Original Pronunciation

English language texts in period speech

This site is devoted to the production or performance of works from earlier periods of English spoken in original pronunciation (OP) – that is, in an accent that would have been in use at the time.

David CrystalDavid Crystal

The present-day movement to perform works in OP began in 2004, when David Crystal collaborated with Shakespeare’s Globe in an OP production of Romeo and Juliet. This was so successful that the following year the Globe mounted a production of Troilus and Cressida in OP. Subsequent interest from American enthusiasts led to OP Shakespeare events in New York, Virginia, and Kansas, ranging from evenings of extracts to full productions. As only a handful of works have so far been performed in OP, interest is growing worldwide to explore the insights that the approach can provide.

I’m sure there must be other OP initiatives around the world, and until now there has been no place where they can be brought together. The time thus seems right to provide a website where people can find out about OP, archive their events, announce plans, and share their experiences of working with it and listening to it.

Breadth

Although Shakespeare was the stimulus for current interest in OP, the notion is much broader. Any period of English history can be approached in this way, and indeed there have been several projects where people have tried to reconstruct the pronunciation of earlier works in Old and Middle English, notably for Chaucer. The British Library exhibition, Evolving English, which ran from November 2010 to April 2011, had an audio dimension which included OP extracts from Beowulf, Caxton, Chaucer, and the Paston letters, as well as Shakespeare. The 2011 anniversary of the King James Bible also prompted readings in OP, some of which can be found on this site.

More than literature is involved. There are opportunities for people interested in the vocal dimension of early English music, as well as for those involved in heritage projects which present original practices, such as Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. Examples from these perspectives include an OP rendering of vocal music by William Byrd and of the songs that appear in Shakespeare’s plays.

Variety

It’s important to appreciate that there is no ‘single’ OP. All periods of English contain many accents, and this allows for variant OP performances. The evidence that allows us to reconstruct what was the case is often mixed, and choices have to be made about which sound qualities to go for. Variations in spelling can point us in different directions. Observations by contemporaries can indicate that some words had different pronunciations (as they have today). Deductions by historical linguists can reach different conclusions about the quality of a sound. Any attempt to reconstruct an earlier period of pronunciation is based on as much scientific evidence as is available, but inevitably involves a certain amount of guesswork. The more OP illustration and discussion we have, therefore, the sooner we will be able to arrive at a consensus about best practice.

This site therefore aims to act as a first point of call for those interested in promoting an OP dimension to their activities. It will include only work that is grounded in a serious investigation of the sound system of a period. There are plenty of comic pastiches of the ‘ye oldee speech’ kind and wild imaginings of how people once spoke, such as the ‘oo-arr’ voices traditionally given to pirates. These will not be found here.

235 comments
  1. Kalem says: July 23, 20167:31 am

    Is there any chance you might come to the NAC in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada?
    I’d, love to see an OP production performed live, but I can’t really afford to travel.

    Thank you for your time,
    Kalem

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Ben’s company, Passion in Practice, does travel, from time to time – most recently for the OP Pericles in Savannah – but any such venture is very expensive to mount, so everything would depend on the availability of sponsorship. One certainly can’t beat a live performance for engaging with OP. In the meantime, Ben is giving talks on OP and related issues at the Stratford Festival in August.

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  2. Émélie says: June 14, 201611:09 pm

    Hi David,

    For starter, sorry for my English; I’m a French speaker and I’m not that good in writting.

    I’ve discover your work by doing some research on iambic pentameter for an audition. I work the Helena’s monologue in act 1, scene 1 of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a rhyme (or no-rhyme) bugging me alot.

    ”And as he errs doting on Hermia’s eyes
    So I, admiring of his qualities”

    By listening a video of you, my boyfriend (englishspeaker) notice that one of the IES word pronounced have a different sound in OP… actually, it sound pretty close from French ”Qualité”! But still ”eyes” and ”qualités” still not rhyme.

    Can you inlighted me? Do ”eyes” also had a different prononciation in OP?

    Thank you for you wonderful work!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I see from a later message that you found the information – but in case others are interested in this point, yes the lines rhyme, with the diphthong of ‘qualities’ being the same as the one in ‘eyes’. The ‘Flower of this purple die’ sequence shows the same diphthong throughout, producing a striking ‘magical’ effect that’s lost when the vowels switch in Modern English (dye, archery, etc).

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  3. Donovan Bacquie says: June 14, 20165:12 pm

    Dear David; Thank you for your extremely insightful work. Would I be right in saying that, in general, OP sounds ( in the early 17th century) were longer than old RP? Thank you again.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    You mean vowels? I don’t think so. If you look at the phoneme-by-phoneme account in the introduction to my Dictionary, there’s very little difference, in terms of length, between the two sound systems. And in the two cases where pure vowels have become diphthongs (as in say and so), one might argue (depending on how you view a diphthong) that the length has increased. The contrast between OP and RP I would say is chiefly in quality, not quantity.

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  4. Bill Lattanzi says: June 12, 20165:46 pm

    Hi David – I’ve always wondered about Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia, read by Polonius.
    “Doubt thou the stars are fire;
    Doubt that the sun doth move;
    Doubt truth to be a liar;
    But never doubt I love.”

    Do move and love rhyme in O.P.? I’m kind of hoping not, because a)in the next line Hamet admits to being a bad poet, b)elsewhere, Polonius judges lines as good or bad, and if it doesn’t rhyme, it can create a nice comic moment as Polonius is forced to read out the non-rhyme… maybe altering love to “loove” to get it to rhyme and making a face… or maybe it was a class difference that the royals might say “muv” and the lower levels – that I count Polonius among – might say “moove.” But this is all idle speculation… what have you discovered about this? Thank you!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    They do rhyme, with short vowels. There are dozens of examples of love rhyming with move, prove, and so on in the Sonnets, for example. You can see all the rhymes in the entry on love in my Dictionary. Several writers of the time state clearly that the vowel is short, but – as today (think Elvis) – there would have been some regional accents where it was long. Either way, the rhyme was normal at the time. (There are also some modern English accents where the vowel in move is short, such as in parts of Scotland.)

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  5. Mark Wright says: June 10, 20168:36 pm

    David,

    Had the velar fricative disappeared from words like night or daughter by Shakespeare’s time? I seem to recall you pronounced it in your recording of Tyndale’s Bible: Saint Matthew’s Gospel, thought, Tyndale obviously was writing in the early 1500s.

    Thank you.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, I pronounced them all in the Tyndale, but they’d gone by Shakespeare’s day – though I expect some older or more conservative speakers would still have used them, and they would still have been heard in some regions, especially in Scotland.

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  6. Kalem says: June 6, 20167:34 am

    Hello David,

    In the “Forthcoming Events” section, there is not a thing. Are there not going to be any more OP productions? Or if there are, where and when might they be?
    I’d love to see Hamlet or Macbeth in some OP.

    Thank you for your time,
    Kalem

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, I noticed this the other day when I transferred the forthcoming events (which have now forthcome) to the archive. The first half of this year was very busy, OP-wise. I’m totally dependent for this site on people telling me what’s going on, and I haven’t heard of any new productions right now. I expect there’ll be something at the Globe this time next year, but it’s too early to say. Both Hamlet and Macbeth have been done in OP (see Archive) and I do have the flat audio recordings of both that I did for the companies involved, which are available via me (davidcrystal1@icloud.com) in support of Ben’s Passion in Practice company.

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  7. Anonymous says: May 31, 20162:50 pm

    In Romeo and Juliet Friar Lawrence delivers a monologue in which lies and qualities are supposed to rhyme. How would the last vowels of these words be pronounced in order for them to rhyme? would both use the vowel as in the name of the letter I or as in the letter E or in another manner?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    You can hear these words spoken in OP in the audio file that accompanies the Dictionary referred to in another post below. It’s a diphthong, with a central (schwa) first element and a lax /i/ as the second element. A very common feature in the plays: a longer sequence is Oberon’s ‘Flower of this purple dye’ incantation in Dream 3.2.

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  8. Andrew Legge says: May 31, 20168:37 am

    When I was a lad, the older men in our area ( N.E Derbyshire) would greet each other with “Ayup serry, aa’s tha gooin in”. Serry is clearly a descendent of Sirrah which suggests an OP pronunciation of serray. The final a of words was spelt in the local parish registers with a variety of letters, Sarei, Barbaray etc which all suggest a long final vowel , as in the old folksong pronunciation of America as Americay, which I would presume to be more like the modern RP vowel on pair than in pay 400 years ago. I guess that when er moved to ar in words such as starve and clerk, ir moved after to er in words such as bury (birie in East Midland Middle English) , merry and sirrah. Are these kinds of pronunciations indicated in Elizabethan texts?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Difficult to say. I’ve never collated all the instances of regional variants in the period – a nice job waiting to be done – so there may well be indications of this kind in local texts around the country. There are no variant spellings in the First Folio: bury is always with a u, for example, sirrah always with an i, and so on. Important to use IPA as the basis for the discussion, though. I’m not clear what vowel quality is being suggested by the ‘ay’ spelling, or what is meant by such forms as ‘er’ and ‘ir’.

    [Reply]

    Andrew.Legge Reply:

    At that time a would be I guess ɛ:
    Er and ir is in spelling so would be ɛr and ir.

    I also note my local pronunciation of daughter is dowter which must be from doughter as ought and aught are kept separate in my dialect. I have found dofter though in 17th century a Warwickshire register. I note that OP has da:tər as the pronunciation.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    The OED has a useful etymology section on daughter which discusses the variants in its early pronunciation – including several refs to a medial /f/ (compare laughter, enough, etc). An important hint about the OP pron is Lear 1.4.315, where the rhymes include halter and after.

  9. JMR says: May 28, 201611:54 pm

    In the lines “Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
    The multiplying villanies of nature
    Do swarm upon him–from the western isles
    Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;”
    is Shakespeare playing with the words ‘rebel’ and ‘rabble’? Can you comment on the pronunciation at the time and what ‘rabble’ meant then? I understand c. 1300 it meant “a pack of animals” or the like, but if the internet is to be believed, by Shakespeare’s day it already had its present meaning.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    You should always use the online OED to answer questions about sense development: this would show you that the modern sense of rabble was already well established in the 15th century. The pronunciations of /a/ and /e/ were fairly close in Shakespeare’s day, judging by the many spelling alternations, such as terras and tarrace (for other exx, see the final section of the introduction in my Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation. Whether there is a piece of wordplay here is not for me as a linguist to say: that’s a literary question.

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  10. Ian says: May 28, 20162:31 am

    Dr Crystal,

    I am writing my dissertation on Macbeth and the interplay of order and caos in the play. I’ve read that many critics consider the last scene a dissatisfying conclusion, and that this is in itself indicative of the precarious re-institution of providential order. I was wondering if this is reflected on a phonetical level as well? The play ends with the couple:

    ‘So, thanks to all at once and to each one,
    Whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone.’

    In Modern English my thesis remains true as you would have to really bend over backwards to make one rhyme with Scone. I was wondering if this holds true in OP, or whether the rhyme actually works? Could you perhaps shed some light on this issue?

    Sincerely,
    Ian I.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    ‘One’ was shifting in pronunciation at the time, but the pron with a long pure vowel, rhyming with alone, throne, etc in the First Folio, was definitely an option, so yes, that final couplet can be a perfect rhyme, and that ls the way I say it in the recording I made for Ben’s production of Macbeth at the Globe in 2014. You’ll find further details of the variants in my Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, and audio on the associated website.

    [Reply]

    Ian Reply:

    Thank you so much for your speedy reply.
    One more quick thing, was Scone then normally pronounced as to rhyme with gone? I merely ask because my Arden edition says it is pronounced ‘Skoon’ but I wasn’t sure whether that would be a purely contemporary pronunciation.

    Thank you

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    The ‘Skoon’ pronunciation is modern. ‘Gone’ had two pronunciations, one like today, and the other rhyming with ‘bone’, ‘throne’, etc (many exx in the canon). (For a similar alternation between long and short vowels in a verb, compare ‘says’ with ‘ay’ and with ‘e’ (sez).)

  11. JMR says: May 24, 201611:04 pm

    Dr. Crystal,

    Apologies if you’ve answered this question already, but I wondered if you could point me to some recorded full-length performances in OP (video or even audio only) that I might enjoy. I especially have been looking for a proper rendition of Macbeth–one in which they bother to pronounce “heath” so that the lines actually make sense to the ear.

    PS What did you think of the accents in the 2015 film version?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Passion in Practice has my flat (ie nondramatic) recordings of the plays done in OP so far, which include Macbeth. I can send details of purchasing procedure if contacted (davidcrystal1@icloud.com). PiP’s OP Pericles was filmed, and will be available in due course. Meanwhile there is Paul Meier’s Dream, available both as video and audio: see his website . And re your PS: I’ve seen only extracts, so haven’t formed a view.

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  12. Tim Forder says: May 11, 20168:33 am

    In the Shakespeare song, “Blow blow thou winter wind, should the word wind rhyme with the next line ending with unkind, or should it be pronounced as we would use it today?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes it would rhyme. This was the normal pronunciation of ‘wind’ at the time.

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  13. Olga Valbuena says: May 2, 201611:18 pm

    Dear David, could you please help me with the word suit? Would it sound like modern soot, sweet, sue-it, or sweet? Are any of these correct?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I give two pronunciations in my Dictionary: one like ‘shoot’ and the other like ‘syoot’. The vowel (common to both) is clearly suggested by the rhymes with ‘mute’ (in All’s Well), and also by ‘suitor’ and ‘tutor’ in Love’s Labour’s Lost. The ‘sy-‘ form is shown in Middle English spellings, such as ‘sywte’ and ‘sewte’. The ‘sh-‘ form also has spelling support in such 15th-century spellings as ‘shutte’ and ‘shute’. (The word had a huge number of spelling variants.) Shakespeare makes use of the punning possibilities in ‘suitor’, which in LLL is punned with ‘shooter’.

    [Reply]

    Olga Valbuena Reply:

    Dear David,
    This is brilliant! Thank you. I purchased your son’s British Library Audio book on Shakespeare’s OP through Audible. Is your OUP Dictionary already available in the US? Amazon appears to offer it as a pre-order item.

    So suit could be pronounced like “shoot,” “sh” sound and all. Could there be an aural or visual pun on “sweet” (assuming a spelling or pronunciation like suite)? Many thanks again. I look forward to purchasing your Dictionary.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    There’s usually a couple of months delay before a US edn of a British book appears. I think it;s June 1, though doubtless it’ll be in some stores earlier.

