May 14, 2017

Original pronunciation

57 comments:

mockturtle said...

A really fascinating book is The Story of English.

Earnest Prole said...

After reading Beowulf in its original Old English, original-pronunciation Shakespeare is a glorious breath of fresh air.

Greg Hlatky said...

Sounds almost like an Irish brogue.

My understanding is that what we call an English accent is fairly new. In the 1700's an American accent and an English accent were nearly the same and it's the latter that morphed.

madAsHell said...

I wonder how they pronounced "y'all".

David said...

Fabulous.

tcrosse said...

They say that the French language, as she is spoken in Quebec, is closer to the French of the seventeenth century than that which they speak in France. It's possibly due to a combination of isolation and poverty.

Mike Sylwester said...

Anyone who has read Shakespeare's history plays about the Wars of the Roses should watch the Starz series "The White Queen". The series is SUPERB.

It's a ten-part series, and I just finished watching the sixth part. It's the best drama I ever have seen on television.

YoungHegelian said...

Back in the early 90s, I had the fortune to corner Paul Hillier, director of the Hilliard Ensemble, at Charles De Gaulle Airport. He was not in a good mood because the ensemble was stuck in Paris because of a cancelled flight, & they might be late for a concert in Bologna. But, in any case, he humored my presence & questions.

In the late 80's the Hilliard Ensemble released Byrd's "Song of Sundrie Natures" using original pronunciation. I was looking forward to new releases using this technique, so imagine my disappointment when I bought their following release of Dowland Songs & it was in modern English.

So, I asked Paul Hillier what happened, & he said that attempting to use the original pronunciation drove the singers crazy! They revolted, & thus Dowland in modern English.

I've noticed this among French ensembles, too. Francophone ensembles almost never use medieval French pronunciation. It's just too weird if you're French to have "amer" rhyme with "mer". But, if you don't speak the language, & treat the language as just a bunch of phonemes, the words are just sounds, & you can get through it.

Maybe they should get some "furriners" (e.g. some Scandinavians or Germans) to do the Shakespeare in original pronunciation & see how that works out.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

That was terrific; still, Shakespeare is far better read than watched. Or listened to.

At least for the, or my, modern mind. You have to slow things down; it goes too fast.

Professional lady said...

My husband and I just watched Julie Taymor's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." She was the director of "the Lion King." It is truly exceptional. Got the DVD at the library. Might even purchase the DVD.

BobJustBob said...

Try this too... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWe1b9mjjkM

MathMom said...

What an interesting video! And tickets this summer are only £5 (standing, no thanks) to £40. That's a bargain by London theater prices.

zyz65 said...

Yes. The Globe is a great place and really brings Shakespeare alive ( I recommend going there if you have the chance). To my ears OP is very much like the country accent, and is not hard to listen to and understand. David Crystal is also a very good guy, in a world gone crazy over postmodernism, his work has substance and value. Trifecta

Luke Lea said...

"From hour to hour we ripe and ripe, from hour to hour we rot and rot" still makes best sense. In what sense do you "ripe and ripe" with whores? Of course venereal diseases explain the rotting.

Bob said...

Excuse me, but this is the original pronunciation.

BDNYC said...

@ Greg Hlatky

American English has also morphed since the late 1700's. The waves of immigration from Germany, Ireland, Italy and other places gave Eastern cities distinct accents that still persist to this day, and have necessarily influenced what we consider the standard American accent. In general, all American accents are converging, but for a long time there were dozens of different American accents.

Immigration was historically less significant in the South, so if I had to guess, I would say that Southern accents in Virginia, Georgia, etc., are the closest we have to the accents of the 18th Century colonies.

Michael K said...

More "White Privilege."

I was an English major for a while in college and still have the book of plays we studied.

Shakespeare will be an underground performance soon.

MathMom said...

Luke Lea,

When the fellow in the vid said that line, and that it was a really crude sex joke, I thought maybe the "ripe and ripe" could be "rape and rape" with whores. Dunno, though. That was my best guess.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Bob said...Excuse me, but this is the original pronunciation.

Better in the original, eh Bob? That was funny.

Steve M. Galbraith said...At least for the, or my, modern mind. You have to slow things down; it goes too fast.

