Author Topic: On an average native English speaker and the Great Vowel Shift  (Read 13371 times)

Offline Rock100

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On an average native English speaker and the Great Vowel Shift
« on: September 02, 2020, 01:50:04 PM »
Hello. I wonder if anyone with friends who are native English speakers and not linguists could conduct a little linguistic experiment for me. I am not a linguist or native English speaker; it is not a homework or something like this – just a personal curiosity.
Here goes a small prehistory, sorry. Several years ago I was stopped by Mormons (20-22 yo Americans, with a general school behind, no higher education) on a street and was proposed to be told about their God. I proposed them to have a talk about the English language instead because it would be much more interesting and promised them to explain the strange spelling of the word “knight” as a proof. To my enormous surprise, they agreed. I read them a quick lecture about the Great Vowel Shift and explained the classic [n-i-h-t] --> [n-ee-t] --> [n-ai-t] scheme and several other front vowel examples. Suddenly it occurred to me that could ask them to guess the back vowel example themselves. I told them that the same scheme works for back vowels too and proposed them to guess Modern English word from my Early Middle English example. [d-r-u-h-t] (I pronounced the vowel and as in “good” or “put”). They started to think while I was slowly realizing that I had forgotten to explain them the shift rules for the back vowels. Suddenly one of them named the Modern English word. I was astonished. The other guy was far from understanding what was happening and looked at the first one with a distrust.

So, given an average statistical non-linguist native English speaker provided with
1. GVL rules for the front vowels only
2. [n-i-h-t] --> [n-ee-t] --> [n-ai-t] explanation for “knight”
Is it normal to expect from him the translation of the Early Middle English [d-r-u-h-t] into Modern English? Or did I meet a linguistic genius?
I am absolutely sure the person had the only information as it is described above.
Thank you in advance.