    There was some spelling overlap between ‘suit’ and ‘sweet’ in the 15th and 16th century – see the range shown in the online OED. So there might be a case for a visual pun, but I don’t think it’s a strong one. I can’t see any pronunciation overlap at all.

    Olga Valbuena Reply:

    Thank you again, David. I was able to find your book by looking through the Amazon.uk offerings until I found an American seller than offered it as a “used” book. I can’t wait to see it. And thank you again for your help with this word and its satellites.

    [Reply]

  14. Artem says: May 2, 201610:41 pm

    Dear Dr. Crystal,

    I’m a university student on the doorstep of graduating. Ever since I saw your video on the Globe and Original Pronunciation, I found that I had to examine it in greater detail. I took a class on Shakespeare this semester and tried to speak some of my ideas in light of OP (much to the chagrin of my professor!). I found your book “Pronouncing Shakespeare” to be very helpful for getting a feel for OP and reading the plays with an OP accent in my head, but I stumbled across several words that I had trouble envisioning the sounds for. For instance, in “The Tempest”, I came across the word “lieutenant” and was baffled at how that would be pronounced in OP. I would normally pronounce it [luˈtɛnənt] (American English). Would the OP be closer to RP, American, or something entirely different?

    Thank you very much!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    The original pronunciation of the first syllable of this word, when it arrived in English, was ‘loo’ or ‘lyoo’, as shown clearly by such Middle English spellings as ‘lu-‘, ‘lyue-‘, and ‘lew-‘. A second pronunciation developed later, as shown by such spellings as ‘leef-‘ and ‘lyff-‘. The reason for the emergence of an /f/ is unclear, but it’s probably a popular adaptation of the /u/-glide used in the earlier pronunciation. The rounded lip position for /u/ is close to the labio-dental /f/. A similar change happened with Old English ‘enow’ which became Modern English ‘enough’. The earlier spelling went to the USA; the later one stayed in Britain. Both were still being used in the 18th century (according to John Walker in his Pronouncing Dictionary), so the alternatives would have been available to Shakespeare – but presumably with an /i/-type vowel, rather than the /e/ of today.

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  15. iRA says: April 26, 20165:51 pm

    Dear David, first I want to thank you for your very well researched scholarship in OP, and the marvelous youtube with you and your son, Ben, giving examples.
    My work is with Shakespeare’s Sonnets [SHAKESPEARE’S SONNETS AND THE BIBLE, with a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales.] in which I long contemplated some of the rhyming scheme and the OP. With regard to your reply of April 16 to Henk, on pronunciation of “ea,” please clarify for me if, in Sonnet 146, the word “lease” would in OP sound like “less” in modern E, to rhyme with “excess.,” presumably pronounced as it is today. Or whether the OP of “lease” and “excess” would have been heard differently than “less” and “excess” in modern English?
    Ira Zinman

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Rhymes and spellings suggest that there were two pronunciations, one with (slightly more open than in today’s RP) and the other with /e/. Rhymes in the Sonnets are with decease (13) and excess. The verb to lease has OED spellings with leese and lesse, and also note modern English lessor, which has 16th-c spellings of lessour and leaser. There’s a similar alternation in least, spelled both least and lest.

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  16. Olga Rogalyova says: April 21, 20164:58 pm

    Dear Professor Crystal,
    I have come across a hypothesis that Shakespeare’s accent probably sounded more like modern American pronunciation rather than British. Is there any truth in this?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    If you mean, compared with Received Pronunciation, this is certainly true. But regional British accents show a similar range of contrasts as American accents. The interesting point is the way OP contains echoes of many modern accents, as well as features that no modern accent has.

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  17. Dorothy Lowey says: April 18, 20161:07 pm

    In The Church Porch by Herbert, would ‘both’ and Froth’ have rhymed please?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, the spelling evidence (frooth, froath) suggests that froth would have had a long vowel, as did moth (rhyming with oath in Merchant) – and note also clothes vs cloths these days (earlier both long and spelled cloaths).

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  18. Henk Courtz says: April 6, 201610:09 am

    Dear David. Weymouth (1874) writes that most words spelled with ea differ in pronunciation from words spelled with e, ee or a-e, and that this difference was lost only after the middle of the seventeenth century, so that now words spelled with ea either sound like e (death, breast), ee (hear, beard, meat, etc.) or like a-e (great, break, steak, etc.). Your dictionary of Shakespearean pronunciation lists many instances of words spelled with ea as having three pronunciations: like e (feast), like ee (dear) or like a-e (bear). What do you think of the possibility that Shakespearean ea is a separate phoneme with its own pronunciation that was accepted for rhyming purposes to be ‘harmonic’ with e (feast – best), or ee (dear – beer), or a-e (deal – male). Your dictionary may list two pronunciations occurring for a single word spelled with ea: beat (rhymes with both meet and mate), appear (rhymes with both beer and bare), or it lists one pronunciation although it rhymes in two ways: dear (which is listed as only having the pronunciation of deer, although it also rhymes with bear and wear), near (which is listed as only having the pronunciation of neer, although it also rhymes with there and elsewhere). What is your defence against the claim that you have overlooked the phonemic diphthong /ea/ as having its own unique pronunciation?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Many thanks for thoughtful comments. I think it’s important to appreciate that my dictionary aims to be a guide to actors, not a comprehensive account of all possible pronunciation possibilities (which would confuse), so I list only the variants that I think are the most important ones. I’m very open to suggestions that my variants listing could be extended, and I hope the dictionary will be a stimulus in that respect. Where there are alternatives suggested by the rhymes and puns, and bearing in mind the likelihood of what you call ‘harmonic’ rhyming (what I discuss in my Introduction in terms of distinctive feature closeness), I use the balance of spellings to influence the pronunciation(s) I recommend. I call this ‘taking a view’, in my introduction, and very much look forward to hearing other views, as people start using the dictionary. I shall keep a record of all suggestions. It’s essential, though, that we use a common metalanguage for the discussion (IPA, in this case), as spelling representations are ambiguous. For example, I’m not entirely sure what sounds are being referred to in such representations as a-e and /ea/.

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  19. Tom A. Roberts says: April 6, 20163:55 am

    My grandmother (1914-1200) spoke an older form of Appalachian dialect. One of the phonological rules of this dialect is that unstressed “ow” in words like “fellow,” “hollow” and “window,” instead of becoming a schwa as in general American, become “er” – thus, “feller,” “holler” and “winder.” An exception is when “ow” is preceded by an “r,” in which case it disappears completely. So “sparrow” becomes “spar” (rhymes with “star”), and “barrow” (castrated pig) becomes “bar.”

    I’ve always postulated that there must have been an earlier form “sparrow” which rhymes with “borrow” since the “a” vowel is the lower back “ah” sound. Am I right?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Could well be. There’s quite a bit of evidence to show that the a and o were phonetically closer than is usual today. Consider such spellings as todpole for tadpole, strond for strand, loffe for laugh, aspray for osprey and rhymes like cough / laugh, bob / crab.

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  20. leandrotcb says: April 5, 20167:10 pm

    Hi, I’m working on a translation. Can you tell me if ‘wound’ and ‘underground’ used to be a rhyme by the time of the ‘Spanish Tragedy’. It would be of great help. Thanks

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Indeed they would have rhymed. Some nice examples: wound and confound in MND; wound and sound in RJ.

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  21. Mark Wright says: April 1, 20163:15 pm

    I understand that in OP words such as salvation have all of the syllables sounded out. How about from Hamlet’s what a piece of work is man speech? “In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!” Act-see-on? App-re-hen-see-on?

    Thank you for all of your great work. I am a huge fan of OP Shakespeare. I wish I could see an OP performance in Dallas, Texas, but no one seems to be doing it here as of yet. Also, I’m a bit disappointed The Globe isn’t continuing to stage OP performances (the exception being OP Faustus at the Wanamaker), as I have tentative summer plans to visit London.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, exactly. All -tion, -cian (musician) etc endings have this pronunciation. Later, these became -she-on, and eventually -shun, as today. You can hear all First Folio examples in the audio file accompanying the OUP Dictionary.

    Ben tells me that he is planning a Dallas visit later this year. Keep an eye on the Passion in Practice website for details.

    Yes, I’m sad that the Globe lost interest under Dromgoole. Maybe the new director will build on its pioneering initiative. In the meantime, thanks to Globe Education, we do get the chance to keep the OP flag flying – this year, as you say, with Faustus, and also with an imaginative presentation of Henslowe’s Diary, both in May.

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  22. Tom A. Roberts says: March 30, 20167:57 pm

    Wouldn’t ‘prove’ and ‘love’ both have had the vowel sound as in the modern English ‘put’, instead of the mid-central ‘uh’ as in ‘but’? It seems to me easier for the vowel to shift toward the center or become raised than for it to move back or up.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    The exact phonetic quality of this phoneme is one of the most contentious, with variants suggested from central (schwa) to a quality further back between mid-open and mid-close (as Kokeritz opts for), or higher up – an unrounded equivalent of the rounded vowel of ‘put’ etc (which is the one I go for). I try to get actors not to substitute schwa, which is the lazy way out! Yes, there were rounded variants too, as today, and I allow for those in my Dictionary; but I had to ‘take a view’, in productions, and decided on the unrounded version. Certainly, if one rounds this vowel (which is very frequent), it gives a very ‘northern’ resonance to the OP. Some actors use this as a character option, e.g. Will Sutton rounded these vowels for his Simonides in our OP Pericles production last year.

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  23. Bruce Leyland says: March 28, 20164:25 am

    As a supplementary, was the phonetic similarity of “day” and the letter “D” greater or lesser than it is today. If greater, were “day” and “D” pronounced similarly? Thanks again – Bruce

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    They wouldn’t have been identical, but the ‘dee’ sound of the letter was more open in those days (closer to the quality of the vowel in French ‘bébé’). As the vowel of ‘day’ was also more open, I guess the auditory distance between the two words wouldn’t have been much different from what it is today.

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  24. Bruce Leyland says: March 28, 20164:21 am

    Dear David – Could you advise me as to the pronunciation of “days” as in the couplets of Sonnets 38 and 59. Much appreciated – Bruce

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    A mid-front open pure vowel – difficult to describe in print, but you can hear it now on the audio site that OUP have built to go with the Dictionary – click on ‘day’.

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  25. Senor Lambers says: March 27, 201611:32 pm

    Dear Professor Crystal,

    Is the Globe still doing OP performances of Shakespeare? I see one of Marlowe, here, which is wonderful, but it would do a great deal for the perception of Shakespeare worldwide if the Globe adopted OP full-time, forever. The Globe is committed to historical authenticity, why not always do OP? I’m an American, and I have many American friends who are sadly turned off of Shakespeare because of the RP accent which has become so associated with his work. OP opened up a whole new way of perceiving Shakespeare to me. Perhaps sadly, I find myself less and less drawn to RP Shakespeare performances because of the class associations that the RP accent communicates.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    You’re right. OP gives people who find RP distancing a fresh sense of owneership of the plays, as it is closer to the way they themselves speak. This I think is why there have been so many productions in the US over the past five years (see Forthcoming Events for this year’s). The Globe, unfortunately, lost interest when Dominic Dromgoole took over from Mark Rylance, and instead of building on its own initiative it (foolishly in my view) let other places get all the good publicity as the OP movement gathered momentum. Fortuntely, Patrick Spottiswoode of Globe Education continued to believe in the value of the initiative, and Ben’s company Passion in Practice has performed OP twice in the last couple of years – Macbeth in 2014 and Henry V in 2015, both in the Wanamaker in the Read not Dead series. Whether Emma Rice, the new director, will do something different, I can’t say. It would be good to have a main house OP production in the UK again, and to see the Globe regaining some of the kudos it received a decade ago.

    [Reply]

  26. John Furse says: March 24, 20168:56 am

    The Tempest (lines 396 & 401) has “Argier”, for the modern ‘Algiers’.

    Professor Crystal: is this with two or three syllables, please ? And what would this be phonetically, please ?

    (I am making a musical setting; hence the questions.)

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    It would be (roughly) ahrjeer, with the stress on the second syllable. Sorry I can’t do IPA easily here, but you can see that transcription in the OP Dictionary (published today!). I suppose it would always be possible for a diphthong to be articulated as a sequence of two separate vowels, as often in modern English, but I’d want a reason for that to happen (such as a metrical constraint, which isn’t relevant in this instance). A musical setting might motivate it. All I can say is that, in everyday speech, it was probably two syllables.

    [Reply]

  27. Viola Zucchi says: March 15, 20167:19 am

    Dear David, do you have by chance some materials about OP of English language at Handel’s time?
    My choir is going to perform the Messiah and we would like to do it in OP.

    We already did it with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in 2014, following your indications.

    Thanks a lot.

    Viola (Italia)

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I don’t. I’ve never explored this. It would be much closer to modern English, of course, but Handel’s dates do overlap with Purcell so some of those features would still be around, at least with conservative accents.

    [Reply]

  28. Bob Schier says: March 14, 20166:31 pm

    In the hymn, Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me (1776) do these words rhyme — blood:flowed and dress:grace? Same question in the hymn, There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy (1862) — good:blood and word: lord?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    No. Eye-rhymes (or ‘half-rhymes’) were coming into fashion during the 18th century, as spelling had standardized sufficiently to make poets and hymn-writers feel able to use them with confidence. There are lots of them in the hymns of the periods you mention.

    [Reply]

  29. Kenneth Beesley says: March 1, 20168:03 am

    I’ve been listening to Ben Crystal’s OP recording of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, and I don’t have the best ears. What are the intended OP pronunciations of the following words?

    not, shock, bodkin
    rub, come, love, but, puzzle
    pause, all

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    ‘Not’ etc – same as today (short vowels have changed very little in the past 400 years), but with the vowel quality a bit more open than in RP, and closer to the GA quality. ‘Rub’ etc – see my previous reply; they are all like ‘suffer’. ‘Pause’ like today, but again, with the vowel more like GA than RP. The ‘l’ of ‘all’ keeps the vowel open and unrounded, so that it sounds like ‘ahl’ – likewise ‘call’, ‘small’, and many more. The rounding started to appear during the 17th century, and some ‘new tuners of accent’ probably used it in S’s day (as the occasional rhyme, e.g. with ‘brawl’, suggests), but I go for the more conservative form in my transcription. All these values are illustrated in transcription and audio in my Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, out on 24 March.

