2Sounding Funny Is Fun! (No, really, it's actually a blast)The
biggest changes from our modern tongue come in the vowels. You
remember kindergarten, right? A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y? In the
English language, the vowels are the most flexible sounds, bending and
morphing around the consonants they are framed with. In Elizabethan
English, the vowels are the sounds that are the most different from
our modern accent. Some pronunciations stay the same (we love
those!) and some change.
Let's start at the top. We'll give the letter - or the sound - and
examples of how that letter sounds in our modern accent, then explain
the differences: Vowels A - cat, hat This version of the a, the short
a, is basically the same. It is drawn out a bit, held onto just a
little... caaat, haaat. A - father, walking This short a changes to a
flat a like in "pant". So father rhymes with rather, walk sounds like
whack. A - take, make, stable This long a becomes an eh sound. So
take sounds like tek, make sounds like mek, stable like steble. Funny
huh? E - head, dead The eh sound of these words becomes an ay or ai
sound. So head and dead rhyme with braid. I and Y - lie, die, my, by
The long i sound becomes an uh-ee sound. If you say my really really
slowly, it sounds like m-ah-ee... instead, we're going to say m-uh-ee.
This isn't oi like Yiddish! Lie sounds like l-uh-ee, die sounds like
d-uh-ee, my sounds like m-uh-ee, by sounds like b-uh-ee.I - hit The
short i stays the same (yay!) and rhymes with it. O - come This one
becomes much darker and rounder... almost au sound.
You can almost throw in a uh sound too. So come becomes coom, of
becomes uh-oov.U - cup, cut The short u sound combines with the "oo"
sound, like "coop". If the short u and the oo sound had babies,
that's what the short u should sound like. So cup becomes coop,
cutbecomes coot. Let's add an R 3The r in Elizabethan English is more
exaggerated, a hard r, but isn't quite the pirate "ARRRR!", or a
rolled r. It's a consonant you can really chew on... never be afraid
to lean on it and draw it out a little. ER - mercy This sound rhymes
with air, and the r is emphasized. Mercy becomes maircy, terse sounds
like tairce, curse becomes cairse. OR - Lord This takes on a very
round mouth shape and the short o is almost an "oo" sound.
Lord becomes loord, ford becomes foord. The Diphthong! Diphthongs are
not what happens when women wearing low rise jeans and thong underoos
sit down. Rather, they are vowel combinations... In modern English,
we usually shorten diphthongs to one quick sound... Elizabethan
English usually uses both letters. After all, why would you put both
in if they weren’t to be used? There is one exception, but that will
be pointed out below. AI - fair In this case, both letters are
pronounced. The a is a short a and the i is like the Elizabethan i.
The r is hard, and a little exaggerated (but not rolled or the pirate
rrrrrr). So "fair" becomes fah-ay-err. AY - say Pronounce both
letters - so saay-ee. EI - either This is the diphthong exception. It
becomes an "ay" sound, so either becomes ayther. OU - mouse Pronounce
both letters, so mouse becomes muh-oose. Not "moose"... round out
the ou sound and make it darker. House becomes huh-oose. OW - brown
This is very similar to the OU - the W is afer all, a double u.Brown
becomes bruh-oon. . . ..
Most of the consonants stay the same. There are a few, however, that
do change. C - precious Modern English has turned the "cious" letter
combination into "shun". We're going to turn the c into an s, and
then say the rest of the letters. Precious sounds like preh-see-uhs,
musician sounds like myu-zih-see-un. G and V - speaking, ever 4The G
that appears at the ends of words can be dropped. Likewise, the V in
the middle of words can often be dropped as well. This is especially
appropriate for lower class characters. Speaking becomes speakin',
listening becomes listenin', ever becomes e'er, evenbecomes e'en.
Lower classes might even drop the v in heaven, making hea'en.H - hoop
Every H is spoken (think Pygmalion, which was retold as My Fair Lady).
Hoop is never oop, but always spoken with the letter H. Hand, heavy,
hark, all use the H. K - knight
Modern English has turned the leading K in words like knight and knife
silent. At this time, it was sometimes spoken, especially by the
lower classes. Knight becomes kuh-night, knife becomes kuh-nife. R -
art Remember the R from "lord"? Same deal... lean on it a little!
Chew on it and enjoy it... R's are very fun to say. Arrrt! (Ok, that's
a little piratey) S - compassion The double S, and sometimes single S,
has become a sh sound in modern times. However, back in the day it
was spoken as a hard s... instead of compashun, we're going to say
comp-ah-see-ion, and instead of surely pronounced serly, it becomes
soor-ly. T - righteous Like the S, sometimes a T isn't a T - it's a
CH. Nowadays we say richus, but in Elizabethan speak we'd say each
letter and get ri-tee-ous. Pastures goes from paschurs to pas-toors.