Final questions 2

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Final questions 2

Post  Nadeau on Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:13 am

With the Renaissance there came a lot of changes to European societies. We see changes in the cultural, political, social and economic landscape. What were these changes?
The Early Modern English period was a time of tremendous political, economic, technological and social change in Britain that was to change the size, shape and functioning of the world and with it the English Language.
Cultural activity flourished during this period; England saw the establishment of the first company of actors and the building of theatres in 1574. This was the time of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), who straddled the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods and who, in the eyes of many, represents the pinnacle of English literary achievement.
The reign of James I was fraught with difficulties for the monarchy as a whole, though it engendered many significant historical events, including, in 1611, the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Its purpose was to provide a politically more acceptable alternative to the Geneva Bible and to shore up the position of the King. In linguistic terms the King James Bible is especially important both as an example of the potential of English prose and as an instrument of standardization.
The history of the King James Bible is just one indication that his was a time of great uncertainty for the monarch, as church and state officials and their opposition quarrelled at home, and radical elements challenged the authority of the King, the church and the nobility. The Gunpowder Plot exemplifies how precarious political life in Britain was during Jame’s reign, since even Catholics, who might have expected support from James, were disenchanted by this lack of interest.
References:
Fennell, Barbara A. (2001) A History of English: A Sociolinguistic Approach. Blackwell p. 136-137
Cultural
Another important influence on EMnE was the Renaissance. The revival of interest in classical learning resulted in translations of such authors as Caesar, Plutarch, Plato, Virgil, Ovid, and Homer, authors accessible only in Latin (or Greek) prior to the sixteenth century. Even the works of those so important in the religious controversies of the time- figures like Erasmus, Calvin and Martin Luther- were originally written in Latin and translated only in the sixteenth century. All these translations brought classical loanword into English. They also gave English authors practice in developing a sophisticated English style that incorporated the features of classical rhetoric compatible with English. The very fact that the works of the great classical authors existed in English translation added to the status of the English language. At the same time, familiarity with classical models forced English writers to compare English Latin. Not surprisingly, English almost always suffered from the comparison, at least in the eyes of those making it. This in turn prompted attempts to improve the English language.
Economical
The introduction of the printing press
The Printing press made the books available at a relatively low price, it led to an increased demande for books and literacy, especially among the middle and lower classes. But these middle classes did not have the opportunity or the leisure to obtain a classical education, so they wanted books in English rather than in Latin or French. Another consequence of the printing press is that the authors had at least the opportinuty of making a living by writing without the financial support of a rich patron.
Millward, Celia M. (1996) A Biography of the English Language. Fort Worth edition. P 224- 225

Nadeau

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Re: Final questions 2

Post  Nadeau on Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:18 am

Question 2

The Renaissance period gave way to many changes, and among these, social and cultural changes were seen. We will look at the importance of these transformations and how they shaped the era itself, concentrating mostly in the events of the 16th century.

To begin, it is important to state that the culture did not emerge in the Renaissance, but that there was rather an accelerated intellectual and cultural change of what already existed in Europe. In addition, the European states did being to unify with one another, and yes, sometimes they were merging politically, linguistically, but also culturally as well.

Indeed, prior to and at the beginning of the Renaissance, French and Latin were still seen as prestigious languages. The former was seen as most prestigious of European vernaculars and the latter was often used in “serious” texts. For instance, Sir Isaac Newton wrote in Latin because it was still the language used in academic settings and it was also not totally extinct as the literary language of Europe. However, at the beginning of the 16th century, European societies began to gain a cultural and social interest towards each other and seeing the importance of cultural and social knowledge. For example, the Crusaders began to take an interest in the Arabs they were fighting against and they discovered that most of their scientific texts had been translated from Greek and Latin, thus, giving them a window into the culture of their opponents’ culture.

However, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the concepts of nationalism and national culture were slowly brought forward and when Elizabeth I was excommunicated, the desire to use English as the main form of communication became even stronger in Great Britain, since she embodied the symbol of their country. Through this need for cultural belonging, people began to realize English needed to become a learning medium and this is why, in the mid-15th century, the language was accepted as such and was now used outside of schools. This change, as well as the one stated below, and also due to the fact that more and more words were coming into the language (through mixing with other societies), people started to feel the need to have references compiling all this new information. Thus, this is when English dictionaries and grammar books were written. The original purpose for these, however, was to “fix” the language and standardize the use of words and their spelling. The last point that was brought forward (the appearance of new words in the language) also relates to a very important cultural icon of that period: The Great Bard, i.e. William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare (1564-1616) did not only write extraordinary and still famous plays and sonnets, but he also included new or barely used words in his works. Indeed, it is said that the playwright’s vocabulary, 400 years ago, comprised of at least 21,000 different words. In fact, his personal lexicon was as big as some languages. Shakespeare liked to play around with language and he even put some words together, thus forming entirely new words (e.g. ill and turned, creating ill-turned). At that time, they were no rules for language creation and use and Shakespeare’s conceptions made it even more difficult. However, the good aspect in the playwright’s works is that he made the English language even richer and, eventually, made it become more prestigious and known all around the globe (“To be or not to be, that is the question” is probably the best known quote ever written). In addition, because of playing around with the language and especially by forming new words, as was illustrated below, Shakespeare was one of the reasons why grammar books and dictionaries were written, as was said earlier; because of the ever-growing scope and lexicon of the language.

Therefore, culture and social interactions both had a big impact on the Renaissance period and this is one of the reasons why it was a really rich and important historical era: because it enabled people to gain an ever-growing love for their own culture, but also for those of the societies around them.

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