    [Reply]

    Kenneth Beesley Reply:

    I’ll look forward to your Oxford Dictionary of OP. Yes, the all/pause vowels seemed unrounded to me, and so, to my GA ears, surprisingly American. What about the rounding for the not/shock/bodkin vowel? Again, I couldn’t hear RP-like rounding.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Again, the short vowel is more open than in RP, and closer to the American version. That’s been a problem when I work with US actors: they assume that all they have to do is use their American vowel, so ‘not’ comes out like ‘nat’ – which is too far. I don’t think there would have been much rounding, but that’s a guess. The writers of the time don’t give that kind of phonetic detail, so I guess it’s always possible that there was some degree of rounding. And probably regionally there would’ve been all sorts of variations, just as today..

  30. Kenneth Beesley says: March 1, 20167:32 am

    What was the OP pronunciation of the first vowel of “suffer”? Perhaps /ʌ/ (as in modern General American), or /ʊ/ (as in Yorkshire, etc.)?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Sources vary on this one. It certainly wasn’t as far forward as the quality it has in GA, or, for that matter, in RP, where (in a conservative pronunciation) it can sound almost like ‘cap’. I decided to locate it in the mid-close back area of the cardinal vowel diagram, as an unrounded equivalent of the northern British vowel. Some people think it would have been rounded, and that would indeed have been a regional variant then, as today. I kept away from that, in my transcription, and opted for the unrounded version, following Gimson, Kökeritz, and others. This has the incidental advantage of making OP sound less modern, which is something I find directors appreciate.

    [Reply]

    Kenneth Beesley Reply:

    Thanks. I’m an American, but I lived (over 30 years go) in Scotland for five years, where I’d often listen to the BBC news. My best memory of a conservative RP forward pronunciation of a word where I would use /ʌ/ was Angela Rippon pronouncing “government” with the first vowel seeming (to my ears) something around cardinal 4.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Indeed. And HM Queen also. You can hear the changes in present-day RP, as the vowel has centralised in most speakers. I rarely hear that Cardinal 4-like vowel these days.

  31. Heber Costa says: February 20, 20167:39 pm

    Dear Prof. Crystal, congratulations on this project. I’m an old admirer of your work (since that Penguin Dictionary on Language). On this note, I’d like to ask for your help. Let me explain: I’m a translator and I’m (along with a group of actors) at the pre-production stages of a project that aims to translate ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to Brazilian Portuguese working primarily on phonetic grounds and concentrating on how the actors should pronounce its lines to achieve the semantic and dramatic results intended by Shakespeare. Would have any recommendations on how we should go about this? The first obstacle seems to be how to access the original text OP. Is there a phonetic transcription or an audio version of the OP? Thank you advance for any reply.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    All the ‘flat’ recordings of whole plays that I make for companies mounting an OP production are available, at nominal cost, to support the Passion in Practice theatre company work on original practices. The Romeo and Juliet one is based on the Arden text. These transactions are currently handled though the Shakespeare’s Words website (ww.shakespeareswords.com) via Paypal. I can send a catalogue list of what’s available so far if you contact me by email: davidcrystal1@icloud.com. The video the Globe made of the actual 2004 RJ production is in the archive at Shakespeare’s Globe, but can only be accessed by a visit there (arranged through the librarian). It captures the atmosphere very well, but the sound quality is patchy.

    [Reply]

  32. Joshua Browne says: February 10, 20161:14 am

    Dear David,

    What’s the relationship between Cockney and OP? I’m with a Canadian theatre company and we’re developing a new piece on John Dee (Advisor to QEI, of The Queen’s Conjurer fame) He was an educated man, but his father was of the merchant class, and we’ve found some reference to him as “cockney”. I can’t seem to find a lot of info on the origin of the Cockney accent, and whether what was referred to then as “cockney” is anywhere near what it sounded like in 19th and 20th centuries. Was OP only spoken by a certain class of people? Was Cockney contemporary with OP? Which would Dee have spoken? Or neither?

    With love,
    A confused and ignorant Colonial.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    OP is the sound system of Early Modern English, not an individual accent – just as today, we all speak Modern English in different accents. So, I understand a Cockney speaker because we both share the same basic system, even though there are all sorts of phonetic differences between the way I speak and the way a Cockney speaks. It would have been the same in 1600. Everyone used the same sound system, or phonology, but regionally it would have varied in all sorts of subtle ways. Unfortunately, those who wrote on pronunciation at the time say little about local variations, so all we can do is guess. When we did Romeo in OP at the Globe,we had a Scottish tinged Juliet, a Northern Ireland tinged Peter – and a Cockney tinged Nurse. We simply allowed them to speak in their own accent on top of the OP, and it worked fine. The same would work for Dee, if the evidence you’ve gathered suggests that he was a Cockney.

    [Reply]

  33. James Wallace says: February 5, 20161:09 am

    Dear David,
    I’m looking at a John Donne poem which has the word “poll” (as in cutting the branches of trees), and I think it is a play on the word ‘Paul’ (referring to St Paul’s Cathedral) – am I right in thinking that the two words would have sounded even more alike in OP than they do now?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    ‘poll’ would have had a long /o:/, rhyming with ‘soul’ in Hamlet. ‘Paul’ would have been like it is today. So there’s a distinctive feature of difference between them (long mid-close back vs long mid-open back). The two words would be slightly more alike than today, therefore, as there was no diphthong in ‘poll'; but there was still a difference. There are many rhymes in OP separated by a single d.f. (I’ll be listing these on the website that accompanies the forthcoming – in March – Oxford Dictionary of OP) which suggests that the Elizabethan ear was more tolerant of nearly-alike rhymes than we are today. But, in the final analysis, whether it’s justified to view two words as a pun depends on literary not linguistic reasoning.

    [Reply]

  34. Gilles Dierickx says: December 29, 201510:03 am

    Dear David

    I am a Belgian student of English literature and linguistics and for an assignment, I’m analysing P.B. Shelly’s “Lift not the painted veil which those who live”.

    Can you perhaps tell me if ‘love’ rhymed with ‘approve’, and ‘strove’ with ‘move’, in the days of Shelley? It is quite important for my analysis and I did not find anything useful about pronunciation around 1800 so far.

    Thank you very much!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    These words are shown as not rhyming in John Walker’s English Pronouncing Dictionary, very popular in the years around 1800, and also in his Rhyming Dictionary. By this time, English spelling had standardised to such an extent that it was possible for poets to exploit such notions as visual rhyme and half rhyme in a way that was not possible in Shakespeare’s day, which is what Shelley must be doing here. I can’t see anything in his biography that would suggest regional variants in use.

    [Reply]

  35. Stephen Doiron says: December 26, 20155:38 pm

    First, let me join the chorus singing praises to your work. Thank you. In your reply to Tim Keenan on October 18th, 2015 you suggest that “the basic shape of this accent can be applied until the mid-17th century” adding that “I’ve used it for Purcell, but no later.” Well, Purcell was active until very near the end of the century, and as I’m in the midst of preparing for a semester’s study of late 17th century plays, I’m wondering at what point OP might not have been prevalent. Here I offer as an example timeline: Aphra Behn’s “Abdelazer” (1676); Thomas Otway’s “The Orphan” (1680); Behn’s “Like Father, Like Son” (1682) or her later “The Emperor of the Moon” (1687); and, finely, Thomas Southerne ‘s “The Fatal Marriage” (1694).

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    ‘…at what point OP might not have been prevalent’? There is always an OP. All OP means is the original pronunciation of a particular period – so there is an OP of 400 years ago, or 40 years ago, and so on. It’s perfectly possible to reconstruct the OP that would have been used during the later decades of the 17th century, as there’s plenty of information available, but I’ve never done this, as my focus has been at the other end of the century, where there’s more than a lifetime’s work to do. Whenever people have asked me about Purcell – one of the commonest queries, in fact – I’ve therefore used Shakespearean OP as a starting point and taken further the trends in pronunciation that were happening at the time, such as ‘musisian’ becoming ‘musishian’, and taking account of the evidence provided by the rhymes and contemporary writers. I’ve looked at the rhymes in Purcell, and these suggest that the system hadn’t shifted that much, but I’ve not done this for the other writers you mention, or for anyone else in the decades around 1700. It would certainly have moved perceptibly more in the direction of modern English. Information about general trends in pronunciation throughout the period can be found in the standard texts, such as Dobson and Barber.

    [Reply]

  36. Courtney says: December 13, 20156:10 pm

    Hi, David! I so appreciate the work you and your son, Ben, do! Your expertise has been helpful as I teach 12th grade English (British Literature) in Upstate New York.
    My question for you is: In the first two lines of Aphra Behn’s “On Her Loving Two Equally,” the words “flow” and “two” are supposed to rhyme. Did they in fact rhyme in the late 1600s, and if so, how were they pronounced? Thanks!!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    They wouldn’t have rhymed, in the sense of having exactly the same vowels, nor would they a century before. Flow in the First Folio rhymes with go, know, woe; two with woo, you. There’s no overlap. This seems to fit the near-rhyme pattern of other couplets in the Behm poem – god/blood, is/miss, and probably prove/love. Of course, the /o:/ of flow nd the /u:/ of two are not phonologically very far from each other – just one distinctive feature (mid-close vs close) – and it’s possible to see the same level of auditory distinction in the other examples – is and miss are distinguished just by voicing, and god and blood by a similarly small height difference. Prove had long and short variants still, in the mid 16th century, and if you assume the long form here then you would have to deal with it as an eye-rhyme. My view, which I go into in more detail in the introduction to my forthcoming Dictionary, is that there was a greater tolerance of rhyme variation in the 16th century, compared to today, with people more ready to accept a single distinctive feature difference as not disturbing the perception of a rhyme.

    [Reply]

    Courtney Reply:

    Thank you! Very helpful. I look forward to using your dictionary!

    [Reply]

  37. Andrew Legge says: November 21, 20159:41 pm

    I notice Gertrude as pronounced Gartrood. I look at many parish records and these reveal sound chances quite often as the spelling is so unorthodox. One regularity especially in place names is that as early as the first registers VrC and possibly CrV followed by a syllable containing r loses the first r though analogy can later add it back. This turns Chelmersford into Chelmsford, Barlborough into Balbrough, governor to govnor, etc and possibly Crambridge into Cambridge but would also change Gartrude into Gatrude. My ancestors called the girls “Gatty” as a nickname for Gertrude. I also note the u in such words as Gertrude and true is still pronounced iw in the East Midlands so that through and threw are not homophones and would therefore assume an EME pronunciation as Gatriwd. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    It’s possible, I suppose, but there’s nothing in the First Folio spellings to indicate such features (Gertrude is always spelled in that way). I don’t recall any instance in the FF (I haven’t looked beyond) of a word normally pronounced with an /r/ being spelled without the . And I suspect the /iw/ pronunciation is a tad too phonetic to have attracted the attention of the orthoepists. Any references would be welcome. Proper names, of course, often do break the usual phonological rules.

    [Reply]

  38. Graeme Tearle says: November 21, 20154:30 am

    Dear David.
    The English folk song “Three Maidens A Milking Did Go/Drink Down The Moon” rhymes “know” with “two” . Twin, twice, twain etc still pronounce the /w/, and Robbie Burns pronounces the word as “twa”, so should I pronounce it as written, and make the rhyme? Maddie Prior didn’t.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    ‘two’, with the /t/ pronounced and the /o:/ rhyming with ‘know’ was a pronunciation once upon a time, as Old English ‘twa’ gradually changed to Modern /tu:/ during the Middle Ages. The changes had taken place by Shakespeare’s time, but the older forms remained in several dialects, such as the Scots you mention. So, depending on the age of the folksong, a rhyme was perfectly normal. And, of course, it’s always possible for a folk singer to deliberately adopt an earlier pronunciation.

    [Reply]

  39. Kayleen Sanchez says: November 13, 20159:53 pm

    Dear David,

    My voice and lute duo, BEDLAM, is beginning a tour of 16th century Scottish and English lute songs this month. We released an album earlier this year of mostly 16th century Scottish songs, and took a stab at the Scottish English OP. We are using OP for our upcoming program as well (mostly songs of Thomas Campion), and I am wondering if you might have any thoughts on singing OP. Would the letter r still be hard, or would it be flipped or rolled?

    We have very much enjoyed reading this website. Thank you for the wonderful work that you do!

    All the best,
    Kayleen

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    ‘r’ clearly had several phonetic values at the time, much as it does today, and retroflex and trilled variants would have been among them. Ben Jonson says the sound ‘hirreth’ (trembling). I use the retroflex variant in my OP recordings, unless there is a regional motivation for the other. So, in Ben’s Henry V at the Globe last July, both the Scotsman and the Welshman were given trills. I suspect that trilling was much more widespread in those days, but the evidence is lacking. So, either would be a plausible reading, it seems to me. I suggest try both and see which comes across best.

    [Reply]

  40. Nat Whilk says: November 2, 20159:43 pm

    How were the letters of the alphabet (as from a hornbook) pronounced? “A per se, a; t, h, e, the; o per se o…” “I” is “I,” but were the other vowels “sharp”? What did “B,” “D,” and “T” rhyme with? Was the dog’s letter called “ur” or “ruh”?

    Many thanks. I have long admired and enjoyed your work.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    No evidence in the FF for rhymes, apart from H (with ache). Sixteen named letters turn up (no J, K, N, Q, R, S, V, W, X, Y). In the absence of any explicit comment from contemporary writers that I know of, I’ve assumed the same pron as today, as filtered through EME phonology. So, ‘B’, for example, as ‘bee’ but with the vowel more open than today. ‘I’ with the same centralised diphthong as in ‘my’. ‘O’ a pure vowel. A rhotacised ‘R’. And so on. Don’t know what you mean by ‘sharp’.

    [Reply]

    Nat Whilk Reply:

    Many thanks.

    As I should have said, I borrowed ‘sharp’ from Ben Jonson’s English Grammar. I am not sure how he distinguishes Time and Tune.

    ‘All our vowels are sounded doubtfully. In quantitie, (which is Time) long or short. Or, in accent (which is Tune) sharp, or, flat.

    ‘Long in these words, and their like: Debating, congeling, expiring, opposing, enduring.

    ‘Short in these: Stomaching, severing, vanquishing, ransoming, picturing.

    ‘Sharp in these: Hate, mete, bite, note, pule.

