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Sound Change and the History of English$

Jeremy Smith

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199291953

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199291953.001.0001

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(p.161) Appendix 1 The principal sound changes from proto-Germanic to Early Modern English

(p.161) Appendix 1 The principal sound changes from proto-Germanic to Early Modern English

Sound Change and the History of English
Oxford University Press

This Appendix is offered as a convenient aide-memoire for less advanced readers of this book. It should be emphasised that the Appendix skates over many controversial matters, and advanced readers will find much to quarrel with, both in terms of formulation and content. Some especially controversial issues (e.g. the status of ‘palatal diphthongization’) are flagged. For further details, see the Suggestions for Further Reading.

As elsewhere in this book, abbreviations are avoided. Notations and conventions are those adopted in the main text (see the list of Notations and Conventions).

Many of the sound changes listed below are discussed in the body of this book; those which have not been discussed are included here for the sake of completeness.

A stressed vowel is one which occupies the peak of a stressed syllable. Syllables may be described in terms of onsets, peaks and codas; thus, in my own accent (a variety of Southern British English) of Present-Day English, the monosyllabic word book has an onset /b/ <b>, a peak / υ / <oo> and a coda /k/ <k>.

1 From Proto-Germanic to Old English (West Saxon)

Vocalism (Stressed)

In what follows, the letters A, B, C, etc. characterizing each sound change are those used in the handy scheme adopted in Hamer (1967).

Changes in the Germanic period (i.e. before the divergence of the Germanic varieties. Not all of these features are manifested in all Germanic varieties).

  1. A.u > o, unless /_ C [+ nasal], or /_ $ u, i/j, e.g. bunden (beside holpen); gyden (beside god).

  2. B.e > i /_ C [+ nasal], or /_ $ u, i/j, e.g. bindan, helpan

  3. (p.162)
  4. C.eu > iu /_ $ i/j. This iu, the product of a vowel-harmony, survives in the very earliest Old English texts, e.g. þīustra in the Corpus Glossary (eighth/ninth century). Subsequently īu became īo. Cf. the alternation cīest, cēosan.

Changes in the West Germanic and ‘Ingvaeonic’ periods (see Chapter 4 )

  1. D. Diphthongal changes: ai > ā, au > ǣa (= later ēa, eu > ēo, iu > īo. The last two changes take place during the Old English period, but are included here for convenience. Examples of the first two are bān, ēage (cf. Present-Day German Bein ‘leg’, Auge ‘eye’; see also the Bucharest/Petrossan ring inscription hailag ‘holy’, which seems to be Gothic from the fourth century BC, and personal names in the writings of Latin and Greek historians, as in Radagaisus, Austrogothi).

  2. E. First fronting: a > æ, except /_ C [+ nasal], [w]. The Proto-Germanic short open back vowel a appears as the short open front vowel æ in West Saxon, except in the environment of a following nasal consonant or [w] (despite Campbell 1959: 55; see Hogg 1992); thus forms such as dæg, glæd, with an open front vowel, appear beside land, with an open back vowel. Cf. Gothic dags, Old Norse dagr. This change is sometimes known as Anglo-Frisian Brightening, since it is found in Old English and Frisian.

Changes in the period between the divergence of prehistoric Old English and prehistoric Old Frisian, and recorded West Saxon (i.e. the ‘pre-West Saxon’ period)

  1. F. Breaking of front vowels before consonant groups. The rules are as follows: i > io/_ h, hC, rC; e > eo/_ h, hC, rC, lh and sometimes lc; æ > ea/_ h, hC, rC, lC; ī > īo/_ h, hC (but see L. below); ǣ > ēa/_ h, hC; ē > ēo/_ h (but this last development is only found in Anglian dialects). Examples: feohtan ‘fight’) beside (helpan); eahta, earm, eald, healp; nēah. See further Chapter 4.

  2. G. Restoration of a: æ > a/_ C V[+back], and often also /_ C C V[+ back], where CC = geminate, or st, sk. Examples: dagas (beside dæg), gladost (beside glæd).

