Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language, spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. English underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English period. Scholarly opinion varies, but the Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period when Middle English was spoken as being from 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle Ages.
Middle English saw significant changes to its grammar, pronunciation, and orthography. Writing conventions during the Middle English period varied widely. Examples of writing from this period that have survived show extensive regional variation. The more standardized Old English language became fragmented, localized, and was for the most part, being improvised. By the end of the period (about 1470) and aided by the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439, a standard based on the London dialect (Chancery Standard) had become established. This largely formed the basis for Modern English spelling, although pronunciation has changed considerably since that time. Middle English was succeeded in England by the era of Early Modern English, which lasted until about 1650. Scots language developed concurrently from a variant of the Northumbrian dialect (prevalent in northern England and spoken in southeast Scotland).
During the Middle English period, many Old English grammatical features either became simplified or disappeared altogether. Noun, adjective and verb inflections were simplified by the reduction (and eventual elimination) of most grammatical case distinctions. Middle English also saw considerable adoption of Norman French vocabulary, especially in the areas of politics, law, the arts and religion. Conventional English vocabulary retained its mostly Germanic etiology, with Old Norse influences becoming more apparent. Significant changes in pronunciation took place, particularly involving long vowels and diphthongs which in the later Middle English period, began to undergo the Great Vowel Shift.
Little survives of early Middle English literature, due in part to 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 writers including John Wycliffe and Geoffrey Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales remains one of the most studied and read works of the period.
|Englisch, Inglis, English|
|Region||England, some parts of Wales, south east Scotland and Scottish burghs, to some extent Ireland|
|Era||developed into Early Modern English, Scots, and Yola and Fingallian in Ireland by the 16th century|
Transition from Late Old English to Early Middle English occurred in the latter part of the 11th century.
The influence of Old Norse aided the development of English from a synthetic language with relatively free word order, to a more analytic or isolating language with a more strict word order. Both Old English and Old Norse (as well as the contemporary antecedents of the latter, Faroese and Icelandic) were synthetic languages with complicated inflections. The eagerness of Vikings in the Danelaw to communicate with their Anglo-Saxon neighbours resulted in the erosion of inflection in both languages. Old Norse may have had a more profound impact on Middle and Modern English development than any other language. Simeon Potter notes: "No less far-reaching was the influence of Scandinavian upon the inflexional endings of English in hastening that wearing away and leveling of grammatical forms which gradually spread from north to south.".
Viking influence on Old English is most apparent in the more indispensable elements of the language. Pronouns, modals, comparatives, pronominal adverbs (like "hence" and "together"), conjunctions and prepositions, show the most marked Danish influence. The best evidence of Scandinavian influence appears in extensive word borrowings, yet no texts exist in either Scandinavia or in Northern England from this period to give certain evidence of an influence on syntax. The change to Old English from Old Norse was substantive, pervasive, and of a democratic character. Like close cousins, Old Norse and Old English resembled each other, and with some words in common, they roughly understood each other; in time the inflections melted away and the analytic pattern emerged. It is most "important to recognise that in many words the English and Scandinavian language differed chiefly in their inflectional elements. The body of the word was so nearly the same in the two languages that only the endings would put obstacles in the way of mutual understanding. In the mixed population which existed in the Danelaw these endings must have led to much confusion, tending gradually to become obscured and finally lost." This blending of peoples and languages happily resulted in "simplifying English grammar."
While the influence of Scandinavian languages was strongest in the dialects of the Danelaw region and Scotland, words in the spoken language emerge in the tenth and eleventh centuries near the transition from the Old to Middle English. Influence on the written language only appeared at the beginning of the thirteenth century, likely because of a scarcity of literary texts from an earlier date.
The Norman conquest of England in 1066 saw the replacement of the top levels of the English-speaking political and ecclesiastical hierarchies by Norman rulers who spoke a dialect of Old French known as Old Norman, which developed in England into Anglo-Norman. The use of Norman as the preferred language of literature and polite discourse fundamentally altered the role of Old English in education and administration, even though many Normans of this period were illiterate and depended on the clergy for written communication and record-keeping. A significant number of words of French origin began to appear in the English language alongside native English words of similar meaning, giving rise to such Modern English synonyms as pig/pork, chicken/poultry, calf/veal, cow/beef, sheep/mutton, wood/forest, house/mansion, worthy/valuable, bold/courageous, freedom/liberty, sight/vision, eat/dine.
