Timelines to Visualize History

A Project by the Department of Medieval English Literature and Historical Linguistics, University of Düsseldorf

Begin End Event Description Keywords Related Events
1400 1800

The Great Vowel Shift

The Great Vowel Shift is a systematic sound shift in which all long stressed vowels were raised to higher positions, and those which could not be raised became diphthongs. As a result of the GVS, and the process of standardisation that began simultaneously, there is now a difference between spelling and pronunciation in English. The first phase of the change was nearly completed by 1500 and the last stages of the Great Vowel Shift were completed by 1800.

The Great Vowel Shift describes how seven long monophthongs became raised or diphthongs and characterizes the transition from ME to EModE. The difference between pronounciation of ModE and its spelling is a result of this shift, in which the pronunciation of the long vowels had started to change to more raised and closer positions so that the close relation between spelling and pronunciation was gradually dissolved.

Examples for these changes:
OE hus - ModE house
OE wifman - ModE wife
ME speke - ModE speak
Linguistics, Middle English Period, Standardisation, Early Modern English Period