Jul 13, 2018

23:57

You say in the dictionary of OP that the open e of "tale" "....is also used in several words that would later become /i: /, such as reason and season...puns provide useful reinforcement here, as wordplay between reason and raisin, for example, would not have worked without some degree of homophony." With "raisin" I am pretty sure you have it backwards. It is "raisin" that was pronounced as a homophone for "reason." Both would be /re:zn/ (or /ri:zn/ with the see/sea merger.) The pronunciation /ri:zn/ for "raisin" is attested well into the modern period in 18th century pronunciation dictionaries by Walker, Flint, Sheridan and others. The pronunciation with the SAY vowel rather than the SEA/SEE vowel is the result of a modern spelling pronunciation.
 
Mike

says

Jul 13, 2018

22:08

original comment
Thank you so much David. This is extremely interesting!
 

Jul 05, 2018

08:43

original comment
Fascinating. Thank you. No, I've never worked on OP from the Romantic period - other than the occasional foray into individual words (such as my piece on Blake's 'symmetry' in Sounds Appealing. There were lots of differences, especially in stress - balcony with the stress on the second syllable, for instance. But these are all features to do with the phonology of the time, not the phonetics - by which I mean we can work out the sound system Wordsworth would have used (the same as Keats, given that they eventually did communicate), but exactly what phonetic realizations were interfering with intelligibility is very tricky to establish, in the absence of accent descriptions.
 

Jul 05, 2018

08:35

original comment
A complex history, reflecting both regional variation and differences in formality. The /l/ is always recorded as being pronounced by 16th-c writers, and gradually disappears during the 17th-c. But this will have been the formal pronunciation, reflecting an awareness of spelling. This is shown by the history of could, which originally was never spelled with l. This spelling develops on analogy with would and should in the mid-/late-1400s. But already in the 15th-c for would and should we see spellings with no l - OED has 1400 sud, 1449 schude, 1481 whowde, for instance, and such spellings are evidenced into the 17th-c (and of course are still around in representations of dialect today). So clearly there were two pronunciations, varying in locality and formality. I therefore didn't make the /l/ pronounced in my Shakespearean OP - a decision that would have horrified Holofernes, of course.
 
Mike

says

Jul 04, 2018

22:35

Hello David! Around what time did the l in should, would, could stop being pronounced? Thank you!
 
Michael
Tencer
says

Jul 02, 2018

16:57

Dear David Crystal, In Peter Bell’s short film “Basil Bunting: An Introduction to the work of a poet” from 1982, there is a brief discussion by Bunting of William Wordsworth’s dialect: “Standard English is a fairly recent invention. It wasn’t in use 150 years ago. There’s a description of Keats’s first meeting with Wordsworth at a dinner in London, and it was a long time before Keats could understand what Wordsworth was saying. And Hazlitt also describes a meeting with Wordsworth in Somersetshire, where, for half an afternoon, he could make neither head nor tail of what Wordsworth said. Wordsworth was speaking Cumbrian, Hazlitt was used to London accent. If you read Wordsworth in beautiful curt Kensington, you are not surprised that the critics say he had no music. But if you hear him in his own broad vowels, it is a beautiful and very sensitive kind of music that he uses all the time.” Likewise, in a 1970 lecture at the University of British Columbia called “The Use of Poetry,” Bunting remarks: “Again, now that we have all been driven to use some approxima­tion to standard English, a koiné, nobody’s native tongue, how much do we lose of those poets who wrote in their native speech before standard English was invented in the Public Schools in the middle of last century? We know Wordsworth spoke with such a persistent northerliness that Keats and Hazlitt found it very difficult to follow his conver­sation; and that he composed aloud, as most good poets do, in good Lake District accents, where water is watter, and rhymes with chatter, and the ‘oo’ sounds last forever, and a stone is a stwoen and a coal cwol. And Keats himself was a cockney, speaking not the cockney of today, which is largely an Essex dialect, but the cockney Sam Weller spoke, which is mainly Kentish. His v’s and w’s must have sounded much alike, and his vowels would have been the thin stuff you can still hear in Kensington. And how many of Hardy’s s’s ought to be read as z’s?” I was wondering: do you have any plans for Original Pronunciation readings of Wordsworth, or do you know of anyone who does? As a native New Yorker, I indeed have found it difficult to discern the “very sensitive kind of music” Bunting hears in Wordsworth’s poetry, but given the testimony of its historic, sensitive listeners I believe it must indeed be there and I’d certainly love to hear it myself. (For that matter, Bunting makes Keats’s and Hardy’s poetry sound ripe for OP treatment as well!) Any thoughts or pointers would be much appreciated. Many thanks for all the work you do — your contribution to literature, and particularly to the recovery of the music of poetry, has been invaluable. All the best, ~~~ Michael
 

Jun 14, 2018

08:15

original comment
Well thank you. And all the best for your degree.
 
Jack
Paul Ryan
says

Jun 14, 2018

01:27

original comment
Thank you so much for the detailed reply, Mr. Crystal! It means so much to hear from someone whose work I admire so much. I hope one day to know even a hundredth as much about English as you do. I had so much fun reading The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, and your work on Shakespearean English pronunciation inspired me to work as a dialect coach for a 1790s era high-school play and attempt to make my Latin pronunciation as authentic as possible. I am going into my freshman year of college at McGill University this year for a degree in linguistics, and I want to thank you for inspiring me to get involved in that field.
 

Jun 13, 2018

21:35

original comment
Yes, the sea/see distinction is one of the trickiest aspects of EME OP. It was a clear distinction in Chaucer's day, and the question is how long it remained. Some think it was on the wane during the 16th century, others that it lasted until the early 17th. My view is that the distinction was extremely unstable by Shakepeare's time. Probably older conservative speakers would have retained it, but 'new tuners of accent' would not. The evidence is mixed. The spelling of ea for the more open variant vs ee for the closer is not a perfect guide, as the OED quotation notes. Rhymes sometimes point in different directions. The contrast is further obscured by the phonetic realisations, with the /i:/ phoneme having an articulation closer to cardinal 2 than (as in present-day RP) cardinal 1. Length isn't the issue here. There are words where ea is long (as in seat) and those where it is short (as in feast). When I work with a company, I find it impossible to introduce an easy principle to ensure that the actors make the distinction consistently. (If anyone out there has one I'd love to know what it is!) So I simplify, and give both see and sea (etc) the same /i:/ phoneme, but articulating it more openly than in present-day RP. However, I think it's important to be flexible, given the uncertainties, so that, for example, when we seen fear rhyming both with cheer and with wear, we allow the rhymes to motivate alternative pronunciations. This can upset some philological purists, but in an applied linguistic setting one often has to make pragmatic decisions of this kind. Hope this helps. But you don't need to apologise for feeling confused. This is an area where everyone is, some of the time!
 
Jack
Paul Ryan
says

Jun 13, 2018

18:45

Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation is my accent of all time. I have a CD with recordings of various scenes in Original Pronunciation and I love letting others listen to it. Thank you for your dedicated service to this important cause! I have been confused about the pronunciation of ?ea? and ?ee?. How are they pronounced in both Shakespearean and in general Early Modern English? Paul Meier in The Original Pronunciation (OP) of Shakespeare’s English and other sources that are specifically about Shakespeare’s pronunciation say they were both either [e] or [e?] (no lengthening mark). Wikipedia, when talking about Early Modern English in general, not just OP, says ?ea? was [e?] or [???] and ?ee? was /i?/, but cites (among other things) David Crystal’s Sounding out Shakespeare: Sonnet Rhymes in Original Pronunciation. Do these sources imply that, for most Early Modern English texts, I should pronounce ?ea? and ?ee? as long [e?]/[???] and long /i?/ respectively, but for Shakespeare I should use short [e]/[e?] for both spellings? Also, there is the following passage from the Oxford English Dictionary in regards to Early Modern English spelling: “Double e (ee) or e..e was used for two different long front vowels: the ‘close’ vowel of meet and the formerly ‘mid’ vowel of meat, mete (the significance of this is now obscured since in most words the two sounds have become identical). The spelling e..e was gradually restricted to the latter while additionally ea was beginning to be introduced as an alternative spelling. By the the fruyte that procedeth of the tree menynge the boode or the floure and the leef.” (https://public.oed.com/blog/early-modern-english-pronunciation-and-spelling/)
 

Jun 03, 2018

07:30

original comment
This is where the principles of historical phonology become really important. One establishes a timeline of phonetic change over the centuries, and then estimates where the change would have reached at a particular period. Spelling is a major source of evidence, as are features like rhymes, and the comments of orthoepists and lexicographers. Having reviewed this evidence, I concluded in my Shakesperean OP that the vowel quality was back mid-close unrounded - an unrounded equivalent of /?/, closer to schwa, but definitely not as far forard as /?/, which was a much later development. I do say, though, in the introduction to my Oxford dictionary of Shakespearean OP, that a rounded variant was certainly in use at the time - the ancestor of the present-day northern rounded sound in words like 'cup'. There are always alternative options when researching OP.
 

Jun 03, 2018

07:22

original comment
Yes, go through a dictionary of surnames, and it's evident from the spelling variations in the same surname how phonological factors must have been involved, in the days before spellig standardized.
 
Kenneth
Keown
says

Jun 02, 2018

23:10

original comment
This is fascinating stuff. Allow me a question, please. It's clear from S116 that Shakespeare thought of the words "prov'd" and "lov'd" rhyming. Do we have any way to know whether vowel sound he heard as he recited the lines was /?/ or /?/ or /?/?
 
Kenneth
Keown
says

Jun 02, 2018

22:36

original comment
Thank you for your reply. I never knew I had an accent until I went to college in Connecticut, and many classmates accused me of having a southern one. I retorted "Well at least it's not Bostonian. There was some pejorative implication that one's manner of speaking is somehow better or more correct than the other's. Over the years, I did lose my "Southern accent," but it creeps up every time I visit my home town--like it or not. What interests me in my present work is how the clerks in early New England towns might have mistaken the pronunciation of surnames when their informants hailed from a different part of England and articulated their vowel phonemes differently. Over the course of a generation of two all the different accents amalgamated into American English, so the problem was short-lived as American English evolved into regional patterns. Imagine of how John Adams, a native of Boston, would have thought about how the Virginian Thomas Jefferson spoke. You can almost feel the role of Benjamin Franklin--a native Bostonian who spent his adult life in Philadelphia--as an intermediary. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men /r/ created equal."
 

