A Sociolinguistics of Early Modern Spelling?
An account of Queen Elizabeth I’s correspondence [1]

Mel Evans
University of Birmingham


This article considers the potential of studying Early Modern spelling variation using a corpus-based historical sociolinguistic framework. In the first half of the paper the theoretical and methodological facets are outlined and an approach established, before the practicalities of spelling analysis are explored using a case study of the spelling system of Queen Elizabeth I. The results provide strong theoretical support for the integration of spelling into historical sociolinguistics, with Elizabeth’s background providing correlates between her education and age and her spelling practice. Whilst constrained to an idiolectal study, the analysis also suggests that the methodological difficulties attached to historical spelling are not insurmountable if certain precautions are taken in compiling a corpus. The article finds that spelling is a significant dimension of Early Modern English that warrants further, substantial investigation.

1. Introduction

Early Modern spelling occupies a surprisingly marginal position in historical sociolinguistics. In the following paper, I outline some preliminary steps that indicate how, and to what ends, spelling could be incorporated into the field, focussing specifically on spelling systems used by writers of sixteenth-century English. The discussion considers the different theoretical and methodological considerations requisite for a study of spelling, exploring the applicability of the corpus-based methods to this dimension of language, and proposing a number of benefits that may arise from its integration into the field. The approach is then tested and evaluated with a case study of the spelling of Queen Elizabeth I. As will be seen, the findings strongly suggest that spelling warrants greater recognition in historical sociolinguistics, and that it can offer significant social and linguistic information to complement the data drawn from the analysis of morphosyntactic variables (see, e.g. Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 2003). The different methodological challenges posed by the material requirements of spelling analysis can be mitigated and managed, and there is clear potential for a large-scale investigation.

Figure 1. Portrait medallion of Elizabeth I of England, obverse, 1572-1573. Artist Unknown. Located in Zeelandic Museum, Middleburg, Netherlands. Photographer: Zullie.

2. Theoretical Considerations

Whilst sociolinguistic work may be relatively sparse, Early Modern Spelling has not, of course, been entirely neglected by scholars. Some have focused on the spelling characteristics of a particular text; for example Blake’s excellent comparative study of the manuscripts versions of Reynard the Fox (Blake 1965; other studies include Taavitsainen 2000 and Caon 2002), using close-reading techniques. Other work has investigated the larger historical and political context of the period, and the role of spelling in the creation of nationhood and the commonwealth (e.g. Shrank 2000). A sociolinguistic study would, in a sense, unite these two approaches, by analysing the correlation between the social context and the practice of individuals.

The potential of a systematic study of the sociolinguistics of sixteenth century spelling finds further suppport in the historical accounts. Up until the fifteenth century, spelling conventions were largely regional, a characteristic which has allowed scholars to trace the provenance of manuscripts (the ‘fit’ technique’) based on a cross-reference of spelling forms (see McIntosh and others 1986). In the sixteenth century, however, the regional systems gave way to a broader, countrywide arrangement. As D.G. Scragg (1974) suggests in his canonical account History of English Spelling,spelling at this time was generally inconsistent. However, he is careful to note that this does not mean that there was no system at all:

Undoubtedly variation between writers was considerable, but the spelling of well educated individuals, though it might be idiosyncratic, was rarely totally haphazard (Scragg 1974: 68).

The conventions used by a writer were determined by that writer’s personal preference and knowledge of different systems. These could include regional and international conventions, and those of their own ‘idiosyncratic’ devising. Scragg’s account suggests that there is considerable scope for variation across the different social groups, and the development of idiolect-specific systems.

To develop the necessary hypotheses and methodological approach, sociolinguistic studies of spelling of other periods, both of English and other languages, also provide support. Mark Sebba’s excellent monograph (2007), for example, examines the sociolinguistics of spelling in Present Day contexts, and argues persuasively for the indexicality of non-standard or standard spelling forms in Modern-Day Spain. For LModE, both Osselton (1984) and Sairio (2009) discuss the distribution of abbreviated and full word forms and the association of the former with private correspondence; the latter analyses an original corpus of correspondence written by the Bluestocking network. For the seventeenth century, Margaret Sönmez (2000) provides an illuminating analysis of the spelling practice of Lady Brilliana Harley and William Cavendish, examining the perceived and real ‘gender divide’ in historical “irregular” spelling. These works illustrate the profitability of studying the variation and social significance of spelling forms, and the value of an empirical, corpus-based approach.

However, in the aforementioned studies the social significance of spelling variation is derived predominantly from the contrast between the standard and non-standard spelling systems. For much of the sixteenth century, this distinction was at an embryonic stage. Scragg (1974: 70) suggests that only at the end of the century did a more standard spelling system emerge, found in the printed texts of the period. Until then, sixteenth-century printers actually had a destabilising effect on spelling, due to European printers conflating foreign graph conventions with existing English ones, and altering spelling to maximise the economy of the page (Salmon 1999: 19). The notion of a standard is therefore difficult to define for the period concerned, and the study of social and linguistic correlates requires a different conceptualisation of spelling, with different points for comparison, than those used in investigations of LModE and PDE.

Vivian Salmon offers an alternative framework from which the social meaning of spelling may be derived for our period. In her contribution to The Cambridge History of the English Language, she details the developments in spelling norms in both manuscripts and printed texts across the Early Modern period, and suggests that age, class, and education all influence a writer’s spelling practice during the sixteenth century (Salmon 1999: 15, 17). These are, of course, the same social factors that correlate significantly during the development of periphrastic do (see, e.g. Nurmi 1999) or single negation (for example, Nevalainen 2000) in EModE.

Salmon offers detailed scenarios to explain how these factors contribute to the characteristics of an individual’s spelling system. Her account makes a distinction between: one, the overall consistency of a writer’s practice (e.g. the level of variation found in the rendering of words, across their whole system); and two, the specific graph forms and conventions that comprise that system (e.g. representations of <sh>, <sch> etc.). Conceptualising the characteristics of a spelling system in these terms is a clear and productive division, and structures the following discussion and analysis.

In her overview, Salmon suggests that the key factor in shaping the consistency of an individual’s spelling system was their education (and thus indirectly their social rank). As a rule of thumb, she suggests, the less educated the individual, the less consistent their spelling (Salmon 1999: 30). The relationship between education and spelling is hinged on the connection between spelling and literacy. A higher level of education equates to more frequent and broader exposure to the spelling conventions of other writers and languages, as well as that individual’s greater experience of producing their own written communication (Daybell 2001: 60–1). Education thus also affects the graph combinations used by an individual (Salmon 1999: 30). Familiarity with Latin or continental spelling conventions may result in their incorporation into that individual’s English spelling, whereas a less educated individual may use regional conventions, such as the infamous and problematic ‘dialect’ spelling of Henry Machyn (see Wilson 1963).

