Our English Ancestors pronounced English very differently


Imaginary view of an Elizabethan stage

By C. Walter Hodges [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


I came across this interesting video by David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal. In it they look at the differences between English pronunciation as we would speak it today and compare it with how it was spoken 400 years ago.

As family historians we are often told how English spelling was a lot more fluid in past times and that not all our ancestors would have known how to spell their surnames, thus they seem to disappear from the records. We are also warned that the clergy and local registrars may have written our ancestor’s names into the registers etc. spelling these as they had thought that they had heard them, especially when so many of our forebears couldn’t read or write. In my Family History Researcher Course I explain how to consider how a name may have sounded in the local accent.

Now in this video we are told that in Elizabethan and Jacobean times the pronunciation of the language written by Shakespeare was quite different from modern English. Watch this video below to see and hear how it sounded back then and how it makes more sense of some of his pieces.  It is truly fascinating how language evolves!



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