I have to watch, then pause, then read. It's great to hear it as dialogue & music, but you're right that just hearing it miss a lot.


Thank you for the video, Professor.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

BDNYC said...

Immigration was historically less significant in the South, so if I had to guess, I would say that Southern accents in Virginia, Georgia, etc., are the closest we have to the accents of the 18th Century colonies.

Not so much. There were quite a few Germans that went South during the Colonial period. The only thing that's close to the original Colonial accent is found on Ocracoke Island on the Carolina Outer Banks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7MvtQp2-UA

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Interesting. I'd seen this before. And it makes sense. You can sometimes see in the spelling the way words used to rhyme and be pronounced, and they tend to follow closely to how they were already being pronounced by Chaucer. It makes the works more interesting and makes sense of meanings that you wouldn't get in modern pronunciation.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

More "White Privilege."

I was an English major for a while in college and still have the book of plays we studied.

Shakespeare will be an underground performance soon.


Conservatives to the rescue! Saving the humanities!

When I think of the humanities I definitely think of conservative snowflakes.

buwaya said...

Yep.
Shakespeare requires a degree of attention to the performance, to listening, thats difficult for us moderns. It also requires a degree of insight and being quick on the uptake thats also difficult. Else you miss all sorts of embedded irony, puns, snark, and major plot points.
Shakespeares work and its popularity in its day (and for that matter other European theater at the time, the epicenter actually being the enormous phenomenon of the Spanish theater), is an excellent argument for the idea that human intelligence has declined.

As for the decline in quality of the academic humanities, its not in question. Fifty years ago the US at any rate was turning out far better educated BA's, who had read more, more widely, and better, than those of today.

You can argue that the US today is turning out better (or more of the best) BS's, in the hard subjects anyway, than fifty years ago.

Michael K said...

"There were quite a few Germans that went South during the Colonial period"

A lot went to Texas. Celia Hayes has written a series of novels based on her research on the German colonies in Texas. Of course Pennsylvania and Missouri had large colonies. Lincoln was quite concerned about seeking he German vote in 1860.

Michael K said...

"an excellent argument for the idea that human intelligence has declined."

Maybe not intelligence but certainly literacy and common sense.

Read a newspaper from1860.

Amexpat said...

so if I had to guess, I would say that Southern accents in Virginia, Georgia, etc., are the closest we have to the accents of the 18th Century colonies.

I recall from my studies that New England English is the closest to English in the 1700's.

David said...

"In what sense do you "ripe and ripe" with whores?"

"adj.
Old English ripe "ready for reaping, fit for eating, mature," from West Germanic *ripijaz (cf. Old Saxon ripi, Middle Dutch ripe, Dutch rijp, Old High German rifi, German reif); related to Old English repan "to reap" (see reap ). Meaning "ready for some action or effect" is from 1590s. Related: Ripely ; ripeness." (Dictionary.com)

"informal (of a person's language) beyond the bounds of propriety; coarse.
‘I think my language may have been a little ripe outside the church’ (Oxford Online, alternative definition.)

"Ripe" also had an archaic meaning of "drunk." I have heard it used thus a few times in my life.

Think also "rape" or "rip."

Old Will was a deep fellow.

robother said...

Samuel Johnson's complaint about The Bard was that he would alter a storyline to chase a good pun.

loudogblog said...

When I was in college, at LMU, I had to learn how to recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GihrWuysnrc

buwaya puti said...

To get the difference between then and now, re Shakespeare, it's important to consider that his audiences were getting this stuff all new, verbally, for the first time. There was nothing in print, there were no classes, there were no citations in other media. They had to get everything the first time. And as said above, it comes rapid-fire, no time to consider what was said. And this was a largely uneducated lot, the groundlings and lots of the others too. Many, probably, were illiterate.
Today's Shakespeare audience, largely educated aficionados, probably have read the play, understand what's going to be said before it is.

St. George said...

So it's like Gene Simmons and Terry Gross, is it?

robother said...

Shakespeare worked blue, in the parlance of our times.

Mark said...

Speak the lines in modern British, a lot of us would be saying, "huh?", as much as in the old language. If I have a British show on the telly, its pretty hard to understand innit? So the captioning is on.

