MIDDLE ENGLISH (ME) is collectively the varieties of the English
language spoken after the
Norman Conquest (1066) until the late 15th
century; scholarly opinion varies but the Oxford English Dictionary
specifies the period of 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development
Little survives of early
Middle English literature , most likely due
to the Norman domination and the prestige that came with writing in
French rather than English. During the 14th century, a new style of
literature emerged with the works of notable writers such as John
Geoffrey Chaucer , whose
* 1 History
* 2 Phonology
* 3 Morphology
* 3.1 Nouns * 3.2 Pronouns * 3.3 Verbs
* 4 Orthography
* 4.1 Alphabet * 4.2 Other symbols * 4.3 Letter-to-sound correspondences
* 5 Sample texts
* 5.1 Ormulum, 12th century * 5.2 Epitaph of John the smyth, died 1371 * 5.3 Wycliffe\'s Bible, 1384 * 5.4 Chaucer, 1390s * 5.5 Gower, 1390
* 6 See also * 7 References * 8 External links
TRANSITION FROM OLD ENGLISH
The latter part of the 11th century was a period of transition from
The influence of
Old Norse certainly helped move English from a
synthetic language towards a more analytic or isolating word order, a
deep change at the grammatical level. The eagerness of
The strength of the Viking influence on
While the influence of Scandinavian language was strongest in
dialects in the
Danelaw region and Scotland, the spoken words crept
into the language in the tenth and eleventh centuries near the
transition from the Old to
The Norman conquest of
The role of Anglo-Norman as the language of government and law can be seen in the abundance of Modern English words for the mechanisms of government that derive from Anglo-Norman: court , judge , jury , appeal , parliament . There are also many Norman-derived terms relating to the chivalric cultures that arose in the 12th century, an era of feudalism and crusading .
Sometimes, and particularly later, words were taken from
The end of Anglo-Saxon rule did not, of course, change the language
immediately. The general population would have spoken the same
dialects as before the Conquest; these changed slowly until written
records of them became available for study, which varies in different
regions. Once the writing of
EARLY MIDDLE ENGLISH
Gradually, the wealthy and the government Anglicised again, although
Norman (and subsequently French ) remained the dominant language of
literature and law until the 14th century, even after the loss of the
majority of the continental possessions of the
English monarchy . The
loss of case endings was part of a general trend from inflections to
fixed word order that also occurred in other Germanic languages, and
therefore cannot be attributed simply to the influence of
French-speaking sections of the population: English did, after all,
remain the vernacular . It is also argued that Norse immigrants to
Important texts for the reconstruction of the evolution of Middle
English out of
More literary sources of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries include Lawman\'s Brut and The Owl and the Nightingale
Some scholars have defined "Early Middle English" as encompassing
English texts up to 1350. This longer time frame would extend the
corpus to include many
From around the early 14th century there was significant migration
In the English-speaking areas of lowland
LATE MIDDLE ENGLISH
The CHANCERY STANDARD of written English emerged c. 1430 in official
documents that, since the Norman Conquest, had normally been written
in French. Like Chaucer's work, this new standard was based on the
East-Midlands-influenced speech of London. Clerks using this standard
were usually familiar with French and
The Chancery Standard's influence on later forms of written English
is disputed, but it did undoubtedly provide the core around which
Early Modern English formed.
Early Modern English emerged with the
Main article: Middle English phonology
* Emergence of the voiced fricatives /v/, /ð/, /z/ as separate
phonemes , rather than mere allophones of the corresponding voiceless
* Reduction of the
The combination of the last three processes listed above led to the spelling conventions associated with silent ⟨e⟩ and doubled consonants (see under Orthography , below).
NOM engel name
ACC engel name
GEN engles namen
DAT engle namen
NOM engles namen
ACC engles namen
GEN engle namene
DAT englen/englem namen/namem
Some nouns of the engel type have an -e in the nominative/accusative
singular, like the weak declension, but otherwise strong endings.
Often these are the same nouns that had an -e in the
nominative/accusative singular of
The distinct dative case was lost in early Middle English. The genitive survived, however, but by the end of the Middle English period, only the strong -'s ending (variously spelt) was in use.
The strong -(e)s plural form has survived into Modern English. The weak -(e)n form is now rare and used only in oxen and, as part of a double plural , in children and brethren. Some dialects still have forms such as eyen (for eyes), shoon (for shoes), hosen (for hose(s)), kine (for cows), and been (for bees).