    ‘Flat in these: hat, met, bit, not, pull.’

    Of E, he says:

    ‘When it is the last letter, and soundeth, the sound is sharp, as in the French i. Example in me, se, agre, ye, she, in all, saving the Article, the.’

    Of I:

    ‘As a Vowell in the former, or single Syllabes, it hath sometimes the sharpe accent, as in binding, minding, pining, whining, wiving, thriving, mine, thine.’

    Apologies for the ellipsis.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Ah, right. If this is Jonson, at the time ‘sharp’ in relation to accent meant ‘shrill’ or ‘high-pitched’ (see OED), with ‘flat’ the opposite. So presumably the higher and fronter the vowel, the sharper it would be.

  41. Daniel Kaczyński says: October 28, 20157:35 pm

    I have two questions: how did Shakespeare pronounce the word “one”? Was it like “on”? How did he pronounce such words as “king” (like “kin”?) and “knock”? Thanks in advance.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    ‘one’ had three pronunciations: rhyming with ‘alone, throne’ etc, rhyming with ‘on’ (as in modern English), and an unstressed ‘un’ (as in modern ‘good ‘un’). ‘king’ was pronounced as in modern English – the reduction of ng to n applies only to verb forms. I assume in asking about ‘knock’ you’re interested in the initial k-. Pronouncing k- in such words would have been a very conservative pronunciation by Shakespeare’s time, and I don’t include it in my version of OP. The director of the OP Julius Caesar in Houston last year did however use it, so there are differences of opinion here.

    [Reply]

  42. Sarah Lambie says: October 15, 20155:16 pm

    Dear David,

    Have you a view on ‘solid’/’sullied’ (or indeed ‘sallied’) in Hamlet (I.ii.129) from pronunciation specifically? I am wondering whether, given the view that Q1 was likely to have been gathered from the memory of an actor and Q2 in part (Act 1 at least) seemingly referred to Q1, OP may throw up a hypothesis on the original word. Which did Ben choose for his OP Hamlet, or was the decision made on a sense rather than a sound basis? (I’ve had a look but can’t find that particular speech recorded online.)

    With thanks and very best wishes,
    Sarah

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    The vowel of ‘sullied’ would have been much further back and mid-close, and thus very close to the pronunciation of ‘solid’. Some people think it may even have been rounded, in which case the similarity would have been even greater. Probably it was the similarity in sound that led to the divergent lexical readings. I think I remember advising Ben, when he was playing Hamlet, simply to pronounce it as it was, and leave it to the audience to decide which interpretation to go for! ‘Sallied’ would have sounded very different, with an open unrounded vowel (like northern British English /a/.)

    [Reply]

    Sarah Lambie Reply:

    That’s exactly what I hoped you’d say, David, thank you so much! Best, Sarah

    [Reply]

  43. Tim Keenan says: October 11, 20159:40 am

    Dear David, thrilled to find this forum. I have two of your books on Shakespeare and have watched various YouTube videos featuring you and Ben. I introduced OP to drama students in Brisbane last year and they were fascinated. Actually they were supposed to watch one of your video demonstrations in a lecture, but the link wouldn’t work, so they had to do with my approximation. Having never tried it to an audience before I was surprised at how invigorating it was to perform, how right it sounded, as if the language itself was directing me. It’s an experience I would like to develop and now I’m back teaching in England (Liverpool Hope) I’m wondering are there any short courses I could attend?

    I really meant to research that properly, but as I was going to ask my main question anyway I thought you wouldn’t mind if I added it. My main question is this. When was the next significant shift in pronunciations? My research area is theatrical performance and production in the Restoration and I’m wondering whether we can still apply OP to the 1660s and beyond? Best wishes, Tim Keenan.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I think the basic shape of this accent can be applied until the mid-17th century, allowing for certain developments (such as the musi-see-an type of word becoming musi-she-an). I’ve used it for Purcell, but no later. I think by the 18th century, the accent was very close to Modern English. Walker’s Dictionary in the 1770s shows only isolated words very different from today. Probably the RP that developed during his lifetime would seem very conservative by present-day standards.

    I don’t do courses as such, but am happy to provide occasional Skype tutorials to those who want to check their private study is going on the right lines. Passion in Practice might put one on in due course. I’ll suggest it.

    [Reply]

    Tim Keenan Reply:

    Many thanks for your reply and apologies for the tardiness of mine. I’ll follow up your Passion in Practice suggestion. Tim

    [Reply]

  44. Nyhal says: October 7, 20158:59 am

    Good day to you, I recently watched your video on YouTube about the pronunciation of Op and I am really intrigued by your knowledge so I wonder if you could please help me? I am auditioning for L.A.M.D.A this year and I will need to perform a piece from Jacobean/Elizabethen times and told we can not use any of Shakespeare’s work. I have chosen “The Honest Whore” by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton. I chose the part of Hipolito when he is chastising Bellafront for being a lady of the night. I really want to perform this part to the best of my ability and want to pronounce every word as it should sound! Could you please offer any advise?
    Truly Gratefully
    Nyhal Adams

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Tutorial help for individual sounds is available on Paul Meier’s Shakespeare site. My own resource, the Oxford Dictionary of Shakespearean Pronunciation (OUP) isn’t out until March. That’ll have an audio file which will help for a fair number of the words in other writers of the period. For the moment, all you can do is listen as much as possible to the recorded texts already available, either on this site or (for example) the British Library CD. If there’s a specific word or two that you can’t solve, use this forum.

    [Reply]

  45. Alex de Valera says: October 5, 20155:32 pm

    Dear David,
    I am lute player and I am confronted with the rhymes of a song by John Dowland in which they just don’t work in modern pronunciation. While rehearsing last week the singer asked me about the pronunciation and the only thing I could say was that English pronunciation differs wildly around the globe and was certainly different in Elizabethan times. This is the beginning song below
    Come away, come sweet love,
    the golden morning breaks
    All the Earth, all the ayre
    of love and pleasure speakes
    And my question is, should speaks rhyme with the modern pronunciation of breaks ?
    I just downloaded a 12 page article you wrote on the subject, and I saw you and your son at the Globe talking on the rhymes and puns of Romeo and Juliet. Fascinating!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Rhymes with cheek, break, and deck show that speak had a variety of pronunciations at the time, so yes, in this song I would go for the mid-open front vowel for both forms.

    [Reply]

  46. marisa marino says: September 21, 20159:39 pm

    Hello I live in Argentina ,I´m a student of music and singer ,I need information about english word pronunciation during elizabeth´s period because i´m performing John Dowland´s Songs .thank you a lot!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    This is too big a question to answer in a blog post. Can you be more specific? My Oxford Dictionary of Shakespearean Pronunciation will be a help for contemporary composers, containing about 20,000 words, but it’s not out until next March. In the meantime, listening to the OP Sonnets, for example, will tune your ear in, and there are some tutorial materials online (such as at Paul Meier’s website).

    [Reply]

  47. Kenneth R. Beesley says: August 25, 20154:06 pm

    In the 19th century, Alexander J. Ellis tackled the challenge of resurrecting Shakespeare’s pronunciation, producing “On Early English Pronunciation, with special Reference to Shakespeare and Chaucer.” Has his work proved useful in the current Original Pronunciation movement?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Oh yes, along with several other early enthusiasts, such as Daniel Jones. I’ve a complete review in a paper on my website”‘Early interest in Shakespearean Original Pronunciation’.

    [Reply]

  48. Kenneth R. Beesley says: August 24, 20154:25 pm

    What was the OP pronunciation of “again”?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Rhymes with words like pain and men show a double pronunciation – just as in modern English.

    [Reply]

  49. Kenneth R. Beesley says: August 24, 20153:58 pm

    Fascinating work. In OP, was “been” pronounced to rhyme with modern “bin,” “ben,” or “seen”?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Rhymes with words like seen and with sin suggest those two – much as in modern English.

    [Reply]

  50. David Crystal says: August 14, 20159:27 am

    What people are saying about OP (August 2015)

    on Open Culture

    on ActuaLitté

    [Reply]

  51. Melinda Hall says: July 11, 20156:25 pm

    Hi David,
    I’ve been sharing your work with some of my clients and they love your “THINK ON MY WORDS”. I noticed the link pages to the Transcriptions tab are inactive links (the dreaded Room 404 error!)
    Are they available anywhere else?
    Kindly,
    Melinda

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out.

    [Reply]

  52. Yaroslav Levchenko says: July 2, 20154:08 am

    Yesterday I stumbled upon your and Ben’s programmes on the OP in Youtube. I myself am an admirer of Robert Herrick, who, though a little bit more modern, must share many OP peculiarities with Shakespeare. His rhymes ‘approve’–’love’, beget’–’heat’, ‘tear’–’anywhere’ have always made me wonder how those vowels were actually pronounced. My guess was that ‘love’ was articulated as ‘loov’, ‘heat’ as ‘het’, and ‘tear’ as ‘tare’.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I wouldn’t expect there to be much difference from Shakespearean OP. Heat must have had a more open vowel – it rhymes with get and sweat in Venus and Adonis, for example. Tear [from the eye] had two pronunciations, as shown by many rhymes – one like today (with the /r/ pronounced) and the other like ‘tare’. The vowel in approve was described as short by contemporary writers, though some do recognize a longer variant regionally.

    [Reply]

  53. Jennifer Geizhals says: June 21, 20154:06 pm

    Jennifer Geizhals writes: Here are the details regarding our small OP event, which will take place in New York City in late July. Our project is part of the NYU Grad Acting Alumni Summer Festival for works in development. We will be presenting an hour-long presentation of a selection of scenes from “As You Like It,” all to be performed in the OP. We will begin the evening with a quick introduction to the OP movement and its history, and each scene will be prefaced with a few OP tidbits (e.g. words to listen for, old puns and rhymes that arise). I will be narrating the event as well as playing Rosalind. The rest of the cast is be composed of NYU alumni and faculty. Louis Scheeder, , Associate Dean of Faculty at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and Daniel Spector, Associate Director at Tisch Classical Studio, will be co-directing this project. Shane Ann Younts, Associate Arts Professor at NYU Tisch Grad Acting, will be our vocal consultant. We will be performing on Wed, 7/29, and Thurs, 7/30, at 7PM in the Circus Room on the 5th Floor at 721 Broadway.

    If you know of anyone that might be interested in attending this event, please have them email me at jen2kam@gmail.com so that I can include them on our guest list.

    [Reply]

  54. Corvin says: June 3, 20156:14 pm

    I have a question. Were “loins” and “lines” indistinguishable in pronunciation in OP? If so, by what processes did they later re-differentiate in late modern English pronunciation? Surely, subsequent sound shifts would have applied equally to them in the absence of other conditioning factors. Was there a process of renorming based on historical pronunciation as reflected in orthography, or was subsequent differentiation the result of countervailing dialect influence?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, they were – hence the pun in the Romeo prologue. Evidence lies in spellings such as biles, byle, byles for boils (n) and rhymes such as groin / swine. Why the later developments? Spelling pronunciation probably pushed loins towards its modern form. But I wouldn’t rule out some sort of dialect influence either. It would make an interesting study to take a set of ‘oi’ words and follow them through. It;s not something I’ve ever done myself.

    [Reply]

  55. Tom Delise says: May 29, 201512:46 pm

    Hi David,

    Just wanted to report on the tremendous success of the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s production of The Merchant of Venice last month. Thanks so much for the help and guidance you gave us, and we are so appreciative that we were able to have come and work with our actors on perfecting the accent.

    People in the Baltimore area were extremely interested in hearing the accent. We broke all our attendance records, and we had many people travel from beyond the Baltimore area to see the show. The actors in the production also loved speaking the OP and could not keep it out of their regular conversations, and it unlocked new meanings for our actors in all the ways you describe on your website.

    In addition, we gathered a great deal of feedback from our audiences. We distributed comment cards to all audience members to fill out and we held talkbacks with the actors after each show. The feedback from the audiences was overwhelmingly positive. We heard over and over that the accent actually helped them understand the play. It is very clear that audiences want more OP!
    As a result of this production, we have decided to do an OP production of The Winter’s Tale next spring.

    For all the artistic directors out there, I cannot recommend doing an OP production highly enough.

    Thanks David and Ben for helping us with this exciting experience.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Congratulations, Tom. Delighted to hear it was such a success.

    [Reply]

  56. Kevin Flynn says: May 29, 20158:49 am

    David, I was wondering if you had ever heard reference to the programme broadcast in the BBC National Programme at 10 pm on 6 December 1937 and billed as follows in the Radio Times:

    EXPERIMENTAL HOUR — TAKE YOUR CHOICE
    A Scene from ‘ Twelfth Night ‘ in modem and in Elizabethan speech
    Shakespearean pronunciation by F. G. Blandford
    Act 1, Scene 5
    When London Calling A.D. 1600, broadcast in April, 1936, was discussed between the producer, M. H. Allen , and the author, Herbert Farjeon , the latter happened to mention that he had seen F. G. Blandford ‘s production of Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene 5, in Elizabethan English at the Festival Theatre, Cambridge. It was decided to ask Mr. Blandford to do a scene for this broadcast, and he came up from Cambridge and took the rehearsals. It was one of the most effective things in London Calling, which conjectured what listeners might have heard had broadcasting been invented in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
    Now Miss [M.H.] Allen and Miss [Barbara] Burnham are going to produce part of Act 1, Scene 5, first in modem English pronunciation and then in Elizabethan pronunciation, the scene which Mr. Blandford gave at Cambridge. The producers believe that, spoken in this way, Shakespeare has a music and rhythm which Edith Evans, almost alone among actresses, gives it today. In the Elizabethan version the girls’ parts will be played by boys as they were played in Shakespeare’s day.

    I’d never realized that an interest in producing Shakespeare using the OP went back so far. It would be fascinating to know what the “1936-7 version” sounded like!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, indeed. I have an article exploring these first explorations. The one you mention was one o several. You can find it on my website, http://www.davidcrystal.com: go to Books and Articles, and filter on Shakespeare. It’s called ‘Early interest in Shakespearean original pronunciation’. The British Library has some early recordings in its sound archive.

    [Reply]

  57. Matt says: May 21, 20153:38 pm

    David, you are truly amazing! I love soaking up all of your information about OP and other linguistic topics. I hope that I can have the privilege of one day seeing an OP production. As a high school English teacher, this stuff makes me tingle with joy in hopes of being able to share it with my students and make Shakespeare come to life.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Don’t forget you can see the OP Dream on DVD now. Contact details in the Archive. And I’m hoping more filmed material will become available over the next year or so. Ben’s OP Pericles in Stockholm was filmed, but it needs some funding to get it into a publishable form.

