Early Modern English


One of the key defining features that marked the end of Middle English and the beginning of Early Modern English was the completion of the Great Vowel Shift. Along with this, England went through major social, technological, political, religious, and literary changes during the period of 1500 through 1650:

As more and more English speakers replaced French nobility (mostly because of death from the Great Plague), English began to replace Latin and French in the government and courts.
In 1476, William Caxton worked as a printer and was the first person to introduce the printing press to England and as a result, promote literacy.The Renaissance furthered an interest in learning and attempts to improve English. The Reformation placed an emphasis of reading the authorized King James version of the Bible (1611), helped translate texts into English, transferred education over to the state. The economy was such that there was migration to cities and therefore urbanization and a mixing of dialects.

Scholarly writing was now not just done in Latin because the middle class now embraced English, which took more words from Greek and Latin vocabulary and French, Spanish, and Italian as well. There was a cry for spelling reform by John Cheke (1569) who wanted to remove all silent letters and Sir Thomas Smith (1568) who wanted letters as pictures of speech, the elimination of the letters c and q, and other changes; there were similar and additional proposals by John Hart (1569) to eliminate y, w, c and captial letters and others.

The printing press assisted in the revival of the English language. Prior to its invention and widespread use, English was communicated orally while the “other" languages were written. The printing press allowed English to become a language of communication. During the Renaissance, more and more working class individuals were gaining literacy. Education had expanded during this time period, calling for greater access to books.

Literacy also increased during this time period because of increased prosperity. The famine and the plague had finally subsided and the economy was booming. As a result, more individuals sought an education, something previously reserved for the wealthy elite, and the printing press became a necessity.

The previous method for printing books was an arduous process done by "block printing". Words or images were carved into a block and then printed, which was very time consuming and quite expensive. Another factor that led to the introduction to the printing press was paper imports from the East, making the production much easier. In the middle fifteenth century Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press by using movable type to produce books. This method was much quicker and much more cost effective than previous methods. He tried to keep his method of creating this new product a secret, but in short time, many people began replicating his printing press. Due to this new invention, books were much more readily available to the general public.
For More Information

Demonstration of the Gutenberg Printing Press at the International Printing Museum in Carson, California

A sense of Nationalism arose which accompanied the rise of King Henry VIII and his separation with the Roman Catholic Church. Henry VIII used the people of England's frustrations with the Catholic church to his advantage. He wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn and because the Catholic Church would not grant this, he separated from it, declaring Protestantism the official religion of England; thus bringing about the Reformation. The Reformation had a profound effect on the emergence of the English language because religious translations were now in English. Because of its newfound religious status, English was no longer considered the "inferior" language.

There was also exploration and colonization occurring after the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588) and English began to spread throughout the world. The American Revolution began a separation of English speakers.

It was his Henry VIII's daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, who would permit English to flourish. The coined Elizabethan Era (1558–1603) would be known as the Renaissance (ironically a French word); a cultural movement of classical learning; a "rebirth" of the arts (painting, sculpting); a widespread educational reform including that of the English language. Queen Elizabeth I was the major patron for such legendary playwrights such as William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Francis Drake.

At the end of Elizabeth’s reign, there was a request to Parliament for a revision of the Bible, however it had not been acted upon. When Elizabeth died in 1603, the Tudor throne passed to the Stuarts. James VI of Scotland became King, and one of the first things he did in 1604 was to appoint men for the purpose of translating the Bible. In 1611 this English language translation of the Bible came off the printing press. From the middle of the 17th century, the King James version of the Bible has been the acknowledged Bible of all English-speaking nations.

Intensive study of the English language by Grammarians began during the Renaissance. The language was compared with Latin and found to be lacking in both vocabulary and order. It would therefore go through another transition, morphing into what has been termed Early Modern English (EModE).

The Effect of the Renaissance
The Renaissance was the rebirth of classical culture and lead to a reawakening of enlightenment from the period of (1400-1750). This enlightenment began in Italy and concerned the domains of art, science, philosophy and literature.

England did not begin to fully feel its effects until about 1500. The writings of such English authors as Sir Thomas Moore (1478-1535), Sir Thomas Elyot (1490?-1546), and Roger Ascham (1515-1568) were considered to be the very first of modern English. According to Micael Siffeth in his work, Classical Influences on the Renaissance, this transition from Middle English to Modern English “is generally attributed to the following causes: The development and the consequent increase in the number of large cities, particularly at strategic ports; the breakdown of feudalism and the rise of nationalism; the secularization of education and the curtailment of the power of the Roman Catholic Church; the worldliness of the Papacy, which, incidentally, had much to do with the artistic achievements of the period, and finally, the revival of interest in the classics, especially the study of Greek, commonly referred to as humanism."