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 are derived 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.
Words were often taken from Latin, usually through French transmission. This gave rise to various synonyms including kingly (inherited from Old English), royal (from French, which inherited it from Vulgar Latin), and regal (from French, which borrowed it from classical Latin). Later French appropriations were derived from standard, rather than Norman French. Examples of resultant cognate pairs include the words warden (from Norman), and guardian (from later French; both share a common Germanic ancestor).
The end of Anglo-Saxon rule did not result in immediate changes to the language. The general population would have spoken the same dialects as they had before the Conquest. Once the writing of Old English came to an end, Middle English had no standard language, only dialects that derived from the dialects of the same regions in the Anglo-Saxon period.
Early Middle English (1150–1300) has a largely Anglo-Saxon vocabulary (with many Norse borrowings in the northern parts of the country), but a greatly simplified inflectional system. The grammatical relations that were expressed in Old English by the dative and instrumental cases are replaced in Early Middle English with prepositional constructions. The Old English genitive -es survives in the -'s of the modern English possessive, but most of the other case endings disappeared in the Early Middle English period, including most of the roughly one dozen forms of the definite article ("the"). The dual personal pronouns (denoting exactly two) also disappeared from English during this period.
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 (though more slowly and to a lesser extent), and therefore it 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 England had a great impact on the loss of inflectional endings in Middle English. One argument is that, although Norse- and English-speakers were somewhat comprehensible to each other due to similar morphology, the Norse-speakers' inability to reproduce the ending sounds of English words influenced Middle English's loss of inflectional endings.
Important texts for the reconstruction of the evolution of Middle English out of Old English are the Peterborough Chronicle, which continued to be compiled up to 1154; the Ormulum, a biblical commentary probably composed in Lincolnshire in the second half of the 12th century, incorporating a unique phonetic spelling system; and the Ancrene Wisse and the Katherine Group, religious texts written for anchoresses, apparently in the West Midlands in the early 13th century. The language found in the last two works is sometimes called the AB language.
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 Middle English Romances (especially those of the Auchinleck manuscript ca. 1330).
From around the early 14th century there was significant migration into London, particularly from the counties of the East Midlands, and a new prestige London dialect began to develop, based chiefly on the speech of the East Midlands, but also influenced by that of other regions. The writing of this period, however, continues to reflect a variety of regional forms of English. The Ayenbite of Inwyt, a translation of a French confessional prose work, completed in 1340, is written in a Kentish dialect. The best known writer of Middle English, Geoffrey Chaucer, wrote in the second half of the 14th century in the emerging London dialect, although he also portrays some of his characters as speaking in northern dialects, as in the "Reeve's Tale".
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 Latin, influencing the forms they chose. The Chancery Standard, which was adopted slowly, was used in England by bureaucrats for most official purposes, excluding those of the Church and legalities, which used Latin and Law French (and some Latin), respectively.
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 help of William Caxton's printing press, developed during the 1470s. The press stabilized English through a push towards standardization, led by Chancery Standard enthusiast and writer Richard Pynson. Early Modern English officially began in the 1540s after the printing and wide distribution of the English Bible and Prayer Book, which made the new standard of English publicly recognizable, and lasted until about 1650.
Middle English retains only two distinct noun-ending patterns from the more complex system of inflection in Old English. The Early Middle English nouns engel ("angel") and name ("name") demonstrate the two patterns:
|Strong (engel)||Singular||Plural||Weak (name)||Singular||Plural|
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 Old English (they, in turn, were inherited from Proto-Germanic ja-stem and i-stem nouns.)
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).
Middle English personal pronouns were mostly developed from those of Old English, with the exception of the third-person plural, a borrowing from Old Norse (the original Old English form clashed with the third person singular and was eventually dropped). Also, the nominative form of the feminine third-person singular was replaced by a form of the demonstrative that developed into sche (modern she), but the alternative heyr remained in some areas for a long time.