  3. H. Influence of palatal consonants. The influence of palatal consonants on following vowels operated only in West Saxon and in Old Northumbrian. In West Saxon, if the palatal consonants g, c, sc preceded the mid and open front vowels e, æ and ǣ a vocalically close glide developed between the consonant and the vowel, producing the diphthongs ie, ea, (p.163) ēa. Thus e> ie, œ > ea, ǣ > ēa/ g, c, sc _ (where g, c and sc are palatal consonants). Examples are giefan ‘give’, giet ‘still’ (cf. Present-Day English yet), sceal ‘must’ (cf. Present-Day English shall), scēap ‘sheep’. This phenomenon in West Saxon is often referred to as Palatal Diphthongisation. There is considerable scholarly debate about how these digraphs are mapped onto the sound-system; for a judicious outline of the controversy with bibliography to date, see Hogg 1992. It is indisputable, for instance, that <e> in geong is a spelling convention; if <eo> in this word were really mapped onto /e:ɔ/ then the Present-Day English form would be *yeng.

  4. I. i-mutation (i-umlaut). i-mutation is perhaps the most morphophonologically important of the prehistoric Old English sound changes, and its processes can be paralleled in many of the Germanic languages. The rules are as follows: V[+back] > V[+ front]/_ $ i, j ; V [+front, + open] > V [+front, + close] /_ $ i, j. When /i/ or /j/ stood in the following syllable, all stressed back vowels were fronted, thus: a > æ (although a had in most cases become æ before the period of i-mutation), ā > ǣ, o > oe (a rare development), ō > ōē, u > y, ū > ȳ. In the same situation, open front vowels were raised, thus æ > e; it is also possible that e > i. All diphthongs became ie, īe; subsequently, oe, ōē unrounded to become e, ē. i, ī, ē, ǣ were not affected; e had already become i (see B. above). Examples are reccan (Proto-Germanic *rakjan), menn (Proto-Germanic *manniz), ele (Latin olium), hǣlan ‘heal’ (cf. hāl ‘whole’), dēman ‘deem’, ‘judge’ (cf. dōm ‘judgement’), brȳcþ third-person present singular (cf. infinitive brūcan), gylden (Proto-Germanic *guldin), and ieldra, fieht, smīecþ, nīehst (cf. Old English eald, feohtan, smēocan, nēah).

  5. J. Back-mutation (back umlaut): V [+ short, + front] > diphthong/_ C V [+ back]. Restricted manifestation in West Saxon, since æ could not appear in this position, as a result of restoration of a (G. above), and it only took place in West Saxon if C = labial (i.e. p, f, w, m) or liquid (l, r). The rule relevant for West Saxon therefore reads i > io, e > eo /_ C [+ labial or + liquid] V [+ back]. Examples: leofaþ (cf. libban), heofon.

  6. K. Loss of h and compensatory lengthening: e.g. *feohes genitive singular > fēos. If the preceding V was short, that V was lengthened to compensate for the loss of h. Similar processes occurred with regard to medial rh, lh, e.g. *feorhes > fēores; cf. feorh.

  7. L.io, īo > eo, ēo in West Saxon. This change was still happening in historic times, and the earliest forms of West Saxon often retain <io>-spellings.

(p.164) The chronology of vocalic sound changes

The reasoning which lies behind the generally accepted chronological ordering may be briefly summarized thus. First fronting must precede the other changes because, where relevant, the forms produced by it are subjected to later developments. The relationship of breaking and restoration of a is determined by forms such as slēan (< *sleahan with loss of h and ‘compensatory lengthening’ < *slæhan with breaking < *slahan with first fronting). If restoration had preceded breaking, the resulting form *slahan would not have been subject to breaking (there is some slight evidence that breaking might have preceded restoration in Old Northumbrian, yielding historical slā in that dialect; see Hogg 1992: 99–100).

The chronological relationship between breaking, palatal diphthongization and i-mutation is, as Campbell (1959: 107) calls it, ‘a difficult question’. That palatal diphthongization follows breaking is traditionally illustrated by forms such as ceorl, georn < *kerl-, *gern-; eo has to be the product of breaking because otherwise *ie would have developed from an unbroken e to produce *cierl, *giern, and ie was not subjected to breaking (Campbell 1959: 108). It is now often accepted that palatal diphthongization precedes i-mutation because palatal diphthongization does not appear to take place before front vowels produced by i-mutation; the only evidence for this chronological sequence, though, is the reconstructed form *cīese > Late West Saxon cȳse. As reaffirmed by Hogg (1992: 120), Late West Saxon cȳse ‘cheese’ must arise from the sequence cȳse < Early West Saxon *cīese < (subjected to i-mutation) *cēasi- < (subjected to palatal diphthongization) *cǣsi- :- (subjected to palatalization of *k- in the environment of a preceding front vowel) < *kǣsi-; the form is a loanword into Proto-Germanic from Latin cāseus, and Latin/Proto-Germanic ā is reflected as ǣ in pre-Old English. Any other sequential ordering of forms would not yield the historically attested word.

