Identifying Central Problems

The eLearning-Project Identifying Central Problems provides an interactive overview of the main linguistic patterns and changes that occurred in the Early Modern English period. Therefore, the organization of the respective units follows the branches of linguistics:

The multimedial material consists of a mini-corpus of Early Modern English (in the form of short texts or quotations), soundfiles, illustrations and charts. References to the OED and online sources like or will support you while researching.

Above all, the underlying objective is to provide the essential background knowledge, that sets the starting point for further research. Therefore, texts and assignments are designed for students with no or little previous knowledge in Early Modern English. Our suggestion for integrating this eLearning-project into the syllabus is one of the introductory sessions.

Language - A Changing System

Language is “a system of communication” with other people. You are using sounds, symbols and words to express your opinion, your view and attitude but not meaning, ideas or thoughts. Language can be used in many ways, primarily through oral and written communications as well as using expressions through body language.

Language builds up a distinction between populations that speak different languages. Simultaneously, it divides countries, demographics and history. Each country has evolved its unique style of language through combinations of blending cultures, environment and other factors. Although Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom share the same native language, they all possess different mannerisms, lexis and accents. Moreover, dialects have been formed in different towns within the same country.

A major advantage of human language is the learned symbolic communication system which is infinitely flexible. Meanings can be changed and new symbols can be created. This is evidenced by the fact that new words are invented daily and the meaning of old ones change. For example, the English word "nice" generally means pleasing, agreeable, polite, and kind. In the 15th century it meant foolish, wanton, lascivious, and even wicked. Languages evolve in response to changing historical and social conditions. Some language transformations typically occur in a generation or less.

Language does not merely change with regard to meaning it also changes its phonology, morphonology, morphology, morphosyntax and syntax. In the following chapters, we will try to give you an overview of the changes, that occurred in the Early Modern English period.