Dictionary.com Word FAQs
When did Modern English spelling become fixed?
Well, the notion of English ever being fixed is laughable because it is always changing. We borrow more from other languages - and more often - than any other language. Science and technology push our vocabulary up daily. Anyway, when people talk about English spelling becoming more stabilized, that was something that really happened and it did so because of the printing press. Printing developed in Europe in the 15th century, with Johannes Gutenberg being the first to employ a printing press. Between this time and the end of the 18th century, the English language continued to change in noticeable ways, especially in spelling and usage. During the 17th century, an increasing number of spelling guides were published, which inevitably influenced printing practices. Considerable pressure for standardization followed the arrival of the first dictionaries (from 1604). By the end of the 18th century, however, very few linguistic differences remained. Irregular spellings were explained, tolerance of variant spellings ended, and the notion of correct spelling was championed.