There is one aspect to add to Salmon’s observations. Education is not a static experience, but one in which the pupil advances in over time. In relation to spelling, the acquisition of knowledge and familiarity with conventions would increase as the individual aged, plausibly leading to a spelling system that increases in consistency over time, as the writer gets older and their output becomes increasingly habitual. Likewise, the selection of graph combinations may reflect the increased contact with written documents, literature, and other languages, perhaps leading them to move away from an idiosyncratic system to use graphemes more commonly encountered in these secondary materials. These hypotheses are tested in the second-half of this paper, when the spelling and social background of Queen Elizabeth I are analysed.

3. Methodological Considerations

Within historical sociolinguistics, the value of socially representative electronic corpora has been repeatedly demonstrated in the analysis of linguistic variation, and this framework is wholly applicable to the study of spelling. Much of the success of the Helsinki Corpus lies in the fact that historical linguists could systematically trace linguistic features over vast periods, and across stylistic boundaries. Electronic corpora and concordance programmes therefore provide ample means of manipulating large amounts of orthographic data that would otherwise present a significant obstacle to the analyst; and when processed as electronic text, spelling forms are as searchable as morphosyntactic or lexical items.

Rather than the data processing, the more obvious problem lies in the data itself. Initially, existing sociolinguistic corpora such as The Corpus of Early English Correspondence and Helsinki Corpus would appear suitable: the compilers did not modernize their source material. Yet, one reason that spelling has yet to be studied in historical sociolinguistics likely stems from the difficulty of finding suitable data. The compilers of the afore-named corpora are well aware of the fragility of spelling in the transmission of historical texts. Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg (2003: 44) suggest that the mixed origin of the transcriptions (apograph manuscripts, published collections) make CEEC unsuitable for a scrupulous study of spelling. The uncertain authenticity of copied texts, which may contain such minor differences as the omission or insertion of a final <e>, means that the social background of the claimed author and the spelling features cannot be reliably correlated. Furthermore, the different editorial practices implemented in the print versions of the texts lead to uncertainties over possible silent corrections for clarity, for instance, or discrepancies in the editors’ reading of the manuscript (see Smith and Kay 2011 for an exploration of these issues in relation to Older Scots poetry). Indeed, editorial differences in the reading of a letterform can have broader implications, as seen in a transcription of a 1586 letter from Elizabeth I to James VI of Scotland. Mueller and Marcus (2003: 66) transcribe 'pay the way to Saluation', with May (2004: 175–7) transcribing an alternative 'say the way to salvation'; thus creating contrasting versions of Elizabeth's meaning.

These knotty issues mean that a spelling corpus drawn directly from the source material, in order to reduce the distance (and the number of subjective readings) is crucial. There is not, to my knowledge, an existing large-scale resource suitable for the analysis of sixteenth-century spelling practice. Furthermore, to create one would require careful consideration of the heritage of the manuscripts. Even scribal documents, which can be included for the analysis of morphosyntax (see Bergs 2005), would potentially create a discord between the purported author and given spelling forms. Whilst the relationship between scribe, spelling, and named author certainly warrants investigation, it is first necessary to establish the baseline. Holograph documents – avoiding even contemporary copies of holographs, such as secretarial duplicates – provide the most secure and authentic spelling data: the least fallible connection between the graphical transcription and the social background of the author.

4. Case Study: Queen Elizabeth I

Figure 2. Signature of Queen Elizabeth I.

To test the theoretical and methodological dimensions outlined above, I now report my findings from a case study of the spelling of Queen Elizabeth I. [2]

Born in 1533, Elizabeth’s lifetime spanned the majority of the sixteenth century (d. 1603), and our comprehensive knowledge of her biography is well suited to a sociolinguistic investigation. The reasons for focusing on the practice of an individual – their “orthographic idiolect” – are two-fold. Firstly, as will be seen, the requirements of a corpus appropriate for spelling analysis entails that using an existing collection of authentic material is an obvious choice, and my previous work on the idiolect of Elizabeth I means that such material is available to the present author. Secondly, using the data from a single writer allows for a careful investigation of the influence of the different social factors (cf. Raumolin-Brunberg 1991), and means that any analytic or processing problems can be more easily negotiated.

Furthermore, Elizabeth’s spelling has already received some scholarly attention, which indicates that analysis would be a profitable enterprise. Caroline Pemberton, in the introduction to her edition of Elizabeth’s translation of Boethius’ De Consolatione, suggests the spelling is ‘untrammelled by any rules whatever’ (1899: xii), a statement that contradicts Scragg’s description of the spelling of the period cited above. F.J. Furnivall, in the same volume, considers aspects of Elizabeth’s spelling ‘peculiar’ when compared with the practices of some of her contemporaries (1899: xvi–vii); his remark could suggest that Elizabeth used a spelling system defined by particularly idiosyncratic spellings.

More recent comments on Elizabeth’s spelling offer contradictory viewpoints. Salmon (1999: 30) considers the Queen to be ‘reasonably consistent’, an opinion shared by Scragg (1974: 69), who suggests that whilst her spelling ‘is not stable, it is the most part predictable’. Scragg bases his statement on the spellings found in Elizabeth’s letters to James VI of Scotland. Conversely, Norman Blake suggests that ‘Elizabeth’s letters show an extraordinary range of spellings’ (2000: 74 – my emphasis), implying that her system is highly variable and thus inconsistent – the opposite of Salmon’s assessment. Unfortunately, Blake does not explain on which letters his interpretation is based.

There is thus a clear discrepancy in the opinion of scholars regarding Elizabeth’s spelling system, a discrepancy that arises, in my opinion, because there has not yet been any kind of detailed and systematic study of her spelling preferences. In the process of conducting this case study, I aim also to provide data that will provide an empirically grounded response to the above debate.

5. Hypotheses: Consistency and Graph Combinations

The details of Elizabeth’s biography allow a number of reasoned hypotheses to be put forward, based on the probable connections between spelling and social background. The quality of her education, her exposure to texts and documents from a range of sources and languages, and her frequent written output suggest a consistent spelling system. There is also a strong case for diachronic developments. Woudhuysen (2007: 13) speculates that the volume of written documents received and produced by Elizabeth during her reign was much higher than her output prior to her accession, and suggests this workload was a probable cause of the denigration of her handwriting during her lifetime (which in some cases renders her correspondence nearly illegible). The same social circumstances offer a potential cause for Elizabeth to likewise modify her spelling practice after her accession, although it appears theoretically plausible that the system would become more consistent, as a consequence of repeated use.

Her education also makes a plausible case for the presence of regional and international graph combinations. Her familiarity with print and hand-written texts would make it less probable that she would use unconventional or idiosyncratic forms. The proposed consistency of her practice would also entail that Elizabeth shows favour towards particular graphemes, perhaps with a system that allows for some predictability. Based on the hypothesis for increased habituality as one ages, the range of graph conventions will presumably narrow as Elizabeth develops a consistent and preferred set of letter combinations.