Jun 02, 2018

14:22

original comment
Important to distinguish between accent (pronunciation) and dialect (grammar and vocabulary). RP is an accent, not a dialect. It didn't exist in the 16th century. RP develops in England in the last decades of the 18th century, and became the accent of the educated elite - but spoken by less than 5 per cent of the population of England. You could get to the top of the kingdom in S's day with any regional accent - witness Raleigh and Drake's Devonshire. And of course in 1603 the elite accent became Scots. Yes, S must have begun life with a West Mids accent, but this would have been modified as a result of life in London. Mixed accents would have been very common, just as they are today. But we know very little about the exact phonetic qualities of the vowels used in different parts of the country. Writers like Jonson give only very general clues - such as saying that the vowel in words like 'prove' is short. But that's nonetheless invaluable info, as it helps us see why proved and loved (for example, in Sonnet 116) are exact rhymes. OP is a sound system, not an individual accent. Just as today we speak Modern English (i.e. use a modern English sound system) in a variety of accents, so people speaking Early Modern English would also have used a variety of accents. For example, everyone would have said invention as 'in-ven-see-on' rather than Modern 'in-ven-shun', but it would have come out differently when spoken by northerners, southerners, Irish, Scots, and so on. When we did the OP Romeo at the Globe in 2004 all the actors kept their original accents, superimposing them onto the OP. And that's how it's been ever since.
 
Kenneth
Keown
says

Jun 02, 2018

00:45

Dear Dr. Crystal: As a trained historian and amateur genealogist, I am interested in how English was spoken by the 17th century settlers in New England. Fortuitously, I found your website for which I offer congratulations. This led me to Ben Jonson's Grammar, a fascinating book for someone who can read Latin. Jonson spent much ink trying to instruct his readers about how to pronounce English phonemes by referring to Latin. Of course he had absolutely no idea about how Latin was spoken by any native speaker of that language. At best he would have learned it from a teacher whose native language was 16th century English. Let's get more to the point. Jonson attended schools in London before matriculating at Cambridge. He spoke a dialect of English that would be called Received Pronunciation today. I'm guessing his grammar was an attempt to encourage people from other parts of the country to speak as he did as if his dialect were somehow superior to other dialects. Without arguing about who was the better poet and dramatist, we do know that Shakespeare was from West Midlands and undoubtedly spoke in the dialect of that part of England. We know that Marlowe was from Kent and undoubtedly spoke in the dialect of that part of England. Today, RP is broadcast throughout England so it becomes something of a second language for the population. I'm sure that at the end of the 16th century there was no such universality in England. So, how likely were Shakespeare and Marlow to have used London English while ruminating about their works before actually writing them down?
 

May 12, 2018

07:52

original comment
Not covered on this site, but a familiar question, indeed. What you have to appreciate is that the first syllable of Satan didn't have a long vowel. It was short, as in the original Latin and Greek. John Walker in his pronouncing dicitonry of 1791 is one who refers to it. Satan is frequently pronounced like sattan, he says - and he doesn't like it, so recommends a long vowel, as in Plato. This caught on, and became the norm - though the OED says that the short vowel was being used even as late as 1900. Seyton, on the other hand, always had a long vowel - though whether this was 'see' or 'say' is an open question. I give both in my Dictionary. Not much basis for homophony, therefore.
 
Chris
Pollard
says

May 11, 2018

19:14

Dear David, I apologise if this has already been covered, but I would be very interested to know what evidence you have found that could shed light on the old question of the pronunciation of Macbeth's attendant Seyton's name. Would it have been a homophone with Satan? Or would the first syllable have sounded more like modern 'see'?
 

Mar 14, 2018

17:38

original comment
Yes, that is a common reaction. As we are talking about the period leading up to 1611, I've used the same OP system for the KJB as I use for Shakespeare. There was a great deal of interest in the OP version during the anniversary year, and that was when I made a series of short recordings, which you can now find in the Shop section of this website.
 

Mar 13, 2018

15:58

This Lent I've been reading the Bible from cover to cover. As I've done so, I have occasionally picked up the King James Bible, and read some of its magnificent passages out loud, in order to better experience the rhythms of its poetry and prose. Today, while reading in Isaiah, I decided to try my hand at reading several of the chapters out loud in as close an approximation of OP as I could manage. It really was a marvelous experience, even though I'm certain that I made abundant mistakes in my OP. The rhythm completely changes, and is a totally different experience from reading the Bible in Received Pronunciation, or in my native American accent. I would love it if someday you were to publish a guide to the King James Bible in OP, as you have for Shakespeare's works!
 
Maurine
Miller
says

Feb 11, 2018

19:11

Thank you so much for your events posting! By coincidence, I will be in the Baltimore, MD area during the first weekend of their OP production of Othello in April. I am now making arrangements to attend since I may never have another chance to experience an OP performance of a Shakespeare play.
 

Feb 09, 2018

12:59

original comment
In 1791, John Walker added a comment to the entry on 'wind' in his English Pronouncing Dictionary. He gives both pronunciations and says: 'These two modes of pronunciation have been long contending for superiority, till at last the former [i.e. with the short i] seems to have gained a complete victory, except in the territories of rhyme. Here the poets claim a privilege, and readers seem willing to grant it them...' So the older form, with the diphthong, was still around then, though out of use in everyday speech. Shakespeare has only rhymes with 'find, mind', etc. Pope overlaps Fielding's dates, and he uses the diphthong (eg in Essay on Criticism), rhyming it with 'find'. And Walker also reports that Jonathan Swift, an older contemporary of Fielding, would 'jeer' at those who pronounced 'wind' with a short vowel. So the modern pronunciation was clearly coming in during Fielding's lifetime. Whether he used it in his everyday speech we don't know, but in his poem I would say it would definitely be the diphthong.
 
Rachel
Smith
says

Feb 09, 2018

04:33

Hi David. Are you able to clarify the correct pronunciation of "winds" in the final line of this verse of Henry Fielding's Hunting Song: The dusky night rides down the sky, And ushers in the morn; The hounds all join in glorious cry, The huntsman winds his horn: Should it be pronounced to rhyme with "minds", or should the "i" be sort as in "win"? (This is a matter of some debate in a choir that intends to sing a musical setting of this poem.) Thanks.
 

Feb 07, 2018

22:04

original comment
I think a lot would have changed in his social milieu by that date. I doubt whether anyone would still be pronouncing initial 'silent' /k/ etc. I opted not to go for it in my Shakespeare OP, as I felt it would only have been used by the most conservative of speakers by around 1600. So by 1620 I doubt there would have been many left who would preserve it. And, as you suggest, they may well have accommodated to the new norms anyway.
 
John
Toyne
says

Jan 22, 2018

07:05

Hello David, I'm reading a biography of James I and began wondering about Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham and Queen Elizabeth's cousin. He was born in 1536 and died in 1624 but was still active as late as 1620. Would his pronunciation in 1620 have been what it was decades earlier ? Or would he have unconsciously modified it as the sound system slowly shifted during his lifetime ? Is it likely that any person of his generation circa 1620 was still sounding the K in words like 'knave' , 'knock' etc, and the W in words like 'sword' ? Many thanks, John Toyne
 

Nov 24, 2017

09:02

original comment
Yes, there are several transcriptions online, but I don't need to use them as Ben and I are including my own transcription of the FF along with the relevant Quarto texts (of Pericles, TNK, Edward III, and the poems) in the new edition of Shakespeare's Words, both as line-by-line equivalents to the modern edition and as a separate file. It's a later goal to add an OP pronunciation dimension to the site, but that's another expensive option. We'll certainly implement it as soon as we can afford it! Recouping the suibstantial costs of preparing the new edition is the first step.
 
Sean
Gordon
says

Nov 24, 2017

01:33

original comment
Thank you for your very kind reply. Chicago has this version of Shakespeare online -- https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/OTA-SHK/restricted/search.form.html As a strategy, it would have weaknesses, but perhaps if this text were married with the original pronunciations, by rubbing these resources together, something might begin to warm up in publishing and on stage?
 

Nov 22, 2017

09:09

original comment
Yes, I have. The main resource at the moment is my Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, which comes with a code that gives you access to the audio file of the book. I also have available all the 'flat' audio recordings I made whenever I was involved in an OP production. But I appreciate that these are a long way from the effect of hearing OP in a real production. Theatres have been surprisingly inefficient in capitalising on the sales potential of their OP productions. The Globe showed no interest at all. The only commercially available one I know is the Dream produced at Kansas University: details at Paul Meier's website. It would be great to record all the plays in OP using an experienced group, such as Ben's Passion in Practice ensemble, and we did in fact cost this out a couple of years ago - a day a play in a good editing suite. Perfectly possible if there's a spare L100K around! In th emeantime, Ben and I are planning some new podcasts to accompany the revamped Shakespeare's Words website, which will be launched early in 2018.
 
Sean
Gordon
says

Nov 21, 2017

23:43

Your excellent publications have just come to my attention, David! I found that your short youtube appearance on the topic of OP was persuasive and quite fun. Even if it costs a few quid, I wonder if youtube will be around in 400 years? And have you thought about audiobooks and/or recorded performances and/or annotated pronunciation editions?
 

Sep 12, 2017

22:10

original comment
Interesting points. Yes, I have listened to some of the accents along the east coast, such as Roanoke. They are certainly conservative and display several echoes of OP. But none of them, of course, display all the OP features - saying the -tion ending (invention, etc) as -see-on, for example.
 
Catherine
Bishir
says

Sep 09, 2017

17:26

Wonderful things you are doing!!! I learned about your work through my good friend John N. Wall here in Raleigh NC; your brilliant son read the sermons for John's creation of the preaching of Donne's sermons. I have long been interested in language history and variations. I once knew an English teacher at the University of Kentucky who supposedly could pin a student accent to a county level. Anyway, two items possibly of interest. j I have read a lot of 18th and early 19th century building documents as part of my research as an architectural historians. Some odd spellings gained meaning only when I read them out loud. One of my favorites was "for building the peasor," 10 shillings. I decided it meant Piazza, which is an interesting indication of 18th c. pronunciation iin northeastern North Carolina. I expect you have noticed the many similarities with the "Hoi Toide" accent on NC's Outer Banks, which survives best among older folks. If you haven't already done so, you might enjoy getting some of the old timers out there, at Ocracoke or elsewhere, to read some Shakespearean English in their traditional accent. Alton Ballance out there is a good connection. The rhyming of "room" and "come" struck me. Also, in Virginia, they famously say "abooot the hoose" for about the house and similar. Great work. I love it. My own accent I have discerned is a mix of midwestern and appalachian and southern............I am from Kentucky. .
 

May 14, 2017

13:40

original comment
Can I make a general plea to users of this forum to check whether there is an answer to their question in my Dictionary first before writing separately. That's why I compiled it, after all! In relation to the present question, if you look under room you will find that I give the word with two alternatives, one with a long vowel, as today, one with a short vowel (as still heard in some regional eaccents, in fact). Plus a reference to the Rome pun.
 
Yahya

says

May 12, 2017

19:45

Evening, Mr. Crystal. According to Sonnet 116, the word "doom" rhymes with "come". In Sonnet 59, the word "room" supposedly rhymes with "doom". That means the vowel isn't long, /u:/, in room, correct? In Julius Caesar, Cassius makes a pun on the word Rome and room thus, "Now is it Rome indeed, and Rome enough,/ When there is in it but one only man". If we were to consider the word "room" rhyming with "doom" and can have a pun with "Rome" then Rome is enunciated with a short round vowel, correct? But the note in my version says that Rome was pronounced as "Room" (modern pronunciation). Which means that "room" is as in op as in modern English. So the question is, is it Rome with a long or short vowel? Thank you for your courtesies.
 