This allowed English authors the liberty to explore the works of Plato and Aristotle. It allowed them to acquire a new depth to their thoughts. Then Petrarch, whose songs and sonnets in praise of Laura, became the models of Renaissance poetry and led authors such as Sir Philip Sidney to explore the sonnet. Sydney, like Petrach, composed a series sonnets centered around one lady, Stella. He even used forth Ficino's theory of the importance of the sense of sight in love; Sidney speaks of the beauty of the eyes of his Stella star.

Sonnets were not the only forms of literature to be affected. Prose was also influenced by Renaissance works. A well known example is Moore's Utopia (originally written in Latin in 1517 and translated into English in 1551 by Richard Robinson). Other humanistic works were also apparent such as Elyot's The Boke Named the Governour (1531), the euphuistic romances of John Lyly and Thomas Lodge (1558-1625), in which he discusses the concept that the True and the Good are always associated with the Beautiful.

Major Authors of the Time Period

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, also known as "the bard", lived from 1564-1616. One of the most intriguing aspects of his life history is that he may have been born and died on the same day, April 23rd. Shakespeare is arguably the most well-known playwright and poet of the English language, having writing 154 sonnets, 2 narrative poems and 37 plays. The following is a short list of some of his most famous works: Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and The Merchant of Venice.

Shakespeare as Modern
It is said that the most striking feature of Shakespeare is his command of language, despite not having had a truly formal education. According to the Shakespeare Resource Center, Elizabethan English—Shakespeare’s English—is “only one linguistic generation removed from that which we speak today.” Though Elizabethan English differs slightly from Modern English as we know it, “the principles are generally the same,” and “the grammar of Early Modern English is identical to that of Modern English.”

Further, Shakespeare contributed significantly to Modern English, and thus we can call him “modern.” He was a “leading figure” in contributing to the growing flexibility of the language, in terms of both grammar and vocabulary. In fact, “Shakespeare is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with the introduction of nearly 3,000 words into the language.” Some of these words include: accommodation, assassination, bloody, castigate, countless, critic, eventful, gloomy, hurry, laughable, misplaced, obscene, road, submerge, and suspicious. For a more complete listing of his impressive contribution, visit the No Sweat Shakespeare page.

For Further Reference
Shakespeare Resource Center
No Sweat Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Use of Middle English as Puns

The Great Vowel Shift was ongoing during Shakespeare's time and in many works, he played with Middle English pronunciation. One such teacher, Joshua Silberman, part of the Yale National Institute to strengthen teaching in public schools
developed a unit plan for high school students going over language change. He explains that Shakespeare sometimes set his puns in Middle English dialect which was changed because of the Great Vowel Shift. Silberman explains:
"The first of the puns comes from a speech by the character Falstaff in Henry IV where there is a play on the words reason and raisin."

“If Reasons were as plenty as Blackberries,/I would give no man a Reason upon compulsion, I.”

He continues, "The reason for the pun’s success in regard to humorous banter is that the word “reason” before the Great Vowel Shift would have had the “ea” take on an “ai sound and the “o towards the latter portion of the word takes the short form of the “o” which sounds similar to the post-Great Vowel Shift “short e.”

Another example of this isfrom a dialogue between Theseus (the Duke), Demetrius and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

DEMETRIUS: No Die, but an ace for him; for he is but one.
LYSANDER: Lesse then an ace man. For he is dead, he is nothing.
DUKE: With the helpe of a Surgeon, he might yet recover, and prove an Asse.

The overuse of the word “ass” is possibly based upon the fact that it was one of Shakespeare’s favorite words due to the fact that his typical audience enjoyed the crude humor of it. The other reason that the word is utilized in this quote is the pronunciation of the “a” at the beginning of the word “asse” is the “ae” sound, therefore, making it sound more like “ace.” Regarding the “e” on the end of “asse,” it was once again omitted because of the short sounding “e”

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

Marlowe's (1564-1593) works are as follows: Dido, Queen of Carthage, Tamburlaine, The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, Edward II, The Passionate Shepherd to his Love, Come Live with Me and Be My Love, and The Massacre at Paris.