6. Material: Queen Elizabeth I Spelling Corpus (QEISC)

The extant manuscripts of Elizabeth’s writing provide an appropriate resource for the study of spelling. There is a substantial amount of holograph correspondence that survives, dating from her childhood through to the final decade of her life and reign, suited to the requirements of a spelling corpus. Based on transcripts made from many of the original manuscripts held at the British Library, and also from Mueller and Marcus’ recent original spelling edition of correspondence in the queen’s hand (2003), I have compiled the Queen Elizabeth I Spelling Corpus (QEISC). In brief, QEISC contains 55 holograph letters and postscripts covering forty-two years (1544–1595), and the material is sub-divided into two periods, before and after Elizabeth's accession (November 1558). The division allows for a productive diachronic comparison, which can account for possible changes in biography (e.g. change in social rank); a larger study would no doubt require a more fine-grained diachonic analysis, by decade or even year. The word-count of the corpus is c. 22,400 words. Whilst this may be borderline productive for a study of morphosyntactic forms, spelling analysis incorporates all forms throughout a corpus, and places less demand on the volume of material. The particulars of the corpus can be found in the appendix.

Whilst QEISC is small when compared to many of the electronic corpora used in historical sociolinguistics, collating the data from the 22,400 words is nevertheless a substantial task. In this instance, the data was collected manually, first by creating a word-list from the corpus. This was transferred to a database, and sorted into word types based on the PDE standard spelling. The frequency of each word type, and the number and forms of the variant spellings for each type, was then recorded. Due to the scale, I have only distinguished the word forms by their word-class when relevant to Elizabeth’s practice; further remarks to this effect are of a qualitative nature. If a large-scale corpus were to be created, an (semi)-automated system would be imperative.

7. Testing the Methodology

The following analysis investigates the two dimensions of spelling practice outlined by Salmon (1999): consistency (i.e. the repeated use of a particular spelling) and selection of graphs (the letterform combinations used in a spelling system). [3]

7.1 Consistency

By excluding the type/tokens that occur only once in the corpus, it is possible to calculate the level of variation between word type (denoted by italics) and the token form (denoted by < >), and so construct a picture of Elizabeth’s consistency in her choice of spelling forms. For example, there are two tokens for the word type marvel in QEISC:

    WORD TYPE = marvel

    WORD TOKEN FORM = <marvel> and <marveille>

Conducting this relatively simple calculation for the word forms within the corpus provides a clear picture of the general patterns of use. The results, summarised in Table 1, indicate that the majority of word types occur with the same token form throughout the corpus. For example, seven hundred and seven word types, occurring at least twice in QEISC, are spelt with only one spelling form: this accounts for over 50% of non-hapax legomena word types. Further evidence of consistency is indicated by the proportion of words being inverse to the level of variation: thus 523 words (37.7%) occur with two different spellings, 108 words (7.8%) with three variants and only 36 words (2.6%) with four variants. At the upper reaches are a small number of words with five or more variants; one, highness, occurs with nine different forms.

Variants Word Type % of overall word types
9 variants 1 0.1
8 variants 0 0.0
7 variants 0 0.0
6 variants 5 0.4
5 variants 9 0.6
4 variants 36 2.6
3 variants 108 7.8
2 variants 523 37.7
1 variant 707 50.9
TOTAL 1389 100

Table 1. Relationship between number of variants and different word types. QEISC.

It is probable that, if were the corpus larger, there would be a greater number of word types with 6, 7, or 8 variants. However, the heavy weighting towards single variants suggests that this is a prominent characteristic of Elizabeth’s practice, and can be read as a marker of spelling consistency. The figures lend support towards Salmon’s verdict of ‘reasonable consistency’ in Elizabeth’s spelling, although it is possible to appreciate how Blake may have reached his conclusion of Elizabeth’s ‘extraordinary range’ of spelling, if his opinion was based on a qualitative rather than a quantitative assessment.

The figures in Table 1 represent the ratio of word types to the number of spelling forms, but do not reflect the possible variation in the frequency of those word types. Frequency of use is an important factor when discussing consistency. For example, the significance of the seven hundred and seven words in the corpus with a single spelling form will be greater if Elizabeth spells these words identically twenty times over, rather than if she uses them only twice. Results of this nature offer a stronger case for an intentional, rather than accidental, consistency of practice on behalf of the writer. The words that occur with only a single variant form in the corpus offer a useful sample to ascertain the relationship between variant number and frequency of use in Elizabeth’s spelling system (see Table 2).

Frequency (single-variant forms only) Number of words % of words in the 1-variant category
2 to 10 609 86.1
11 to 100 80 11.3
101 + 18 2.5
TOTAL 707 100

Table 2. Frequency of 1-variant word types. QEISC.

The relationship between token frequency and the different 1-variant word types is inversely proportional. The lowest proportion of the 1-variant category data – 18 word types in all (2.5% of single forms) – occur over one hundred times in the corpus. All of these words are grammatical, including prepositions (to, 783 occurrences; of, 623 occurrences), pronouns (I, 750 occurrences), and conjunctions (and, 638 occurrences). The high level of consistency may therefore be explained both by the qualities of these words – monosyllabic, Germanic – and their high frequency in Elizabeth’s correspondence.

In the mid-range frequencies, 80 words occur between 11 and 100 times with a single spelling form. This group is made up of a wider range of lexical categories including proper names (Elizabeth, 50 occurrences), common nouns (cousin, 36 occurrences) and verbs (first-person present make, 84 occurrences). The diversity of the lexis continues in the least frequent 1-variant words, comprising 609 total forms, ranging from 2 to 10 tokens in the corpus: e.g. (French, 5 occurrences), (death, 7 occurrences), (declared, 6 occurrences). Whilst the number of different forms is greatest in the 2-10 occurrences group, it should be noted that 323 (54%) of these occur only twice in the corpus; overall, the 1-variant, two token words constitute a considerable 45.6% of the 1-variant category. Interpreting these figures is difficult; on the one hand, the low frequency of the words could disguise variation, yet on the other it may also indicate that Elizabeth had a remarkably stable spelling system that was not restricted to high frequency items such as grammatical words. Increasing the size of the corpus and expanding the resource to include the practice of other writers, are two options that would provide further insight into this dimension of sixteenth-century spelling practice.