As with nouns, there was some inflectional simplification (the
The following table shows some of the various Middle English
pronouns, together with their modern (in quotation marks) and
PERSON (GENDER) SUBJECT OBJECT (ACCUSATIVE ) OBJECT (DATIVE ) POSSESSIVE DETERMINER POSSESSIVE PRONOUN REFLEXIVE OLD ENGLISH FORMS (N, A, D, G)
First modern ic/ich/I "I " me/mi "me" min/minen (pl. ) "my" min/mire/minre "mine" min one/mi selven "myself" iċ, mec/mē, mē, mīn
Second modern (archaic ) þou /þu/tu/þeou "you " (thou ) þe "you" (thee) þi/ti "your" (thy) þin/þyn "yours" (thine) þeself/þi selven "yourself" (thyself) þū, þec/þē, þē, þīn
THIRD Masculine modern he
"he " hine "him" him "to/for him" his/hisse/hes "his" his/hisse
"himself" hē, hine, him, his
Feminine modern sche/sho/ȝho "she " heo/his/hie/hies/hire "her" "to/for her" hio/heo/hire/heore "her" "hers" heo-seolf "herself" hēo, hīe, hiere, hiere
Neuter modern hit
"it " hit
"to/for it" his
"its" hit sulue
"itself" hit, hit, him, his
First modern we
"we " us/ous
"us" ure/our/ures/urne "our" oures
"ours" us self/ous silve
"ourselves" wē, ūsic, ūs, ūser/ūre (dual: wit, etc.)
Second modern (archaic ) ȝe/ye "you " (ye) eow/ou/ȝow/gu/you
"you" eower/ower/gur/our "your" youres
"yours" ȝou self/ou selve ''yourselves'' ġē, ēowic, ēow, ēower (dual: ġit, etc.)
THIRD FROM OLD ENGLISH heo/he his heo/þo/þem heore/her - þam-selue hīe, hīe, heom, heora
FROM OLD NORSE þei þem þeir - þem-selue
MODERN ENGLISH they them to/for them their theirs themselves
As a general rule, the indicative first person singular of verbs in the present tense ends in -e ("ich here" I hear), the second person in -(e)st ("þou spekest" thou speakest), and the third person in -eþ ("he comeþ" he cometh/he comes). (þ (the letter 'thorn') is pronounced like the unvoiced th in "think", but, under certain circumstances, it may be like the voiced th in "that"). The following table illustrates the conjugation pattern of but one dialect.
STRONG VERBS PRESENT TENSE WEAK VERBS PRESENT TENSE PRESENT TENSE TO BE PRESENT TENSE TO HAVE PRESENT TENSE TO WANT
present participle singENDE
present participle baþENDE
present participle beNDE
present participle havENDE
present participle willENDE
STRONG VERBS PAST TENSE WEAK VERBS PAST TENSE PAST TENSE TO BE PAST TENSE TO HAVE PAST TENSE TO WANT
past participle ȝEsungEN
past participle baþEDE
past participle ȝEben
past participle ȝEhad
past participle ȝEwolde
Plural forms vary strongly by dialect, with Southern dialects
The past tense of weak verbs is formed by adding an -ed(e), -d(e) or -t(e) ending. The past-tense forms, without their personal endings, also serve as past participles with past-participle prefixes derived from Old English: i-, y- and sometimes bi-.
Strong verbs , by contrast, form their past tense by changing their stem vowel (binden becomes bound, a process called apophony ), as in Modern English.
With the discontinuation of the
Late West Saxon
A related convention involved the doubling of consonant letters to show that the preceding vowel was not to be lengthened. In some cases the double consonant represented a sound that was (or had previously been) geminated , i.e. had genuinely been "doubled" (and would thus have regularly blocked the lengthening of the preceding vowel). In other cases, by analogy, the consonant was written double merely to indicate the lack of lengthening.
