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Shakespeare's English

 

Shakespeare’s Command of English

  • Shakespeare had sparse formal education, and the curriculum of the day was very different from ours
 
  • There were no dictionaries; the first such lexical work for speakers of English was compiled by Robert Cawdrey as A Table Alphabeticall in 1604
 
  • Organized grammar texts would not appear until the 1700s
 
  • Shakespeare is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with the introduction of nearly 3,000 words into the language
 
  • The size of Shakespeare's vocabulary is somewhere between 17,000 and 20,000 words
 
  • Compare: in the whole King James version of the Bible there are about 8,000 words
 
  • The works of Shakespeare display two types of linguistic creativity. The playwright adds to the resources of the language by inventing new words, or using old words in new senses

 
  • This first type of linguistic creativity can be exemplified by Shakespeare’s neologisms: be-all, end-all, foregone, green-eyed, appertainment, assassination

 
  • Shakespeare also adapts the resources of the language by taking familiar words and doing fresh things with them

 
  • If we look at the Shakespearean expressions which have achieved an idiomatic or quasi-proverbial status in the language, we find hardly any employing the neologisms.

 
  • In other words, when we deal with Shakespeare's second type of linguistic creativity, what counts is not what he uses, but the way that he uses it

 

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SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLISH

  Shakespeare’s Command of English

  Shakespeare's Language of Humour

  Shakespeare's Language of Pathos

  Example from King Lear (1)

  Example from King Lear (2)

  Example from King Lear (3)

MODERN ENGLISH

  The "Ink-horn" Controversy 

  Humour & Pathos in Shakespeare

  Biblical Phrases Test

  British vs. American English

  More

 

 
 
 
 

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