As with nouns, there was some inflectional simplification (the distinct Old English dual forms were lost), but pronouns, unlike nouns, retained distinct nominative and accusative forms. Third-person pronouns also retained a distinction between accusative and dative forms, but that was gradually lost: the masculine hine was replaced by him south of the Thames by the early 14th century, and the neuter dative him was ousted by it in most dialects by the 15th.
The following table shows some of the various Middle English pronouns, together with their modern (in quotation marks) and (sometimes) Old English equivalents. Many other variations are noted in Middle English sources because of differences in spellings and pronunciations at different times and in different dialects.
|Person (gender)||Subject||Object (Accusative)||Object (Dative)||Possessive determiner||Possessive pronoun||Reflexive||Old English forms (N, A, D, G)|
|min/mire/minre "mine"||min one/mi selven "myself"||iċ, mec/mē, mē, mīn|
|þū, þec/þē, þē, þīn|
|hē, hine, him, his|
"her" "to/for her"
|hēo, hīe, hiere, hiere|
|hit, hit, him, his|
|us self/ous silve
|wē, ūsic, ūs, ūser/ūre (dual: wit, etc.)|
|ȝou self/ou selve ''yourselves''||ġē, ēowic, ēow, ēower
(dual: ġit, etc.)
|Third||From Old English||heo/he||his||heo[m]/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.
|Type of verbs||Strong verbs (singen)||Weak verbs (baþen)||to be||to have||to want|
Plural forms vary strongly by dialect, with Southern dialects preserving the Old English -eþ, Midland dialects showing -en from about 1200 and Northern forms using -es in the third person singular as well as the plural.
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-.
With the discontinuation of the Late West Saxon standard used for the writing of Old English in the period prior to the Norman Conquest, Middle English came to be written in a wide variety of scribal forms, reflecting different regional dialects and orthographic conventions. Later in the Middle English period, however, and particularly with the development of the Chancery Standard in the 15th century, orthography became relatively standardised in a form based on the East Midlands-influenced speech of London. Spelling at the time was mostly quite regular (there was a fairly consistent correspondence between letters and sounds). The irregularity of present-day English orthography is largely due to pronunciation changes that have taken place over the Early Modern English and Modern English eras.
Middle English generally did not have silent letters. For example, knight was pronounced [ˈkniçt] (with both the ⟨k⟩ and the ⟨gh⟩ pronounced, the latter sounding as the ⟨ch⟩ in German Knecht). The major exception was the silent ⟨e⟩ – originally pronounced, but lost in normal speech by Chaucer's time. This letter, however, came to indicate a lengthened – and later also modified – pronunciation of a preceding vowel. For example, in name, originally pronounced as two syllables, the /a/ in the first syllable (originally an open syllable) lengthened, the final weak vowel was later dropped, and the remaining long vowel was modified in the Great Vowel Shift (for these sound changes, see under Phonology, above). The final ⟨e⟩, now silent, thus became the indicator of the longer and changed pronunciation of ⟨a⟩. In fact vowels could have this lengthened and modified pronunciation in various positions, particularly before a single consonant letter and another vowel, or before certain pairs of consonants.
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.
The basic Old English Latin alphabet had consisted of 20 standard letters (there was not yet a distinct j, v or w, and Old English scribes did not generally use k, q or z) plus four additional letters: ash ⟨æ⟩, eth ⟨ð⟩, thorn ⟨þ⟩ and wynn ⟨ƿ⟩.
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 Latin origin, as did œ for ⟨oe⟩.
Eth and thorn both represented /θ/ in Old English. Eth fell out of use during the 13th century and was replaced by thorn. Thorn mostly fell out of use during the 14th century, and was replaced by ⟨th⟩. (Anachronistic usage of the scribal abbreviation ("þe", i.e. "the") has led to the modern mispronunciation of thorn as ⟨y⟩ in this context; see ye olde.)
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 Middle English texts even when the manuscript has wynn.
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 (modern 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: [ɣ], [j], [dʒ], [x], [ç], while the Carolingian g was normally used for [g]. 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 Old English scribes, came to be commonly used in the writing of Middle English. Also the newer Latin letter ⟨w⟩ was introduced (replacing wynn). The distinct letter forms ⟨v⟩ and ⟨u⟩ came into use, but were still used interchangeably; the same applies to ⟨j⟩ and ⟨i⟩. (For example, spellings such as wijf and paradijs for wife and paradise can be found in Middle English.)
