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Key to Pronunciation

BURIED OLD ENGLISH, the English of the period from approximately 450 to 1100 A.D., had as its form of TO BURY byrgan, in which the letter g had a [j] pronunciation and, more importantly for this map, the letter y had a special [u] sound close to a Trench u'. According to Joseph and Elizabeth Wright (Middle English Grammar, para. 49), the change of this sound to [e] is one which first took place in Kent and the surrounding areas late in the Old English period. For a small number of words which had been spelt with y in Old English this Kentish pronunciation eventually found its way into S T A N D A R D ENGLISH, the generally accepted varieties of English which are comparatively free from obviously localized speech-forms. It was usually signalled too by an e appearing in the spelling, giving for example KNELL from Old English cnyll and MERRY from Old English myrige.