7.2 Diachronic Consistency

One of the arguments for analysing the spelling practice of an individual, rather than a larger social group, was that the idiolect would enable a focused consideration of social factors. A diachronic study under these conditions allows us to investigate the possible impact of education, age and usage on the constancy of sixteenth-century spelling. For this aspect of analysis, a stable dataset is required: the meaningfulness of consistent or inconsistent forms in relation to sparse lexical items in the corpus is unclear and difficult to interpret, as was seen in the low frequency forms in the 1-variant category. Consequently, the data selected for the diachronic comparison (Table 3) represents a sample of the most frequent (+ 5 tokens) and most variable word forms (+ 4 variants) in the corpus: although, thought, might, honour, received, through, will, evil, country, been, doubt, upon, understand, willingly, English, which, mind, receive, truth, friendship, conscience, persuasions, ought, perceive, praying, friends, with, council, loving, even, sovereign, vain, subjects, believe, thoughts, councillor and wax. Interestingly, each word in this group has at least four variant spellings listed in the OED, suggesting that the range of variation – if not the forms themselves – is not unique to Elizabeth’s practice.

  Variants (n.) %
Period A words with more variants 5 13.5
Period B words with more variants 25 67.6
Same number of variants in each period 7 18.9
Total 37 100

Table 3. Diachronic comparison of variable spellings. QEISC

The diachronic comparison splits the data into two halves. Period A corresponds to Elizabeth’s pre-accession correspondence (1544–1556) and Period B to her post-accession correspondence (1563–1595). The evidence shown in Table 3 indicates that spelling become more variable and inconsistent in the latter years of the corpus, which is the opposite of the trend predicted by the hypotheses.

However, the figures do not tell the whole story. It is necessary to assess the weighting of the variant forms i.e. Elizabeth’s preference for one variant over another. The (dis)continuity of preferred forms over time will provide a more accurate gauge of consistency in the two sub-periods. I define the notion of “preference” numerically, as a variant that occurs at least 3 times more than other variant forms. This is somewhat of an arbitrary line, but one that works effectively with the corpus size and the frequency/variation values of the sample. In a larger scale study, this numerical defnition may have to be reassessed. It also means, for the present analysis, that some words do not have a preferred spelling. I recognise that, within the smaller pre-accession corpus, there could be problems with token counts, although choosing a sample that includes the most frequent word types in the corpus minimises the problem

I can best illustrate the concept of preference with an example. The modal verb might has five variant spellings in the corpus. Three variants occur in Period A, and four variant forms in Period B, with only one maintained from Period A. When viewed from this perspective, it appears there was an increase in the inconsistency between the two periods. However, Elizabeth does not use all variants equally. In the pre-accession period, the variant <migth> occurs 8 times, <might> twice and <mighte> once. Thus <migth> is the preferred spelling for this period. By contrast <might> is the preferred form in Elizabeth’s post-accession correspondence, occurring 24 times. The other three variants in this period occur only once each.

Therefore, the findings for might indicate that Elizabeth has both an overall consistency in her spelling of this word (<might> accounts for 26 of the 38 occurrences in QEISC) and different preferences in each period of the corpus: Period A <migth> = 72.7%, Period B <might> = 88.9%. The percentages suggest that Elizabeth became more consistent in her use of the preferred form in the post-accession period. The difference in preference between the two periods is statistically significant, according to the chi square test (p > 0.001; degree of difference = 1).

In the sample there is a clear difference in the distribution of preferred spellings in word types found in both sub-periods. Whilst 11 of the words (29.7%) have a preferred variant in the pre-accession part of the corpus, this increases to 24 of the words (64.9%) in the post-accession period, implying that Elizabeth’s spelling system increased in consistency over time (p > 0.01). Of the 37 word types that occur in both sub-periods of the corpus, eight have a preferred spelling form in both periods.

Curiously, in only three of the word types (been, which, with) does Elizabeth maintain her preferred spelling from Period A to Period B. Notably, all three are grammatical and occur frequently in the corpus. My analysis has already indicated that this word class contributed to the level of consistency with single-variant forms, suggesting that frequency of use is an important factor in the development of Elizabeth’s spelling system. The factor may also apply more generally to Early Modern spelling, although further research is necessary to confirm this.

7.3 Graph Forms and Combinations

In the second part of the analysis, I explore the different graph combinations used by Elizabeth. These are the forms that contribute to the consistency detected in her spelling system in the previous analysis. An account of all the graph combinations would extend far beyond the space available for this paper, and so discussion concentrates on two examples that represent different aspects of the results.

At this stage, the discussion of graph combinations considers the written dimension only, working on the assumption that the written and spoken modes of language are distinct components of an inter-related system, and thus that one can be discussed without continuous reference to the other. This approach has previously been adopted in the discussion of ME spelling systems. The editors of A Linguistic Atlas of Late Middle English point out that ‘it is only at one remove that spelling is evidence about spoken language, but it is direct evidence about written language [...] The written language can be studied in its own right’ (McIntosh and others, vol. 1 1986: 5; see also Smith 1996, Chapter 4). They caution that investigating the phonological dimension of spelling is a ‘hazardous undertaking’, and that interpretations of concrete written material soon become ‘debatable derivative conjectures’ when used for evidence of the spoken language (McIntosh and others vol. 1 1986: 5). The relationship between the written graph and the spoken phoneme is inconsistent throughout the history of English, and focusing on written data as written data allows us to investigate variation that has no equivalent in spoken language (i.e. the interchangeability of <ȝ> and <y>), and treat such instances equally with those that may have a more tangible connection to the spoken word (McIntosh and others, vol. 1 1986: 6).

7.4 <sh> Combinations

Figure 3. © British Library, MS 23240, f.89. Use of initial <sh> in a letter to James VI of Scotland, 1585.

Figure 4. © British Library, Lansdowne 1236, f.37. Use of medial <sch> in a letter to Mary I, 1556.

The first graph combination illustrates the consistency in Elizabeth’s selection of letterforms. Within the corpus, there are five graph combinations for <sh>: <s>, <ss>, <sch>, <sh> and <ssh>, yet the connection between graph combination and the different word forms is comparatively stable: Elizabeth spells 62 words (91%) using only one graph combination (36 of these word types are hapax legomena), three word types occur with three combinations, and three words with two combinations.

Overall <sh> – now the generalised form in PDE – is the dominant form, accounting for 81.9% of all tokens; e.g. <shortar>, <shewed>, <sonshine>. Closer examination shows that Elizabeth uses the graph combinations systematically, with her preference dependent upon the graphs’ position within the word (see Table 4). <sh> is Elizabeth’s preferred combination in initial position at 99.6%: e.g. <shuld>, <shall>, <shameful>, <shadowe>. The alternative <sch> occurs in a single instance of sharply <scharpely> found in a pre-accession letter to Edward VI (29th April 1551, to Edward VI, QEISC).