For More Information, click here


Sir Walter Raleigh

Raleigh (1552-1618) "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love". Raleigh's response was "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd". "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" was written in 1592, while Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to The Shepherd" was written four years later in 1596. Both written in the traditional pastoral poetry, and they follow the same structure of six four-line stanzas employing a rhyme scheme of aabb.
For more information, click here

John Milton (courtesy of Wikipedia)

John Milton

Milton (1608-1674) is most famous for the blank verse, epic poem Paradise Lost. In addition to poetic and dramatic works, Milton also wrote political, philosophical and religious prose.

For more Information, click here

Linguistic Features

The English language was rapidly changing from what was called Middle English to what we now call Early Modern English. One of the important changes was the transition of the second person singular form better known as thou (which was falling out of use) to the increasingly popular you form. This is similar to the toi and vous form in French and the du and sie form in German.
Let us briefly explain the evolution of this case. In the Old English language there was only one form of the second person singular nominative case. There was no distinction between the formal or informal. It was simply þū as stated in the chart below. The case then evolved during the ages of Middle English to encompass an informal form you and a formal form, thou.

Chart Design Based on Chart posted on Wikipedia

Old English
Middle English
Modern English

As indicated by the chart, in Early Modern English you was being used for both singular and plural. In general, you was used to convey formality. It was the formal way for the upper classes to talk to each other and for someone of an inferior social rank to speak to someone of a superior social rank. In contrast, thou was often used by people of higher rank to those beneath them, by the lower classes to each other; and in addresses to God, ghosts, witches, or other supernatural beings At that period in time, husbands might even use it to address his wife, signalling her inferiority and a wife might then address the husband as to you to signal his superiority.

Thou might also be used by an inferior to a superior, to express insult or anger. According to J. M. Presley, editor of the Shakespeare Resource Center, this is one of the areas where Shakespeare, the great playwright of the period, is able to get extra levels of meaning by showing disrespect by one character for another's status. Sir Toby Belch advises Sir Andrew Aguecheek on how to write a challenge to the Count's youth, Viola: 'if thou thou'st him some thrice, it shall not be amiss' (Twelfth Night).

The distinctions between thou and you would gradually fall off and would virtually disappear by the 1700’s. The only place it still remains is in the King James version of the Bible which was kept during its late 16th century translation for posterity’s sake.

In Early Modern English, nouns went through some changes. There were only two cases (common and possessive) and two numbers (singular and plural) . Gender was no longer assigned to nouns, and there was more of a pattern in the formation of plurals.

Adjectives lost all inflections except for the comparative and superlative forms. Those were now marked in two ways: for the comparative, by adding - er to the end of the adjective or placing the word more in front of it; for the superlative, by adding - est to the end of the adjective or placing the word most in front of it. While the endings were native to Old English, and more/most were native to Middle English, in Early Modern English there was more of a mixing and combination of them.

Early Modern English saw the development of verb phrases, the transformation of strong verbs into weak, regular and irregular verbs (weak verbs become regular verbs), all verbs, except helping verbs, mark 3rd person singular with - s (as opposed to - s and
- th ) and two part verbs became very common ( warm up , cut off ). Regular verbs marked the past tense with - ed .

Changes in the Language
As English literature, and especially poetry, flourished, many changes occurred in the language. These new modes of expression were sometimes for artistic or creative purposes (to suit the tone, rhythm, or rhyme of the verse); sometimes to enhance clarification of ideas; and for the sake of uniformity in word usage. The result of all of these modifications that occurred in Early Modern English was an unprecedented richness in language which earned this period's nickname, "The Golden Age of Literature".

Spelling Changes

By 1630-50, there began to be a general consensus in favor of only one spelling for each word, usually the shorter version. Spelling had become more fixed, partly due to the introduction of the printing press (by William Caxton in 1476). By 1640, over twenty thousand literary works were printed in English. Immensely popular spelling books (which allowed only one spelling per word) sped up the process. Their preferred spellings were largely the same as those prevalent in the Bible" (Intro to Early Modern English by Manfred Gorlach). Linguists felt as if spelling must be standardized before lexicon or syntax (perhaps because of alphabetical listings in dictionaries).
u / v : In Latin writing, the letters "u" and "v" were represented most times as just one letter, and usually "v". The distinction occurred around 1630 (though the upper-case "u" was "V" until 1700).
s / z : "z" always stood for "z," but it also sometimes stood for "s". This produced alternative spellings of certain words, like those ending in "-ise" or "-ize".
Capitalization: Throughout the 16th century, capitalization occurred with personification, names of plants or animals, minerals, the arts and sciences, religions, geographical terms, occupations, kinship terms and all words that were not anglicized.