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 Latin by ⟨i⟩); words like Jerusalem, Joseph, etc. would have originally followed the Latin pronunciation beginning with /j/, that is, the sound of ⟨y⟩ in yes. In some words, however, notably from Old French, ⟨j⟩/⟨i⟩ was used for the affricate consonant /dʒ/, as in joie (modern "joy"), used in Wycliffe's Bible. This was similar to the geminate sound [ddʒ], which had been represented as ⟨cg⟩ in Old English. By the time of Modern English, the sound came to be written as ⟨j⟩/⟨i⟩ at the start of words (like joy), and usually as ⟨dg⟩ elsewhere (as in bridge). It could also be written, mainly in French loanwords, as ⟨g⟩, with the adoption of the soft G convention (age, page, etc.)
Many scribal abbreviations were also used. It was common for the Lollards to abbreviate the name of Jesus (as in Latin manuscripts) to ihc. The letters ⟨n⟩ and ⟨m⟩ were often omitted and indicated by a macron above an adjacent letter, so for example in could be written as ī. A thorn with a superscript ⟨t⟩ or ⟨e⟩ could be used for that and the; the thorn here resembled a ⟨Y⟩, giving rise to the ye of "Ye Olde". Various forms of the ampersand replaced the word and.
Although Middle English spelling was never fully standardised, the following table shows the pronunciations most usually represented by particular letters and digraphs towards the end of the Middle English period, using the notation given in the article on Middle English phonology. As explained above, single vowel letters had alternative pronunciations depending on whether they were in a position where their sounds had been subject to lengthening. Long vowel pronunciations were in flux due to the beginnings of the Great Vowel Shift.
|Symbol||Description and notes|
|a||/a/, or in lengthened positions /aː/, becoming [æː] 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).|
|b||/b/, but in later Middle English became silent in words ending -mb (while some words that never had a /b/ sound came to be spelt -mb by analogy; see reduction of /mb/).|
|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 [iː] by about 1500; or /ɛː/, becoming [eː] 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).|
|ew||Either /ɛu/ or /iu/ (see Late Middle English diphthongs; these later merged).|
|g||/ɡ/, or /dʒ/ before ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨y⟩ (see ⟨g⟩ for details). The ⟨g⟩ in initial gn- was still pronounced.|
|gh||[ç] or [x], 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).|
|i.e.||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 [ŋ] (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).|
|oi, oy||/ɔi/ or /ui/ (see Late Middle English diphthongs; these later merged).|
|oo||/oː/, becoming [uː] 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 [z] was an allophone of /s/). Also appeared as ſ (long s).|
|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/).|
|w||/w/ (replaced Old English wynn).|
|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.|
|z||/z/ (in Scotland sometimes used as a substitute for yogh; see above).|
|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.
|Original text||Translation by Patricia Utechin|
|man com & se how schal alle ded li: wen yolk comes bad & bare
moth have ben ve awaẏ fare: All ẏs wermēs yt ve for care:—
bot yt ve do for god ẏs luf ve haue nothyng yare:
yis graue lẏs John ye smẏth god yif his soule hewn grit
|Man, come and see how all dead men shall lie: when that comes bad and bare,|
we have nothing when we away fare: all that we care for is worms:—
except for that which we do for God's sake, we have nothing ready:
under this grave lies John the smith, God give his soul heavenly peace
From the Wycliffe's Bible, (1384):
|First version||Second version||Translation|
|1And it was don aftirward, and Jhesu made iorney by citees and castelis, prechinge and euangelysinge þe rewme of God, 2and twelue wiþ him; and summe wymmen þat weren heelid of wickide spiritis and syknessis, Marie, þat is clepid Mawdeleyn, of whom seuene deuelis wenten 3 out, and Jone, þe wyf of Chuse, procuratour of Eroude, and Susanne, and manye oþere, whiche mynystriden to him of her riches.||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.||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.|
The following is the very beginning of the General Prologue from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The text was written in a dialect associated with London and spellings associated with the then-emergent Chancery Standard.
