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There are, possibly, two answers to your question. It depends on whether you are asking about Early Modern English (Shakespeare's English) or the Late Modern English that is spoken today.
If you are referring to Early Modern English, it began sometime after the Great Vowel Shift (roughly between 1500-1550). Sometimes this form of English (often used by Shakespeare and the original translation of the King James Bible) is called Elizabethan or Early Modern English.
It lacked uniformity. Basically, words could be spelled by sound or however the writer saw fit. Until 1775, when Samuel Johnson published the very first dictionary in Great Britain. In 1828, Noah Webster created his own American dictionary. Thus, differentiating spelling between British Standard English and American Standard English. Early Modern English lasted between 1500-1800. After 1800, more changes in English appeared. This new English would be called Late Modern English.
Some major differences between Early/Late Modern and Middle English are:
- Loss of the T-V distinction (thou, ye)
- The letter thorn (þ) finally fell into disuse. It was replaced by the "th" sound and spelling.
- The letters "i" and "j" became single letters rather than being written together. The same is true for "u" and "v."
- During late modern English, an influx of new words appeared. This happened for two reasons. (1) The Industrial Revolution happened and new words were needed. (2) Also, there was more global interaction, and English began "borrowing" words from other languages.
I hope this helps :)
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