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HUMANISM AND CLASSICAL INFLUENCES

VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 2

									  Virgil and Ovid and Holy Writ even if they had no
intention of entering the Church. Times had distinctly
   changed since the thirteenth century. It may be
     added that changes in society—the gradual
     emergence of a mercantile civilization out of
  feudalism—gave scope to printing which it would
   never have had in the earlier Middle Ages. The
    invention was timely in more than one sense.
     All this may have been anticipated by the early
printers. Their technological innovations may have
been expected to facilitate the spread of culture.
                                                    EXPOSITORY
                                                    TYPE*. PROCESS

But they could not have foreseen that the spelling which they
standardized, more or less, as the record of contemporary
pronunciation, would have been perpetuated for centuries
afterwards. Today, when our pronunciation has become quite
different, we are still teaching our unhappy children to spell as
Caxton did. Respect for the printed page has become something
like fetish-worship. A few idiosyncrasies have been carefully
preserved although the reason for them is no longer understood.
When Caxton first set up the new business in London he brought
with him Flemish workers from the Low Countries, where he
himself had learned it. Now the Flemish used the spelling "gh" to
represent their own voiced gutteral continuant, a long-rolled-out
sound [y] unlike our English [g]. English had no such sound at
the time, but the employees in Caxton's shop were accustomed
to combining the two letters, and continued to do so in setting
up certain English words. In words like "ghost" and "ghastly" it
has persisted, one of the many mute witnesses to orthographical
conservatism.

								
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