May 09, 2017

09:31

original comment
Yes, the interaction between actors and audience at the Globe is one of the best things about the place. And OP suits that informality very well, I agree. As for initial 'silent' consonants... these were going out of use during Shakespeare's lifetime. Scholars disagree as to when exactly they disappeared. I give both alternatives in my Dictionary, therefore. But when I'm working with a company, I go for the more modern (at the time) alternative, and don't have these consonants sounded.
 
John

says

May 08, 2017

23:07

Hello, again, Mr. Crystal! There's a little observation that I've come to lately after delving more into OP and watching more productions from the Globe Theatre. We've seen in our British Literature Survey class that about the 1600s, the South Bank of the river Thames was the "locus of the devil", as the Puritans had described it. Our professor told us that there was a lot of means of entertainment that the Renaissance Englishman and woman has the privilege to enjoy, like bear fighting and cock fighting, plays... etc. Additionally, Shakespeare's "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" and his Sonnet 29, the part in which he kinda envied other people's art and wealth, and the way your son Ben pointed to some of the audience: adding to that, the sexual jokes like that one As You Like it, "from hour to hour we ripe and ripe!"and so many others... Or the way the fool in Dr Faustus pissed on the audience... It's just marvelous! All of this prove one thing: England at that time was the furthest thing from being courtly. The English back then were a very reckless people. Their lives were a mess, and they led such a wild life, and that is reflected on their theatre and lifestyle and most importantly, their language. OP shows all of that perfectly. It flows smoothly. It shows how simple their lives were and shows how wild it is by that /r/ sound which Ben Johnson described as the dog's groaning... etc. I'm just very grateful for your discovery. And what elates me all the more is the fact that you're very opened about it. You never hold back any information that could be of great use for us. Whether it is in the dictionary or not, you just HELP, and that, Mr. Crystal is what inspires me to become more knowledgeable?about Shakespeare, so thank you! Forgive my incoherence. I just can't find the proper words to write my thoughts... Just a question though, was the /k/ pronounced in words like "know" or "knee"?
 

May 06, 2017

16:05

original comment
No, this was not an OP production. The company used their normal modern accents. Twelfth Night has been performed in OP - once by a Bangor student company, and once in the USA - but not by the Globe. I'm afraid the Globe theatre department has rather lost interest in such performances since Mark Rylance's day. Without the education side of the organization taking an interest, there would have been no OP at the Globe at all in recent years.
 
Ian

says

May 06, 2017

14:04

Hello David. I am the English Literature to Form 6 students in Malaysia. We have just finished watching the Globe's performance of Twelfth Night with Mark Rylance as Olivia. I understand that the production uses OP but it sounds almost like RP. What should I be looking for? Thanks.
 

May 06, 2017

10:25

original comment
More or less. A few noticeable changes, such as the loss of the -sion pronunciation in words like salvation and musician, becoming -shion. But still quite close to the OP of Shakespeare's time, in my view. Major features, such as postvocalic /r/, are still there. Certainly, the singers who have been working on Purcell in OP have been very happy with doing it that way.
 

May 06, 2017

10:15

original comment
You need to look in my OP Dictionary, which will show you that doom had the vowel of come and one of the pronunciations of fiend had the vowel of end.
 
John
Toyne
says

May 06, 2017

01:35

Hello David, Have you any idea how Samuel Pepys would have sounded ? I'm reading some of his diary and am trying to imagine a Londoner of 1660. Was the OP of 1660 basically that of Shakespeare's time ? Thanks
 
Julio
Gómez
says

May 05, 2017

06:02

Hello, Mr. Crystal. Firstly I wanted to congratulate you for the amazing job you have done regarding OP and Shakespeare. Secondly, I wanted to ask something about Sonnet 145 (which I have to recite in my University). There are a couple of rhymes which do not work out when using RP; however they do in OP. The first one is 'come' and 'doom' (dome). The second one, I think, is 'end' and 'fiend'. Even though I know there must be a rhyme in there, I have not been able to find how to pronounce those words in OP. I would be very thankful if you could answer this little doubt to me. Regards from Colombia and keep up the good work Mr. Crystal.
 

May 04, 2017

18:02

original comment
Do you mean the Dictionary? If so, note that with each copy there is an individual code that gives you access to the audio file at Oxford University Press. So you can hear every word and variant in the book. That should help.
 
patrice

says

May 04, 2017

17:29

I would love to buy the book, but I am concerned that I won't be able to learn OP via written explanation. Lol, my fault I know, but I think I learn differently. Is there anything like what you do in America? Thanks for reading my message :)
 
Yahya

says

May 03, 2017

11:49

original comment
Thank you very much, Mr. Crystal. Your answer is satisfying. I shall, then, act.
 

May 03, 2017

10:06

original comment
There was nothing like Received Pronunciation in Shakespeare's time - that accent evolved in English around 1800. So there was no 'posh accent' as such. Upper-class people would speak in their regional accents (as did Drake and Raleigh, both Devonshire men), including that of London, and in 1603 most of the court spoke in a Scottish accent when James I arrived - people remarked about it (respectfully!). The only significant difference I can think of would be if you wanted to show you were educated, i.e. literate. That means you would know how to spell, and your pronunciation could be inflouenced by that - much as today people who pronounce the /t/ in often say 'because it's there in the spelling'. Holofernes in Love's Labour's Lost is the classic example of someone who wants to pronounce everything exactly as it is spelled. It's a satirical portrait, of course, but there must have been a social reality to make it recognizable. Your second message reminds me of when we were doing Romeo at the Globe, and the actor playing the Prince asked Tim Carroll the director how it was possible for him to play a prince if he didn't have a posh accent, but had to speak in the same way as the lower-class characters. Tim had a one-word answer: 'Act'.
 
Yahya

says

May 02, 2017

22:46

original comment
Please, Mr. Crystal, let me clarify one point. I'm inquiring about this particular point because we are holding a performance of Act 1 Scene 1 and 2 from Julius Caesar in our college in original pronounciation, and we would like to know how high-class people, like Caesar and Brutus, might have spoken so as to give the closest acting as possible.
 
Yahya
Dridi
says

May 02, 2017

13:33

Good day, Mr. Crystal! I wish that this little humble message of mine finds you well. First, I would like to thank you so much for your inspiring work. It did bring us closer to Shakespeare and for that I am eternally?grateful for you! So thank you so much! Unfortunately, I have not yet managed to get your book, but by listening to some different recordings online, and by studying that paper by Paul Meier, I managed to learn the basics! I just would like to ask you about the classes. Did they sound different in Shakespearean times? Did the high class (the nobility) spoke different from the lower classes? If so, what are the differences?
 

Apr 28, 2017

11:08

original comment
You must have missed the references in the Dictionary. The CE line is referenced under both go and one. Kökeritz could be right, that this is the 'on' pronunciation, but that's based on the assumption that there is a pun here, which is debatable - as indeed several of K's puns are. Adriana's following line could be read without any such assumption. So the long vowel versions for gone and one are perfectly possible.
 
Daniel
Kaczyński
says

Apr 27, 2017

23:15

Dear David, When I spoke to you some time ago, you said that the word "one" had three different pronunciations in Shakespeare's day: 1) the one rhyming with words like "alone" --> [o:n] 2) another rhyming with "on" [on] and 3) an unstressed ‘un’ (as in modern ‘good ‘un’) I am curious about the second pronunciation in the context of Comedy of Errors 4.2.52-53, where Dromio of Syracuse says "'Tis time that I were gone./ It was two ere I left him, and now the clock strikes one". Some commentators (e.g. Kokeritz) noted that the word "one" was pronounced as "on" in this passage, which explained that Dromio meant that 'the clock struck on' . Yet, you included this fragment neither in the entry "one", nor "on" in your OP dictionary (Oxford, 2016). Why so? Do you disagree that "one" was pronounced like "on" in this passage? Thank you very much for your answer in advance.
 
Kenneth
Beesley
says

Apr 13, 2017

06:02

original comment
Thanks. I'm sure you're right about the variation. On the subject of /h/, several phonotypic books by Ellis would indicate that he pronounced his /h/s much like modern RP speakers, except that in "humble" and "humbly" he clearly dropped the /h/. On the "long a", Isaac Pitman's own phonotypic spellings in early 1846 (I'm again looking at the Phonotypic Journal) use the a-as-in-trap vowel letter in examples, class, classed, last, master, cast, enchanted, can't, command, passing, branches, grass, France, glass, chance, advantages, asked, and fast; but he used the a-as-in-father vowel letter in laugh, laughter, rather, and Bath. In May, a letter from correspondent "R.R." is reproduced, showing the a-as-in-father vowel in task, classes, and lastly. By June, Alexander J. Ellis was increasingly involved in the orthographical reform, contributing essays, and the PJ starts showing many more "long a" spellings, which (as far as I can judge) correspond to modern RP patterns. Ellis himself (PJ, 1846, p. 308) indicates that he/they used to transcribe "loss" and "cross" with the open-o vowel letter (equivalent to /l?s/ and /kr?s/, evidencing the LOT-CLOTH split), but that in 1846 they were writing the equivalent of /l?s/ and /kr?s/. I see no evidence of the LOT-CLOTH split in Ellis's "Essentials of Phonetics" (1848), but in some 1849 phonotypy books (edited by Ellis), and in the 1850 Bible, LOT-CLOTH spellings are back for off, often, lost, cross, and soft.
 

Apr 12, 2017

09:54

original comment
It was under way at the turn of the century, so that by the 1840s texts were being written which acknowledge non-rhoticity as normal. I've never explored this point in detail, but looking at the books from the period that I have, I see, for example, a clear statement in R G Latham's The English Langauge (Ch. 1 of Part 3 on pronunciation), who makes it clear that /r/ was on the way out in postvocalic position. After describing initial and medial /r/ as being universally pronounced distinctly, he says 'At the end... this distinctiness and universality of the sound of r is by no means the case', and he goes on to say that there is 'a large percentage of educated speakers' who make no difference between father and farther, who pronounce cargo without the r, and so on. And he concludes: 'The rule then stands thus - that when a vowel is followed by r, the r is often dropped altogether, and the vowel made open'. Note the 'often'. But he later talks of the r being 'non-existent in the spoken language, being a mere matter of spelling'. I quote from the edition I have (5th, 1862), but the first edition was as early as 1841. I've always thought that it took RP a couple of generations to become institutionalized, with other phonemes, such as /h/ and long /a/, attracting more attention as markers of an educated accent (judging by the cartoons in Punch). Both Ellis and Pitman, born in 1813/14, would have grown up with a great deal of variation around them, so I don't find it surprising that, as members of the first generation in which RP was being established, and perhaps remembering 'Pronunciation Walker' (who transcribes final /r/) they would have kept the /r/ themselves.
 