|Original in Middle English:||Word-for-word translation into Modern English|
|Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote||When [that] April with his showers sweet|
|The droȝte 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 eke 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 courages);|
|Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages||Then folk long to go on pilgrimages|
|And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes||And palmers [for] to seek strange strands|
|To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;||To far-off hallows, couth 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||The holy blissful martyr [for] to seek,|
|That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.||That them has helped, when [that] 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 England in order to seek the holy blessed martyr, who has helped them when they were ill.
|Original in Middle English||Near word-for-word translation into Modern English:||Translation into Modern English: (by Richard Brodie)|
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.
Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM". The rank is generally thought to have originated in Sicily from a conflation of Arabic: أمير البحر, amīr al-baḥr, "commander of the sea", with Latin admirabilis ("admirable") or admiratus ("admired"), although alternative etymologies derive the word directly from Latin, or from the Turkish military and naval rank miralay. The French version – amiral without the additional d – tends to add evidence for the Arab origin.
In the Commonwealth and the U.S., a "full" admiral is equivalent to a "full" general in the army, and is above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet (or fleet admiral). In NATO, admirals have a rank code of OF-9 as a four-star rank.Autumn
Autumn, also known as fall in American English and sometimes in Canadian English, is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer to winter, in September (Northern Hemisphere) or March (Southern Hemisphere), when the duration of daylight becomes noticeably shorter and the temperature cools considerably. One of its main features in temperate climates is the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees.
Some cultures regard the autumnal equinox as "mid-autumn", while others with a longer temperature lag treat it as the start of autumn. Meteorologists (and most of the temperate countries in the southern hemisphere) use a definition based on Gregorian calendar months, with autumn being September, October, and November in the northern hemisphere, and March, April, and May in the southern hemisphere.
In North America, autumn traditionally starts on September 21 and ends on December 21. It is considered to start with the September equinox (21 to 24 September) and end with the winter solstice (21 or 22 December). Popular culture in the United States associates Labor Day, the first Monday in September, as the end of summer and the start of autumn; certain summer traditions, such as wearing white, are discouraged after that date. As daytime and nighttime temperatures decrease, trees shed their leaves. In traditional East Asian solar term, autumn starts on or around 8 August and ends on or about 7 November. In Ireland, the autumn months according to the national meteorological service, Met Éireann, are September, October and November. However, according to the Irish Calendar, which is based on ancient Gaelic traditions, autumn lasts throughout the months of August, September and October, or possibly a few days later, depending on tradition. The names of the months in Manx Gaelic are similarly based on autumn covering August, September and October. In Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, autumn officially begins on 1 March and ends on 31 May.Bass (fish)
Bass () is a name shared by many species of fish. The term encompasses both freshwater and marine species, all belonging to the large order Perciformes, or perch-like fishes. The word bass comes from Middle English bars, meaning "perch".Builder's Old Measurement
Builder's Old Measurement (BOM, bm, OM, and o.m.) is the method used in England from approximately 1650 to 1849 for calculating the cargo capacity of a ship. It is a volumetric measurement of cubic capacity. It estimated the tonnage of a ship based on length and maximum beam. It is expressed in "tons burden" (Early Modern English: burthen, Middle English: byrthen), and abbreviated "tons bm".
