Fact Check: How English Has Changed

There is a popular meme that illustrates language change. It is entitled “How English has changed over the last 1000 years: the 23rd Psalm.”

I don’t know the source, but it appears to be from a printed book. Maybe someone can help me hunt down the reference.

Now there are some problems with this analysis. Language is primarily spoken, not written, so comparing writing is not necessarily indicative of language change. It could simply be showing differences in spelling. Also, it is comparing different translations of the Bible. That a different translator rendered a passage differently doesn’t necessarily mean there was language change. It could mean they interpreted it differently, or used a different source text (early English translations were from the Latin Vulgate), or had a different translation philosophy, or it simply reflects stylistic differences.

But the most glaring error represents a common misconception: that the King James Version we have today is what they had in 1611. However, what is printed above is not the King James Version of 1611, but the King James Version of 1769! This misconception is continually perpetuated when we refer to the King James Version that we use as the 1611.

The 1611 King James Bible reads this way:

The LORD is my ſhepheard, I ſhall not want.
He maketh me to lie downe in greene paſtures:
he leadeth mee beſide the ſtill waters.

A helpful web site is King James Bible Online. You can compare the 1611 and 1769 there, and even view an original 1611 manuscript.

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