Elizabethan Era

The Tudors Era

Jacobean Era

The Tudors English Language Alphabets

Unlike the modern English alphabet which contains twenty six letters, the Tudor alphabet contained only twenty four. If you were to look at any manuscript from Tudor times you would see that the letters J and I are used for the same sounds, as are U and V. Once you know this piece of information it is relatively easy to read a piece of Tudor script.

Tudor English Language Letters

Despite some letters being used for the same sound, there were rules about how the letters were used. For example a word which we would spell with a capital 'I', the Tudors would spell with a capital 'J', therefore Joy would become Ioy. They would only place the letter 'u' in the middle of a word and use 'v' for the beginning of the word.

They also used a letter to make the 'th' sound which sounded like 'ye'. It is not only the way that they wrote which is different to modern day English, the way that they wrote numbers can also be confusing to modern readers. The most common way that they were written was with the use of lower case Roman numerals. However they would often replace the last 'I' with a 'j' which would make Henry VIII be Henry viij.

The Tudors English Language Alphabets

English Words and Spellings in Tudor Era

With no dictionary in existence at the time, there was no right or wrong was to spell a word. The number of words that the vocabulary contained was much more limited than it is today. It was not until 1558 that an attempt was made to standardise the way that words were written. It was during the Tudor period that many new words were added to the English language.

In many cases we have William Shakespeare to thank for many of the additions as when he needed a word to describe something, and no word existed he simply made one up that suited his purpose. He is believed to have added more than two thousand words to the English vocabulary, more than any other person in history. Some of the words that he created include: Amazement, Blushing, Critic, Elbow, Gossip and Luggage as well as Scuffle, Torture and Worthless.

Tudor Spoken Language Characteristics

When reading a Tudor manuscript it can be confusing, as it appears that nobody seems to say anything directly. A lot of language appears to be used which actually says very little. This is because the vocabulary at the time was so much smaller than it is today. There simply were not the right words available to make writing a letter or any written work clear and to the point.

Then the language was also full of compliments and courteous phrases it is was not acceptable to cause insult to another. Whereas we would write: "Dear Mary, How are you?" Queen Elizabeth would write something like: "Dearest Sister, I trust that the day finds you well and you are not beset by any ailment or malady that would upset your constitution." This made a very long winded correspondence.

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