The relationship between breaking and i-mutation is indicated by the form ieldra ‘older’; ie is the i-mutation of ea produced by Breaking, and this would seem to confirm that Breaking precedes i-mutation.

Back-mutation must be later than i-mutation, because i-mutated forms are subjected to back-mutation, e.g. eowu ‘ewe’, derived from the sequ-ence West Germanic *awi > (through first fronting) *œwi > (through i-mutation) *ewi, with a later suffix transference of -u to yield eo through back mutation of earlier *e; see Campbell (1959: 90). The lateness of back- mutation is attested by the fact that in the earliest surviving Anglian texts (p.165) non-back-mutated forms occasionally appear, e.g. ‘sitaþ’ (transliterated form) on the runic Franks (Auzon) Casket, which dates from c. 700.

Dialectal distinctions in Old English vocalism

The following are the main dialectal distinctions in stressed vocalism in Old English, with reference to West Saxon and Old Anglian (= Old Northumbrian, Old Mercian).

  1. 1. Reflexes of Proto-Germanic ǣ (so-called ǣ(1)): West Saxon dǣd, Old Anglian dēd

  2. 2.First Fronting: pre-West Saxon *æld, Old Anglian ald; West Saxon bearnum, Old Northumbrian barnum

  3. 3.Breaking and ‘retraction’: West Saxon eald, and see 2, above.

  4. 4.Influence of palatal consonants: West Saxon scēap, Old Northumbrian scīp (from non-West Saxon *scēp)

  5. 5.Smoothing: West Saxon weorc, Old Anglian werc

  6. 6.Back mutation: West Saxon witodlīce, non-West Saxon weotudlīce

  7. 7.Second Fronting: West Saxon dæg: dagas, Old Mercian deg: dægas

Vocalism (Unstressed)

See first Hamer (1967: 23–5); see further Campbell (1959: ch. VII), Lass (1994), and (for examples from other Germanic languages) Prokosch (1939, passim). On Indo-European relationships, see Szemerényi (1996).

The basic lexical element in open-class Indo-European words is the root, which carries the primary semantic content of the word. The root is generally followed by a theme. Together, the root and theme make up the stem of a word, to which an ending may (or may not) be added. Thus, in the reconstructed Proto-Germanic form *stainaz ‘stone’, *stain- is the root, *-a- is the theme, and *-z is the ending. Roots and themes were carefully distinguished in Proto-Germanic, it seems, but in later varieties (such as Old English), many themes have disappeared or have become obscured. They are better preserved in older varieties of Indo-European, such as Latin and Greek; thus in Latin manus ‘hand’, man- is the root, -u- is the theme, and -s is the ending. An example of a non-vocalic theme is -in- in Latin hominis, an inflected form of homo ‘man’ (= hom- + -in- + -is).

Major changes

  1. a.ai, au > ǣ, ō in unstressed syllables (cf. ā, ēa in stressed syllables). In Old English, these vowels appear as e, a respectively. Examples: giefe (dative singular), eahta (cf. Gothic gibai, ahtau).

  2. (p.166)
  3. b.First Fronting: Except in some words with low sentence-stress (e.g. þone), unstressed a > æ (later e), e.g. tunge, ēage, except in the environment of following nasals.

  4. c.Breaking: Breaking does not take place in unstressed syllables. Rather (according to Campbell 1959: 142) æ is retracted to a (i.e. /a:/)/_ lC, rC, with a tendency to develop into o, e.g. hlāfard, hlāford.

  5. d.I-mutation: I-mutation was fully operative in unstressed syllables, but oe (long and short) and y became e (long and short) and i in the prehistoric period, and æ > e soon after the earliest writings began to appear. Thus e (long and short) and i were the only remaining products of i-mutation, and these fell together on e at an early stage. Examples: stānehte ‘stony’ (cf. Old High German -ohti); medial -i- in Weak Class II verb (from -ej- < -ōj-).

Other developments

  1. e. Early Old English loss of unstressed vowels was very frequent, in a variety of positions, e.g. gōdne (< *-anōn), hātte (cf. Gothic haitada), dæglic (cf. Old High German tagalīh).

  2. f. Early Old English shortening of unstressed long vowels: all unstressed long vowels were shortened in prehistoric Old English.