Conservative scholars had endeavored to Latinise their English by including altered spellings of Middle English words. Within the new spellings, the reader would by able to identify the original Latin form. In some cases, it had lasting effects on our modern English language:
Where an l or c (both before a further consonant) was re-introduced it came to be pronounced; this did not happen with pre-consonantal b. Recall that these consonants had already been lost as part of cluster simplification from Latin to Old French so that they did not exist in the forms borrowed into Middle English originally.

Inserted b
doubt < ME doute
Latin dubitare
debt < ME dette
Latin debitum
Inserted l and c
fault < ME faute
Latin fallitus
assault < ME assaut
Latin assaltus
verdict < ME verdit
Latin verdictus
perfect < ME perfit
Latin perfectus

http://www.uni-due.de/SHE/HE_Grammar_EME.htm#T_The early modern period

John Hart was one of the most important spelling reformers; he found the Middle English spelling deficient and relied more on spelling by pronunciation. Hart felt that there should be an equal number of symbols as there were sounds of speech in a word. For example, the word "doubt" was wrong because it held too many symbols-- the "b" was represented but not pronounced. He gives the letters "i" and "j" distinction, where "i" is used only for vowels and "j" only for consonants (before this, they were interchangeable).

For Further Reference: Early Modern English by Charles Laurence Barber

Early Dictionaries

The dictionaries before this time period had been primarily Latin to English or English to Latin translations; it was not until the early 17th century that any real demand existed for an "English only" dictionary focusing on vocabulary and their definitions. Still, these early English dictionaries were limited in content, defining only the most difficult of words.

One of the first widely noted dictionaries was published on April 15, 1755 by Samuel Johnson. His dictionary was called, A Dictionary of the English Language , or Johnson's Dictionary, and influenced the development and spread of the English language. The dictionary itself took Johnson over 9 years to complete. The Oxford English Dictionary, would appear some 150 years later.

While many credit Samuel Johnson with producing the first comprehensive English dictionary, some scholars today give credit to Robert Cawdrey, who published his Table Alphabeticall in 1604—149 years before Johnson published his first dictionary. Robert Cawdrey made it “his mission to become the first English lexicographer,” and he prepared in his 1604 document “2,543 words and their first-ever definitions.” Interestingly, “Cawdrey subtitled his dictionary ‘for the benefit of Ladies, Gentlewomen, and other unskilled folk,’ for his aim was not to create a comprehensive catalog, but rather an in-depth guide for the lesser educated who might not know the ‘hard usual English wordes, borrowed from the Hebrew, Greeke, Latine, or French.’

In 1623, Henry Cockeram's English Dictionarie not only included words and definitions of his predecessors, but also anglicized certain Latin words, thereby creating "new" English words. Cockeram also included more common words that readers would find in their every day lives, not solely the more difficult vocabulary.

In the times preceding the dictionaries of Cawdrey and Johnson, other dictionaries had been produced, the oldest being Sir Thomas Elyot’s in 1538. Soon after that, Richard Mulcaster produced his own version in 1583. Others followed in a number of languages besides English such as French, Italian, and Latin.

In addition, the literacy rate was beginning to increase among all citizens. The increased literacy rate was supplemented by the technological advances of the time. The printing press increased in the production of books, and the need to have one universal reference for words became a necessity. Some of the problems of these early dictionaries, however, were that they were not well organized or comprehensive enough to serve as ‘standard’ references. This often lead to readers still having to wrestle with pronunciation and understanding of the use of such words in everyday language.
Johnson’s Dictionary influenced specifically the American perceptions of the English language, as two prominent American lexicographers, Noah Webster and Joseph Emerson Webster, each looked to Johnson’s work as a stepping off point for their own. In fact, much of America’s early governmental and legal texts, such as the Constitution, reflect the influence of Johnson’s work.

For Further Reference:
University of Chicago Press
Introduction to Early Modern English by Manfred Gorlach

The Inkhorn Controversy

Expanding the English language and its vocabulary came with controversy. There was debate over how appropriate it was to introduce "borrowed" words to the English language, which was said to muddle the purity of the language. However, since there already had been influences from Latin and French, for example, during the Old English and Middle English periods, the English language was already not a "pure" one.