Ash was no longer required in Middle English, as the Old English
vowel /æ/ that it represented had merged into /a/ . The symbol
nonetheless came to be used as a ligature for the digraph ⟨ae⟩ in
many words of Greek or
Wynn, which represented the phoneme /w/, was replaced by ⟨w ⟩
during the 13th century. Due to its similarity to the letter ⟨p⟩,
it is mostly represented by ⟨w⟩ in modern editions of Old and
Under Norman influence, the continental Carolingian minuscule replaced the insular script that had been used for Old English. However, because of the significant difference in appearance between the old insular g and the Carolingian g , the former continued in use as a separate letter, known as yogh , written ⟨ȝ⟩. This was adopted for use to represent a variety of sounds: , , , , , while the Carolingian g was normally used for . Instances of yogh were eventually replaced by ⟨j⟩ or ⟨y⟩, and by ⟨gh⟩ in words like night and laugh. In Middle Scots yogh became indistinguishable from cursive z, and printers tended to use ⟨z⟩ when yogh was not available in their fonts; this led to new spellings (often giving rise to new pronunciations), as in McKenzie , where the ⟨z⟩ replaced a yogh which had the pronunciation /j/.
Under continental influence, the letters ⟨k⟩, ⟨q⟩ and
⟨z⟩, which had not normally been used by
The consonantal ⟨j⟩/⟨i⟩ was sometimes used to transliterate
the Hebrew letter yodh , representing the palatal approximant sound
/j/ (and transliterated in Greek by iota and in
Many scribal abbreviations were also used. It was common for the
Lollards to abbreviate the name of Jesus (as in
SYMBOL DESCRIPTION AND NOTES
A /a/, or in lengthened positions /aː/, becoming by about 1500. Sometimes /au/ before ⟨l⟩ or nasals (see Late Middle English diphthongs ).
AI, AY /ai/ (alternatively denoted by /ɛi/; see vein–vain merger ).
AU, AW /au/
/b/, but in later
C /k/, but /s/ (earlier /ts/) before ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨y⟩ (see C and hard and soft C for details).
CK /k/, replaced earlier ⟨kk⟩ as the doubled form of ⟨k⟩ (for the phenomenon of doubling, see above).
E /e/, or in lengthened positions /eː/ or sometimes /ɛː/ (see EE). For silent ⟨e⟩, see above.
EA Rare, for /ɛː/ (see EE).
EE /eː/, becoming by about 1500; or /ɛː/, becoming by about 1500. In Early Modern English the latter vowel came to be commonly written ⟨ea⟩. The two vowels later merged .
EI, EY Sometimes the same as ⟨ai⟩; sometimes /ɛː/ or /eː/ (see also fleece merger ).
Either /ɛu/ or /iu/ (see Late
G /ɡ/, or /dʒ/ before ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨y⟩ (see ⟨g⟩ for details). The ⟨g⟩ in initial gn- was still pronounced.
GH or , post-vowel allophones of /h/ (this was formerly one of the uses of yogh ). The ⟨gh⟩ is often retained in Chancery spellings even though the sound was starting to be lost.
H /h/ (except for the allophones for which ⟨gh⟩ was used). Also used in several digraphs (⟨ch⟩, ⟨th⟩, etc.). In some French loanwords, such as horrible, the ⟨h⟩ was silent.
I, J As a vowel, /i/, or in lengthened positions /iː/, which had started to be diphthongised by about 1500. As a consonant, /dʒ/ ( (corresponding to modern ⟨j⟩); see above).
IE Used sometimes for /ɛː/ (see EE).
K /k/, used particularly in positions where ⟨c⟩ would be softened. Also used in ⟨kn⟩ at the start of words; here both consonants were still pronounced.
N /n/, including its allophone (before /k/, /g/).
O /o/, or in lengthened positions /ɔː/ or sometimes /oː/ (see OO). Sometimes /u/, as in sone (modern son); the ⟨o⟩ spelling was often used rather than ⟨u⟩ when adjacent to i, m, n, v, w for legibility, i.e. to avoid a succession of vertical strokes.
OA Rare, for /ɔː/ (became commonly used in Early Modern English).
/ɔi/ or /ui/ (see Late
OO /oː/, becoming by about 1500; or /ɔː/.
OU, OW Either /uː/, which had started to be diphthongised by about 1500, or /ɔu/.
S /s/, sometimes /z/ (formerly was an allophone of /s/). Also appeared as ſ (long s ).
SCH, SH /ʃ/
TH /θ/ or /ð/ (which had previously been allophones of a single phoneme), replacing earlier eth and thorn , although thorn was still sometimes used.
U, V Used interchangeably. As a consonant, /v/. As a vowel, /u/, or /iu/ in "lengthened" positions (although it had generally not gone through the same lengthening process as other vowels – see history of /iu/ ).