    [Reply]

  58. Rebecca Winters says: May 21, 20153:33 am

    Dear David,

    I am a graduate student doing a close reading of a passage from The Merchant Of Venice, and I was wondering if you could clear up a couple of OP questions for me. First of all, would the words “voice” and “vice” be pronounced the same? As far as I can tell (from looking at your transcriptions) they would be, but I wanted to make sure. Secondly, would the word “guiled” from Bassanio’s speech in which he chooses the lead casket have been pronounced anything like “gilt” or “gilded”?

    Thanks so much!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Voice/vice: yes, these were homophones, like loins/lines in R&J prologue, etc. Lots of punning possibilities, therefore – as long as the context motivates the pun, of course. Guiled: this would have been ‘guy-lid, with the first element of the diphthong a central vowel (the quality of ‘the’), so to modern ears auditorily quite distant from the /i/ of ‘gilt’ or ‘gilded’. But to Elizabethan ears? The difference was solely in that central opening to the diphthong, which (in phonological terms) could be analysed as a single distinctive feature of difference, and there are lots of examples in Shakespeare of words rhyming even though they are one distinctive feature apart (eg ‘go’ and ‘do’). So I guess the answer is ‘maybe’.

    [Reply]

    Rebecca Winters Reply:

    Thank you so much, this is great information!

    [Reply]

  59. Sara Tombolis says: April 28, 201510:44 am

    Dear David,
    Sorry to bother you when I know you must be very busy. I just wanted to ask a quick question about a specific feature of EME pronunciation. Do you think it would have been possible for ‘mutton’ in Touchstone’s line ‘And is not the grease of a mutton as wholesome as the sweat of a man?'(AYLI 3,2,line53) to have been pronounced ‘mon/man’, ie with the double t in the middle of the word suppressed (a bit like in Cockney English today)? Do you think this would be a plausible assumption, particularly given the speed generated by witty repartee in performance? Thank you in advance for all your help with this- I’d be very interested to have your opinion as I’ve used your work extensively for my current project and have found it both fascinating and of incalculable value. So once again, thank you.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Occasional spelling variations suggest that mid consonants (such as h, v, t) have been dropped in English since the Middle Ages, and these are often shown by an apostrophe in Early Modern English. Orthoepists (such as Puttenham) do sometimes mention that some consonants are elided. That /t/ was sometimes lost is shown by such spellings as cursie (curtsy), instantly (instantly), and the dropping of the /t/ at the end of the -est ending, as in woulds thou. So I think glottalization of /t/ in words like mutton and cotton would be perfectly plausible. I don’t know of anyone saying it was a socially undesirable feature until the end of the 18th century. But note that the replacement by a glottal stop does’t alter syllable structure, so that a transcription like mon/man would be misleading.

    [Reply]

  60. Emanuel E. Garcia says: March 4, 20156:05 pm

    Dear David,

    I’ve been a student of Old and Middle English and fascinated with Shakespeare and the work on OP.

    I decided when mounting a production of Hamlet for the Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe here in Eastbourne, New Zealand (Wellington region), that I would play Polonius using OP, for several reasons — the colour of OP would lend this character, often done a misjustice by simplification, greater resonance, and to set him a bit apart as well. He is, after all, qutie a powerful figure at the court of Denmark, a man capable of perfidy, snooping — and also paternal and national love. In short, a complex Shakespearean personage.

    Having read your work, listened to the Shakespeare OP CD, and having sent you a recording of my attempts at OP and received your feedback, I feel I am reasonably approximating it. The reaction of my cast has been very positive, and now that we have opened, the response from the audience excellent. They have no greater problem understanding Polonius and possibly the best reaction has been from an audience member who said she simply didn’t think it anything exceptional she was so caught up in the drama of the play, of Polonius’ character, etc.

    As you note there is a great deal of variety within OP, and I have attempted to take advantage of this.

    My very personal feeling is that it takes me into the soul of Polonius as neither the Received Pronunciation of modern Britain or what would be my natural American pronunciation would achieve, and I am most grateful for your help.

    A member of the crew filming our production for youtube is an OP enthusiast, coincidentally, and an audience member expressed the desire to hear the entirety of Hamlet and other Shakespearean works in OP after last night’s show.

    Manny

    [Reply]

  61. Julie Rush says: February 23, 201512:33 am

    Dear David, our son is studying a short set of lines to perform in class (high school) from “Romeo and Juliet”. He is doing the 15-line speech from Friar Laurence that begins with “Holy Saint Francis!” How would the name “Jesu” have been pronounced in OP? Thank you so much!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    It would be gee-zyoo, with the stress on the first syllable. All instances in the First Folio are spelled Iesu – apart from Fluellen, who has a regional pronunciation reflected in the spellings Cheshu and Ieshu.

    [Reply]

  62. Robert W M Greaves says: February 11, 20155:28 am

    Dear David, I’m reading ‘The Faerie Queene’ and am just wondering whether there are any OP recordings of parts of it.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I don’t know of anything, I’m afraid. It would be an interesting project.

    [Reply]

  63. Name says: November 30, 201411:58 am

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfTdeE_KavI

    Dear David – I have transcribed Marc Anthony text with phoetic symbols – mainly to assist my intended OP delivery. Pity that my technicalities have resulted it poorly. However I am grateful for all I have managed to pick up so far from you as well as from Ben. Alas, the still slim care for OP here in Hungary diverts modern translators onto a Hungarian language lacking richness and variety, but serving only contrievd actualizations. Not a soltary tendency I presume.

    [Reply]

  64. Kathy Fey says: October 31, 20141:09 pm

    I’ve been working on a number of Elizabethan songs and I am wondering how other singers handle the long-“i” diphthong when it’s sustained, as with the word “die” held for many beats. It seems the convention in modern English is to sustain the first half of the diphthong — singing “daaaaaaah-ee”… But the schwa needed for Early Modern English feels fairly unglamorous when sustained (as in, “duuuuuuuh-ee”). I feel like the way to go is “duh-eeeeeee” or some other blend in the timing of the diphthong… I’m curious what other OP singers recommend. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Interesting question. Can’t think of anything in the linguistic literature of the time that would help answer it. I imagine one would read in principles from singing generally, where vowels tend to be more open than in everyday speech. So a value approaching [a] for the first element may well have been the singing norm anyway. Maybe someone who knows about the history of singing practices could add something here.

    [Reply]

    Keith Brander Reply:

    We (a madrigal group) are performing Thomas Ravenscroft – Song of Simeon which rhymes “earnestly” and “die”. We are uncertain about how to pronounce the latter. Any advice?
    Many thanks

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    The -y ending would have rhymed with the ending of ‘die’. This is a very common feature of OP – heard to great effect in Oberon’s speech ‘Flower of this purple dye’ in Dream – and it lasted as a conservative pronunciation well into the 18th century. I have a blog post on Blake’s use of it in Tyger Tyger… < http://david-crystal.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/on-burning-poetic-question.html>.

  65. Hendrik Ahrend says: October 22, 20145:15 pm

    Dear David,

    preparing to sing some Christmas carols with a little choir here in Germany, I stumbled across a little problem in the beautiful old carol “Ged rest ye merry gentlemen”, from the 15th cent. In all verses the second, forth and sixth line seem to rime, not so in the fifth verse. I expect “wind” to sound pretty much like wi:nd. What about “mind” and “find”? I’d appreciate any suggestions.

    BTW, here are the lyrics:

    The shepherds at those tidings
    Rejoiced much in mind,
    And left their flocks a-feeding
    In tempest, storm and wind:
    And went to Bethlehem straightway
    The Son of God to find.
    O tidings of comfort and joy,
    Comfort and joy
    O tidings of comfort and joy

    Thanks a lot, kind regards,
    Hendrik Ahrend

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    ‘Wind’ rhymed exactly like ‘mind’ and ‘find’ in those days – indeed, as a poetic pronunciation, it stayed for centuries, and may even be encountered today. The first part of the diphthong had a more central vowel quality, like the vowel in ‘the’, not the more modern open vowel. An interesting point of assonance is that by Shakespeare’s time the diphthongs in ‘find’ etc were the same as those in ‘joy’, so there’s a chiming throughout almost the whole of this verse.

    [Reply]

  66. Ed Durbrow says: September 23, 20142:25 pm

    I am an American lute player working with a Lithuanian singer. We have a few English songs we want to do next, among them Now O Now, Move Now With Measured Sound and Sweet kate. I don’t want to take up too much space, so but I’ll limit myself to some questions about sweet Kate. Yet and fitte must rhyme. I was thinking short i like bit, but then the spelling of fit makes me wonder. Words and swords I assume word is like ward rhyming to sword. Deller pronounces the w in sword in his recording. Is this correct? There is an i sound in many words: abide, cride, die, I, denying, trying. Are they all similar? Is it a diphthong like in the word coin or side?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, ‘yet’ would have sounded more like ‘bit’. There are lots of spelling alternations between ‘e’ and ‘i’ which point in that direction. ‘Word’ has the vowel of ‘sword’, with the ‘r’ pronounced, of course. Silent consonants of the ‘sword’, ‘know’ type were on their way out by the end of the 16th century, and I don’t use them in my transcriptions; but some commentators still mention them at the beginning of the 17th century, presumably in older, conservative speakers, so you have a choice here. (Holofernes would certainly have pronounced them.) And anything with the modern diphthong of ‘side’ (which turns up in all the words you list) would have begun with a schwa. You’ll hear examples in the various recordings available on this site and also at http://www.pronouncingshakespeare.com.

    [Reply]

  67. Steffen Schaub says: September 22, 201411:08 am

    In September 2014, the university of Marburg hosted the 2nd congress of the German Association for Applied Linguistics. We were fortunate to have David Crystal as one of our invited plenary speakers. In his talk entitled “Tales of the linguistically unexpected: applying historical phonology – or, Shakespeare as you’ve never heard him before”, he reported to a mixed audience of (applied) linguists, students and school children about his exciting work on Shakespeare productions in OP.

    Visitors to this website will surely be interested to know that we recorded the full talk, which you are invited to watch on YouTube here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=X7G34hCxKdU
    (Please excuse the less-than-ideal sound quality)

    We hope that you enjoy the talk as much as we did, and welcome your comments and feedback.

    [Reply]

  68. Caleb Rogers says: September 15, 20143:49 am

    I am an Episcopalian living in high Tennessee and I wonder if the OP might be applied on the oldest, Anglican Liturgy to similar effect, whyle both shakespeare and the Church of England are products of the Elizabethan Era, if I am not mistaken.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, the OP approach can be applied to any historical period. The earlier 16th century (for the Book of Common Prayer and related literature) would have a system closer to William Tyndale. I mention him because there is a recorded example available, in the form of the British Library CD of Matthew’s Gospel, which I made for them a couple of years ago (and which is available via their online shop – ISBN 9780712351270). There are several notable differences from the OP of Shakespeare’s time, such as the pronunciation of initial ‘silent’ consonants in such words as ‘know’. ‘Gnashing of teeth’ sounds very different with the ‘g’ sounded!

    [Reply]

  69. Kate Crombie says: September 4, 20149:49 pm

    Dear Mr Crystal,
    I was so incredibly grateful when you recorded the dialogue from my monologue as Ariel in ‘The Tempest’ for me. The difference in my performance since using OP is astounding. Firstly, my lines became much easier to memorise and they seem to flow more naturally. I first attempted a common British accent at first, however as an Australian this accent seemed very light and superficial. Since I started using OP my performance has much more depth and meaning. I’m mere weeks away from my exam, and I feel comfortable and prepared because of your kindness in recording in OP for me and your wonderful research! Many thanks and congratulations on all you have done.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    A plezer. Interesting point about greater ease of memorability. I remember some of the Globe company saying the same thing. I’m not sure why OP should have this effect, unless it’s something to do with the point about flow.

    [Reply]

  70. Letizia says: August 3, 20149:19 am

    Just a quick note to say congratulations. Your work is fascinating and exciting. I am not a native English speaker and I find original pronunciation easier to understand, more natural and more enjoyable.
    With respect and admiration.
    Letizia

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Thank you. I’ve been interested to note the number of L2 speakers who have expressed similar sentiments about intelligibility.

    [Reply]

  71. Ali Neill says: July 28, 201412:00 pm

    Dear David,
    I was at a party yesterday and I started telling some people about certain linguistic mutations in the English language, and some of the quirky origins of English words (a lot of which I read in your books). I was telling them about how the English alphabet has evolved a lot since the middle ages and that the Normand scribes didn’t recognize the spirant “th” sound, so they replaced it with a “y” However, the words were never pronounced “y” (like “ye old English”) and one girl asked me ” how do we know how words were pronounced back then?”. I have no idea, and I was hoping you could tell me.
    Sincerely,
    Ali Neill

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    The principles are the same as in the case of Shakespeare. One looks for rhymes, wordplay, metrical patterns and so on. But the further back one in time goes, the poorer the evidence is (no dictionaries or commentators), and so one has to fall back on first principles. We begin by establishing the way the first missionaries wrote English down, using the Latin alphabet, and postulate a system of sounds reflected in the spellings they used. Useful evidence comes from noting the way dialect variations were reflected in those spellings. From there we follow the evolution of spellings, making deductions about the kinds of sound they must have represented, and using our knowledge of phonetics and phonology to evaluate plausibility. Historical linguists – and earlier, comparative philologists – have a great deal of experience in this kind of deduction. One knows the sort of thing that happens in everyday language change, and this knowledge can be put to work for periods like early Middle English, where there is very little textual material to go on. If all our deductions are right, we will end up with a chain of sound changes that will predict the way people spoke in later periods, where there is more evidence, and ultimately how we speak today. And as we know how we sound now, that provides a sort of retrospective nod that our reasoning worked.

