Modern English

If you can understand what this sentence is saying: congrats! You are reading Modern English, which is the most recent addition to the English family tree.

Modern English came about after the Great Vowel Shift, which occurred during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. This was when longer vowel sounds began to be pronounced as shorter vowel sounds, which means that the origin of the sound shifted towards the front of the mouth.

Modern English is typically categorized into two separate sections: Early Modern English and Late Modern English. Early Modern English was prevalent during the 16th/17th centuries. William Shakespeare was a pioneer of this era, with his poetry, prose, and playwriting. Late Modern English was thought to have begun at the start of the 19th century, leading up until the present day. There are too many famous authors and playwrights who contributed to Late Modern English to just pick one, but one pioneer of Modern English in general was the King James Bible, which was commissioned in 1604, but published in 1611. A few other important catalysts for the spread of Modern English as a language would be:

  • the invention of the Printing Press in the late 15th century
  • Dictionaries and grammar reference books, with the first being Samuel Johnson’s dictionary in 1755
  • Colonization of the words in the 19th and 20th centuries helped the spread of English immensely
  • the Internet and technology in general has opened up a multitude of doors for English to enter through in every corner of the globe



TRIVIA:  In the title “Ye Olde Shoppe”, the word “ye” is not pronounced as “yee”, or even “yay”. It is pronounced as “the”- just like the present-day English word! When printing presses were first invented, “ye” was the standard way that “the” was printed.



For a sample of Modern English, listen here while you read the Modern English text on this page.

Portia’s “Quality of Mercy” speech from The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,
Upon the place beneath.
It is twice blessed.
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
It is mightiest in the mightiest,
It becomes the throned monarch better than his crown.
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
An attribute to awe and majesty.
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself.
And earthly power dost the become likest God’s,
Where mercy seasons justice.
Therefore Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice we all must see salvation,
We all do pray for mercy
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.
I have spoke thus much to mittgate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou dost follow,
This strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentance gainst the merchant there.