WH /hw/ (see English ⟨wh⟩ ).
Y As a consonant, /j/ (earlier this was one of the uses of yogh). Sometimes also /g/. As a vowel, the same as ⟨i⟩, where ⟨y⟩ is often preferred beside letters with downstrokes.
Main article: Middle English literature
Most of the following modern English translations are poetic sense-for-sense translations , not word-for-word translations .
ORMULUM, 12TH CENTURY
Further information: Ormulum
This passage explains the background to the Nativity :
Forrþrihht anan se time comm þatt ure Drihhtin wollde ben borenn i þiss middellærd forr all mannkinne nede he chæs himm sone kinnessmenn all swillke summ he wollde and whær he wollde borenn ben he chæs all att hiss wille. As soon as the time came that our Lord wanted be born in this middle-earth for all mankind sake, at once He chose kinsmen for Himself, all just as he wanted, and He decided that He would be born exactly where He wished.
EPITAPH OF JOHN THE SMYTH, DIED 1371
Further information: Brightwell Baldwin
An epitaph from a monumental brass in an Oxfordshire parish church:
ORIGINAL TEXT man com & se how schal alle ded li: wen yolk comes bad and summe wymmen þat weren heelid of wickide spiritis and syknessis, Marie, þat is clepid Mawdeleyn, of whom seuene deuelis wenten 3out, and Jone, þe wyf of Chuse, procuratour of Eroude, and Susanne, and manye oþere, whiche mynystriden to him of her riches. — Luke 8:1-3
1And it was don aftirward, and Jhesus made iourney bi citees and castels, prechynge and euangelisynge þe rewme of 2God, and twelue wiþ hym; and sum wymmen þat weren heelid of wickid spiritis and sijknessis, Marie, þat is clepid Maudeleyn, of whom seuene deuelis 3wenten out, and Joone, þe wijf of Chuse, þe procuratoure of Eroude, and Susanne, and many oþir, þat mynystriden to hym of her ritchesse. — Luke 8:1-3
1And it came to pass afterward, that Jesus went throughout every city and village (castle), preaching and showing the kingdom of 2God, and the twelve were with him; and certain women, which had been healed of wicked spirits and sicknesses, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom 3went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, the steward of Herod, and Susanna, and many others, which provided for Him from their substance. — Luke 8:1-3, from the New Testament
The following is the very beginning of the
General Prologue from The
FIRST 18 LINES OF THE GENERAL PROLOGUE
Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote When April with its showers sweet
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote The drought of March has pierced to the root
And bathed every veyne in swich licour, And bathed every vein in such liquor,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Of which virtue engendered is the flower;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth When Zephyrus too with his sweet breath
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth Inspired has in every holt and heath,
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne The tender crops; and the young sun
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne, Has in the Ram his half-course run,
And smale foweles maken melodye, And small fowls make melody,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye That sleep all the night with open eye
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages); (So pricks them Nature in their hearts);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages Then long folks to go on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes And palmers to seek strange strands
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; To far-off hallows , known in sundry lands;
And specially from every shires ende And, especially, from every shire's end
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende, Of England, to Canterbury they wend,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke To holy blessed martyr to seek,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke. That them has helped, when they were sick.
TRANSLATION INTO MODERN ENGLISH PROSE: When April with its sweet
showers has pierced March's drought to the root, bathing every vein in
such liquid by whose virtue the flower is engendered, and when
Zephyrus with his sweet breath has also enlivened the tender plants in
every wood and field, and the early-year sun is halfway through Aries
, and small birds that sleep all night with an open eye make melodies
(their hearts so pricked by Nature), then people long to go on
pilgrimages, and palmers seek foreign shores and distant shrines known
in sundry lands, and especially they wend their way to Canterbury from
every shire of
The following is the beginning of the Prologue from Confessio Amantis by John Gower .