  Initial Position Medial Position Final Position
<s> 0 (0%)

2 (3.4%) 4 (10.3%)
<ss> 0 (0%) 1 (1.7%) 1 (2.6%)
<sch> 1 (0.4%) 23 (39%) 31 (79.5%)
<sh> 276 (99.6%) 28 (47.5%) 3 (7.7%)
<ssh> 0 (0%) 5 (8.5%) 0 (0%)
Total 277 59 39

Table 4. Distribution of <sh> graph combinations by token frequency. QEISC.
[NB: see Data Option 1 in Appendix]

In medial positions, all five combinations are used by Elizabeth, although <sch> and <sh> are the preferred graphs. The preferred combination for final position is also <sch> e.g. <perische>, <blusche>, <rasche>. The second most frequent graph, <s>, is used in <skottis> and one of two variants for punish <punis>. However, the majority of non-<sch> final combinations are attributable to Elizabeth’s spelling of English, which occurs with three different variants: <english>, <e/inglas> and <inglische/englisch>. The results suggest this word shows an unusual level of variation, when compared to her typical practice.

Diachronic comparison indicates that Elizabeth’s preferences between the pre- and post-accession periods are similar (Table 5). The dominance of <sh> in initial positions is the case for both periods, at 99% in the pre-accession correspondence and 100% in the post-accession letters. In medial positions, Elizabeth’s preferences become less consistent with <sh> decreasing from 55.2% to 40% across the two periods, and <sch> increasing. Elizabeth’s preferences are clearer for final position spellings, with the pre-accession preferred form <sch> becoming even more dominant in the later correspondence.

Period A Initial Position Medial Position Final Position
<s> 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (8.3%)
<ss> 0 (0%) 1 (3.4%) 1 (8.3%)
<sch> 1 (1%) 10 (34.5%) 8 (66.7%)
<sh> 98 (99%) 16 (55.2%) 2 (16.7%)

<ssh> 0 (0%) 2 (6.9%) 0 (0%)
Total 99 29 12
Period B Initial Position Medial Position Final Position
<s> 0 (0%) 2 (6.7%) 3 (11.1%)
<ss> 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
<sch> 0 (0%) 13 (43.3%) 23 (85.2%)
<sh> 178 (100%) 12 (40%) 1 (3.7%)
<ssh> 0 (0%) 3 (10%) 0 (0%)
Total 178 30 27

Table 5. Distribution of <sh> by word position over time. QEISC.

Whilst the results for <sh> characterise Elizabeth’s spelling system, the data does not indicate the provenance or popularity of the graph combinations in the wider social context. In order to establish if the use of <sh> or <sch>, for example, is typical or atypical of the practice of Elizabeth’s contemporaries, the informants within the PCEEC can provide a useful comparison. Although the corpus may not be reliable enough for a full-scale analysis, sampling the spelling variants for specific words can at least provide an impression of the graph combinations current in the sixteenth century. In order to focus my analysis and provide a more meaningful comparison, I have restricted the analysis of CEEC to the 16th century letters. It should be noted that some of these sub-files contain a small amount of material from either pre-1500 (particularly the Paston correspondence) or post-1600.

For comparison with <sh>, I chose three spellings representative of Elizabeth’s practice: short, ashamed and English. In the PCEEC corpus, there are five variant spellings for short (n = 158), including the <short> form used by Elizabeth. The PCEEC informants show the same preference as Elizabeth for <sh> in initial position, and the graph combination accounts for 90.5% (143 tokens) of all spellings. However, the remaining 9.5% is attributable to the combination <sch>. The informants who use this variant are predominantly members of the Paston family writing in the latter decades of the fifteenth century, suggesting that as a word-initial graph combination, it may have been slightly archaic in Elizabeth’s lifetime.

The PCEEC informants use only two forms for ashamed (n = 29): <sh> (93.1%) and <ssh> (6.9%) graphs respectively. Interestingly, no informants use the <sch> combination preferred by Elizabeth for this word, suggesting that this may have been a less usual spelling.

Finally, PCEEC informants use seven variants of <sh> in the renderings of English (n= 140). This indicates that the variation seen in QEISC for this word type parallels the macro-level variation of the word in the Early Modern period. It is curious that a politically significant word such as English lacks a consistent form. Michael Benskin (2004: 21) cites the seven variant spellings for England used by the scribes writing in the ‘Chancery Standard’ (fourteenth and fifteenth century) as indicative that the scribes were not concerned with ‘institutional spelling norms’. Such a significant word, he suggests, ‘would surely have been a prime candidate for fixity’ (2004: 21). It is curious that Elizabeth, writing around a century later, shows no intention of establishing a consistent spelling of English in her spelling system, nor – based on the results from PCEEC – providing a standardised form to be used by her subjects.

Comparison of the particular variants of English shows, however, that only three of the forms in PCEEC correspond with Elizabeth’s preferences. When assessed for their frequency, <sh> is by far the dominant form occurring in 96.4% of all variants. The other combinations include <ssh> (used by Anne Boleyn) and a single example containing final <s>. The lack of <sch> in final position is surprising, and provides further evidence that this graph is an idiosyncratic feature of Elizabeth’s spelling system.

Further consultation of the PCEEC shows that <sch> is quite rare in any word position. However, two notable users of <sch> are Catherine Parr and Henry VIII.

I can no les do then to sende her [Anne Boleyn] summe flesche representyng my name, whyche is hart flesche for Henry (1528, Henry VIII; HENRY8, 128).

A letter (not in PCEEC) written by Elizabeth’s governess Kat Ashley shows that <sch> was also her preferred spelling: she <sche>, punishment <ponysschment>, <ponyschment> and Ashley <aschyly>, with only one <sh> form: <shame> (Kathryn Ashley 1549, PRO: SP 10/6, Item 22 in Cusack 1998: 236–8). Elizabeth uses <sch> to spell Ashley’s name, possibly copying the practice of her governess: <aschilye, aschiley, aschylye>. The distribution of <sch> thus appears to be localised, more typical of the spelling of those associated with the Court, and with Elizabeth herself.

The currency of <sch> in the writing of influential and prominent individuals in Elizabeth’s adolescence may explain the presence of the graph combination in her spelling system. My analysis suggests that spelling is susceptible to the same social factors as other linguistic variables, and the concept of ‘spelling contact’ (analogous with ‘dialect contact’) can be speculatively applied to the evidence for <sch>. Sebba (2007: 60) suggests that spelling contact is significant to English spelling at a macro level, describing the transmission of international conventions via scribes and printers from the continent. My findings suggest that the phenomenon could also occur at a localised level, with conventions shared between members of different community groups. However, more evidence is needed to establish if Elizabeth’s spelling system was extensively influenced by the preferences of her peers, or whether <sch> is a one-off example. It is probable that her tendency towards spelling consistency ensured that <sch> was maintained in her spelling system throughout her life.

7.5 <s> and <z> Graphs

Figure 5. © British Library, MS Add. 23240, f.39. Use of terminal <s> in a letter to James VI of Scotland, 1586.