    [Reply]

  72. Judith Roads says: July 23, 20146:30 am

    Dear David – I have just been blown away by your OP event of Macbeth at the Wanamaker Theatre. I’m a historical linguist (doctoral candidate in early Quaker language) and a former pro oboe player (I also have a baroque oboe). Is the OP world going down the historically informed world of music in offering OP for 19th century (Late Modern) etc performances? And how versatile will actors have to be in the way that players in music have had to become? The can of worms is delightfully open. As with the “authentic music” topic, there will be letters of complaint from some audiences!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    So far the OP ‘movement’ – I think we can call it that now – has focused on the 16th and 17th centuries, from Tyndale to Purcell. This wasn’t planned in any way: it has simply reflected people’s interests. At some point it needs to link up with those who have been performing earlier periods (Chaucer, Beowulf, and so on) in OP, and indeed, we need to explore the ‘applied historical linguistics’ of later centuries too. I haven’t done this myself, but when we think of examples of pronunciation change over the past couple of hundred years (‘balcony’ with the stress on the second syllable, ‘lord’ with a much more open vowel…) there are some very interesting choices waiting to be explored.

    The actors loved every moment of it. I don’t see the acquisition of an OP perspective as being any more difficult than accent work in general. After all, generations of actors were taught they had to lose their regional accent and work only in RP, which they did very successfully. OP is the same situation in reverse. It takes only a few hours, working with a company, to achieve a very high level of competence. Ben’s ensemble produced the best OP I’ve yet heard – and that included three actresses who didn’t have English as a mother-tongue. I’m delighted that you enjoyed Macbeth. I’ll be posting about the series shortly on my blog.

    [Reply]

  73. Igor Ruschel says: June 1, 20144:29 am

    Dear Professor,
    Thank you very much for your help! I personally opted for a more mildly retroflexed ‘r’ in most of the cases, rather than the trilled or flapped /r/ (in my opinion, these more forceful /r/ articulations go well with more dramatic parts or sometimes they help to make words clearer for the audience). It’s also important for me to give some freedom to the singers, especially if they think (incorrectly) that certain pronunciation or articulation is an imposed and strict rule. The main thing, I think, is always to have in mind that all the /r/ were pronounced back then, and that’s difficult, because the singers here are used to hear RP and to sing using RP. Nevertheless, it’s being a pleasing work! I just want to add that one of the most incredible and fascinating things is that some parts/songs of the opera became easier to sing with OP; it really works so well, in so many aspects! Thanks again and I wish you all the best! You really make the difference, also to us, musicians.
    Igor Ruschel

    [Reply]

  74. Igor Ruschel says: May 18, 20149:09 pm

    Dear Mr. Crystal,
    I am a musician/conductor from Porto Alegre, Brazil. Our University here is also preparing the Purcell’s Opera Dido & Aeneas, and since I research for quite some time about OP (and naturally have found your name and this site, among other materials made available by you – and I thank you very much for that!), I suggested that we could do the Opera using OP. The libretto, as you know, is all written in rhymes, therefore OP is essential to make them work properly. Gladly they accepted my suggestion! However, I have some questions yet, and if it would be possible, I would want you to answer them.
    • “A Tale so strong and full of woe
    Might melt the rocks as well as you”
    In this, woe was/is pronounced in order to rhyme with you; therefore, the “Oe” is pronounced
    as “ou” like in “wound”, right?
    • I have noticed that most of the words that contains “EAR” (appear, fear, spear…) are pronounced (to rhyme, again) the same way as “Bear” (/bɛə(ɹ)/). However, that happens always at the end of the verses. When it happens at the beginning, e.g. “Fear no Danger to ensue…” is the pronunciation of “Fear” also like “Bear”?
    • In “Pursued by his own hounds
    And after mortal wounds”,
    I have deduced the “hounds” would be pronounced, regarding the “ou”, as the same as “wounds”, and not otherwise, remaining close to the German word “Hund”, of almost same meaning. Is that deduction right/probable?
    • I have also doubts about the /r/ pronunciation, and I saw in your latest answer that you made some recording and transcription that are available via dropbox. How could I access them?
    In advance, I greatly thank you for your help, and I apologize for so many questions!
    Sincerely,
    Igor Ruschel

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I totally agree about the need to make the rhymes work, as the clash when they don’t is often very noticeable. There was a good example of this on BBC Radio 3 the other day, when a new version of Shakespeare’s The Phoenix and the Turtle was performed, and the choir presented us with a prominent ‘neither’ that failed to rhyme with an equally prominent ‘together’ (‘neither’ would have had a short ‘e’ vowel). Anyway, to your point:
    – ‘woe’ normally had its diphthongal quality, to rhyme with ‘go’, and this is how it’s normally heard in Shakespeare (where there are lots of rhymes), but there was an older alternative pronunciation, shows by such spellings as ‘woo’, where there would have been a rhyme with ‘you’. I doubt if this would shave been heard in everyday speech by Purcell’s time, but it would have been in poetic auditory memory – much as today we accept the occasional archaic rhyme in a nursery rhyme or Christmas carol (such as ‘wind’ rhyming with ‘find’).
    – ‘ear-words’ are more complex, as the rhymes show they had a range of possibilities (in Shakespeare ‘fear’ rhymes with words like ‘cheer’ and ‘deer’, on the one hand, and ‘there’ and ‘swear’ on the other). This kind of variation isn’t unusual. In modern English, we have ‘again’ rhyming with both ‘rain’ and ‘men’, for instance. So you have two options. You can either have the more open (‘there’) pronunciation for the rhymes and use the other pronunciation elsewhere. Or you can use the ‘there’-vowel throughout. Personally I go for consistency, unless there is a good reason for not doing so.
    – ‘wound’ was usually pronounced to rhyme with ‘sound’, ‘ground’, ‘hound’, and so on (these are all in Shakespeare), and this pronunciation stayed until the end of the 18th century. John Walker has it as one of two pronunciations in his Pronouncing Dictionary, and it was still there in early 19th century editions.
    – /r/ was still being pronounced after vowels – the ‘r’-less accent (Received Pronunciation) didn’t evolve until the end of the 18th century.

    Yes, anyone can hear the Purcell material, via Dropbox. What I have is a couple of audio files in which I talk about and illustrate the various vowel values, and several semi-transcriptions – that is, texts in which only the points of difference are noted. I’ll send an invitation.

    [Reply]

    Igor Ruschel Reply:

    Thank you very much, it was very enlightening! I’ve already accepted the invitation and I am studying the inestimable material you’ve made.
    With best regards,
    Igor Ruschel

    [Reply]

    Igor Ruschel Reply:

    Dear Professor!
    I come once more to ask you for advising. About the “r”, the only remaining question for me is that I’m used to hear singers (including British historically informed performers) pronounce the ‘r’ like an alveolar trill or an alveolar trap/flap in words such as “trouble”, “great”, “remember” (first ‘r’), “press’d”, etc.. I know that it has something to do with aesthetics and also, to me, brings a feeling of exaggeration, but is there any evidence suggesting that singers pronounced the ‘r’ that way (trill or flap) in certain words? Sometimes the singing pronunciation has some differences, so I don’t know. The first specific treatise about singing in English that I have found dates from 1771 (author: Anselm Bayly), and describes the ‘r’ as follows: “By turning the tip of the tongue quick along the roof of the mouth towards the throat, at the same time giving a jarring, tremulous sound; as in ore, roar” (pg.5). It seems like the same ‘r’ from Purcell’s time and before…
    Thank you very much for your assistance!
    Sincerely,
    Igor Ruschel

    David Crystal Reply:

    I don’t know the early singing literature, I’m afraid. But as far as general accounts of pronunciation are concerned, there is certainly evidence that a trilled /r/ was in use in the early 16th century. It would have been reinforced by the Scots accents that arrived in court in 1603. Ben Jonson, in his description of /r/ in his English Grammar, talks about the way the sound ‘hirreth’ – vibrates, in other words. I spent quite a while pondering whether to go for a trill or a retroflex /r/ in my transcriptions, and opted for the latter in the end. In song, then as now, I would expect there to have been some more forceful articulations, and a trilled /r/ would certainly have been one of the options.

    Tim Braithwaite Reply:

    Dear Sir,
    I am a young countertenor studying early music at Conservatoire. I am currently singing some Dowland songs with a lutenist and was wondering if it would be possible to be included in this dropbox as well? I hope I am not being too presumptuous, however it seems that every link about this topic sends me straight to your website! I am looking specifically at the /r/ in the word ‘more’. The song is Dowland’s Weep you no more sad fountains and any advice you had would be extremely appreciated!
    Thank you for your time,
    Tim Braithwaite

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    /r/ would certainly have been pronounced, though just how strong it would be in singing is anybody’s guess. Both trilled and retroflex forms were around in speech, so I suppose that option would be there in singing too.

    The Dropbox file I have relates to Purcell, though much of it would apply to Dowland.

  75. Viola Zucchi says: May 14, 201411:57 am

    Dear David,
    I am a singer in an Italian choir; we often sing Early and Baroque music, so as the text is usually in Latin or Italian we rarely have doubts about pronounciation. Anyway, we recently came to London to perform in St. John’s Smiths Square International A Cappella Competition, and some of the mandatory pieces were English motets by Sixteenth Century composers. So, as I graduated in Foreign Languages many years ago, I was asked to take care of the choir pronounciation, so began to wonder about OP. We didn’t have much time to study, so in the end I chose British Received Pronounciation for timing reasons.
    We are now going to sing Purcell’s Dido an Aeneas in a very important Early Music Festival in Germany and I would like to do a better with the choir pronunciation.
    So here’s my question, to which I really cannot find a quick answer anywhere:
    How did performers at Purcell’s time pronounce the “R”?
    Was it trilled or flipped or burred? In which syllables was it trilled or rolled? How was it pronounced at the end of words? What about the r-colored vowels?
    It would be a great help for us to get your advice about such a sensitive subject.
    Thank you, Viola from Costanzo Porta Choir.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I’m delighted to hear that you’re thinking of an OP approach. It can make such a difference, especially when lines noticeably don’t rhyme. All the evidence suggests that the postvocalic /r/ was still being sounded in Purcell’s time. It didn’t disappear from the south-eastern accent until late in the 18th century, when Received Pronunciation evolved. It’s phonetic quality is debatable, and probably there were as many variants around then as there are now. I would go for a mildly retroflexed /r/ – similar to the West Country accent in the UK or to much General American. If you want to hear this, along with the other features of the reconstructed accent of Purcell’s time, I have two informally recorded (ie on my home computer using QuickTime) audio files of the vowel qualities that I prepared for someone who was presenting some Purcell songs in OP a little while ago, along with a transcription and some recordings of the pieces, and these are available via Dropbox.

    [Reply]

  76. Ula Müller says: April 19, 20142:08 pm

    Dear David, when I was trying to find out more about the original pronunciation of the lyrics of John Dowlands “flow my tears”, I came across your fascinating work about Shakespeare and OP. Singing this air in a choir, we would love to come up with the origin idea behind the words and use the original pronunciation. At one point this is very difficult:

    Never may my woes be relieved,
    Since pity is fled;
    And tears and sighs and groans my weary days, my weary days
    Of all joys have deprived.

    Listening to your words and to my own feelings, I would pronounce the word “deprived” in this context like the word “believed” or “relieved”. But every native speaker I find on youtube would pronounce the i in deprived like the i in “live” or “like”. Now hopefully you have an idea how this word would have been pronounced in times when this tune was composed.Thank you very much,

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Rhyming evidence suggests that both ‘relieved’ and ‘deprived’ had alternative pronunciations with a short front vowel. In Pericles (5.Chorus 24) ‘relieve me’ rhymes with ‘give me’. And in Lucrece 1752 ‘deprived’ rhymes with ‘unlived’. OED also has a spelling of ‘deprive’ as ‘depriff’. So I’d suggest it would have been ‘re-live’ed’ and ‘de-priv-ed’, with both of the central syllables with the vowel as in ‘give’.

    [Reply]

    Ula Müller Reply:

    Thank you so much :)

    [Reply]

  77. Fiona Shea says: April 14, 20149:14 pm

    Hello! I’m currently playing Rosalind in a production of As You Like It (with the Homeschool Drama Troupe — we’re based in central New Hampshire) and just came across your marvelous book! I realized, first of all, just how much I had been missing (puns, jokes) in this play — and second, had a couple questions. I was think of playing with OP in our production — mostly in the pronunciation of Rosalind’s name. In the text (the way I would speak it in modern English) Orlando rhymes her name with both “ind” and “wind” and then with “lined” and “mind.” So I was just wondering which pronunciation of Rosalind’s name is correct in OP (rhyming either “mind” or “wind”) — and which is actually the incorrect (or joke) on her name. Or are they all pronounced the same way in OP and the lines would only be a joke in modern English? My other question is similar — would “have” rhyme with “slave,” or would “slave” rhyme with “have?”
    Thank you so much!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    All the ‘-ind’ words were pronounced in the same way – that is, rhyming with ‘find’. It’s definitely the second of your alternatives.

    And ‘slave’ was pronounced with a more open vowel – more like the vowel of ‘air’ (but without the r), which would have brought it very close to ‘have’, as the ‘a’ vowel was closer (almost like ‘hev’). So a slightly longer pronunciation of the ‘a’ in ‘have’ and a slightly clipped version of ‘slave’ would have made them almost identical.

    [Reply]

  78. Sally Mann says: April 13, 20147:30 pm

    Hello,
    I just heard you and your son on radio Studio 360. He mentioned that you will be doing a class or workshop in New York City. I am very Interested for the sake of my 2 sons, both actors, and for my
    husband and self, all Bard fans. My 18 year old is in a Shakespeare performance class and will be performing in May. Could you send me information on your class in NYC? Thank you so much!
    Best to you,
    Sally Mann in Brooklyn

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    This is Ben doing the US workshops. They’re listed on his Passion in Practice website (http://www.passioninpractice.com/workshops/), but for final details send him a message at bencrystal@mac.com.

    [Reply]

  79. Thomas Pryde says: April 1, 20143:20 am

    Mr. Crystal, how do you suppose the Mayflower pilgrims spoke? Would it have been similar to Shakespeare’s accent?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    They would have used the accents of the parts of the country the pilgrims came from. And this of course explains why there are differences between, say, New England and other places, as features such as final -r can be traced back to those British dialects. We don’t know what Shakespeare’s personal accent was, unfortunately – doubtless a mix of his native Warwickshire and his adopted London.

    [Reply]

  80. Emma says: February 28, 201410:34 pm

    My English teacher told me that when Macduff in Act II Scene III says “oh horror horror horror”, it is pronounced as “oh whore whore whore” in OP, which makes it alike to a pun as Macbeth replies with “twas a rough night’. However, my English teacher likes strong stories.
    Is this true?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    It would be a bit of a stretch to get to ‘whore’ from ‘horror’ in OP. ‘Whore’ puns with ‘hour’ – both pronounced a bit like modern English ‘oar’ (with r sounded) – hence the famous wordplay by Touchstone in As You Like It that makes Jaques laugh so much. ‘Whore’ has a long vowel; ‘horror’ has a short vowel. And while there may well have been articulations that reduced this disyllable to a monosyllable (as in some modern US accents) I think most speakers would shave respected the two beats in the word. Note that both words would have had the option of dropping the ‘h’, by the way.