Kenneth
Beesley
says

Apr 11, 2017

23:15

When did (proto-)RP become non-rhotic? In the Pitman-Ellis 1847 alphabet (and similar phonotypy alphabets of the mid-19th century), historical /r/s were always represented with the 'r' letter. In the Phonotypic Journal of 1846, p. 103, Isaac Pitman informed a correspondent that words including "harm," "heart," and "sort" were properly pronounced with an 'r', even "though the pronunciation of 'r' in these words is very feeble." Non-rhotic pronunciations of these words he dismissed as a custom of "Londoners," and added that such pronunciations "grate upon the ears." Pitman probably spoke a West Country accent, but his then-partner Alexander J. Ellis was a product of Shrewsbury School, Eton, Brighton College, and Trinity College, Cambridge. With such a background, I'm assuming that Ellis would have spoken the (proto-)RP of the age, and in his "Essentials of Phonetics" (1848, and actually printed in the 1847 alphabet), pp. 51, 93-95, he identifies 3 English pronunciations of 'r' (which we would now term allophones) and two combinations of these allophones. Judging from his statements and examples, it would appear that Ellis's speech too was fully rhotic. So when did R-dropping become acceptable and common among the elite?
 
Mike
Ferguson
says

Apr 01, 2017

13:39

original comment
Hi David, Thanks for the prompt and helpful reply. I have heard people pronounce 'Grave' and 'Have' in a ways that sound to me almost like 'Grev' and 'Hev' or 'Grairv' and 'Hairv', but as I haven't learned to follow the phonetic symbols, and am no great actor, I find it difficult to share what that really sounds like to me. So, once again - thank you for the work you have produced on this subject, including recordings and explanations. Mike.
 

Apr 01, 2017

06:35

original comment
See the Dictionary under grave for the pron of this word and its derivatives: two prons are recognized, one wih a long mid-front vowel and one with a short open-front vowel, thus allowing the rhyme with have. Lots of examples of this. Also note the play on gravy and gravity in Henry IV.
 
Mike
Ferguson
says

Mar 31, 2017

22:56

Hi David, Firstly, I like to thank you for, and congratulate you on your great work. I have been reading Richard ii, and can see many rhymes which sound best in OP ('Tongue'/ Wrong; Boot/ Foot etc). I cannot, however, find a way of rhyming 'Grave' and 'Have'. Can you help? Thanks, Mike.
 

Mar 23, 2017

10:45

original comment
Very nice pieces. For those interested in the points of difference with me, the main one is that I would make the vowel of decay, way, stay, day, brain the same as in pace etc - with a pure vowel not a diphthong. I'd also use a more open vowel for 'all' and a more open vowel for firm, curtained, etc - more like the one in 'farm'.
 

Mar 22, 2017

02:30

Another few recordings I just did "Is this a dagger which I see before me?" https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/bjehxixjq0hv1qg/IsThisADagger.mp3 "Tomorrow and tomorrow" https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/u8xor3x5pm2k8hz/Tomorrow.mp3 Sonnet 15 https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/m81ua65pmezlt26/Sonnet15.mp3
 

Mar 14, 2017

09:26

original comment
Yes, that would be good. There are the tutorials on Paul Meier's site (www.paulmeier.com). And all the words in my OP Dictionary are recorded (you get a code inside a copy of the book that gives you access to the recording lodged at OUP), so you can check the words in your choice of text. Otherwise, just listen a lot to some of the recordings on this site.
 
Hunter

says

Mar 13, 2017

16:44

Is there a phonetic guide to OP available? I'm working on a project for school about English renaissance theatre, and part of the assignment requires a demonstration. I thought it would be cool to perform a monologue using OP but I have no where to start. Thank you!
 

Mar 12, 2017

07:35

original comment
Granted that everybody was sensitive to issues surrounding spelling reform (and this was the period in which the some attempts at purely pronunciation-based spellings and "phonetic alphabets" were made, by none other than orthoepists themselves.) Yet it doesn't seem to me to be a simple matter of spelling pronunciation. After all, there are a very few versions of English (and Scots) that preserve a bird/burn/verb distinction even today. That alone is reason to believe that such pronunciations existed in the 1500s. I suppose spelling may have given license to such pronunciations. And people certainly justified such pronunciations in terms of spelling. But evidence for the merger seems to proceed from north to south. When the distinction becomes a live issue for orthoepists in the south, I assume that this means that the merger has now become a variable, something that they feel duty-bound to recommend against. When it is a fait accompli and no longer a variable, they no longer have anything to gripe about. Even so, your way of dealing with the r-colorings is completely plausible in that there certainly would have been people who sounded like that in any case. But I would be interested in hearing what a version of this sounded like when staged.
 

Mar 08, 2017

10:17

original comment
I think spelling pronunciations played an increasingly important role at that time, with everyone being very sensitive to the spelling reform issue. The character of Holofernes, probably satirising Richard Mulcaster, illustrates the way some people were thinking. And orthoepists of course are perecisely the sort of people who would want pronunciation to reflect the spelling. So I tend to take what they say with a very large pinch of salt, just as I do with present-day pronunciation prescriptivists!
 

Mar 08, 2017

10:14

original comment
Good points. Re suprasgs... I have a chapter on these in Think on my Words. True, there are just intriguing fragments of comment. Personally I don't think intonation has changed much. The musical representations in Steele's detailed Melody and Measure of Speech, 1775, suggest little difference from today, so if there's no big difference in the past 250 years maybe there wasn't much in the previous 150.
 

Mar 08, 2017

07:04

original comment
By the by The Great Vowel Shift always sounded so epic to me. Like a summer blockbuster for nerds. I imagine Don LaFontaine saying in his booming preview voice: "This summer, a few intrepid vowels will make their way across the feature grid. But can they survive in their new homes?"
 

Mar 07, 2017

16:33

original comment
One other thing that I thought might be done — which I didn't do in my recording — is to be more conservative with the r-coloring. To have "bird", "verb" and "burn" be, broadly transcribed, /b?rd v?rb b?rn/. We find orthoepists recommending such pronunciations even toward the end of the 16th century, and it isn't until the start of the 17th that the merger seems to be well-established in The City from what I know of the sources. (Though I'm hardly up to date.) I wonder if greater retroflexion of the /r/ played a part in this. But this would create even more problems for actors. And of course the more innovative pronunciation was at the very least present in some speech, particularly people my age.
 

Mar 07, 2017

16:11

original comment
I can certainly get that. I didn't really consider that what actors could do, and what audiences ought to be made to hear, might depend on other considerations than the strictest (approximation of) accuracy possible. And after all, there is a whole range of things that presumably must have differed from Modern English(es) that I imagine will never be knowable or even surmisable. What can be known of suprasegmental features, for instance, apart from the fact that secondary stress must have been strong enough not to result in as much vowel reduction? (It's only with the most painstaking of work that anything about Ancient Greek sentence prosody — beyond the contours of pitch accents — has become recently knowable with Stephens and Devine's "Prosody of Greek Speech.") With things like increasing and blessing, one thing that occurs to me is that the height for "short" vowels may be much less restricted or more centralized than that of long ones. Because /?/ and /e/ do not contrast as /?:/ and /e:/ do, perhaps the vowel of "blessing" may be something that would best be represented as [e?] or [??]. "As for points of consistency, I would have made day/way less diphthongal – the same as in bravery" I take these vowels to have been /?:?/. My take on Elizabethan English in the City of London is that for some speakers there must have been a distinction between the vowel from Middle English /a?/ and that from Middle English /a:/. Thus "tale" /t?:l/ and "tail" /t?:?l/ at least for a while. Or maybe /t?:l/ and /t??l/. The latter might be something like [t??i?ł] with a diphthong similar to that of Standard Dutch "ij", which also has a monophthongal dialectal pronunciation. (Ditto for days/daze, bait/bate, hail/hale, raise/raze and waive/wave.) The purely monophthongal pronunciation of such words existed to be sure at least from the mid 16th c. onward. We also know other writers, including some in London, took exception to it. Alexander Gil criticizes the monophthongal pronunciation and associates it with upper class effeminacy and women's speech. Given that almost anything one wishes to stigmatize may be (and has been) demeaned in such terms, this probably says little about who actually spoke this way. But other writers describe the monophthong for Middle English /a?/ as being the result of French influence and an affectation. Which does at least suggest that some sort of perception of regional snootiness was involved.
 

Mar 07, 2017

09:40

original comment
A lovely reading, and very close to my own. One of the best I've heard, in fact. I quite like the effect of added lip-rounding, on love etc. I've done it that way too, on occasion, but in play performance felt that it pushed the accent too much towards Irish, and - as a general principle - I find directors don't want characters to associate too strongly with any one modern accent. The beauty of OP, to my mind, is that it contains echoes of many modern accents but can be identified with none of them. BUt thank you for takign the trouble to respond to my suggestion: I think you are the first to have done so! As for points of consistency, I would have made day/way less diphthongal - the same as in bravery etc; and I value the effect of initial /w/ to make the vowel more open, so that wandering is more like all. Your other points are well taken. As for reading my work, Pronouncing Shakespeare represents my first and (looking back now) pretty primitive attempt to get to grips with OP. The current evolution of my thinking, after doing a dozen plays, is represented in the Dictionary, and that will surely evolve further, as I restricted that to the First Folio plus the poems, so there are further variations that will need to be added in due course, as the database expands to include other texts (and thus, rhymes etc). I was very cautious - some might say, too cautious - but I didn't want to go beyond what the evidence allowed. For example, I give long and short vowel alternatives to increase, because there is a rhyme increasing and blessing. But there was no such rhyme for decrease, so I show only the long vowel there. Probably people did say decrease with a short vowel too, on occasion, but I avoid 'probablys' in the Dictionary. But thank you for your interest, and for providing this fresh perspective - and for the links to other reconstructions too. I had to do 16th-c French and Latin for Henry V, and your versions are hugely illuminating, and very plausible. I note you use a trilled /r/, which is really effective - I kept the retroflex one, as for English, on the grounds that people commented at the time about the 'poor accent' of English people when speaking Latin.
 

Mar 06, 2017

23:32

original comment
" So, given your detailed awareness of the historical trends, it would be really interesting to see your own reconstruction, and to try it out in performance. I very much hope that such comparative phonological dramaturgy will develop, as time goes by." Alright. Here are two sonnets read by me. The first because it is rich in varied near-front and mid vowels, and the other because I like it https://dl.dropbox.com/s/pydamo72t3y30ya/TwosonnetsforCrystal.mp3 (I just got out my phone and recorded this sitting at my desk without prep. So the delivery is unpolished and the sound somewhat short of studio quality. And I think I may have screwed up the height of the vowel in one instance of the word "not") "but to throw in the towel, and say that we’ll never know anything about OP, just because there are difficulties, is not in my mindset, as – judging by your capitalisation of ANYTHING – it seems to be in yours." I can see why you'd think that. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On my own site, which is more about translation than reconstruction, I include links to my reading specimens of reconstructions in a few languages, including Late Middle French http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.in/2015/08/francois-villon-ballad-of-ladies-of.html 5th century Athenian Greek http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2011/05/homer-opening-of-odyssey-from-freek.html 1st Century BC Latin http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2009/06/horace-ode-47-from-latin.html 12th century Old Occitan http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2016/01/jaufre-rudel-love-afar-from-occitan.html 16th century Spanish http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2014/07/garcilaso-de-la-vega-while-there-is-yet.html Late Tang Court Chinese http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2016/11/li-bai-airs-of-ancientry-no14-lament-of.html http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2016/04/li-bai-pouring-myself-drinks-alone-by.html Mid Qing Court Chinese http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2010/12/xi-peilan-crossing-yangtze-from-chinese.html Alright this is becoming linkspam. But you take my meaning. I'm by no means opposed or pessimistic about the possibilities. Truly. And I did see the /e:/ and think you meant something it turns out you did not. I have not read all of your books. I've ordered a few that have yet to arrive in the mail. I was just reading "Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment" and saw your description of the vowels in words like "Eve" as being more like the vowel of contemporary "Way." This combined with your grapheme choices in the pieces downloadable online, and some of the performances I've heard (most not by you, I hasten to add) led me to make unfounded assumptions as to your intent.
 