  3. g. Parasitic vowels appear sporadically, e.g. Lindisfarne Gospels Gloss worohton (for wrohton); they also arose sporadically for syllabic l, m, n, r, with i (later e) after a front vowel, u (later o) after a back vowel, e.g. Epinal–Erfurt Glosses segil- ‘sail’, thōthor ‘ball’.

  4. h. Reduction in variety of unstressed vowels (cf. interchangeability of -en, -an, -on in Late Old English texts).


A. Grimm's Law and Verner's Law. Grimm's Law is so-called after the philologist and folklorist Jacob Grimm (1785–1863), who first gave currency to a coherent account of this sound change. Grimm showed that there was a predictable set of consonantal differences between the Germanic languages and the others of the Indo-European family, dating from the period of divergence of Proto-Germanic from other Indo-European dialects.

The effects of Grimm's Law in Old English can be seen through comparing groups of cognates, that is, words in different languages with a presumed common ancestor (cf. Latin co + gnātus ‘born together’), e.g. Old English fæder, fisc corresponding to Latin pater, piscis; cf. Italian padre, pesce.

(p.167) Verner's Law is so called after the philologist Karl Verner (1846–96), who accounted for some apparently anomalous deviations from Grimm's Law. Verner noticed that certain voiceless fricative consonant sounds in Proto-Germanic were realized as voiced in a voiced environment (e.g. between vowels), and when the stress was on the following rather than on the preceding syllable. A subsequent stress-shift meant that this environment was subsequently obscured.

An Old English example illustrating the process is fæder, with medial d (from earlier *ð), as opposed to medial θ; cf. Proto-Indo-European *pétēr.) Verner's Law has morphological implications in Old English; medial -r- in curon ‘chose’ (plural) is derived from earlier *z (‘rhotacism’); cf. infinitive cēosan ‘choose’.

For a full discussion of Grimm's and Verner's Laws, with bibliography, see Collinge (1985: 63–76 and 203–216 respectively). See also Chapter 3.

  1. B.Fronting and assimilation is an Ingvaeonic change: in both Old English and Old Frisian a distinction arose between front or palatal and velar plosives [g, k], whereby front allophones (eventually affricates and approximants) appeared before front vowels and back allophones before back. The process seems to take place after the restoration of a before back vowels, proven by forms such as caru, galan. Examples are: cirice ‘church’, georn ‘eager’. Velar consonants however, remained not only before back vowels, but also before their umlauts, e.g. cū:, cyning, since the process was completed before i-mutation.

  2. C.Voicing and unvoicing of consonants (mainly fricatives): issues raised here are important for Middle English; see below.

  3. D.Gemination, in various environments and at various times. VC > VCC when syncopation of vowels brought VC /_ r, l, e.g. bettra, Late West Saxon blǣddre ‘bladder’.

  4. E.Metatheses. Cf. Old English þrīe, þridda beside Present-Day English ‘three’, ‘third’. Cf. later dialectal distinctions, e.g. Southern Middle English wordle ‘world’, Southern Present-Day English non-standard wopse ‘wasp’.

2. The transition to Middle English


It is traditional to refer to Middle English vowels (and indeed other sounds) as reflexes of the equivalent vowels in West Saxon dialect, simply because that is the dialect of Old English which is best attested. However, it (p.168) is important to remember that most Middle English dialects do not descend from West Saxon.

Stressed vowels (A) Quantitative developments

  1. a. Late Old English: Lengthening before Homorganic Consonant Groups, e.g. Old English cild, late Old English cīld; cf. Old English and late Old English cildru.

  2. b. Late Old English: Shortening before non-Homorganic Consonant Groups, e.g. late Old English cepte < cēpte, cf. Old English cēpan; wifman < wīfmann, cf. Old English wīf.

  3. c. Early Middle English: Middle English Open Syllable Lengthening, e.g. Old English beran > Middle English bēre(n), Old English macian > Middle English māken, Old English þrote > Middle English thrōte, Old English duru > Middle English dōr(e), Middle English sōnes (cf. Old English sunu, suna)

Middle English Open Syllable Lengthening: phases

Phase 1: northern (12th century); elsewhere (13th century): a, e, o > ā, ē, ō

Phase 2: Chiefly northern (late 13th century onwards), after loss of final -e in northern dialects; sporadically elsewhere in 14th century: i, u > ē, ō

See further Chapter 5; see also Appendix 2.