ORIGINAL IN MIDDLE ENGLISH: Of hem that writen ous tofore The bokes duelle, and we therfore Ben tawht of that was write tho: Forthi good is that we also In oure tyme among ous hiere Do wryte of newe som matiere, Essampled of these olde wyse So that it myhte in such a wyse, Whan we ben dede and elleswhere, Beleve to the worldes eere In tyme comende after this. Bot for men sein, and soth it is, That who that al of wisdom writ It dulleth ofte a mannes wit To him that schal it aldai rede, For thilke cause, if that ye rede, I wolde go the middel weie And wryte a bok betwen the tweie, Somwhat of lust, somewhat of lore, That of the lasse or of the more Som man mai lyke of that I wryte: NEAR WORD-FOR-WORD TRANSLATION INTO MODERN ENGLISH: Of them that wrote before us The books remain, and we therefore Are taught of what was written then: Because it is good that we also In our time among us here Do write some matter anew, Given an example by these old ways So that it might in such a way, When we are dead and elsewhere, Be left to the world's ear In time coming after this. But for men say, and true it is, That who that entirely of wisdom writes It dulls often a man's wit For him that shall it every day read, For that same cause, if you sanction it, I would like to go the middle way And write a book between the two, Somewhat of lust, somewhat of lore, That of the less or of the more Some man may like of that I write: TRANSLATION INTO MODERN ENGLISH: (by Richard Brodie) Of those who wrote before our lives Their precious legacy survives; From what was written then, we learn, And so it's well that we in turn, In our allotted time on earth Do write anew some things of worth, Like those we from these sages cite, So that such in like manner might, When we have left this mortal sphere, Remain for all the world to hear In ages following our own. But it is so that men are prone To say that when one only reads Of wisdom all day long, one breeds A paucity of wit, and so If you agree I'll choose to go Along a kind of middle ground Sometimes I'll write of things profound, And sometimes for amusement's sake A lighter path of pleasure take So all can something pleasing find.
TRANSLATION IN MODERN ENGLISH PROSE:
The books of those that wrote before us survive, and therefore we are taught about what was written then. For this reason it is good that we also in our time, here among us, write some material from scratch, inspired by the example of these old customs; so that it might, when we are dead and elsewhere, be left to the world's ear in the time coming after this. But because men say, and it's true, that when someone writes entirely about wisdom, it often dulls a man's wit who reads it every day. For that reason, if you permit it, I would like to take the middle way, and write a book between the two, somewhat of passion, somewhat of instruction, that whether of high or low status, people may like what I write about.
* ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank,
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* ^ Carlson, David. "The Chronology of Lydgate\'s Chaucer
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Accessed 6 January 2014.
* ^ The name "tales of Canterbury" appears within the surviving
texts of Chaucer's work.
* ^ Mabillard, Amanda. "Are Shakespeare\'s works written in Old
English?." Shakespeare Online. Accessed February 19, 2014.
* ^ A B C D E Baugh, Albert (1951). A History of the English
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* ^ Crystal, David (1995). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the
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* ^ A B McCrum, Robert (1987). The Story of English. London: Faber
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England: Penguin. p. 33.
* ^ Lohmeier, Charlene (28 October 2012). "121028 Charlene Lohmeier
"Evolution of the English Language" - 23:40 - 25:00; 30:20 - 30:45;
45:00 - 46:00". 121028 Charlene Lohmeier "Evolution of the English
Language". Dutch Lichliter. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
* ^ McWhorter, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, 2008, pp. 89–136.
* ^ Burchfield, Robert W. (1987). "Ormulum". In Strayer, Joseph R.
Dictionary of the Middle Ages. 9. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
p. 280. ISBN 0-684-18275-0 . , p. 280
* ^ http://hcmc.uvic.ca/makingEME/about.html
* ^ Wright, L., "About the evolution of Standard English", in
Studies in English Language and Literature, Routledge 2012, pp. 99ff.
* ^ Fischer, O., van Kemenade, A., Koopman, W., van der Wurff, W.,
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* ^ Fulk, R.D., An Introduction to Middle English, Broadview Press,
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* ^ See Francis Henry Stratmann (1891), A Middle-English dictionary
* Brunner, Karl (1962) Abriss der mittelenglischen Grammatik; 5.
Auflage. Tübingen: M. Niemeyer (1st ed. Halle (Saale): M. Niemeyer,
* Brunner, Karl (1963) An Outline of
Wikisource has several original texts related to: MIDDLE ENGLISH WORKS
MIDDLE ENGLISH TEST of at Wikimedia Incubator
* A. L. Mayhew and Walter William Skeat. A Concise Dictionary of
* v * t * e
* Proto-Indo-European * Proto-Germanic * Proto-West-Germanic * Anglo-Frisian