Mar 06, 2017

10:14

original comment
Difficult to reply to so many messages separately, so I'll extract the main points fromn them and deal with them all here. Many thanks for giving these aspects of my work such a detailed exploration. Sea/see not taken effect 'fully' - the devil lies in that word. Sure there are examples in Pope etc - the tea as tay one is well-known, and indeed it lasts, at least regionally, until well into the 18th century, or, for that matter, into the present-day. What is unclear is just how fast the merger went in regional accents and just how it spread across the lexicon. As we all know, sound changes don't take place all at once. I did actually try maintaining this distinction with the first company I worked with at the Globe, but they simply couldn't implement it consistently, so I dropped it. People don't have good intuitions about the Middle English antecedents - and even historical phonologists get confused at times! Shakespeare had no /i:/ vowel? I think you've been misled by my pedagogical use of the /e/ symbol. When I first started teaching OP to actors, I wanted to draw their attention to the way this vowel wasn't as close as present-day RP, so I transcribed it with an 'e' as a kind of reminder. It helped them, but it wasn't a good long-term decision. I hoped the diagram in Pronouncing Shakespeare of the phonetic range of the vowel would make it clear that all I was saying was that EME /i:/ was more open than Modern /i:/, but it didn't work out like that - so, after lots of discussion with other OP people, I changed back to the /i:/ symbol, as in my OP Dictionary, where it is used throughout. So I don't think there's much difference between what I do and your description of the vowel in your third message. Sorry it has misled you. The other thing that happened is that actors, in trying to make their /i:/ vowel more open, went too far, and made it overlap with the mid-open vowel, so that seek sounded like sake. Ben does this a lot, I'm afraid, and I keep trying to get him out of the habit! But hardly any actors have the kind of phonetic training that I would like to see routine. You make the point about 'massive variation' in relation to the rounded/unrounded contrast. I recognize the same point in my Dictionary (p. xliii), where I explain my reasons for making the unrounded vowel the default option. The mixed evidence pushes you in the other direction, evidently. That's fine by me. It would be good to hear versions of OP in performance where the rounded forms are the default. My choice, though, allows me to use rounded variants for certain characters (eg Macmorris), and it would be interesting to hear how those character distinctions would be maintained in this other phonetic scenario. I simply don't understand how you can say that my OP is 'too neat', and talk about free variation, when there is a huge amount of variation recognized in the transcriptions in the OP Dictionary. It's one of the reasons it took me so long to make the audio recording of the book. And re your fourth message, I discuss all this in more or less the same way in the introduction to the Dictionary. Rhyme is only one of the factors, of course, and the evident inconsistencies provide the main challenge to anyone trying to reconstruct OP. There is a complete corpus of all the rhymes in the canon on the OUP website that accompanies the Dictionary, to help anyone do the kind of statistical analysis you mention. The book also has a discussion of how I handle 'half-rhyme', which introduces another raft of possibilities. It's all very complex, indeed, but to throw in the towel, and say that we'll never know anything about OP, just because there are difficulties, is not in my mindset, as - judging by your capitalisation of ANYTHING - it seems to be in yours. All I claim for my reconstruction is that it is plausible - never authentic - and I welcome alternative versions that reach different conclusions on the basis of the very mixed evidence we have. So, given your detailed awareness of the historical trends, it would be really interesting to see your own reconstruction, and to try it out in performance. I very much hope that such comparative phonological dramaturgy will develop, as time goes by.
 

Mar 06, 2017

05:03

original comment
Apart fromt he fact that it makes no typological sense for sea/sea to be leveled into /e:/ (especially if /e:/ really is [e:]), it's also worth noting that though these sets do rhyme, they do not do so consistently. These sets are both used quite extensively in the Sonnets, yet not routinely cross-rhymed there. It does happen of course. But also the "see" lexical set in the sonnets is far more likely than the "sea" to rhyme with the secondarily stressed /??/ of "prosperity" and "legacy" whereas the the "sea" lexical set more readily rhymes with /?/ and /?:/. On the other hand there are cases where "see" words rhyme with /?/ as well, as in "feed/shed" but it seems rarer (I don't actually have a corpus analysis of the rhymes of the Sonnets to hand. They're just the body of Shakespeare's work I know best.) This all suggests to me that rhyming per se cannot be a sure guide to the vowel grid of any one version of English at play. But then, why would one expect it to be? This has been long known to scholars of the historical phonology of Chinese, where the writing system makes even getting on the ground floor of analysis far more difficult (and therefore makes rhyme practice, as well as medieval Chinese rhyme-dictionaries, all the more precious as evidence.) Creators may use rhymes that appear in other dialects than one's own, and other dialects than the one used for spoken or sung delivery. Or they may avoid rhymes that exist in their dialect. A southern American poet writing a sonnet in, say, 1950, would probably not use men/thin as a rhyme however deeply the phonological pin had pricked their pen. An American writing 50 years earlier than that might have avoided rhyming "fatter" with "madder" for similar reasons. As with much else in poetic language, the features which come into play to decide what is an acceptable rhyme in a poetic or lyric tradition (even an oral one with illiterate practitioners) are not reducible to, or abstractable from, the facts of any one dialect. As like as not they depend on genre, on circumstance of delivery as much as anything else. Note 20th century American poets who observe fairly strict rhyme rules, may rhyme "again" with both "pain" and "pen", or "been" with both "seen" and "sin." The rhymes in modern pop music and rap are worth considering. Take "gonna" and "stunner." For some Americans, when the word is stressed, "gonna" is actually /g?n?/ or even /g?wn?/. In "Dani California" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, these words are rhymed even though the pronunciations used on the recording (in keeping with the vaguely Memphis-flavored, optionally non-rhotic norm of modern American pop singing that has been with us since Elvis) are /st?n?/ and /g?wn?/. Or take the "Julius Caesar vs. Shaka Zulu Rap Battle" written by Nice Peter and EpicLLOYD. There "sh*t-talker" is rhymed with "boom shakalaka" /??tt?k? ~ bu:m?akalak?/. I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know, of course, Prof. Crystal. But it occurred to me now to wonder: to what degree can the occasional cross-rhyming of the "see" and "sea" lexical sets be used to ascertain ANYTHING about the pronunciations a performer might or might not use on the stage apart from the fact that the vowels probably had something vague in common? I don't know if this is true of Elizabethan theater —of which I know little— but stage accents themselves, are often not identical with any one vernacular either. C.f. 19th century Buhnendeutsch in Germany, the vowels of the form of Chinese traditionally used for Peking Opera, traditional Yiddish theater pronunciation in late 19th and early 20th century Eastern Europe, and even Mid-Atlantic English in earlier generations.
 

Mar 05, 2017

20:52

original comment
Variation to be sure. But if anything I think the variation for "see" words must have stopped short of fullblown /e:/. This lexical set DOES develop differently from "sea" in later English as evidenced by Dryden and Pope's rhymes. Assuming that the English underlying OP is to be seen as having lineal continuity with later london Englishes (which, I know, is not a sure assumption by any means, but work with me here) there is a question of how to account for this. One possible solution as I suggest above is that the /i:/ vowel was really more of an [?:] a lot of the time for some if not most speakers, perhaps that [?:] was a positional variant of /i:/ under certain conditions of "prominence" of some kind. Would make sense, given its recent ancestry in Middle English.
 

Mar 05, 2017

20:37

original comment
Blast it. I forgot to not insert angle brackets again. For "Pope and Dryden (for whom and could rhyme with but not with any of the words) " Read "Pope and Dryden (for whom sea and tea could rhyme with obey but not with any of the -ee words) For "that words like and retained an /e:/ vowel " Read "that words like thee and see retained an /e:/ vowel "
 

Mar 05, 2017

20:33

original comment
(Reposting the above with corrections. Somehow the site took my citation forms for html tags) Oh good. A place where I can ask a question of David Crystal himself. So the same thing has been bugging me. One problem I see is that there’s evidence that the see/sea merger not only had not taken effect fully, but that even later authors such as Pope and Dryden (for whom and could rhyme with but not with any of the words) maintain a distinction. But here’s the real issue I have, Prof. Crystal. If the transcriptions of OP that I’m looking at in your OP Sonnets are to be believed, Shakespeare’s English actually has no /i:/ vowel at all except before rhotics — i.e. before the consonant that has the strongest lowering effect. This is typologically implausible to say the least. This dialect of English already has a heavily crowded inventory of high mid vowels and rising diphthongs. The language already has /e:/ as in sea , /?:(?)/ as in say, /?:/ as in sake and /??/ as in line. Now, when I actually HEAR Ben Crystal recite passages in OP, he often raises the words from the lexical set to /i:/ (also merging /?:/ with /e:/ at times, I hear him often use the same high vowel for brake as in speak. But I digress.) That the space of /i:/ on the feature grid should remain mostly unoccupied except before /r/ is unbelievable to me on typological grounds, especially not when a push chain shift was still in the process of reconfiguring the high vowels. What evidence if any is there that words like and retained an /e:/ vowel for (at least some) Southern English speakers in Shakespeare’s lifetime? While I’m at it, here’s another quibble. The suggestion is of an unrounded vowel for the -ove and -ull lexical sets on rhyme grounds. But there is a good deal of spelling-book evidence that the split of the vowel in bull, bush, full, put and cup, dull, cut, mud had not taken place in the south before about 1600 or so in southern English dialects. Certainly not in words that regularly bore stress (as opposed to words "some" like which might not). The earliest clear evidence for the split dates from the mid 17th century, and descriptions found in schoolbooks ca. 1600 put a rounded vowel in the mouths of at least some southerners at that time. A bit more plausible to me is that both had an /?/ vowel for at least another fifty years or so. Even more plausible than that is that there was massive variation within London, and even within a single speaker. Much as the cot-caught merger may occur sporadically in a single speaker — such as myself. I find every reason to think that this lexical set had a good deal of variation of this kind. The common spellings such as "strook" for “struck” make this seem all the more likely. The OP as transcribed — and as performed by people who just read Crystal’s guidelines and run with them — really seems a bit too pat, too neat. I find it much more believable that the same person pronounced “unless” now as ?nl?s, now as ?nl?s in free variation. Heck, it would be believable to me that the lexical "see" set actually varied between something like /?:/ and /i:/ (making it just a bit more rhymable with the more open vowels) on its way to fullblown merger into what became the "fleece" set, much as "water" in my own speech (I am an American from the Northern half of the East Coast) has either /?/ or /?/ in more or less free variation.
 