This Inkhorn controversy/debate was in full-force from about 1560-1640; it was essentially an argument over keeping the English language "pure," without borrowing any further words from other languages, such as Latin, French, or Greek. Many writers of the time were involved in the debate, some vigorously borrowing words from other languages, others being utterly against it. Those against it felt these borrowed words were unnecessary, as there were already words in the English language that meant the same thing. Some of the words, however, seemed to add meaning to existing words, while others were just additions/extras for what already existed.

The Inkhorn controversy/debate was over by the end of the 17th century. The end result was that there continued to be words borrowed from other languages; some remained and are still used today, and some were eventually phased out of the language.

The Diggers and Religious Revolution

Controversies of the 17th century made for intense linguistic change and turmoil. With Christianity as the dominant religion, Europe became divided into sects of Calvinists, Lutherans, and Catholics. England fell into Civil War. During this, several politico-religious groups emerged.
The Levellers - goal to empower men of "small, middle-class substance" and led by John Lilburne
The Ranters, or Millenarians - believed that once someone has been accepted into godhead ("saved" if you will), he is incapable of evil. Millenarians concern themselves, quite heavily, with the apocalypse and revelation.
By 1653, Cromwell had become named "Protector" of England. The Millenarians revolted against his attempts to establish the rule of the saints; despite armed conflict, Cromwell supressed the uprising.
Another type of revolution took place in the 1640s. Several English Millenarians, under the leadership of William Everard and Gerrard Winstanley, decided to take advantage of unclaimed land and sow it for the common harvest of their comrades. They were convinced that the style of communal living would appeal to any and all citizens. When "the Diggers" tried to sell what they had harvested or chopped, the landowners (even though it was considered common land) stepped in - as did the military.
"On April 1, 1650, Winstanley and fourteen others (Everard, who seems to have been demented, vanishes early in the story) were indicted for disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, and trespass. There is no record of the disposal of the indictment, but this was the end of the little communist society at Cobham.
"This is all there was to the Digger movement, a trivial episode which was a ninety-day wonder in the news sheets when it first started, and which was almost without influence at the time, and easily could have been lost to history — except for the writings of Gerrard Winstanley. All during the course of the experiment he issued a series of pamphlets which, as his ideas rapidly evolved, came to constitute the first systematic exposition of libertarian communism in English."
The linguistic influence of these pamphlets provides a unique look at Middle English as it was heard and spoken not by members of the upper court or clergy, but by laborers. However, Winstanley was a very well-educated man, and a Baptist minister. With the help of Gutenberg's printing press, Winstanely raises questions of status, power, and propaganda.
Winstanley, in his teachings and through their proliferation, challenges religious power and right.
"Even in these early pamphlets Winstanley has original insights. His chiliasm does not take the form of the salvation of a handful of the elect but of the divinization of man. In his teachings on sin and salvation the original sin of Adam was not lust but covetousness — selfishness and the desire for power — in which Winstanley shows himself an incomparably more astute moralist than the Puritans. Ultimately, the God who operates in history, in all things, and consciously in the soul of man, is called “Reason.” It would be a mistake to decide from this, as some modern writers have done, that Winstanley was a precursor of eighteenth-century rationalism. His reason is the ineffable God of Plotinus and Meister Eckhart apprehended in the mystical experience, though not separated from man as the Omnipotent Creator, but as the ultimately realizable in all things. So for him the narrative of the Old Testament and the life and passion of Christ cease to be historical documents about something that happened in the past and become symbolic archetypes of the cosmic drama of the struggle of good and evil that takes place in the soul of man."

Some Key Terms

Analogy - the process by which words or phrases are created or re-formed according to existing patterns in the language, as when shoon was reformed as shoes, when -ize is added to nouns like winter to form verbs, or when a child says foot for feet. A form resulting from such a process.

Apheresis - the loss or omission of one or more letters or sounds at the beginning of a word, as in squire for esquire, or count for account.

Aphesis - the disappearance or loss of an unstressed initial vowel or syllable, as in the formation of the word slant from aslant.

Apocope - loss or omission of the last letter, syllable, or part of a word, for example goin' for going

Assimilation - act or process by which a sound becomes identical with or similar to a neighboring sound in one or more defining characteristics, as place of articulation, voice or voicelessness, or manner of articulation.

Dissimilation -
the process by which a speech sound becomes different from or less like a neighboring sound.