Figure 6. © British Library, Add. MS 23240, f.77. Use of terminal <z> in a letter to James VI of Scotland, 1588.

The second graph selected for discussion demonstrates a different set of properties. In PDE standard spelling, <s> is used to mark plural and genitive word endings. However, Early Modern writers had greater freedom, and in QEISC Elizabeth uses of both <s> and <z> graphs to mark the plural or genitive:

the bloudy invention of traitors handz (1st February 1587, to James VI, QEISC).

In the pre-accession period, <s> is the only graph:

nor els worthy to come, in youre graces handes, but rather all vnperfytte and vncorecte (1544, to Catherine Parr, QEISC).

The alternative <z> graph emerges in Elizabeth’s post-accession spelling, accounting for 24.3% of all plural and genitive tokens (p > 0.001). [4]

Variant Period A Period B
<s> 99 (100%) 331 (75.7%)
<z> 0 106 (24.3%)

Table 6. Distribution of <s> and <z>. QEISC.
[NB: See Data Option 2 in Appendix]

The change suggests that Early Modern spelling systems were receptive to new conventions in adulthood, analogous to the adoption of new morphosyntactic variants or lexical forms. But the development of <z> also contradicts my key hypothesis that Elizabeth’s spelling system would become more consistent over time. However, examining the data more closely reveals that Elizabeth restricts the <z> graph to words terminating in <t>, <d>, <l> and <ng>. The use of <z> is not exclusive, and Elizabeth continues to use <s> in these contexts, but the distribution of the <z> graph demonstrates consistency and something resembling an underlying system for these graphs (Table 7).

Word Ending Total <s> and <z> % <z>
Final –d 73


Final –t 97 60.8
Final –l 23


Final –ng 25 4

Table 7. <z> in four word-final contexts (%). Period B, QEISC.

For the PCEEC comparison, I examined the words hearts, councils and Gods. In QEISC, hearts occurs with both terminal <s> and <z>, although the latter graph is preferred in Elizabeth’s post-accession writing accounting for four of the six occurrences. Her preference is not replicated in the correspondence of the PCEEC informants. Out of the thirteen variant spellings of heart, only one form uses the <z> graph to mark the genitive, found in the Paston correspondence. (There were no examples of heart, pl. using <z>):

graunt you euer youre hertez desyre (John Russe, 1462; PASTON, II, 276).

All other spelling forms of hearts in PCEEC use terminal <s>, such as in the letters of contemporaries Robert Dudley (1586) and Gabriel Harvey (1573), and predecessors Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Boleyn (1520s). The PCEEC informants show a similar preference for <s> in the variants for councils, with no instances of <z>. Finally, only three spelling forms (out of over two hundred) use the <z> graph in the genitive Gods, and these also occur in the fifteenth-century Paston correspondence. The majority of PCEEC informants use <s>. [5]

The lack of correlation between Elizabeth and her contemporaries for <z> is surprising, as the timing of the development suggests that it may correspond to a broader trend. However, the concept of ‘spelling contact’ may offer a potential explanation for Elizabeth’s adoption of <z>, through the influence of the spelling reform ideas of one of her courtiers. William Patten, a colleague of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and Sir Christopher Hatton, devised a spelling system in the latter decades of the sixteenth century. Whilst less well known than other reformists, such as Sir John Cheke, he is attributed with the transcription of a mock patent (in his spelling system) in 1591. The patent is addressed to Sir William Cecil, and expresses the Queen’s desire that her ‘hermite’ find ‘solace’ after the death of his wife. Steven W. May (2004: xxvii) suggests that Elizabeth was closely involved in its composition.

Examining the patent, the most striking feature is Patten’s usage of <z> for plurals and genitives, suggesting that his system may have contributed to Elizabeth’s post-accession adoption of the graph. However, a word-by-word comparison indicates that the distribution of <z> in the systems of Elizabeth and Patten is dissimilar, e.g. <causes> vs. <causez>. Comparison of other spelling forms also provides minimal evidence to support the idea that Patten influenced Elizabeth’s post-accession spelling. Nevertheless, the presence of Patten’s spelling system in the patent is intriguing. Elizabeth was almost certainly involved in the text’s composition, with the patent containing her nickname ‘sprite’ for Cecil (see May 2004: xxvi–xxvii), and this suggests that she may also have approved of the transcription before it was issued. As it stands, the hypothesis that Elizabeth adopted <z> due to Patten’s practice is unsupported by other evidence. It may be that Elizabeth independently adopted, or developed, the practice of plural and genitive <z>.

8. Interpretations

The results from QEISC indicate that Elizabeth’s spelling system increases in consistency over time, a trend that can be explained by appealing to the social factors discussed at the beginning of this paper. Elizabeth’s developing education and her increasing written output offers feasible motives for the rise in consistency between Period A and Period B.

Salmon (1999: 30) suggests that Elizabeth’s spelling is ‘noticeable’ for being ‘reasonably consistent’, a description for which I can now offer quantitative support. My results show a better fit with Salmon’s assessment than with Blake’s claim that Elizabeth had a highly variable spelling system.

However, there is a significant methodological problem underlying such an interpretation. At present the definition of “consistent” is undefined and impressionistic. There is no macro-level data to compare with Elizabeth’s spelling system, to reveal if the figures represent a system more consistent than most. All we know is that her practice shows an increase in consistency over time, relative to her own usage.

The analysis of graph combinations <sh> and word-final <s> illustrates very different patterns of use, demonstrating the idiosyncrasy of Elizabeth’s system (and, by extension, spelling systems of the sixteenth century). However, rather than international or literary influences, the most intriguing factor in her usage appeared to be localised ‘spelling contact’, seen in the shared graph preferences of Elizabeth and her step-mother and step-brother. The concept of ‘spelling contact’, and the scope of the phenomenon, warrants further investigation.

9. Conclusion

Figure 3. The Plimpton "Sieve" Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, 1579. Artist: George Gower. Oil on panel.

This paper has explored the theoretical and methodological dimensions of a sociolinguistic study of sixteenth-century spelling. The case study of Queen Elizabeth I indicates that the approach has considerable merit, based on the correlations between her biographical experiences (education, age, writing habits) and the patterns in her spelling system. Whilst the study was not able to consider spelling forms more generally in the sixteenth century, the persuasive evidence in favour of social factors influencing Elizabeth’s spelling practice suggests that a larger sociolinguistic analysis of spelling variation may help us to understand the processes that shaped this intermediary stage in English spelling, and to better appreciate the social significance of the written mode in EModE. The corpus tools offered by the historical sociolinguistic framework provide a valuable means to realise such a goal.


[1] I thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments during the preparation of this article.

[2] The results are based on a chapter of my PhD thesis (Evans 2011), which is presently being prepared for publication.

