II Consonant Changes

The sound changes which took place during Early Modern English times were various and complex. Vowels did change immensely but consonants were affected too. Several developments began that would continue until today, influencing Present Day English. The major consonant changes however, changed from Old English to Early Modern English. From then on, the changes were mostly completed and the consonants stayed the same, almost identically with Present Day English.

When the pronunciation continued to change throughout Early Modern English, the spelling of many words did not accurately represent their sounds anymore. That means that the spelling mostly did not change to reflect the changes in pronunciation. This can be seen in words like “knee” and “write”. The Old English spelling “cnēow” and “wrītan” contained letters that were spoken. Those letters remained in their written forms even after they were not pronounced anymore. This greatly influenced the contrast between sound and symbol. Another example are the Old English words such as “sweord” and “cniht” which contained consonant letters that were spoken in Old English but are no longer sounded in the modern spellings “sword” and “knight”. Some of those changes did happen because some words were borrowed from other languages in an effort to improve the English language. This way many respellings occurred, where the change derived from a Latin word. For example the words “debt” and “doubt” had a /b/ added as they derived from the Latin “debitum” and “dubitare”. (cf. http://www.indiana.edu/~reading/phonics/u2/whistory.pdf)