William Caxton introduced the printing press to England. It was the year 1476 that Caxton set up his printing press “close to the royal court and Westminster Abbey” (Svartvik 43). During his life Caxton published and/or translated to English some eighty works. One of the more commonly known works is Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Caxton’s printing activities link up to the concept of a standardized English language. During the process of printing, choices had to be made as to which grammatical forms to use. For purely practical reasons lines had to be drawn in the sand, as it were, on dialectical and lexical word choices; necessary to ensure there weren’t a wide variety of spellings for a single word.
The concept of standardization merges with that of codification, which I will discuss later when we get to the EModE section. In discussing these issues and Caxton’s printing activities, one must wonder what part language bias played in word choice.
Language bias is an undercurrent to the topic of my next slide, prestige languages.
1 In terms of linguistic phases, the year 1476 is considered by some historical linguists to be the end of the ME period. Obviously, the effects of Caxton’s publications would have been experienced more in the EModE period.