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Middle English

Intro to the language of the 14th century

Chelsea Henson

on 3 October 2014

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Transcript of Middle English

Middle English
Initial developments in 12th century (1300s)

Less "inflected" than Old English (i.e. cases, genders, numbers, change form and ending of word)

Combined influences of Germanic, Scandinavian, French, Latin, AND Anglo-Saxon words and languages

No standardized system of spelling or vocabulary

Middle English: Language of the 14th century
Canterbury Tales "General Prologue"
Whan that April with his showres soote
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veine in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flowr;
Whan Zephyrus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye
That sleepen al the night with open ye --
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages --
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seeken straunge strondes
To feme halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Canterbury they wende,
The holy bisful martyr for to seeke
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seke.
Middle English sounds
Every letter pronounced, i.e. knight = k-ni-ck-t (or "k-nigget," as our French taunting friends might say).

Similar to romance language pronunciation

Reading Middle English: tips
Read it out loud: ME is very phonetic. Reading out loud shows sound similarities spelling will not always reveal.

Think about sounds: we are still close to the oral tradition! Though ME is written, it was designed to be read aloud.

Homophones count: if a word sounds like another word, the passage might suggest both meanings (i.e. son and sun, or knight and night).
Final "e" in words pronounced
the following word begins with a vowel
Full transcript