    [Reply]

  81. Simon Cauchi says: January 29, 201410:59 pm

    Some extra examples of rhymes: from Richard Crashaw, “spoil” rhyming with “toil” and “smile”; from Sir Richard Fanshawe: “combine” rhyming with “joyne” and “coine” rhyming with “Wine”.

    [Reply]

  82. Simon Cauchi says: January 29, 20147:58 pm

    Re the Shakespearean or rather the Early Modern homophones vice/voice (and countless similar examples of the same vowel sounds combined with different consonants, e.g. bile/boil). Which of these in its modern pronunciation represents what was actually said? Presumably it was either /aj/ or /oj/ or might it have been something else?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I transcribe these with a central vowel (schwa) onset. It’s the only way I can see to explain the homophony, and it ties in well with opinions in historical phonology about how the diphthongs were changing during this period.

    [Reply]

  83. Mariacristina Moroni says: January 3, 20145:46 am

    Dear David,
    I’m going to graduate at Bologna’s University next March with a work about Dunster’s “Doctor Faustus” production at Globe in 2011.
    Could you please give me your opinion about “original pronunciation” in this production?
    Thanks a lot for your contribute!
    Mariacristina Moroni

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I’ve never explored the work of other dramatists from the period, I’m afraid, though the same principles would apply. If there IS anyone out there who has worked on Marlowe or others, from an OP point of view, it would be good to hear of it.

    [Reply]

  84. Mike Schufman says: January 2, 20148:48 pm

    Interesting to hear your thoughts on this! And yes, I did mean alveolar rather than dental. Thanks for your response! And of course you knew what I meant, though I didn’t have an example as good as ‘writer’ and ‘rider.’ :)

    Much appreciated.

    [Reply]

  85. Frost says: December 21, 201311:34 pm

    Hi, I’m trying to work out what the OP of Hecate would be from Macbeth, any help would be appreciated.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    There were two pronunciations. The usual one, supported by several metrical instances (eg MND 5.1.374) was two syllables, stress on the first syllable, with optional /h/. But 1H6 3.2.64 shows that the trisyllabic pronunciation was also in use, harking back to the original Greek.

    [Reply]

  86. Sylvia Reuter says: December 17, 201312:15 pm

    Following up my 2010 event, “Sumer Is Icumen In – Again” was the title of both the project and the subsequent concert on 12 July 2013 (Leipzig, Germany). As last time, we first studied English lyrics in vocal music from the early 13th century till the 18th century closely, and then finally performed the songs in their original pronunciation. Soloists and choir, partly accompanied by instruments, sang, among others, the Middle English songs Worldes Bliss ne Last no Throwe, Deo Gracias Anglia, followed by pieces by Th. Tallis, W. Byrd, Th. Ravenscroft, Dowland, H. Purcell and G. F. Handel. To make the journey through English language sound history complete, we enjoyed the first performance of significant lines from the Old English epic Beowulf, which had been set to music for the purpose of my project (composer Manuel Durão).

    [Reply]

  87. Mike Schufman says: December 16, 20134:31 am

    David!
    I am a “linguistics buff” and am fascinated to have recently discovered this idea of OP which is something I have wondered about for many years. The more I read, the more fascinated I get, and when I practice this pronunciation, it’s as if it comes naturally-almost like we instinctively “hear a late 1500s accent” when it is pronounced.
    My question is:
    Concering EME, what is your take on alveolar flaps representing the letter T as in today’s American English as opposed to aspirated dental consonants as they are used in Modern British pronunciation, such as in “it is” (before a vowel) or any final t like “admit,” “do it,” or after a vowel such as “I will go TO the store (with a flap on the t in to). Is there any evidence that flaps were ever used for “T” as opposed to today’s British tendency to favor the aspirated dental?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I don’t know of any evidence for a flapped t. Contemporary writers don’t give much phonetic detail about sounds, and what they do say is often difficult to interpret. Nor do I recall any spellings that could represent the kind of d/t overlap that brings such pairs as ‘writer’ and ‘rider’ together. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I’ve always assumed a normal alveolar (NB not dental) articulation, as today. Having said that,remember that OP is a phonology, not a phonetics. In other words, it is perfectly possible to render the EME sound system with ‘superimposed’ accent variations. In the 2004 Globe production of Romeo, for example, actors kept their distinctively Scottish, Irish, London, etc accents ‘on top’ of the OP, so that their ‘t’ articulations were in fact quite varied. Such accent variation would have been normal in EME too.

    [Reply]

  88. Doriano says: December 1, 201310:08 pm

    How would Shakespeare have pronounced the names that he used in his plays? For example, how would he have pronounced ‘Gertrude’?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Some names are difficult to establish in OP, but most are straightforward, as they would follow the general system. FOr Gertrude, the ‘er’ would come out as ‘ar’ (just as ‘mercy’ is pronounced ‘marcy’). And the long /u:/ vowel at the end would be shorter (as it is in an unstressed syllable), and might even have reduced to /u/ as in ‘put’ (much as in present-day Scots).

    [Reply]

  89. Emily H. says: September 27, 20138:08 pm

    Hi David! I’m currently studying the language in Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the your video you noted that “loins” has a different pronunciation in the OP, so it’s a pun that is often missed. Are there any similar instances in Midsummer? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Midsummer comes out well in OP (as Paul Meier found with his Kansas production) because of all the rhymes, a significant number of which don’t work in modern English. But there is the occasional pun that requires OP to work: for example ‘No die but an ace for him; for he is but one’ – you have to pronounce ‘ace’ as ‘ass’ to get the point. Or – as you mention the Romeo example – there is a similar pun when Peter Quince says ‘he is a very paramour for a sweet voice’ (vice). And Lysander’s ‘All my powers’ (‘pores’). You can read more about this in the interview with Paul Meier which is downloadable from my website. Go to Books and Articles, filter with Shakespeare, search by publication date and it’s a few items down the list.

    [Reply]

  90. Jeremy Marshall says: September 13, 20139:12 pm

    I’m surprised to hear (in a YouTube clip) that the Globe thought its audiences might not understand Tudor OP. I have never forgotten going to the Lyceum in the mid 1980s to see “Doomsday” from Tony Harrison’s Mysteries. Being largely Middlesex-raised, I couldn’t tell the difference between a medieval and a modern Yorkshire accent, but it sounded rather like your OP and, once you’d got your head around the odd unfamiliar word (such as “thole”), it was entirely comprehensible and highly engaging.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Yes, it surprised me too, at the time. But there is a general trend to exaggerate the differences between Early Modern and Modern English. Look at all those who feel they need to ‘translate’ Shakespeare into Modern English.

    [Reply]

  91. David Crystal says: September 11, 20134:55 pm

    The Open University video Ben and I did a couple of years ago went viral this month on Twitter and other social media. I’ve added links to some relevant sources in the Archive.

    [Reply]

  92. Hamilton Meadows says: September 6, 20137:55 pm

    The story, “Finding Shakespeare” is now on Amazon as a kindle ebook. It has five stars and great reviews. It does present me in both a flattering and un-flattering light which makes me simply human. Its Dan Fromson’s honest reporting of the facts, and I respect this.

    But the story’s really about Shakespeare’s work, a genius storyteller who spoke and wrote in Elizabethan times in a different way over 400 years ago which had been lost and its about David Crystal who re-discovered his true voice. There is a different tone in Early Modern English and with Shakespeare our efforts to re-stage this is what this story’s all about. Its about the efforts of those of us who wish to bring this now to the modern stage for all of us to enjoy once again.

    [Reply]

  93. Craig Allen says: August 29, 201312:08 pm

    I am in the process of transcribing the sonnets into OP and last night began work on Sonnet II. I downloaded the text from MIT’s Shakespeare site for a simple cut and paste into Word, but upon doing so the spell checker told me that the word “besiege” was misspelled as “beseige”. I thought, this is MIT, they wouldn’t have let that typo slip by. So I quickly checked two of my volumes of the complete works and found “besiege” spelled correctly (by modern standards). And yet, something vexed me. A friend of mine is always going on about using the folios for study, and I do agree with her that original source material is always best. So I decided to check the foilos that are up at the Internet Shakespeare web site at the University of Victoria, found the folio containing the sonnets and there was the word spelled “beseige”. Now, knowing that Shakespeare wrote in dialect or for effect, and also knowing that spelling of Early Modern English was in the early stages of becoming standardized in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, I could only surmised that this must be how the Bard want it spelled, and not only how he wanted it spelled, but how he wanted it pronounced. This spelling of course puts a different vocal coloration to the word. This is going to be an interesting project and learning experience.

    [Reply]

  94. David Crystal says: June 3, 20135:53 pm

    From Paul Meier: 1June 2013. From the Stratford Festival, Ontario, as part of their ongoing Forum (live-streamed on the Internet), Tim Carroll led an OP seminar featuring Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, scene 3, performed in OP by Steve Ross, Andre Morin, and Kate Hennig. They were coached principally by resident dialect coach, Nancy Benjamin, who had been coached in turn by Paul Meier, who also spoke on the history and genesis of the OP movement. The hope is that the festival will mount a fully-staged OP production some time soon.

    [Reply]

  95. David Crystal says: June 3, 20135:51 pm

    Jennifer Geizhals sends this message: I phonetically transcribed “As You Like It” into OP, under the direction of Paul Meier with final editing and approval by David Crystal. She also made a recording of the entire play in OP. You can find the transcription and recordings here : about halfway down the page, you’ll see a paragraph where Jennifer’s name is featured and a link to the work, which is a PDF. In case you’re having a hard time finding the link, it’s right here: here. You can listen to the entire play and read along in English and the IPA – there are links in the PDF to Jennifer’s recordings of each scene.

    [Reply]

  96. Kate Emery Pogue says: May 7, 20138:20 pm

    An edited down OP version of Julius Caesar was performed in Houston, Texas, May 2,3, and 4 2013. The venue was the University of Houston Downtown’s O’Kane Theatre and the director/producer was myself, Kate Pogue, a lecturer from the Drama Department faculty. The houses were full (c. 100 people each performance) and audience members were exceptionally attentive. We had enthusiastic responses to the talk-back which followed each performance; uniformly audience members found the language easy to follow and beautiful to listen to. I was thrilled with the experience, for myself and for the actors. By June we’ll have an edited videotape up on YouTube. In the meantime, if you Google KUHAthefrontrow you should get to the site where a radio interview is archived (when the screen comes up, scroll down till you see a box asking for key words. Type in Julius Caesar and it should take you to the broadcast). Our Caesar and Mark Antony each performed a speech for the broadcast which is I believe representative of our work. As the performance week went along the accents weakened a bit. I believe our work hadn’t gone deep enough to really ingrain the accent. If we’d had a longer run it would have been valuable to have had an accent brush-up. I would like to figure out just what it takes to get the accent deep enough that the actor’s instinct would be make it stronger rather than let it weaken. There were numerous places –Antony’s pronunciation of ‘war’, and Portia’s “You have some sick offence within your mind.” where she leaned so on ‘mind’ that I know those moments would never weaken back to the more colorless modern pronunciation. Two people said we should try to take the production to the Fringe in Edinburgh – and the chair of my department wants to look into raising the money to do that, which would be quite an endeavor, but would give us a chance to restage the production next year. We’ll see. I am working on a book detailing our process to help other directors or actors to experiment with original pronunciation performance.I’m eager to read reports of other OP productions and will be watching for posts. Kate Pogue Houston, Texas.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I’ve noticed too, in various OP productions, how certain words are given a really good time by actors, and ‘war’ (rhyming with ‘star’) is always one – I suppose because it usually occurs at a point of semantic prominence in the text. Makes up for the times when the accent slips – inevitable in a short run. It’s the overall impression that counts, and your two radio extracts certainly provide that.

    [Reply]

  97. Kate Emery Pogue says: April 25, 201311:02 pm

    Dear David,
    As you know — since you’ve been so helpful–here in Houston at the University of Houston-Downtown we have been rehearsing an OP production of Julius Caesar, cut to an hour and a quarter and played by seven actors. The experience has been extraordinary. With luck these seven performers will take their experience into other places and other productions. I’ll report next week how the performances went, and will be publishing a book I hope will serve as a decent guide for American performances in pasrticular. We hope to have a YouTube video to post as well. Thank you for your inspiration and encouragement! Kate Pogue

    [Reply]

  98. Dominick Reyntiens says: April 8, 201310:35 pm

    I happened upon that OP bit from the OU you recorded with Ben. Just those few words, It was a total body blow, like a renaissance painting covered in grime and suddenly restored and showing the power of its true colour. As an ex street entertainer, I connected immediately, OP is a voice that has a direct connection to the audience. I told my wife, ‘listen to this’ & I played the pieces, I could see the tingle in her expression as she felt exactly what I felt. Remarkable work, I am converted.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    I love the painting analogy. Many thanks.

    [Reply]

  99. Hamilton Meadows says: February 12, 20136:28 pm

    We are now in full production of Macbeth in OP guided by Doug Honoroff as voice coach. Please see the review in NYC’s latest copy of Backstage this week.

    [Reply]

  100. David Crystal says: February 11, 20137:56 pm

    Dean Hoffman writes to report an event which took place last year in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Details are on the archive and forthcoming events pages of this site. Dean teaches in the Interdisciplinary Studies division at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. His interest in Robin Hood dates back to his college days, and his articles on the Robin Hood legend have appeared in Neuphilologische Mitteilungen (Helsinki), TDR: The Drama Review, and Studia Neophilologica (Uppsala). The event took place in association with Carolina Pro Musica, established in 1977 to promote music before 1800 with historic instrument copies and in the performance style of the periods. Since their founding, they have maintained a concert series in Charlotte, performing music from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century. They have been artists-in-residence at Belmont Abbey College since 2002.