They make a good point though that the language Nazis of today who correct people and insist on only one correct way of speaking are all rubbish.

Mark said...

"The White Queen" certainly gives a far different take on Richard III.

Mark said...

Shakespeare is far better read than watched. Or listened to.

Depends on the actor or actress. If it is Lawrence Greatest Actor in the History of the World Olivier, then, yes, by all means read the Shakespeare instead. It wasn't until I started seeing productions where the lines were said in a normal conversational manner that the spoken lines stopped being gibberish.

M Jordan said...

So from that old and trite prayer ...

God is great
God is good
And we thank Him
For our food ...

... we learn that "good" must have once been pronounced "gude" similar to the German word. Or else "food" was "fud" but I think not.

buwaya said...

The language Nazis have always been rubbish.

All the interesting things of the world have come from the zones of intersection. Thats one reason the literary establishment hates Kipling. He refused to do things in the prescribed manner, or with the right attitude. Rather, he took both as he saw them, out where there are no ten commandments, and a man can raise a thirst.

BudBrown said...

Some argue like the Zen Motorcycle guy in his second book that the
African's helped effect the Southern dialect.

mockturtle said...

Buwaya, I have loved Kipling all of my life, starting with hearing my father sing, On the Road to Mandalay and reading and reciting his prose and poems. The cadence and the spirit of adventure as well as his earthy appreciation of the world captured my own spirit, and still does.

The Godfather said...

Shakespeare is hard for moderns to follow in performance under the best of circumstances. It's very wordy, the stage conventions are unfamiliar, the cultural references are obscure, etc. It's easier to read than to watch, particularly if there are footnotes. But the plays were written to be performed, and if we care about preserving that part of our culture, we should embrace performance.

One school of thought says that to make performed-Shakespeare accessible to the modern audience, we should try to make it as familiar as possible: do it in modern dress, with modern lighting, sound systems, etc. The Globe approach is different: Make the performance as much like the original as possible, including (sometimes) in the original language.

I'm not a scholar, but I love good drama. Ideally, I'd like to see a Globe-like performance in OP, then go home and read the play, and then see the performance again. If they bring their company to Carolina, I hope I get to do that.

Fat chance, but I can dream, can't I?

Steve M. Galbraith said...

Who can read Shakespeare straight through without stopping and re-reading a passage? And marveling at the language and imagining the thoughts of the person, putting yourself in their place?

This is what live performances don't let you do. You want to stop the play, have the actor re-read his lines, stop and think of what is happening.

By "going too fast" I don't just mean not understanding what is being said; but that it doesn't allow you to fully understand what is happening.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

How do we know it wasn't just lazy poetry using weak rhymes?

Dr Weevil said...

Godfather:
Some of the best Shakespeare in the world is not all that far from NC, at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA (just across the Blue Ridge from Charlottesville). Even better, they have a touring troupe which travels around the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. from September to November and January to March, so they will come even closer to wherever you are.

They don't do original pronunciation, but they do do 'original practice': no sets or props except what can be brought on stage for the scene, lights on at all times, audience members sitting on three sides and even on stage, all in "the world's only recreation of Shakespeare's indoor theater", the Blackfriars Playhouse. (For a while they said "first", not "only", because the London Globe's new Wanamaker Theater was supposed to be a closer facsimile of the Blackfriars, but information turned up that the Wanamaker plans were not in fact from Shakespeare's time, but much later, so ASC went back to saying "only".)

They do anywhere from three to five plays in repertory year-round, except December when they switch over to A Christmas Carol and other Christmas shows. They're really good at using gestures and rhetorical emphasis to get across the meaning of the words, so it's actually more understandable than reading the play - especially for the comedies, with their double and triple plots.

Check out their website: http://americanshakespearecenter.com/.

No, I'm not an employee, just a satisfied customer, who moved to Staunton so I could go every week.

Michael K said...

If I have a British show on the telly, its pretty hard to understand innit? So the captioning is on.

I listen to audio tapes in the car commuting. I have been listening to Bernard Cornwell novels in the Richard Sharpe series. The readers do accents very well but I have a hard time. Not only do they do the British but Scottish and even Indian in the early novels that are set in India. I'm getting so I prefer to read them.