[3] This does not have to be the rendering now found in Standard PDE.

[4] The change also applies to other word endings. For else, <elz> becomes the preferred spelling in Period B with 5 tokens, replacing <els>, the preferred form in Period A.

[5] The comparison of <s> and <z> in PCEEC may also be complicated by the rendering of these letters forms in the early 16th century, which in some cases the graph corresponded to neither letter-form. The various editions used to compile PCEEC may of course implement different editorial practices. I thank the anonymous reviewer for highlighting this point.


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Appendix: Queen Elizabeth I Spelling Corpus

Table 8: Queen Elizabeth I Spelling Corpus

1544, 31st December Katherine Parr 533 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. MS Cherry 36, fol. 2r-4v
1548, June Katherine Parr 179 PRO. State Papers Domestic, Edward VI 10/2, fol. 84c
1548, 31st July Katherine Parr 230 British Library. MS Cotton Ortho C.X. fol. 236v
1548, June Thomas Seymour 106 Pierpont Morgan Library, Rulers of English Box 03, Part 1
1549, Jan/Feb Edward Seymour 236 Burghley Papers. Vol. 1 pg. 102
1549, 28th January Edward Seymour 683 Hatfield House. Cecil Papers, 133/4/2
1549, 6th February Edward Seymour 184 British Library. MS Ashmole 1729, art. 6
1549, 21st February Edward Seymour 645 British Library. MS Lansdowne 1236, fol. 33
1549, 7th March Edward Seymour 510 British Library. MS Lansdowne 1236 fol. 35r
1550, circa. Sir Thomas Smith 11 British Library. MS Lansdowne 1236, fol. 40
1551, 15th May Edward Tudor 390 British Library. MS Cotton Vespasian F.III, fol. 48
1552, 21st April Edward Tudor 321 Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, Houghton Library, Harvard University. MS Typ 686
1552, 27th October Mary Tudor 259 British Library. MS Lansdowne 1236, fol. 39
1553, March Edward Tudor 237 British Library. MS Harley 6986, art. 16, fol. 23r
1554, 17th March Mary Tudor 626 PRO. State Papers Domestic, Mary I 11/4/2, fol. 3
1556, 2nd August Mary Tudor 569 British Library. MS Lansdowne 1236, fol. 37
1563, July Throckmorton 95 Auction listing transcript. Courtesy of Steven May (p.c.)
1566, November William Cecil 185 British Library. MS Lansdowne 1236, fol. 42-42v
1570, circa. Katherine Knyvett, Lady Carey 68 British Library. MS Additional 4160, fol. 23
1572, 11th April William Cecil 123 British Library. MS Ashmole 1729, art. 7 fol. 13.
1572, 22nd October George Talbot 50 Lambeth Palace Library. MS 1397, fol. 41r
1582, 24th February Henry Wallop 30 British Library. MS Vespasian F.3 pg. 13b
1585, January James Stuart 260 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 7
1585, January/February James Stuart 408 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 11r-11v
1586, January James Stuart 555 British Library. MS Additional 23240, art. 10, fol. 30r-31v
1585, June/July James Stuart 383 British Library. MS Additional 23240 fol. 15r-15v
1585, August James Stuart 366 British Library. MS Additional 23240 art.6, fol. 19r-20v
1585, November James Stuart 445 British Library. MS Additional 23240, art.7, fol. 23
1586, February James Stuart 275 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 34
1586, March James Stuart 714 British Library. MS Additional 23240, art.12, fol. 38r-39v
1586, May James Stuart 401 British Library. MS Additional 23240 art.15, fol. 45
1586, 4th October James Stuart 469 British Library. MS Additional 23240, art.16, fol. 49
1586, 14th October James Stuart 539 British Library. MS Additional 23240, art.17, fol. 53
1587, January/February James Stuart 355 British Library. MS Additional 23240, art.18, fol. 57v-58r
1587, 1st Feburary James Stuart 574 British Library. MS Additional 23240 art.19, fol.61r-62r
1588, 15th May James Stuart 522 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 67
1588, 1st July James Stuart 440 British Library. MS Additional 23240 art.22, fol. 71
1588, August James Stuart 477 British Library. MS Additional 23240, art. 24, fol. 77
1589, September James Stuart 286 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 81
1590 James Stuart 954 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 85
1590, May James Stuart 372 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 90
1590, 6th July James Stuart 398 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 94
1591, January James Stuart 308 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 104
1591, April James Stuart 548 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 98
1593, January James Stuart 953 British Library. MS Additional 23240, art. 32, fol. 108r-109r
1593, 16th March James Stuart 536 Folger Shakespeare Library. MS X, fol.1v
1593, May James Stuart 481 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 118
1593, August James Stuart 273 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 122
1593, October James Stuart 955 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 126
1593, 29th October James Stuart 46 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 131
1594, May James Stuart 583 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 132
1594, May James Stuart 511 Hatfield House. Cecil Papers, 133/80, fol. 120
1594, October James Stuart 672 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 136-137
1595, January/February James Stuart 615 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 140
1595, circa. James Stuart 480 British Library. MS Additional 23240, fol. 144-145
Letters 55    
Word Count   22424  



DATA OPTION 1: Word List information, relevant to Section 7.4.

WORD Variants
ACCOMPLISHMENT accomplischement
ASHAMED aschamed, asshamed, ashamed
ASHERIDGE hasherige, asherige
ASHLEY aschilye, aschiley, aschylye
BANISH banische
BANISHED banisshed
BANISHMENT banisment
BANISHMENTS banismentz
BLUSH blusche
CHILDISH childische
ENGLISH english, englisch, englishe, inglas, inglische, inglis
ESHEWED eschued
FINISH finische
FINISHED finisched
FINISHERS finischars
FINISHING finisching
FISH fische
FRIENDSHIP frindeship, frindship, frendship, frendeshipe
GUSH gusche
LASH lasche
LORDSHIP lordeship, lordshipe, lordship, lordeshipe
LORDSHIPS lordeships
PERISH perische
POLISH polishe
PUNISH ponesse, punis
RASH rasche
RASHNESS raschenis
SCOTTISH skottis
SHADOW shadow, shadowe
SHALL shal, shall
SHALLOW shalow
SHAME shame 
SHAMEFUL shameful, shamful
SHAMEFULLEST shamefullist
SHAMEFULLY shamfully 
SHAPEN shapen 
SHARPLY scharpely
SHE she 
SHIFT shift 
SHIFTS shiftes
SHIPMAN shipman 
SHIPS shippes
SHOOT shute, shoute
SHOP shoppe
SHORT short 
SHORTEN shorten 
SHORTER shortar
SHORTLY shortely
SHOULD shuld, shulde, should
SHOW shew, shewe
SHOWED shewed
SHOWS shewes
SHREWDER shwredar
SHREWSBURY shrewesbury
SHUN shun 
SHUNNED shunned
SHUT shut
SPANISH spanische
SUNSHINE sonshine
UNPUNISHED unpunisshed, unpunist
WISH wische, wysche
WISHED wisched, wisshed
WISHES wisches
WISHETH wischeth, wisheth, wisseth
WISHING wisching



DATA OPTION 2: Word List information, relevant to Section 7.5.

