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All Music Guide:
The summery hooks and warm lyrics of Modern English's biggest hit, "I Melt With You," gave listeners the impression that the band was an upbeat pop act in the early '80s. "I Melt With You" was actually an anomaly in Modern English's early discography. Formed in Colchester, England, in 1979, Modern English was originally a punk group called the Lepers. Featuring Robbie Grey (vocals, guitar), Gary McDowell (guitar), and Richard Brown (drums), the Lepers mainly performed at parties. After Mick Conroy (bass) and Stephen Walker (keyboards) joined the band, they changed their name to Modern English and were signed to 4AD Records. Inspired by the stylish gloom of Bauhaus and Joy Division, Modern English released the singles "Swans on Glass" and "Gathering Dust" before recording their 1981 debut LP Mesh & Lace. Boiling with raw anger, dissonant rhythms, and weird noises, Mesh & Lace confused some U.K. critics while mesmerizing others. A year later, the group streamlined their sound, dropping much of Mesh & Lace's gothic experimentation on After the Snow. "I Melt With You" was included on the Valley Girl soundtrack, and its video became an MTV staple. Although "I Melt With You" didn't reach the Top 40 charts in America, After the Snow sold more than 500,000 copies. However, the band's next album, 1984's Ricochet Days, was a flop. Pressured by their U.S. label Sire Records to release another hit and exhausted from touring, Modern English began falling apart; Walker and Brown were fired from the group. Grey continued recording with different Modern English lineups releasing the albums Pillow Lips in 1990 and Everything Is Mad in 1996. Also in the early '90s, "I Melt With You" was played in a successful Burger King ad. In 2010, Modern English returned with the full-length studio effort Soundtrack featuring production from After the Snow producer Hugh Jones.
Modern English (sometimes New English as opposed to Middle English and Old English) is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.
With some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern English, or more specifically, are referred to as using Early Modern English or Elizabethan English. English was adopted in regions around the world, such as North America, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Australia and New Zealand through colonisation by the British Empire.
Modern English has a large number of dialects spoken in diverse countries throughout the world. This includes American English, Australian English, British English (containing English English, Welsh English and Scottish English), Canadian English, Caribbean English, Hiberno-English, Indo-Pakistani English, Nigerian English, New Zealand English, Philippine English, Singaporean English, and South African English.
According to the Ethnologue, there are over 1 billion speakers of English as a first or second language as of 1999. English is spoken in a vast number of territories including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore and Southern Africa. Its large number of speakers, plus its worldwide presence, have made English a common language for use in such diverse applications as controlling aircraft, developing software, summaries of scientific articles, conducting international diplomacy, and business relations.
Early Modern English lacked uniformity in spelling, but Samuel Johnson's dictionary, published in 1755 in England, was influential in establishing a standard form of spelling. Noah Webster did the same in America, publishing his dictionary in 1828; see American and British English spelling differences.
Public education increased literacy, and more people had access to books (and therefore to a standard language) with the spread of public libraries in the 19th century. Many words entered English from other languages as a result of contact with other cultures through trade and settlement and from the migration of large numbers of people to the United States from other countries. World War I and World War II threw together people from different backgrounds, and the greater social mobility afterwards helped to lessen the differences between social accents, at least in the UK. The development of radio broadcasting in the early 20th century familiarised the population with accents and vocabulary from outside their own localities, often for the first time, and this phenomenon continued with film and television.
ContentsOutline of changes1.1 Phonology1.2 Syntax1.3 Alphabet
Outline of changes
The following is an outline of the major changes in Modern English compared to its previous form (Middle English). Note, however, that these are generalizations, and some of these may not be true for specific dialects:
Syntaxdisuse of the T-V distinction (thou, ye).use of auxiliary verbs becomes mandatory in interrogative sentences.rise and fall of prescriptive grammarians.
Changes in alphabet and spelling were heavily influenced by the advent of printing and continental printing practices.The letter thorn (þ), which was already being replaced by th in Middle English, finally fell into disuse. The last vestige of the letter was writing the as þ, which was still seen occasionally in the King James Bible of 1611.The letters and , previously written as a single letter, began to be distinguished; likewise for and . This was a common development of the Latin alphabet during this period.
Consequently, Modern English came to use a purely Latin alphabet of 26 letters.