Original Pronunciation

English language texts in period speech

Here follows some links to actual recordings of original pronunciation

Richard III opening speech read by Ben Crystal

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6), read by David Crystal

For more Bible readings in OP please visit the shop

Opening lines of Henry V from John Barton can be heard a few minutes in to this documentary (07.45–08.15)

Other links

The Shakespeare’s Globe productions of 2004 and 2005 were recorded and are in the Library archive at the theatre, viewable by appointment: Shakespeare’s Globe Archives

Conversations are included on the double CD, This World’s Globe

A Midsummer Night’s Dream DVD

Discussion and illustration of OP by David and Ben Crystal at Shakespeare’s Globe for the Open University, 2011

  1. David Crystal says: February 14, 20171:29 pm

    That’s a common reaction, as people tune in to the postvocalic /r/, which is widely associated with piratespeak. But how genuine is it? I have no idea how 17th-century pirates spoke. My perception comes entirely from Robert Newton’s Long John Silver, and other famous film characterizations. Pirates of the Caribbean probably has to take a lot of present-day responsibility!

  2. charles crush says: February 14, 20176:48 am

    some of OP seems to resemble 17th century Caribbean pirate speech. or at least what is commonly thought to be that speech.

    very nice to revive this form of speaking Shakespeare .

  3. David Crystal says: January 26, 20179:26 am

    It certainly was (already in English). There’s a nice example in Chaucer’s Boece (3.10), where it is spelled ‘Tagus’, which at the time would have had a long ‘a’ vowel.

  4. Jim Powell says: January 26, 20177:10 am

    Thank you. I am as grateful for your explanation of the problem as for the answer you hazard. Wyatt spent much of two years in Toledo, on the Tagus (1538-40) as Henry’s ambassador to Charles V, so he might have been influenced by the Spanish pronunciation. His orthography tends to be pointed phonetic (his own hand in the Egerton MS), but the spelling suggests that the name was already in English — the mouth of the Tejo is at Lisbon and sea trade to Portugal goes back to the 13th century or earlier. Such a puzzle. Thanks again. Great site.

  5. David Crystal says: January 24, 201710:03 pm

    Proper names are a pain. I say in my OP writing that I am about 90 per cent confident about the accuracy of the recostruction. That remaining percentage is largely about proper names – people and places. They were as unpredictable then as they are today, they only occsionally occur in rhymes, and they tend not to be mentioned in the various commentaries from the period. So, faced with a name like Tagus, one has to make the assumption that the modern pronunciation is the result of the same pattern of development that occurred in other words displaying the same sound(s). I would opt for ‘te:gus’, with the ‘e’ mid open, as in OP ‘blade’.

  6. jim powell says: January 24, 20174:02 am

    A question for you, David Crystal: I’m trying to figure out how Wyatt would have pronounced “Tagus” in his poem “Tagus Farewell.” Specifically, I’m wondering if the “a” in Tagus would have been pronounced as a contemporary long “a” (blade, etc.) or otherwise, and whether the “g” in Tagus would have been pronounced hard (go) or soft (barrage). The modern Spanish name of the river is Tejo (tay-ho); god knows how it was pronounced in 1542. Grateful for your thoughts. & thanks.

  7. David Crystal says: March 16, 20169:15 pm

    You’ll find this on the Illustrations page of this website – underneath the Richard III recording.

  8. Ian Dicker says: March 15, 20163:23 pm

    I’d like a recording of the lord’s prayer to copy for my 1640s vicar character in the Sealed Knot. Can you make it available or send my a file please? I’ve bought David’s recording of the 23rd Psalm, but the Lord’s prayer would be even more useful for our displays.

  9. John Dominic says: October 18, 20126:19 pm

    Brad, I’ve noticed that in 16th century musical settings of The Lord’s Prayer, “temptation” is set as four syllables (“temp-tah-see-on”). David’s recording shows why!

  10. Brad Patterson says: September 13, 201110:06 am

    Interesting to hear how “temptation” in The Lord’s Prayer sounds most different, and for me reaches more towards french/latin roots. Enjoying very much what I see here. Thank you.

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