Feb 27, 2017

09:40

original comment
I don't know of any OP production of Tempest, and I've never recorded the whole play - just the odd speech here and there. You can hear one example on the British Library OP CD, where Hilton McRae does a bit of Prospero. Only about 15 plays have been done in OP so far. Still a long way to go!
 

Feb 25, 2017

20:50

I'm currently studying The Tempest, and I was wondering if there were any audio recordings of that play in OP. I haven't been able to find any online. Thanks!
 

Feb 21, 2017

12:07

original comment
Very interesting. Thank you.
 
Kenneth
Beesley
says

Feb 18, 2017

17:09

original comment
Many thanks for the reply. Schwa endings for words like window and sparrow are common enough, even today, but the final /s/ of "belus", for an English plural ending after a vowel ("a pair of bellows") is still a bit surprising. And it was apparently /s/; both the 1847 alphabet and the Deseret Alphabet were "surfacy" in transcribing English-plural endings, e.g., "beds" spelled as "bedz" but "bets" spelled as "bets", and "toes" spelled as "toz". So I would have been less surprised by a "beluz" spelling/pronunciation. I'm aware of Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary, which the young Isaac Pitman reportedly devoured, but I don't have a copy to hand. I do have some old Webster's Dictionaries, which I should have checked. For indicating pronunciation, the 1859 edition confines itself to marking up the standard-orthography word as BELL'OWS, with a macron above the O, indicating the "long O sound". This would---if I'm interpreting the notation correctly---appear to reflect my own modern pronunciation of the word. (Readers were expected to apply some standard orthographical rules, such as the "silent e" rule, and apparently the voicing of the final plural "s" after voiced phonemes, to interpret the markup.) But in the significantly revised 1864 edition of Webster's, "bellows" is actually respelled for pronunciation as "bel'lus", with a breve accent above the "e", and (if I'm interpreting the notation correctly) that's the only pronunciation indicated. In the same edition, "Scissors" is respelled for pronunciation as siz'zurz, with a final "z", so the "bel'lus" respelling did indicate a final /s/, as reflected in both the 1847-alphabet and Deseret Alphabet spellings. Fascinating. Thanks again. Now I'll go away and let you get back to the 17th century.
 

Feb 18, 2017

10:19

original comment
Yes, angle brackets are a pain! The pronunciation was perfectly normal then, and had been for some time. John Walker in his Pronuncing Dictionary gives a transcription of bellows as bellus, nand that was 50 years before. Dickens has window as winder. I use the same schwa ending for all -ow words in Shakespeare.
 
Kenneth
Beesley
says

Feb 18, 2017

06:01

I see that in my previous message, anything that I typed inside angle brackets got deleted. Let me try again: The word "bellows" was spelled, in the 1847 alphabet text of Ellis's "Essentials of Phonetics", "belus", where "e" represented the e-as-in-bet and "u" represented the u-as-in-but. The same word "bellows" appears twice in the Deseret Alphabet Book of Mormon, printed 1869, both times with a completely equivalent spelling. Have you seen such a spelling/pronunciation before?
 

Feb 16, 2017

08:16

original comment
Certainly comments about regaining ownership are made everywhere an OP production is mounted, especially in the US, where there has been a long-standing notion that unless Shakespeare is done in RP it isn't 'right'. But I hear them in the UK too, where, after all, the vast majority of the people who go to see a play don't speak RP. And I regularly get similar messages froom English speakers with non-RP accents from around the globe. So it seems to be a pretty general reaction. I don't know whether there's a class issue of the kind you mention. I rather doubt it. The reluctance of somne theatre companies to experiment with OP I suspect is more to do with their in-house traditional practices than anything else. And probably some inter-theatre rivalry. I've heard the comment, 'the Globe has done it, so we don't need to', more than once from directors - which misses the point, rather, seeing as the Globe's directors after Mark Rylance showed no interest in mounting further productions in the main house. Fortunately, its education wing was more enlightened!
 
Jack
Mcconville
says

Feb 15, 2017

15:23

Hello David Fascinating and enlightening work. I'm curious to what extent class distinctions have impacted on the uptake of OP, (you speak of people sensing a greater identification and ownership of the works) and whether there is a reluctance to 'hand over' Shakespeare to the masses in this manner. (Is there perhaps a link with attempts to prove 'shakespeare' was of noble birth?). Many thanks Jack
 

Jan 30, 2017

13:02

original comment
Thak you. And if you find yourself using OP in your work, do let this site know.
 

Jan 30, 2017

00:54

Hello David, I stumbled upon one of your videos with your son and have been listening to them and researching since. Thank you so much. I am working on my thesis and within my last term in a Graduate Level Shakespeare class in which we are looking at the original works, and also at an international version in which Shakespeare influenced greatly. Presently it is between "MacBeth" and Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood." I also want to comment and say that I am so glad you are doing this work and spreading the information about OP. There are some schools now that are deleting Shakespeare from the classroom setting and not teaching him at all--it's so sad. I am hoping that your work will show them the relevance that Shakespeare exudes still as well as the importance of new findings within the Shakespearean spectrum. Thanks! Brandee P.S. My thesis is on Merlin, however Shakespeare is present as well. :)
 

Jan 27, 2017

18:03

original comment
Actually, they did. Raleigh and Drake are known to have spoken 'broad Devonshire', and in 1603 the entire court resounded to Scottish accents. The only difference was that the upper-classes on the whole would have been able to read, and spelling would have influenced their pronunciation (as Holofernes in Love's Labour's Lost illustrates). Doubtless there would have been a 'superior' tone of voice, humn nature being the way it is, but there's no information available about that.
 
Davies

says

Jan 27, 2017

17:56

original comment
Thank you, David. And what about the upper classes and nobility? Any idea how they spoke? Surely they didn't speak like ordinary people?
 

Jan 27, 2017

17:34

original comment
I'm not surprised. There are certainly some features of OP that correspond to the way English developed in the Caribbean. But it's a general reaction: virtually everyone who hears OP for the first time says 'We speak like that where I come from'! They're hearing features of that 'ancestor accent' that have stayed in their home setting. But no modern accent is identical to OP.
 
davies

says

Jan 26, 2017

19:57

Hello, David. Concerning OP , I have a friend who was brought up in Trinidad and says OP reminds her a little of the Trinidad accent. Do you think the " white" Trinidad accent may be a remnant of OP ? Also, how were the nobles and upper classes of Shakespeare's time speaking ? Thanking you for your fascinating work.
 

Jan 24, 2017

22:12

original comment
Well, just try to get the vowel values right, as the assonances are, to my mind, the critical auditory feature of this poem - eg all/war, find/wind. Check my Dictionary for individual words. Although that's for Shakespeare, I think all the words in this poem are in there.
 
Joey
Balke
says

Jan 24, 2017

18:53

I'm preforming in a poetry competition for my school and I thought doing it in OP would push me over the edge. I am considering doing "I Find No Peace" by Sir Thomas Wyatt, any tips on preforming in OP?
 
Mark
Wright
says

Jan 23, 2017

06:08

original comment
Thank you for clarifying that k in knight wouldn't have changed the syllable count. It's hard for me as a modern speaker not to lengthen the word into two syllables. But the example of "quite" clarifies things for me. Thank you.
 

Jan 22, 2017

15:09

original comment
Yes, I'm hoping that more OP work will be done on other authors fromt he time, as - apart from anything else - it will help clarify some of the pronunciations that remain uncertain because of limited evidence in Shakespeare. The 'silent' /k/, /g/ were indeed dying out by Shakespeare's time, but they would still have been heard, among conservative and older speakers, and they were certainly still around when he was growing up. But the iambic argument isn't relevant, as a consonant cluster wouldn't have affected the syllable count. There's no difference between kn-, kw-, kr-, and so on. It would of course have been possible, as it is still today, to make these clusters bisyllabic (and say kuh-wite for quite, etc), but this wouldn't have been the everyday pronunciation.
 

Jan 19, 2017

13:22

I've been poring over Spenser's The Faerie Queene from the perspective of OP. Two almost immediate observations: The first: love, remove, and move all rhyme, just as in Shakespeare. And the second is that the k in knight was certainly silent by this time, contrary to what some books on the history of the language contend. The reason is that the iambic pentameter is thrown off if knight is pronounced as two syllables. I know neither of these observations is new to you. But it is enjoyable to read another Elizabethan work and see the clear evidence of OP.
 

Jan 19, 2017

09:46

original comment
No, this was a one-off, the motivation coming from the British Library to coincide with their publication of the beautiful Tyndale facsimile. I don't know of any other recordings. I don't think the BL will do anything further, but it's always possible some other publisher might want to do something along these lines, now that OP is more widely known and appreciated.
 

Jan 19, 2017

09:43

original comment
Absolutely! This is one of the main findings of modern sociolinguistics, that change takes place variously in relation to social class, gender, age... And Shakespeare knew this too. Remember Mercutio's comment about Tybalt, 'these new tuners of accent...'
 
Doug
Merritt
says

Jan 18, 2017

19:29

Dear David. Thank you for your Tyndale Matthew recording. Do you have any plans to record more Tyndale Bible? I have only recently for the first time begun reading through this version, which I find refreshing in many ways, and your recording is helping me get through it. I have not found any other recordings in OP of the Tyndale, so I would like to hear more. Thanks again for Your Matthew Tyndale.
 
Mike

says

Jan 18, 2017

17:15

original comment
Ah. I suppose that the shift was probably especially ambiguous because it affected every community differently and at a different pace depending on their interactions with other people, and wouldn't it also vary depending on the age of the speaker? Such as younger people starting to pronounce a vowel more fronted than older person... Or even shifting specific words within the same spelling but not others? In other words, not all at the same time?
 

Jan 18, 2017

12:38

original comment
This is probably the most debatable of all the issues in relation to OP of the time. I spent ages wondering what to do! The distinction between see and sea (etc) was clear in Middle English, the latter with a more open vowel, and the question is just how long this distinction was maintained. I did try to make it work for Shakespearean OP, but encountered two problems, one philological, one applied. First, the spellings aren't a clear guide. Lots of words that are now spelled are spelled in the FF, such as neere. Several words that used to have the more open vowel are also spelled , or rhyme with words that clearly have the closer vowel, such as sea and thee (RJ), teach and speech (R2), hear/cheer, leave/conceive, near/deer, and so on. Yes, there are lots of cases that point to a more open articulation too, such as heath/Macbeth, and the peace/bless (not dress, surely?) rhyme in MND. So I concluded from this that there were alternative pronunciations around in Shakespeare's day. Now, faced with alternatives, the applied question arises: what to recommend to directors and actors wanting to do an OP play? I did try to maintain a distinction, in early rehearsal with the original Globe company, but there were so many exceptions and arbitrary decisions that the actors found it impossible, so I dropped it, to everyone's relief. It's certainly possible to try to introduce it, if somebody wanted, and I'd love to hear from anyone who has done so (is there anyone yet?). As I say in my Dictionary, there isn't 'one' OP, but several possible - just as today there isn't 'one' Modern English, and it would be interesting to hear what a see vs sea version would sound like on stage.
 