Stressed vowels (B) Qualitative developments

The reflexes of the following West Saxon vowels vary diatopically in Middle English. References to ‘southern’, ‘western’, etc. are of course very broad-brush.

  1. a. West Saxon y, ȳ is reflected as <u, uy> in southern and western varieties, <e> in the south-east, and <i, y> elsewhere.

  2. b. West Saxon æ is reflected as <e> in the West Midlands, <a> elsewhere (cf. Second Fronting).

  3. c. The Middle English distribution of reflexes of West Saxon ǣ corresponds to dialectal differences in Old English. The Old English pattern was as follows:

    West Saxon

    Old Anglian

    Old Kentish


    (Proto-Germanic ā)





    (Old English ā + i-mutation)





    Middle English reflexes of West Saxon ǣ, all spelt <e>:












    Since both ǣ (1) and (2) are spelled <e> in Middle English, the only way of detecting which is being used is by rhymes and from analysis of spellings in shortened forms (cf. ‘Quantitative changes’), e.g. Stratford; Stretford, cf. West Saxon strǣt, Old Anglian strēt, Latin strātus = ǣ(1). Nb: In the Middle English dialect of Essex, both ǣ(1) and (2) are reflected in <a>.

  4. d. West Saxon a is reflected as <o>/_C[+ nasal] in West Midland dialects of Middle English.

  5. e. Old English ā was rounded to Middle English /ɔ:/ everywhere except in the North, where it was fronted /ɑ:/ > /a:/; cf. the present-day contrast between English home and Scots hame.

  6. f. Old English ō was fronted to /ø:/ in Northern dialects of Middle English; cf. Present-Day Scots guid.

  7. g. All the diphthongs of the Old English period were smoothed to monophthongs, although <eo> was retained in the West Midlands, with the probable pronunciation /ø:/. New diphthongs arose from vocalisations of Old English w, g, h; French loanwords supplied the inventory with the two new diphthongs υI, ɔI/.

Unstressed vowels

Unstressed vowel distinctions were already obscured in late Old English, as witnessed by regular interchangeability of the inflexional endings -en, -on, -an. During the Middle English period, many unstressed vowels disappeared (see Chapter 6).


  1. A. Phonemicisation of voiced and voiceless fricatives; cf. Present-Day English vine, fine.

  2. B. Loss of phonemic long consonants (cf. Old English man vs. mann).

  3. C. Loss of h in hl, hn, hr; cf. retention of gn-, kn-. These developments are indicated by Present-Day English spelling; thus, for example, lord (Old English hlāford) beside knight (Old English cniht).

  4. (p.170)
  5. D. Vocalization of [f]/[l, r]_, e.g. Old English swelgan, Present-Day English swallow.

  6. E. /w/ > ø/[s, t]_.

  7. F.ge- > i-, y-.

3. The transition from Middle to Early Modern English


  1. A. The short vowels of late Middle English, [ɪ, ʵ, a, ɔ, ʊ], seem to have been broadly stable in Early Modern English times. The vowel [ᴧ], characteristic of southern English accents today, only emerged in some varieties as a distinct phoneme, //, after Shakespearean times, and therefore should not be distinguished from /ʊ/. /ᴧ/, of course, is still not generally found in northern English varieties of Present-Day English.

  2. B. The Middle English long vowels however had undergone a marked change of distribution within the lexicon by Early Modern English times. This change is referred to as the Great Vowel Shift; see further Chapter 6. Table A1 gives the correspondences between Middle English, Early Modern English, and Present-day English pronunciation (Received Pronunciation and General American) for the reflexes of the late Middle English long vowels, plus the Present-Day English spelling of an illustrative form (which was of course established in Early Modern English times). Later developments are discussed in Chapter 6.

  3. C. There were in Early Modern English sporadic shortenings of some late Middle English long vowels in particular contexts, especially Middle English [ʵ:, o:] when followed by [d, t, θ, v, f] in monosyllabic words.

    Table A1. Pronunciation correspondences




    Present-day example




















    how, town








    boat, home

    Note: ** indicates that the pronunciation given is similar to that found in present-day Scots and Scottish Standard English. ME = Middle English, EModE = Early Modern English and PDE = Present-Day English.

    (p.171) However, this is not a consistent process, and the modern outputs vary; cf. Present-Day English dead beside mead, flood beside mood. The variation in the present-day pronunciation of <oo> in flood, good is due to the shortening happening at different times.