Ellipsis - the omission from a sentence or other construction of one or more words that would complete or clarify the constrcution, as the omission of who are, while I am or while we are from I like to interview people sitting down. The omission of one or more items from a construction in order to avoid repeating identical or equivalent items that are in a preceding or following construction, as the omission of been to Paris from the second clause of I've been to Paris, but they haven't. In printing, it is a mark or marks such as ... or * to indicate the omission or suppression of letters of words.

Epenthesis (svarabhakti) - the insertion or development of a sound or letter in the body of a word. There are two types: excrescence (added consonant sound) and anaptyxis (added vowel sound), for example pronouncing the word film as "filem"

Metathesis - transposition of two phonemes in a word (crud to curd)

Acronyms - words formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term (FBI = Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Euphemism - a substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant (toilet room/bathroom)

Folk Etymology - change in the form of a word or phrase resulting from a mistaken assumption about its composition or meaning (shamefaced)

Rhotacism - in noun Historical Linguistics, a change of a speech sound, esp. (s), to (r), as in the change from Old Latin lases to Latin lares; it is also the excessive use of the sound (r), its misarticulation, or the substitution of another sound for it.

Stress shift - the word formation process in which only the audible emphasis of a syllable changes to create a new word. For example: "reject" (verb, stress on second syllable) becomes "reject" (noun, stress on first syllable); "combine" (verb, stress on second syllable) becomes "combine" (noun, stress on first syllable)

Syncope - the contraction of a word by omitting one or more sounds from the middle, as in the reduction of never to ne'er. Often this omission is the loss of an unstressed vowel. Syncope can sometimes be historical, as shift in Old English from "hláford" to "lord" in modern English. Finally, syncope can be used for poetic purposes.

Umlaut - a mark (¨) used as a diacritic over a vowel, as ä, ö, ü, to indicate a vowel sound different from that of the letter without the diacritic, esp. as so used in German; also called vowel mutation; (in Germanic languages) assimilation in which a vowel is influenced by a following vowel or semivowel

Borrowing - the process by which a word or phrase is adopted or absorbed from another language

Compounding - the putting together of words, especially one composed of two or more words that are otherwise unaltered, as baseball or rainstorm

Coining new words - devising new words or phrases. (The Oxford English Dictionary attributes over 500 words to Shakespeare, often considered the master of word-coining.)

Portmanteau - a word formed from blending the sound of two different words (ex. "brunch" is a portmanteau from "breakfast" and "lunch")

Back formation - the analogical creation of one word from another word that appears to be a derived or inflected form of the first by dropping the apparent affix or by modification, for example laze is a back formation of the word lazy on the analogy of the similar pair, haze and hazy

Metonymy - a figure of speech that consists of the use of the name of one object or concept for that of another to which it is related, or of which it is a part, as “scepter” for “sovereignty,” or “the bottle” for “strong drink,” or “count heads (or noses)” for “count people”

Synecdoche - a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, "the special for the general" or "the general for the special," as in "ten saila for ten ships" or a "Croesus for a rich man"

Learned (etymological) respelling - a movement by scholars, during the Reniassance, to change English (which they thought to have been corrupted over time) back to its Latin roots. Example: they changed "island" and put an "s" in the root, when in all actuality, the word comes from the Old English root "ealand" which has no "s" in it. Sometimes the respellings were done to correctly change the words back; this example is not one of those instances.

Phonetic spelling - the representation of vocal sounds which express pronunciations of words. It is a system of spelling in which each letter represents invariably the same spoken sound

Hypercorrection - the substitution, in an inappropriate context, of a pronunciation, grammatical form, or usage thought by the speaker or writer to be appropriate, resulting usually from overgeneralizing in an effort to replace seemingly incorrect forms with correct ones, as the substitution of "between you and I" for "between you and me," by analogy with you and I as the subject of a sentence

Semantic broadening - when the range of meanings associated with a word becomes broader over time. Example: the word "manage" originally meant "to handle a horse," but now it has a broader meaning, and means, generally, "to handle anything"

Semantic narrowing - when the range of meanings associated with a word becomes more restricted (narrower) over time. Example: the word "accident" originally meant "any unforseen event," now it has come to mean "an unforseen event, usually with negative consequences"

Amelioration - when a word acquires a more positive meaning over time. Example: originally the word "knight" meant "servant," now the word has become a lot more positive; in fact, knighthood is seen as a prestigious position today

Pejoration - when a word acquires a more negative meaning over time. Example: a "wench" used to mean "any woman," but it has since become a derogatory name for a woman

Definitions from

Merriam-Webster Online