I was wondering that how was the pronunciation of the word "about" in 16th century England. I know that it is different now and is this difference occurred because of The Great Vowel Shift?

  • Note that England is a big place with a lot of varying accents. This is true today, and it was much, much truer in the 16th century, before widespread travel among English speakers, or widespread printing, or even widespread literacy in English. So the answer to the question is that they pronounced it a lot of different ways, only a few of which have been preserved in writing, or in modern English.
    – jlawler
    Feb 19 '19 at 3:18

The main change happening at this time was, as you mentioned, the Great Vowel Shift. Before the GVS, the second vowel in "about" was /u:/; this went through something like [ou], to [əu], before turning into modern /au/.

In the 16th century, it would probably be somewhere between [ou] and [əu].

This diagram (from Wikipedia) might help, though it writes the diphthongs a bit differently than I do.

Diagram from Wikipedia


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