Mike
S
says

Jan 17, 2017

19:33

David, What is the evidence that words such as meet, see, thee, cheek, she, be, sleep, were pronounced with the same vowel as meat, sea, peace, break, etc.? I am only finding these word sets as separate rhymes-and even seeing an example in Midsummer night's dream where peace rhymes with dress. Thank you!
 

Jan 08, 2017

08:51

original comment
All -tion, -cian, -tian etc endings had alternative pronunciations, depending on the metre. So words like 'Christian' would, as your examples show, sometimes have two and sometimes three syllables. I give both alternatives in the relevant entries in my Dictionary. In prose, I would expect the two-syllable form to be the default, as today.
 
JB

says

Jan 07, 2017

18:45

David, How many syllables are there in "Christian"? I seem to recall learning that there are three big, fat round syllables ("Chris-Tee-An") - apologies for getting all technical! Looking through some of the plays, it know seems less rigid - that is, it seems like the actor could stretch the word out (see Merchant example below) or ellide. The sonnets, alas, don't contain the word. I tried with "condition," but that might not be the best replacement or test-word. (I am Canadian, so in my parlance, there are only two syllables.) Many a time hath banish’d Norfolk fought For Jesu Christ in glorious Christian field, [Aside] How like a fawning publican he looks! I hate him for he is a Christian, I had rather be a country servant-maid Than a great queen, with this condition,
 

Jan 06, 2017

11:34

No. It rhymes with the last syllable of eternally, which had a diphthong - the same as in 'die', but unstressed, of course.
 
Vincent
Doyle
says

Jan 05, 2017

21:42

I like your books. Does the word "die" in John Donne's Holy Sonnet "Death Be Not Proud" rhyme with "thee"? Thanks.
 

Jan 03, 2017

12:57

original comment
Yes, /l/ is often dropped before an alveolar, as also in fault, soldier, etc. And the /f/ was droppable in after, just as it often is today - 'good arternoon'.
 

Jan 03, 2017

12:54

original comment
True enough. Depending on regional accent more, I suspect. There are plenty of 15th-century spellings of have with an ai or ay, especially from the north of England. The /ei/ sound turns up in some US accents too.
 

Jan 02, 2017

05:13

In King Lear Act 1 Scene 4 313-317, the lines end with "caught her," "daughter," "slaughter," "halter," and "after". So did halter get pronounced without an "l" sound? Did after rhyme with those other words as if it was "aughter"? Thank you!
 
Andrew
Legge
says

Jan 01, 2017

23:19

With regard to the pronunciation of "have", it has a different pronunciation in behave as in have. In the East Midland today, have is often pronounced "hae" (usually with a silent h) and Warwickshire is not that far away so it could be that in the 16th century have had the vowel of both gave and mad dependant on the speaker's whim.
 

Dec 30, 2016

16:33

original comment
I don't think one can read in much from interjections, which often depart from phonological norms. It's possible that ah and oh had a strong aspiration, as they can have today, but it's not possible to use that as evidence of a post-vocalic /h/ anywhere else. As for , there are several places where it isn't clear whether Jonson is talking about sounds or letters (a common confusion of the time). Certainly, as far as Shakespeare is concerned, there is clear evidence of the /f/ pronunciation: enough rhymes with off in Two Gents, and in other places cough is spelt coffe, and coughing as coffing.
 
Mike
Schufman
says

Dec 27, 2016

05:47

Hello David. Big fan of yours. I was reading Ben Johnson's The English Grammar. on page 51, when talking about the letter h, he notes that h after a vowel "sounds; as in ah, and oh." Do you think this means that it was actually aspirated like /a:h/ and /o:h/? This raises my second question about gh. He also says that in words with gh, such as trough, cough, might, night, "...the G sounds just nothing." He doesn't say "the Gh" is not pronounced, and doesn't liken it to f. Do you interpret that to mean that the word cough may possibly have been pronounced /k?:h/ or /k?uh/ and might and night as /m??ht/ and /n??ht/?
 

Dec 22, 2016

18:16

original comment
All I can say is that, judging by the spellings, and occasional rhymes, shoe had two pronunciations, one like today and an older one with /o:/ (cf. shoon and one) that would have made it homophonous with show.
 
John
P.
says

Dec 22, 2016

12:37

David, I recently read an interpretation of Hamlet III.ii.130-135 that contends that "show" is a sexual pun for "shoe" a slang term from Shakespeare's time. Would "show" here have to be pronounced closer to "shoo" for this pun to work? How would one pronounce "show" in OP? Thank you!
 

Dec 12, 2016

12:39

original comment
I don't see anything OP-motivated their either.
 
Bernadette
Carter
says

Dec 11, 2016

20:53

original comment
Actually, I apologise, I meant to write Act 3 scene 1.
 
Bernadette
Carter
says

Dec 11, 2016

20:30

original comment
Thank you
 

Dec 11, 2016

17:28

original comment
They're two different words, with different etymologies and pronunciations. Rascal always had its /s/ and a short vowel. Rakehell derives from rake, not the other way round. I can't see any OP-motivated puns in TN 3.3, unless you force one into Sebastian's leavetaking of Antonio - 'I'll... leave you for /An hour' /o:r/.
 
Bernadette
Carter
says

Dec 11, 2016

13:37

I am studying the first part of Act 3 Scene 3 in Twelfth Night, and looking for puns, and have just come across all the work you have done with OP, which I find very exciting. Would the word 'rascal' have sounded like 'rakehell' (1547  Earl of Surrey Poems (1964) 24   The rakhell life that longes to loves disporte' ) (OED), a word which apparently got shortened later to 'rake'?
 

Nov 30, 2016

19:19

original comment
Same point as below, really. The spellings suggest the short /a/ pronunciation for crave, and this goes back to Old English crafian. In Middle English there are many instances of crave rhyming with have. By Shakespeare's time, the evidence is that it still had a short vowel: Mulcaster lists crauin along with bauin and rauin - the last two have always had a short vowel. On the other hand, Middle English Scottish spellings in ai and ay suggest that it had become a closer and longer vowel (like that in modern air in some regions, and the analogy of other words ending in -ave that had the long vowel (save, wave etc) evidently pulled it in their direction, leaving have as the only exception. I give both a mid-open and an open vowel as variants in the Dictionary. So one option would be to rhyme crave with have. But note that spelling alternations of a and e suggest that the short /a/ could be sounded quite high, so that there would be very little auditory difference between /kr??v/ and /hav/.
 
Anne-Laure
RAMOLET
says

Nov 29, 2016

22:44

original comment
Dear Professor, I have fairly the same question/observation about 'have' in the lyrics of Greensleeves, in (supposedly) verse 5: "I have been ready at your hand, To grant whatever you would crave, I have both wagered life and land, Your love and good-will for to have." Absolutely all verses throughout the song have an ABAB rhyme structure, except this one, in modern English, where the B rhyme crave/have does not fit. Would you have any other evidence of the word crave being pronounced "cra:v"?
 

Nov 05, 2016

22:45

original comment
Not exactly. I've not found any evidence for 'anon' having the same vowel as 'done/won'. However, the two vowels were very close, both in the mid-back region of the vowel area, so it's possible that they would have been heard as rhymes, despite the phonetic difference. See the section in the introduction to my Dictionary of OSP on distinctive features for this view.
 
Daniel
W
says

Nov 05, 2016

19:31

Dr. Crystal, In my thesis on Macbeth, I am examining the meter and rhyme of the first scene, and I was wondering if you could clarify something for me. Would it have been possible for "Anon" to rhyme with "done" and "won"? Thanks for any assistance you can provide! Best, Daniel W.
 

Oct 04, 2016

09:08

original comment
There are eleven rhymes of grave with have (see the Dictionary under grave for a listing); but there are also ten rhymes with words like gave and slave. So I give two pronunciations for grave, and would recommend 'grav' in the Cymbeline example. There's no evidence that have was ever pronounced 'heiv'. Grave definitely had a short vowel in Old English, and that pronunciation stayed in some regional accents, such as Scottish (where the spelling graff can be seen) until at least the 18th century. Another short 'a' vowel occurs in gravy - cf. the pun with gravity in Henry IV. One can never rule out the possibility that vowels near to each other in articulation were heard by the Elizabethans as rhyming, and I imagine that in the context of a song this would be more likely. So I suppose all pronunciation options are available!
 

Oct 04, 2016

08:55

original comment
Yes... when I was in Frisia I felt I was listening to Old English. The term Anglo-Saxon was introduced to distinguish the 'English Saxons' from the continental ones. The term 'Saxon' simply meant 'seax-wielding warrior'. Old English dialects were on the whole mutually intelligible, judging by the surviving manuscripts - there are relatively few differences - though one can never be sure how far Old English OP would have differed from place to place.
 
Peter
Von Berg
says

Oct 03, 2016

21:25

Dear Professor Crystal, The final couplet of "Fear no more the heat o' the sun " from Cymbeline is: Quiet consummation have: And renowned be thy grave! Was " have" then pronounced as "heiv", or grave as "gra:v"?
 
Gott

says

Oct 03, 2016

18:03

Many of the phases of Shakespeare seem be much closer ontoward German My German teacher can as well read old English due to his dialect was much closely related than the standard German , I have question why the English people have adopted the moniker Anglo-Saxon even though many of dialects for old English weren't mutual intelligibility to each others , I would say the old English language have disappeared to lack of proper education since many of the poor people did not know how to read nor write themselves
 

Oct 03, 2016

14:08

original comment
I'll post news about forthcoming productions as I hear about it. The next one I think is going to be at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory next year - Antony and Cleopatra. No details yet. As for the understandability of OP... I used to go around the audiences during the intervals of productions and ask them. Nobody had any difficulty, and by the end of the first scene or two many said they were responding to the play as they would if it were presented in any other accent. People who have learned English as a second language tell me they find OP more intelligible than RP - the pronunciation of /r/ after vowels, for example, makes the accent clearer than in RP, where /r/ is not pronounced.
 
Conor

says

Oct 01, 2016

10:33

A fascinating topic. I am a student of literature, with a particular interest in Shakespeare, and I think the OP production of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe a few years ago must have been very special. Certainly the closest we can get to recreating the Elizabethan playgoing experience. I am also interested in how accessible and understandable the OP is. Brings a far more visceral edge to the language, and I think it is important to understand the plays in the way in which they were written to be spoken. I have not been fortunate enough to see an OP production, but I would absolutely love to, so please do keep me posted on any upcoming productions.
 
