The History of English Podcast - Bonus Episode 1

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Hi everyone, this is Kevin Stroud from the History of English podcast.

This is a bonus episode, I just wanted to use this opportunity to give you a quick couple

of updates related to the podcast and also answer a few questions that I’ve been receiving.

This is not a regular episode and that’s why it’s not numbered in sequence, but I thought

this would probably be the best way to address a few little quick issues with you.

First of all, I want to thank everyone for listening, I’ve really been surprised and

I really do appreciate the number of you listening, I really didn’t expect the podcast

to grow this quickly, but it has really grown.

There are many days where this podcast is ranked in the top 10 and sometimes even in

the top 5 history podcasts on iTunes, and I really again want to thank all of you for

listening to this and I hope you’re finding it enjoyable and entertaining, I certainly

am finding it enjoyable providing it to you.

I did want to give a quick update related to the website because I’ve been getting a

few questions about that.

The primary website for the podcast is, there’s a reason why I haven’t mentioned

that website a lot in earlier episodes of the podcast, I really did not have it in a

form that I was comfortable with, but it is finally getting there, so I did want to mention


I’ve also been getting a few questions about the resources that I use when I put the episodes

together and there really is not one or two major resources.

I have dozens and dozens, probably over 100 different books and resources that I use,

and so what I’ve started doing is on the website you’ll see a link to a page called Resources,

and I’m just sort of listing various books and resources that I use, and I’m not breaking

it down by episode because that would be almost impossible for me to do, each episode again

pulls from so many different resources, but that at least gives you an opportunity if

you’re interested in the topics and want to explore it a little bit further, you can actually

see some of the resources that I’m using.

Also I did want to mention that at the website there is a separate page for each episode,

so you can listen to the podcast episodes and you can download them from there, and

right now there is a brief summary of each episode on the page, I’ll be probably providing

a little bit more content, and where I do have specific resources for the episode that

I want to mention, I’ll list it there, so if there is an episode from time to time that

really grabs your attention and you’re really interested in it, that would be the best place

to start as far as getting more information, and again, if I have information to pass along

that would probably be where I would put it.

Let me also mention as you go to the website you’ll see a reference there to an upcoming,

what I’m calling a listener’s guide, it’s actually called A Listener’s Guide to the

History of English Volume 1.

What that is, I’ve gotten questions again about some of the specific things I’ve talked

about and people wanted more information about it, and so what I’m going to do is actually

compile a lot of my notes and episode scripts and various other information that I have

into one complete written volume, and it’ll cover what I’m calling Volume 1, which is

the history of English from the Indo-European origins through the migration of Anglo-Saxons

to Britain, so that’s the pre-English period, and I’m going to hope to have that available

very shortly, and then I’ll do essentially the same thing on the second volume, which

will be Old English, the third volume, which will be Middle English, and the fourth volume,

which will be Modern English.

So I hope to have an episode guide available for each of those.

It’s basically going to be a written version of the podcast.

Each episode would be equivalent to a chapter, but it’s not an actual transcript.

It’ll be written in a more traditional written e-book or book style, and probably we’ll provide

it in a digital e-book version and maybe even in a printed version.

Again, all of that I’ll sort out in the future, but that’ll help for those of you who want

more information or want the information in a written form.

I may charge a small fee for that.

I’m not sure about that now, but if I do, that would help cover some of the cost of

the podcast, of preparing it and storing the episodes and all of that, but again, all that

to be worked out in the near future.

I also had a question from a listener about my credentials, who was just curious, and

so I did think this would be a good opportunity to address that.

I am not a professional linguist.

I am not a professional historian.

I am, by trade, I am an attorney, and so every day I draft various legal documents, wills,

trusts, contracts, and so I have to parse the English language on a daily basis, but

I am not a professionally trained linguist or historian, so I did want to make that clear,

and I’ve tried to make it clear throughout the podcast so far that this is not a linguistics

podcast, even though it may not always seem like that.

In a few episodes, I’ve dealt with some specific linguistic issues, but really for the most

part, this is a history podcast, and certainly moving forward, there will be more and more

history and a little bit less linguistics and grammar and specific aspects of language,

but anytime you’re doing a podcast about the history of a language, you’re going to deal

with some language issues, so that will always be part of the podcast, but it’ll be more

history as we go forward.

Even though I don’t have a degree in history or in linguistics, I did have the opportunity

to study it in college.

In fact, I had the opportunity to study under Walt Wolfram at North Carolina State University,

and Professor Wolfram is really one of the leading experts on American regional dialects.

In fact, you might see him from time to time on television.