  4. D. Diphthongs in Early Modern English are a mixture of inherited forms and those which were the result of the Great Vowel Shift. A series of mergers meant that Shakespeare's system was roughly as follows:

  5. 1. [aɪ]in words such as day, grey etc. In Present-Day English, words containing this diphthong have fallen in with those containing ME [a:], e.g. name, but they were still distinguished in careful speech in the seventeenth century.

  6. 2. [ɔɪ, ʊɪ] had probably merged (the joy–point merger) on [ɔɪ] by Shakespeare's time in the speech of many, but others still kept the reflexes of the two distinct. There was also some cross-influencing between the two sets even amongst those speakers who maintained a distinction.

  7. 3. [əɪ]: the reflex of Middle English, [i:], the result of the Great Vowel Shift.

  8. 4. [aʊ] was retained in many more conservative Early Modern English accents. In Present-Day English, however, words which contained this diphthong generally have [ɔ:], e.g. law, vault, and it seems likely that this new pronunciation was already current in Shakespeare's time.

  9. 5. [ɔʊ] In Present-Day English, words which contained this diphthong generally have (in Scottish accents) [o(:)] etc., e.g. know, owe, and have thus merged with the reflexes of Middle English [ɔ:]. However, in Shakespeare's time some conservative speakers probably still retained a diphthongal pronunciation.

  10. 6. [ʵʊ, ɪʊ] had probably merged into [ɪʊ] by Shakespeare's time in words such as lewd, new etc. The present-day pronunciation with [ju] was also probably current in the speech of many folk.

  11. 7. [əʊ]: the reflex of Middle English [u:], the result of the Great Vowel Shift.

  12. E. The vowels of unstressed syllables were [ə,ɪ]. However, the distribution of these vowels changed considerably between Middle English and Early Modern English times, since Early Modern English does not have certain inflections still maintained in Chaucerian English, e.g. the distinction between strong and weak adjectives. In the advancing pronunciation of the period, [ə,ɪ] may be generally considered to have the present-day (p.172) distribution, where they are used in unstressed words (i.e. ‘grammatical’ words like a, the, or in the unstressed syllables of lexical words (e.g. written).


Consonants in Early Modern English were generally as in Middle English and, indeed, as in Present-Day English, the main differences from Middle English systems being:

  1. 1. The emergence in London English of a new phoneme, /ŋ/ in sing, etc.; see Chapter 3. This phoneme is of course still not phonemic in varieties of present-day northern English, although it is contextually used, e.g. [sɪŋg].

  2. 2. The loss in London English of Middle English [x]. There is some evidence for the retention of this sound in the middle of the sixteenth century, but by Shakespeare's time it was no longer used. It has left its mark on the spelling system, with gh; but as in Present-Day English this cluster seems either to have been silent (cf. Present-Day English thought, slaughter, though), or pronounced with [f] (cf. Present-Day English draught, laughter, enough). Some uncertainty about the distribution is indicated by Early Modern English spellings such as dafter ‘daughter’, boft ‘bought’.

  3. 3. In Early Modern English, r is still pronounced wherever it was written; there are no silent Rs as in present-day Southern British English, e.g. jar [dʒɑ]. London English c.1600 was, like Present-Day General American, what is known as a ‘rhotic’ accent. Indeed, there is some evidence that high-status speakers continued to be rhotic in English until quite late in the nineteenth century, as witnessed by analyses carried out by scholars at the time.

  4. 4. In formal Early Modern English speech, [w, ʍ] are still kept as distinct phonemes, viz. /w, ʍ/, with minimal pairs while, wile. However, it seems certain that they were no longer distinct phonemes for many speakers, as indicated by Shakespeare's puns on white, wight. This change was not complete in standardized spoken southern English before the eighteenth century; the distinction is still retained in many accents of Present-Day Scots and Scottish English.

  5. 5.Nation, sure, measure, etc. are in Early Modern English, as in Middle English, still pronounced by most speakers with [sj, zj] rather than with Present-Day English [ʃ, ʒ]. However, the present-day usage must have (p.173) already been current among some speakers, since Shakespeare puns on shooter and suitor in the play Love's Labour's Lost.

  6. 6. Initial w, g, k were all pronounced in Middle English in words like Present-Day English write, gnaw, knee. During Shakespeare's time, these older pronunciations disappeared; this is indicated by Shakespeare's puns on ring and wring, knight and night, knot, and not.