Contractions, or the shortening of words by combining them, are common in spoken and written English. But have you ever wondered how they first started?
The history of contractions can be traced back to the Middle Ages when English was heavily influenced by French. In Old English, words were often written as separate units, but after the Norman Conquest in 1066, French became the language of the ruling class. As a result, many French words and phrases were added to the English language, and the use of contractions became more prevalent.
However, the first recorded use of contractions in English dates back to the 16th century, during the Elizabethan era. William Shakespeare, a prominent playwright during this time, was known for using contractions in his plays. For example, in his play Julius Caesar, he wrote “I’ll about / And drive away the vulgar from the streets.” Here, “I’ll” is a contraction of “I will.”
The use of contractions continued to grow and evolve over time. In the 18th century, contractions were often used in informal writing and speech, while more formal writing and speech tended to avoid them. However, by the 19th century, contractions had become widely accepted in all forms of English communication.
Today, contractions are an essential part of spoken and written English. They add a sense of informality and friendliness to conversations and help to convey a conversational tone in writing. They also save time and space by shortening longer words and phrases.
So, the next time you use a contraction, remember that its history dates back centuries and has evolved over time. Even though it may seem like a small part of language, contractions have played an important role in the development of modern English.