In fact, he was recently in an episode of How the States Got Their Shapes on the History

Channel, and so he was one of the early professors that really sparked my interest in language

and language history, and so I do credit him with part of that, and as I said, I do have

some academic background in that area, but ultimately, this is really more of an amateur

effort than any kind of professional effort.

So then I did get a few questions about the earlier episodes of the podcast, so I thought

I would address those here.

Russell asked about the Basque language.

I had mentioned that in the episode on the Indo-European family tree, which I believe

was episode 3, and I mentioned, after going through all of the languages within the Indo-European

family tree, I mentioned a few languages that were not Indo-European, but that are spoken

in Europe, and I think I mentioned Basque at the beginning, and then I mentioned a few

others including Hungarian and Finnish and Estonian, and then I noted that those were

Uralic languages.

Well, my comment was really directed towards those languages at the end, like Finnish and


I think, though, that I worded it very awkwardly, and so it implied that Basque was also a Uralic

language, and Russell correctly noted that that is not the case, so I did want to clear

that up a bit.

Basque is spoken in northern Spain.

It is not a Uralic language.

It’s really an isolated language, but I know that, again, the way I worded that might have

been a little confusing, so I did want to clear that up.

Also, Frank asked a question about the episode that I did on Kentum, Sodom, and the history

of the letter C. I talked about the change of the pronunciation, the assimilation of

the K sound, the letter C and the K sound in Old English, and I mentioned one of the

examples I gave was the original version of the word child, and I noted that it was originally

spelled C-I-L-D, but it was pronounced child, but then eventually shifted to child, and

Frank asked about the modern pronunciation.

We have child, but then children, so we have a long I in child, but a short I in children,

and was just curious about that, and I really don’t have a specific answer to that question,

but there were a couple of things I wanted to mention.

If you go by the textbook pronunciation of Old English, the pronunciation of the I in

Old English would have been E, so C-I-L-D would have been child instead of child, but

you have to be very careful about that, because when I say the official Old English pronunciation,

as we’re going to see when we get to Old English, there really was not one Old English language.

During the period of the Anglo-Saxons, there was tremendous variation in the dialects within

England, and when we talk about Old English, what we’re really talking about is one particular

Old English dialect, the West Saxon dialect, so we have to be careful in saying anything

too definitively about the way that Old English, quote-unquote, was pronounced.

What we’re really talking about is one particular dialect, and then to kind of add to that,

it’s even more difficult to pinpoint vowels.

Even in modern English, vowels vary tremendously.

In fact, it’s one of the things that really distinguishes regional accents and dialects.

You say tomato, I say tomato, that kind of thing.

So, getting a really good handle on the way vowels were pronounced and why they change

and when they change and where they change is very difficult.

I even mentioned back in the episode on Grimm’s Law that for all the work that Jacob Grimm

did identifying changes in consonants, he really didn’t even attempt to tackle the vowels.

Now, later linguists did, but the point there is vowels are very tricky and notoriously

difficult to pin down.

So exactly when and where and how and why those vowels change is a little bit difficult

to say.

I would note, though, that the word child or child in Old English meant both singular

and plural.

I really didn’t get into that.

But in the Old English period, you used the word child for both an individual child and

a group.

So you had one child or several child, much like the word fish, one fish or school of fish.

It was in the very late Old English period and early Middle English period that the word

changed and it began to develop the multiple form, children, and it’s believed to be connected

to the word brethren, meaning, again, multiple family members.

So as to exactly when the pronunciation changed, we’re not really sure, or I’m not really sure.

I think, though, we probably can look at what’s called the Great Vowel Shift for part of the


Around 1500, the pronunciation of the vowels shifted.

One of the big changes was this letter I, which went from the original E pronunciation

to the I pronunciation that we often find today.

And in fact, you still see that old pronunciation in certain English dialects.

Lots of British English speakers still pronounce M-Y as me instead of my.

So we do still see the older pronunciations.

But it’s very likely that what happened during the Great Vowel Shift is that the word child

shifted from child to child, but children, for whatever reason, did not completely make

that shift.

And so anyway, I just wanted to note that it was a very good question and I did want

to at least make an effort to tackle it.

I’ve not researched it thoroughly, so I’m not including it in a regular episode of the

podcast, but that’s my best guess and best rendering of an answer based on the information

that I have.

If others of you have more information, feel free to send it to me.

And I do want to invite you, from time to time, if you have comments or questions about

the podcast, feel free to contact me.

The best way to do that by email is kevin, K-E-V-I-N, at

And again, feel free to send those comments and questions if you have them.

And from time to time, if I do get questions, I’ll probably do additional bonus episodes

and try to address them.

And again, though, thank you all for listening, and stay tuned for the next episode, which

will be released in a few days.

And as always, thanks for listening to the History of English podcast.