Reference > Cambridge History > Renascence and Reformation > The Language from Chaucer to Shakespeare > Influences on Elizabethan idiom
  Results of loss of inflections Elizabethan pronunciation  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XX. The Language from Chaucer to Shakespeare.

§ 9. Influences on Elizabethan idiom.


The classical influence upon Elizabethan idiom was but slight, for grammars, unlike vocabularies, never mix: the borrowing of grammatical forms on any considerable scale would involve a change in the method of thought, which is an inconceivable step in the history of any language. Occasional traces of classical idiom, of course, exist in Elizabethan literary English. The Latin use of quin is seen in such a sentence as “I do not deny but,” and the Latin participial construction in the phrase “upon occasion offered.” Comparatives are sometimes used where no comparison is intended, as in “a plainer (rather plain) sort,” while a phrase such as “of all the greatest” (i.e. the greatest of all) is, plainly, a Grecism. Individual authors, such as Hooker, will, sometimes, be found to omit auxiliary forms, or to give to certain emphatic words a Latinised importance of position. But, in general, attempts to convey Latin idiom into Elizabethan English were few, and, where they existed, they added no new grace. Such attempts were, indeed, foredoomed to failure, for their object was to imitate, in a language almost stripped of inflections, certain constructions which, in their original language, had depended upon inflections as aids to clearness. And this was the reason why the oratio obliqua was a dangerous experiment, while the long Latin sentence, with its involved relative clauses, simply tended to create a confused and inelegant method of expression.   49

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Results of loss of inflections Elizabethan pronunciation  
 
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