    [Reply]

  101. Roberto Mighty says: August 30, 201212:15 pm

    Using Original Pronunciation for Puritans at Harvard [see link at Forthcoming Events]

    “First Contact” is an immersive multimedia video-audio-photo installation at Harvard’s Fisher Museum. It is about the clash of worldviews regarding land use in the early 17th Century between Native Americans and Puritan colonists in New England. As a one year artist-in-residence at Harvard Forest, I spent my time reading and researching, but also working for months in the forest at all hours of the day and night — filming, photographing, recording sound, making time-lapses, and otherwise being bitten senseless by mosquitoes, black flies and who-knows-what miniature monsters. Several months in to the project, I realized what countless historians before me had previously concluded: The Puritans were highly educated as a group and many wielded the pen with great expertise.

    The Puritans believed strongly in education. They founded Harvard College in 1636. Their leaders and other contemporary colonial thinkers, including John Eliot, Roger Williams, Thomas Morton, Francis Higginson, John Cotton and Daniel Gookin were accomplished writers.

    Over the course of this project, I went from reading about them in history books to reading their actual letters, sermons, pamphlets and books, including, in a few cases, their transcriptions of the words of Native Americans in English and Algonquian dialects. These first person narratives, testimonies and reports are compelling, and gave me much fodder for my thesis: that the religious, spiritual and economic backgrounds of the two peoples — English and Native American — led them to irreconcilable views about the proper relationship between that landscape and human beings.

    As the research stretched on for months, I kept returning to these first person texts, finally deciding that the Puritans’ state of mind could most effectively be represented by selective voiceover recordings of their own writings. But who would perform these voices? How about me? Ha. Non-starter. I’d be imitating — no doubt poorly — English accents. How about getting professional actors? Nope. Precious few native UK actors here in Massachusetts. How about getting someone in England to read the passages? Ahh – getting closer, but still, I’d have no way of knowing if the accents used would be “proper”, whatever the heck that would mean.

    Around this time, thanks to the magic of radio, I heard a BBC interview with Jonnie Robinson — about the “Original Pronunciation” movement in England — people who use literary and speech forensics to reconstruct how English would have sounded in previous eras, focusing on Shakespeare. The math checked out — “my” Puritans and Shakespeare were, roughly speaking, contemporaries. Wow. I tracked this Robinson fellow down via Google. Jonathan Robinson, Lead Curator, Sociolinguistics & Education at the British Library in London, was kind enough to answer my query and direct me to two actors and authors — Englishmen Ben Crystal and Paul Meier — who are recognized experts in OP.

    Over here in the states, the Nipmuc Nation (the Native American bands of what is now central Massachusetts were primarily of the Nipmuc/Algonquin group) recommended to me the only living teacher of their language, David Tall Pine White.

    Fortunately, all three of these gentlemen agreed to make voice recordings for this project, and Tall Pine also translated 17th century Narragansett transcriptions by Roger Williams (missionary, Puritan dissident and later founder of Rhode Island) into Nipmuc. In addition, Tall Pine recommended and recorded a 17th century poem by Ousemequin (otherwise known as Massassoit) about the notion of owning land.

    I sent Ben Crystal and Paul Meier their selected passages via email, along with bios of the historical authors, including what towns they were born and raised in, what churches they’d attended, their education, occupations, etc., and minimal “stage direction.” They made the recordings on their own home setups. What these actor-director-writers returned to me in digital sound files was, in each case, a dramatic revelation. Their voice acting surpassed my wildest dreams.

    [Reply]

  102. dotsid55@optonline.net says: July 25, 20124:02 pm

    Having gone through every sonnet in the OP can Mr. Crystal make the claim that he understands the sonnets enough to give us a short precis of the plot.

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    Well I could, but there are already plenty of fine Sonnet analyses out there. Take a look, for example, at Will Sutton’s page – and if you get the chance, go to see his Sonnet show (or book him).

    [Reply]

  103. Holly says: July 6, 20123:20 am

    I would like to explain to students why, in several Elizabethan era sonnets, “move” rhymes with “love.” Can you explain the phonetic etymology?

    [Reply]

    David Crystal Reply:

    You’ll find information on this in the papers listed under Evidence on this site. There seems to have been both long and short variants for ‘love’ around at the time, either of which would have made the rhyme work. In my transcriptions I prefer the short variant, given the clear statement by (among others) Ben Jonson in 1616 that ‘o’ is ‘in the short time’ and lists ‘love’ and ‘prove’ along with ‘mother’, ‘cosen’ [cousin] and others.

    [Reply]

  104. Chris Hunter says: June 8, 20128:43 am

    As one of the singers on Musica Contexta’s new Byrd recording I’m delighted with what we’ve achieved but slightly frustrated that it’s taken such a long time to arrive. OP was quite a hot topic about 30 years ago among scholars and serious performers of Early Music but was never taken up in a big way by professional ensembles of the time, so interest seemed to die away. I have a recording of Byrd’s Songs of Sundrie Natures made by the Hilliard Ensemble in 1987 which uses OP: Paul Hillier wrote a piece in the CD booklet explaining and justifying such a novelty. I find it sad that apart from the occasional concert or recording ‘authentic’ Latin nobody’s really bothered since.
    Perhaps if theatre audiences come to expect OP as a norm they’ll look for recordings of contemporary music also using OP and market forces will encourage musicians to take it up.

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    David Crystal Reply:

    Thanks, Chris. I’m puzzled too. After the Globe Romeo, there was an audience talkback session in which there were several early music people present, and I got the impression that some were going to do something practical afterwards, but nobody got in touch. I think one of the problems is that the term ‘OP’ covers a multitude of possible effects, and it takes quite a bit of time to master the detail of it. I’ve heard some recordings of so-called OP music in which the only OP feature was the pronunciation of words like ‘salvation’ as ‘sal-vay-see-on’. What’s lovely about the Musica Contexta recording is the way the whole sound system is taken into account, so that one hears a variety of fresh effects. It is spine-tinglingly effective, and I hope others will follow your lead. I do get enquiries from time to time by music groups, so I’m hopeful that a climate will emerge. It took five years for the ripples from the Globe theatre initiative to turn into performance waves.

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  105. David Crystal says: May 25, 20129:18 am

    The long-awaited CD of William Byrd’s ‘The Great Service in the Chapel Royal’ is now available from Chandos (CHAN 0789), directed by Simon Ravens, with an OP text arranged by Robert Easting. It’s the first time I’ve heard OP used in this way and it sounds amazing.

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  106. David Crystal says: May 24, 201211:37 am

    In ‘Making Sense of Shakespeare’ (1999, pp. 133ff.), Charles H Frey offers early and illuminating support for OP. Thanks to Charles for this link.

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  107. David Crystal says: May 3, 20129:33 pm

    Hamilton Meadows has sent a link to his new
    Shakespeare OP
    site, and also to a review of his production of Twelfth Night.

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  108. Mary McDonald-Lewis says: March 19, 20125:56 am

    Here is a short video, a collection of scenes from “Shakespeare’s Amazing Cymbeline” produced at Portland Center Stage using Original Pronunciation, with me as dialect coach:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owo-nRKsGrg&feature=youtu.be

    Only 5 actors play all the roles, and along with the OP you’ll hear a little Welsh, some RP, and a bit of Italian. In general, I’m well and truly satisfied with our first outing using OP.

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  109. Hamilton Meadows says: March 16, 20128:49 pm

    David, again thank you for all your help to make Twelfth Night our first OP production Off-Broadway in NYC. Next, Macbeth in OP this October. Best, Hamilton

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  110. Bryan Park says: November 30, 20118:21 am

    This is fascinating. You are doing for Shakespeare what the period performance practice movement has been doing in music – stripping away the accretions of the centuries and hearing as the original audiences heard. In the musical realm, instruments in general have been getting louder, and ensembles have been getting bigger. What happens when we use the instruments that Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven would have been familiar with? What techniques are different as a function of using those instruments? What tempos need to be changed? This is what has been going on in the musical realm. Now it’s happening for Shakespeare, and I say bravo.

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  111. Sylvia Reuter says: November 7, 20119:31 am

    Another project of mine that also included original pronunciation was the research into the York Mystery Plays, a cycle of mystery plays from the late 14th century until at least 1569. All biblical in content and serving what we would call ‘infotainment’, the whole York cycle of plays encompasses the medieval Christian view on the history of the world, from the Fall of the Angels to the Last Judgment. On 7/7/2011, MA-students presented the results of their close reading and linguistic analysis of the following guilds and plays: “The Playsterers” (The Creation), “The Parchemyners and Bokebynders” (Abraham and Isaac), “The Cordewaners” (The Agony in the Garden and the Betrayal), and “The Pynneres” (The Crucifixion), exploring the plays’ word fields, pronouns, paradigms, different spellings, and sound patterns. This last aspect included transcribing and then reading out of parts of the Middle English versions.

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  112. Sylvia Reuter says: November 7, 20119:20 am

    In summer term 2010 I devoted a seminar to the linguistic analysis of lyrics used in songs, from Middle English/1250 onwards through Modern English, researching and analyzing, among other aspects, their pronunciation. During the concert 25 June, 2010 (Leipzig, Germany) the following pieces were performed (a cappella both solo and choir, lute, counter tenor, Baroque instruments): Sumer Is Icumen In, Miri it is while sumer ilast, Brid on a breere, Lullay Lullow, 2 pieces by Henry VIII, Th. Tallis/If ye love me, W. Byrd/ Crowned with flowers, Dowland’s “Wilt thou unkind thus reave me” and “Come again sweet love”, pieces by Blow, Purcell, plus a Magnificat based on St. Luke. The linguistic analyses included much more than the original pronunciation, of course, but it was this aspect which turned out to be the most fascinating and challenging one when, finally, the transcription (IPA) was the basis to teach professional singers a pronunciation of pieces that they had already sung before. To listen to “Come again, sweet love” in this “new” version gave the piece a completely new flavour.

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  113. Susanna Jennings says: November 3, 201111:17 am

    Took part in an OP Workshop in London with David Barrett a couple of weeks ago and it was fantastic, in four hours we learnt the basics of OP and how it can help an actor and had a go at some extracts from ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Myself and 7 other actors were extremely extremely excitedand only wish we’d discovered this sooner!

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  114. Lizzie Locker says: October 28, 20113:24 pm

    My undergraduate honors research project is entitled “Lost Lines and Forgotten Rhymes: The Use of OP in Modern Performance.” I’ll be working with a set of actors to produce a long scene and a series of monologues in OP. I plan on focusing my attentions on how OP affects the actors, and how it changes the performance from the actors’ perspectives. Being in Mississippi, I will be working with native Southern actors, so I’m very excited to see how their accents translate into OP. As a student of creative writing and theatre rather than lingusitics, I’m a bit out of my element in some areas of the project, so any help and advice is very welcome!

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  115. David Barrett says: October 19, 201111:15 am

    Just for the record:

    The students at the Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC gave the first OP performance of Twelfth Night in the summer of 2010, directed by Ed Berkeley.

    [Reply]

    Leigh Dillon Reply:

    Yes, David. I was the dialect coach and this enormous “Thank You” is long overdue, to you and to David Crystal. Thank you for sharing your work with us, as our rehearsal time was shorter than short. I also purchased David Crystal’s recordings of the sonnets and listened to all of them, day and night! A wonderful project! Thank you, Two Gentlemen of OP!

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  116. David Barrett says: October 19, 201111:10 am

    OP Workshop, London, October 2011

    This highly successful workshop, given by David Barrett, introduced eight actors and actresses to the possibilities of performing Shakespeare in OP. Following a crash course in the pronunciation, we went on to read extracts from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘Henry Vth’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Apart from the obvious benefits of restoring rhyme and metre, we explored the ways in which OP could be used as an aid to characterisation and for comedic effect. The particpants found this a real eye-opener and went away determined to put their new knowledge into practice. The next workshop will be for drama students at the University of Glamorgan.

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  117. Hamilton Meadows says: October 1, 201112:55 pm

    David, the sections of my film documentary on “Speak the Speech, I Pray Thee” where Tangier Island natives read Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet with their distinct accent is on-line at hamiltonmeadowsfilms.com. Hope it is helpful and possibly provide a clue to the pronunciation of Early Modern English and with Shakespeare OP.

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  118. Alex Torra says: September 15, 20114:05 pm

    The event in May 2011 listed in your archive was part of a longer research project to find how we might use the information gleaned from the OP work in contemporary American Shakespearean performance. One of the things we did was put the various performance dialects next to each other — we did a portion of a scene from As You Like It in OP, RP, then Standard American. So fascinating, so informative.

    Along with Shakespeare in Clark Park, we’re hoping to do another OP workshop and showing sometime in the next year. I’ll keep you posted on those dates and the nature of that event.

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  119. David Barrett says: September 12, 20112:13 pm

    ‘As You Like It’ in OP:

    I am currently transcribing ‘As You Like It’ into OP for actors with a British base accent.

    I am researching performing Shakespeare in OP at the University of Glamorgan and am running a series of OP workshops for drama undergraduates and post-graduates.

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  120. David Barrett says: September 12, 20112:06 pm

    Shakespeare in OP at the KIng’s Theatre, Southsea, England:

    This is a youth project, generously supported by the King’s Theatre. A group of young people from Portsmouth, England will be rehearsing scenes from Shakespeare for a public performance in May 2012.

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  121. Paul Meier says: September 12, 201112:11 pm

    Bravo, David! You have started quite a movement. It seems to me quite possible that discerning theatre-goers will now regularly ponder what they are missing when an older work is presented in anything other than its OP! You have shown us that it’s not only possible, and how it’s possible, but that it’s hugely rewarding for actors and audience alike, to mount OP productions. We will undoubtedly be seeing many more such productions..

    Thanks for turning me on to OP. Working with you has been the highlight of my career in Shakespeare and dialects.

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  122. Hamilton Meadows says: September 12, 201111:05 am

    David, my documentary on OP is within a weeks of being up-loaded to the net. Part one is “The watermen of Tangier”.

    Then filming will begin for part two which is the futher search for OP, where experts in the field, like yourself and others clarify their efforts. This documentary will end hopefully with a trip to Reno to film some of the rehearsals for Hamlet in OP, this fall staring your son Ben.

    Part three will be the filming of the complete process for the first OP production of Twelth Night, here in NYC. Best to you as always, Respectfully Hamilton Meadows

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  123. Paul Roebuck says: September 12, 20117:50 am

    Dear David – I remember you well in Melbourne some years ago – and I did try to implement your ideas – lukewarm reception – I need more encouragement – Paul Melbourne Shakespeare Society – you and your book are great – continuous encouragement from your many articles – Thank you David Love to keep in touch

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