WORD Variants
ACCIDENTS accidens, accidentz
ACTS actes, acts, actz
ADDITIONS additions 
ADMIRALS admirals 
ADVISES aduisis
AFFAIRS affaires, affayres
AFFECTIONS affections 
AFFLICTS afflictz
ALWAYS alwais, alwayes
AMBASSADORS ambassaduurs, ambassadors, embassadors
AMITIES amities
ANATOMIES anatomies 
ANOTHERS anothers, nothers
ANSWERS answers 


ARTICLES articles 
ASSAULTS assaultes
ATTEMPTS attempts, attemps, attemptz
BABIES babies 
BAITS baites
BANDS bandz
BANISHMENTS banismentz
BANKS bankes
BEAMS beames
BEES bees 
BEGINNERS beginnars
BELLOWS bellowes


BENEFITS benefits, benefitz
BIDS bids, bidz
BLASTS blastz
BLOWS blowes
BODWELS bodwelz
BOOKS bokes
BOOTS bootes
BORDERERS borderars
BORDERS bordars
BOUNDS boundz
BOWELS bowelz
BRAINS braines
BULLS bulles
CALENDS calandes, calendes
CAPACITIES capacities 
CARES cares, cars
CLOUDS cloudes
COASTS costes
COBWEBS cobwebbes
COLOURS coulers, coulors
COMMENDATIONS commendations, commendacyons, commendacions
COMMISSIONERS commissionars, commisssionars
CONCEITS conceatz


CONSIDERATIONS consideracions


COSTS costes
COUNCILLOR councelars, councelors, counselars, counselors
COUNCILS counsels, counselz


COUNTRIES countries, countryes
COURSES coursis
COUSINS cousins 
DAYS dayes, days
DEALINGS dealings 
DEEDS dides, dedes
DEMERITS demerites
DESERTS desartz,
DESIRES desiars, desires,
DISEASES diseases 
DOINGS doings, doinges
DOORS dores
DOUBTS doutes
DRAWERS drawers 
EARLS erles
EARS eares
ECHOES ecchos
EFFECTS effectz
ENEMIES enemies, enemis, enimies, ennemis, ennemys
ENSIGNS enseignes
ENTERTAINMENTS intertainmentz
EPISTLES epistelz
EQUALS equalz
ESPIALS espialz
ESTATES estates 
EVILS euelles
EXCUSES skusis
EYES yees
FACES faces 
FACTS facts, factz
FAVOURS fauors
FELLOWS felowes
FIELDS fildes, filds
FINISHERS finischars
FITS fitz
FOES foes 
FOLKS folkes, fokes
FORCES forses, forsis
FOREIGNERS forainers, foraners, forenars, forennars
FRIENDS frendes, frends, frendz, frindes, frindz
FRUITS fruites
FULFILLERS fulfillars
GENTLEMANS gentilmans
GIVERS giuers
GODS gods, godz
GRANTS grauntz
GRAY'S grayes
HANDS handes, handz
HARMS harmes
HEADS hedz
HEARTS hartes, harts, hartz
HELPS helpes, helps
HONOURS honors
IMPS impes
INTENTS intentes, intentz
JAWS chawes
JESUITS iesiutes, iesuites
JEWELS iuelz
JEWS iues
JUDGEMENTS iugementz
KINGS kinges, kings
KINS kinnes
LAWS lawes
LAWYERS lawiers
LEASINGS leasings 
LENGTHS lenghs
LETTERS lettars, letters
LIARS liars 
LIES lies 
LIMITS limites
LINES lines 
LIPS lippes
LOOKERS lookars, lokers
LORDS lords, lordz, lordes
LORDSHIPS lordeships
LOWERINGS loweringes
MACHINES machines 
MAJESTIES maiesties
MALADIES maladies 
MARVELS marveilles
MEANINGS meanings, menings
MEMORIALS memorialz, memorielz
MERITS merites
MESSAGES messages
MESSENGERS messangers
MILLIONS milions
MINDS mindz, mynds
MINISTERS ministars
MISHAPS mishaps 
MONTHS monethes, moneths
MOTHERS mothers 
MOUTHS mouthes
MURDERERS murderars
NEIGHBOURS naighbors, neigbors, neighbors
NOVICES nouices
NUMBERS numbars
OFFENDERS offendars
OFFERS offers, offars
ORAISONS oraisons, orasonns
ORDERS ordars
OUTCRYS outcryes
PAGANS painenams
PARENTS parents, parentz
PARTAKERS pertakers


PARTIES parties 
PATHS pathes
PERSONS persons 
PERSUATIONS persuasions, persuations,perswasions, perswations
PETITIONS petitions 
PHYSICIANS fisitians
PLACES places 
PLAIDARS plaidars
PLANS plannes
POINTS pointz
POISONS poisons 


PULPITS pulpitz
PURSES pursis
QUARRELS quarelz
REALMS realmes, realms
REBELS rebelz, rebelles
RESPECTS respectz
RINGLEADERS ringeleadars
ROMANS romaines
RUINS ruines
RUMORS rumors
RUSSELLS russels, russelz
SAILS sailes
SANDS sandes
SCANDALS scandalz
SCANDLERS schanlders
SCAPES skapes
SCOTS skotz, scots, scottz, scotes
SELVES selves, selues
SENSES sences
SENTENCES sentences 
SERVANTS seruantz, servantz
SERVICES services
SHIFTS shiftes
SHIPS shippes
SHOWS shewes
SKILLS skils
SOLEMNITIES solempnites
SONGS songes
SPANIARDS spaniardz
SPECTACLES spectacles 
SPRINGS springes, springs
STATES states 
STAYS staies
STIPENDARIES stipendaries
STRINGS stringes
SUBJECTS subiectz, subiects, subiuectz, suiectz


SURGEONS surgions
TALES tales 
THOUGHTS thoghtes, thoghtz, thoghts, thoughtes
THREATS thretes
TOKENS tokens 
TONGUES tonges, toungz
TREATMENTS traictmentz
TRIFLES trifels, trifles
TROOPS troupes
TROUBLES troubles 
ULCERS ulcers 
VAGRANTS vagrants 
VIPERS vipars
VOWS vowes
WAVES waues
WHISPERERS whisperars
WINDS windz
WINGS winges, wings
WITS witz
WORDS wordes, words, wordz
YEARS yeres, yeares, years