I'm wondering about the original pronunciation of "kind" in the famous line "A little more than kin, and less than kind" by Hamlet. Was it like "keend" or the present-day "kind"? If the great vowel shift(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Vowel_Shift) was not completed about the word "kind", the pronunciation was like the former, but I'm not sure.

I'm interested in this problem because if the pronunciation was like "keend", the pun between "kin" and "kind" would be clearer.

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    From the Wikipedia article, it looks like the long i had already shifted away from /iː/ in Shakespeare's time, so it wasn't keend. But in 1600 (roughly when Shakespeare wrote), from the chart in the wikipedia article, it's plausible that "kind" had the diphthong /ɪj/. This is the way some people in the U.K. pronounce the vowel in "keen", and some Americans (a fraction of people in the Midwest and West) pronounce the vowel in big. And the vowel in kin has not changed: it was /ɪ/ then and still is now. These are even closer in pronunciation than "keend" /iː/ and "kin" /ɪ/. Oct 2 '14 at 13:21

In looking up the line I am reminded that the preceding line from Claudius was, "But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,--"

In this context I thought maybe he meant the German "kind" (child) rather than the English "kind" (nice). This seems to be supported by the subsequent lines where Hamlet is asked to not return to Wittenberg (Germany).

A bit of googling showed that others have had the same thought.

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    I'm sure that Shakespeare meant "kind" (English). He probably also meant "kind" (German); this is not the only bilingual pun found in Shakespeare. Nov 14 '14 at 5:28
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    Any evidence that he spoke German?
    – fdb
    Oct 17 '15 at 12:32
  • @fdb: I don't think we can rule it out. The only evidence I can find that he did, though, is some striking similarities between Comedia von der schönen Sidea, a not very good play by the German Jakob Ayrer, and The Tempest. But Sidea wasn't published until after the Tempest was written (although it was performed before it). Some scholars think there was an earlier German play, now lost, that was one of the sources for both. Jun 17 '16 at 23:47
  • I understood kind here to mean race, group.
    – KPM
    Apr 2 '17 at 21:20

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