Jacek
Tlaga
says

Sep 27, 2016

21:00

original comment
Many thanks again! So it seems to me that Wither’s poetry has just a relatively high half-rhyme frequency. However, as for the Dowland’s ‘Come again’ lyrics, I think I’ll go for a closer pronunciation of ‘alas’ – as it is suggested by the rhymes used by Sir Thomas Wyatt and Edmund Bolton (eg alas / embrace), both Cambridge-educated and apparently unrelated to Scotland. Besides that, I would like to thank you for your dictionary, it must have been a tremendous amount of work to produce such an invaluable resource! With best regards, Jacek Tlaga
 

Sep 22, 2016

20:48

original comment
Very interesting examples. The Scots spellings of alas do seem to suggest a closer pronunciation, in which case the rhyme with grace would be good, or nearly so. But the other pairs you've found are trickier to explain. I've come across some of them in Shakespeare: ass and place rhyme in The Comedy of Errors, shade and sad in A Midsummer Night's Dream, gate and chat in Venus and Adonis. There's nothing in Wither's background suggesting a regional explanation. The fact that the vowels in such pairs are articulatorily near each other makes me think that we are here dealing with the 'one distinctive feature' difference I mentioned before: that is, words with this minimal degree of auditory separation were perceived to rhyme. I don't know of any evidence to suggest that such words as had, was, and that were pronounced with the mid-open front vowel (though I suppose anything is possible regionally).
 
Jacek
Tlaga
says

Sep 21, 2016

10:13

original comment
While trying to transcribe ‘Come again, sweet love doth now invite’ to OP, I discovered yet another example: alas / grace. Having checked alternative spellings in the online OED, I found out that several authors with Scottish background (such as king James I or Alexander Craige) used this rhyme and spelled ‘alace’ or ‘allace’ – so I guess it could be pronounced /?'l??s/. However, by the way I found many more instances suggesting /??/ in place of /a/. Especially George Wither in his Hymns and Songs of the Church used plenty of such rhymes, most notably ‘was’ frequently rhymed with words like ‘grace’ and ‘place’. Other examples are: had / shade, glad / made, that / gate, thereat / relate. Is it plausible that words such as ‘was’, ‘had’, ‘that’ were also pronounced /w??s/, /h??d/, /???t/? I couldn’t find any spellings that would back it up.
 

Sep 21, 2016

09:50

original comment
Double 'ee' spellings of sphere clearly suggest the /i:/ pronunciation, but a more open pronunciation, spelled with 'ae', seems to have also developed in the 16th century, though it didn't last (except in some regional accents). Probably by Donne's time, in a conservative accent (as one often finds with poetry), the exact option would have been available, so both could have sounded roughly like air. The situation with alas, pass, and was is easier: all had a short 'a' vowel, as heard today in many northern England accents.
 
Tim
Dearmer
says

Sep 20, 2016

18:22

original comment
David In John Donne's "The Sun Rising" the final couplet rhymes everywhere/sphere. Would this have been a full rhyme and, if so, would it rhyme with ear or air or somewhere in between? I have a similar puzzle over the final 3 lines of "The Relic" which "rhyme" alas/pass/was? I'd be relly grateful for some help with this! Regards Tim Dearmer
 

Sep 20, 2016

08:49

original comment
I assume mid-18th century for this carol, by which time the spelling system had largely standardized and eye-rhymes had come into fashion. So there would have been no rhyming identity. John Walker, in his pronouncing dictionary and rhyming dictionary, makes a clear distinction between 'come' (which he marks as having the same vowel as in 'tub') and 'womb' (rhyming the latter with 'boom'). In short: the distinction would have been the same as it is today.
 
Alicia
Huntley
says

Sep 20, 2016

07:49

From a slightly different era...the Christmas carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing. "Late in time we see Him come Offspring of the Virgen's womb" Would I be correct to think that both come and womb rhymed with an elongated ooo sound? sorry, I'm not a linguist so I don't know the proper name for that phoneme
 

Sep 18, 2016

07:33

original comment
The 2004 Romeo was a unique event - the only time a production was performed both in modern English and OP by the same cast. I can't imagine it happening again. I don't recall the exact show-lengths, I'm afraid, but it would be possible to find out. Both versions were video-recorded by the Globe (as they do for all productions) and are presumably still available to view by getting in touch with the archivist at the Globe and making an appointment to see them. This is how I found out myself about the time difference. They may also have a script of director Tim Carroll's cut - around 600 lines, as I recall.
 
Daniel
Kaczyński
says

Sep 17, 2016

21:01

Dear Professor David Crystal, Thank you very much for your reply to my one-king question I asked you last year. In your book "Pronouncing Shakespeare" (2005), you wrote that "The end result was that the OP performances, coming in at around two and a quarter hours, were about 10 minutes shorter than those using modern pronounciation" (p. 65). Of course, the OP performances was staged faster than Modern Pronounciation ones, but exactly how short were they? Do you have information on the exact time allotted for the OP Romeo and Juliet performances in 2004? I am interested both in the amount of lines of the play text as well as how long those performances exactly lasted. Do you know what was the average speed of delivering lines in those performances? Do you have such information on other OP performances from around the world? Thank you very much for your reply in advance. Yours, DK
 
Jacek
Tlaga
says

Sep 14, 2016

15:01

original comment
Thank you so much for your answer, it's really enlightening!
 

Sep 13, 2016

18:46

original comment
Many thanks for these very interesting examples. forlorn: This is the clearest case: the many rhymes show it was clearly a back vowel in the mid-close or mid-open region. I recommend mid-open in the dictionary. mourn: I went for the close vowel /u:/ because of the preponderance of spellings (eg in the OED), but there were also some ow spellings at the time (though not in the FF), which could easily be taken to show a mid-close variant - in which case there would be an overlap with a mid-close version of forlorn. return: occasional spellings can be found in o and ou, and a mid-open/close variant is still heard today in some regional accents (eg in Ireland) So, in a text where the writer is clearly intending the three words to rhyme, I would say the common factor would be a pronunciation somewhere between /o:/ and /?:/. If singing, I imagine the more open variant would be likely. weak - there was a variant in /?:/, especially in Scotland and the north, so I suppose it might have been heard elsewhere. No reason to recommend this on the basis of the FF, but no grounds for disallowing it in other contexts. deceiving/bereaving - you say 'high', and phonologically it was; but I argue that phonetically the quality was nearer cardinal 2 rather than the very high quality heard in RP today. virginity: there are examples like this in the FF (eg she / extremity) which suggests that a monophthongal pronunciation was around. Your examples show the need for a more comprehensive account of the phonology of the period, in which a much wider range of texts is taken into account. This is already being undertaken for other areas of language, and I hope phonology will get the same treatment in due course. The distinctive feature argument is always available as a fall-back, but I try not to use it unless I run out of other ideas!
 
Jacek
Tlaga
says

Sep 13, 2016

12:58

Dear David, I’ve been analysing the lyrics of John Dowland’s songs using your dictionary. Most of the rhymes that don’t work today turned out to be exact. However, I came across a few rhymes that didn’t quite match. I guess some can be half-rhymes, especially those that differ slightly by just one distinctive feature (man/swan, bud/good, desert/heart), others may be the cases of pronunciation variants not included in the dictionary. Here are some most striking examples: mourn/return (u? - ??) – Now, O now, I needs must part mourn/forlorn (u? - ??) – Flow my tears forlorn/return (?? - ??) – What if I never speed I must say that those three are most puzzling. weak/break (i? - ??) – Dear, if you change deceiving/bereaving (i? - ??) – Think'st thou then by thy feigning Are those other pronunciation variants? (“weak” with mid-low /??/, “bereave” with high /i:/) she - virginity (? - ??) – When Phoebus first did Daphne love Is it a half-rhyme? Or maybe the central onset of /??/ diphthong can be omitted? I hope you can shed some light on those issues. With best wishes, Jacek Tlaga
 
Ivan
Hazelton
says

Aug 30, 2016

18:43

original comment
Seeing an OP production at the Globe would just be icing on the cake!
 

Aug 30, 2016

18:25

original comment
As far as I can tell, it was the same as today, but with the /r/ sounded, of course. There was an informal variant with an initial /j/ - Yedward.
 

Aug 30, 2016

18:23

original comment
I haven't heard of any at the moment. As soon as I do I'll post the information on this site. It's possible that the Globe will want another OP event, using Bsn's company, as we've done over the past three years; and that's usually around May. But such things aren't usually organized until a few months beforehand. Keep an eye on this site, anyway.
 
Ivan

says

Aug 30, 2016

00:51

I'll be travelling from my home in Alaska to London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and vicinity in April/May 2017 and would love to include an OP performance, but I can't seem to find any info on upcoming events on this site. Is there a better resource that I can find? I'll bee looking into "Ben’s company, Passion in Practice" mentioned in another message.
 
Sándor
Szabó
says

Aug 28, 2016

20:15

Dear David, we changed in the past some emails on Shakespeare and pronunciation. Now I would like to know if you have a grounded view how they at the Elizabethan age pronounced the name Edward. Thank you very much in advance. Best regards, Sándor Szabó Hungary
 

Jul 25, 2016

08:17

original comment
Ben's company, Passion in Practice, does travel, from time to time - most recently for the OP Pericles in Savannah - but any such venture is very expensive to mount, so everything would depend on the availability of sponsorship. One certainly can't beat a live performance for engaging with OP. In the meantime, Ben is giving talks on OP and related issues at the Stratford Festival in August.
 
Kalem

says

Jul 23, 2016

07:31

Is there any chance you might come to the NAC in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada? I'd, love to see an OP production performed live, but I can't really afford to travel. Thank you for your time, Kalem
 

Jun 15, 2016

09:04

original comment
I see from a later message that you found the information - but in case others are interested in this point, yes the lines rhyme, with the diphthong of 'qualities' being the same as the one in 'eyes'. The 'Flower of this purple die' sequence shows the same diphthong throughout, producing a striking 'magical' effect that's lost when the vowels switch in Modern English (dye, archery, etc).
 
Émélie

says

Jun 14, 2016

23:09

Hi David, For starter, sorry for my English; I'm a French speaker and I'm not that good in writting. I've discover your work by doing some research on iambic pentameter for an audition. I work the Helena's monologue in act 1, scene 1 of "A Midsummer Night's Dream'' and a rhyme (or no-rhyme) bugging me alot. ''And as he errs doting on Hermia's eyes So I, admiring of his qualities'' By listening a video of you, my boyfriend (englishspeaker) notice that one of the IES word pronounced have a different sound in OP... actually, it sound pretty close from French ''Qualité''! But still ''eyes'' and ''qualités'' still not rhyme. Can you inlighted me? Do ''eyes'' also had a different prononciation in OP? Thank you for you wonderful work!
 

Jun 14, 2016

18:21

original comment
You mean vowels? I don't think so. If you look at the phoneme-by-phoneme account in the introduction to my Dictionary, there's very little difference, in terms of length, between the two sound systems. And in the two cases where pure vowels have become diphthongs (as in say and so), one might argue (depending on how you view a diphthong) that the length has increased. The contrast between OP and RP I would say is chiefly in quality, not quantity.
 
Donovan
Bacquie
says

Jun 14, 2016

17:12

Dear David; Thank you for your extremely insightful work. Would I be right in saying that, in general, OP sounds ( in the early 17th century) were longer than old RP? Thank you again.