Earnest Prole said...

Read a newspaper from 1860.

Or read the 1858 Lincoln–Douglas debates (transcripts online) and marvel that tens of thousands cheered sentences with multiple subordinate clauses expressing complex thoughts.

EDH said...

"Why does everything I do sound like a leprechaun?"

buwaya puti said...

" You want to stop the play, have the actor re-read his lines, stop and think of what is happening."

Thats what we moderns want to do.
Not the Globes' groundlings 400+ years ago.
They 'got' that complexity much faster than we can.

EMyrt said...

Blogger Earnest Prole said...

After reading Beowulf in its original Old English, original-pronunciation Shakespeare is a glorious breath of fresh air.

5/14/17, 10:12 AM

That's because it's in Anglo-Saxon, not Old English.
Old English is the Venerable Bede, and Chaucer is Middle English.
Shakespeare is Early Modern English, and that implies, pretty close to our tongue.
Along with the KJB translation, Shakespeare is the source of many words and cliche phrases that we all use without thinking about it.

Sydney said...

I always thought Appalachian English was the closest thing to colonial English, but this says I'm wrong.

Valentine Smith said...

You need to memorize the plays to fully appreciate them.

Rance Fasoldt said...

I remember reading that Islanders off the coast of North Carolina, especially on Ocracoke Island, spoke a dialect that was descended from Elizabethan English. In 1980 I made a trip to the island with my daughters and asked directions from an islander who indicated it was a mile away. He pronounced "mile" like "moyle" and it reminded me of a scene in Olivier's Henry V, when a commoner spoke about time and it sounded like "toyme." A little touch of Harry in the night...

Owen said...

Earnest Ptole: "...Lincoln-Douglas debates...". Yes. People then could and did listen to hours of oral argument. I have to believe that much of it was created ex tempore either from nothing or a few prompts. And understood as quickly as it was uttered.

On the one hand, a heartening example of what our minds are capable of doing. On the other hand, a disheartening suggestion that we have let those powers slip away.

As for English and how she is spoke, I recall having to learn to speak the first part of the Prologue of "The Canterbury Tales" in Middle English. It was great fun, a mind-opener like the OP Shakespeare.

Virtually Unknown said...

Brilliant.

traditionalguy said...

The old pronunciations sound natural to me. Saxon is my English heritage. No one ever spoke Angle.

Big point is Speeding up the dialogue. That is a key to understandable Shakespeare done right, however the words might be pronounced.

Rusty said...

Blogger Owen said...
"Earnest Ptole: "...Lincoln-Douglas debates...". Yes. People then could and did listen to hours of oral argument. I have to believe that much of it was created ex tempore either from nothing or a few prompts. And understood as quickly as it was uttered.

On the one hand, a heartening example of what our minds are capable of doing. On the other hand, a disheartening suggestion that we have let those powers slip away.

As for English and how she is spoke, I recall having to learn to speak the first part of the Prologue of "The Canterbury Tales" in Middle English. It was great fun, a mind-opener like the OP Shakespeare."

Dr. Milash(?) at NIU. Best graduate english class I ever tooked.

Njall said...

EMyrt said...

That's because it's in Anglo-Saxon, not Old English.
Old English is the Venerable Bede, and Chaucer is Middle English.
Shakespeare is Early Modern English, and that implies, pretty close to our tongue.
Along with the KJB translation, Shakespeare is the source of many words and cliche phrases that we all use without thinking about it

Actually, the Anglo-Saxons spoke Old English. Old English is Beowulf, Alfred the Great, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and all of the wonderful poems like the Wanderer, the Dream of the Rood, Widsith, the Wife's Lament, the Seafarer, the Panther etc.

Bede, by the way, wrote in Latin, not in Old English, except for his famous quotation of part of Caedmon's hymn, in the original Old English.

Professional lady said...

I like seeing Shakespeare performed - I get much more out of it that way. We are fortunate to have Stratford, Ontario only a 3 hour drive away. I have to prepare myself first by listening to a good lecture on the play beforehand. Sometimes I'm actually surprised by how well I understand the play. But there's always language or concepts that I miss.