The formula is:
The Builder's Old Measurement formula remained in effect until the advent of steam propulsion. Steamships required a different method of estimating tonnage, because the ratio of length to beam was larger and a significant volume of internal space was used for boilers and machinery. In 1849, the Moorsom System was created in Great Britain. The Moorsom system calculates the cargo-carrying capacity in cubic feet, another method of volumetric measurement. The capacity in cubic feet is then divided by 100 cubic feet of capacity per gross ton, resulting in a tonnage expressed in tons.Cistern
A cistern (Middle English cisterne, from Latin cisterna, from cista, "box", from Greek κίστη kistê, "basket") is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings. Modern cisterns range in capacity from a few litres to thousands of cubic metres, effectively forming covered reservoirs.Codpiece
A codpiece (from Middle English: cod, meaning "scrotum") is a covering flap or pouch that attaches to the front of the crotch of men's trousers, enclosing the genital area. It may be held closed by string ties, buttons, folds, or other methods. It was an important fashion item of European clothing during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the modern era, clothing devices with similar functions as codpieces are worn in some styles of underwear, in the leather subculture, and in performance costumes, such as for rock music and metal musicians. A similar device with rigid construction, an athletic cup, is used as protective underwear for male athletes.Currency
A currency (from Middle English: curraunt, "in circulation", from Latin: currens, -entis), in the most specific sense is money in any form when in use or circulation as a medium of exchange, especially circulating banknotes and coins. A more general definition is that a currency is a system of money (monetary units) in common use, especially for people in a nation. Under this definition, US dollars (US$), pounds sterling (£), Australian dollars (A$), European euros (€), Russian rubles (₽) and Indian Rupees (₹) are examples of currencies. These various currencies are recognized as stores of value and are traded between nations in foreign exchange markets, which determine the relative values of the different currencies. Currencies in this sense are defined by governments, and each type has limited boundaries of acceptance.
Other definitions of the term "currency" are discussed in their respective synonymous articles banknote, coin, and money. The latter definition, pertaining to the currency systems of nations, is the topic of this article. Currencies can be classified into two monetary systems: fiat money and commodity money, depending on what guarantees the currency's value (the economy at large vs. the government's physical metal reserves). Some currencies are legal tender in certain political jurisdictions. Others are simply traded for their economic value. Digital currency has arisen with the popularity of computers and the Internet.English language
English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse (a North Germanic language), and to a greater extent by Latin and French.English has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a group of West Germanic (Ingvaeonic) dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century, are collectively called Old English. Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman conquest of England; this was a period in which the language was influenced by French. Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London, the printing of the King James Bible and the start of the Great Vowel Shift.Through the worldwide influence of the British Empire, and later the United States, Modern English has been spreading around the world since the 17th century. Through all types of printed and electronic media, and spurred by the emergence of the United States as a global superpower, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and professional contexts such as science, navigation and law.English is the largest language by number of speakers, and the third most-spoken native language in the world, after Standard Chinese and Spanish. It is the most widely learned second language and is either the official language or one of the official languages in almost 60 sovereign states. There are more people who have learned it as a second language than there are native speakers. It is estimated that there are over 2 billion speakers of English. English is the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and it is widely spoken in some areas of the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia. It is a co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other world and regional international organisations. It is the most widely spoken Germanic language, accounting for at least 70% of speakers of this Indo-European branch. English has a vast vocabulary, though counting how many words any language has is impossible. English speakers are called "Anglophones".
Modern English grammar is the result of a gradual change from a typical Indo-European dependent marking pattern, with a rich inflectional morphology and relatively free word order, to a mostly analytic pattern with little inflection, a fairly fixed SVO word order and a complex syntax. Modern English relies more on auxiliary verbs and word order for the expression of complex tenses, aspect and mood, as well as passive constructions, interrogatives and some negation. The variation among the accents and dialects of English used in different countries and regions—in terms of phonetics and phonology, and sometimes also vocabulary, grammar, and spelling—can often be understood by speakers of different dialects, but in extreme cases can lead to confusion or even mutual unintelligibility between English speakers.English poetry
This article focuses on poetry from the United Kingdom written in the English language. The article does not cover poetry from other countries where the English language is spoken, including Southern Ireland after December 1922.
The earliest surviving English poetry, written in Anglo-Saxon, the direct predecessor of modern English, may have been composed as early as the 7th century.Great Vowel Shift
The Great Vowel Shift was a series of changes in the pronunciation of the English language that took place primarily between 1350 and the 1600s and 1700s, beginning in southern England and today having influenced effectively all dialects of English. Through this vowel shift, all Middle English long vowels changed their pronunciation. Some consonant sounds changed as well, particularly those that became silent; the term Great Vowel Shift is sometimes used to include these consonant changes.English spelling began to become standardized in the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Great Vowel Shift is the major reason English spellings now often considerably deviate from their representation of English pronunciations. The Great Vowel Shift was first studied by Otto Jespersen (1860–1943), a Danish linguist and Anglicist, who coined the term.History of English
English is a West Germanic language that originated from Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain in the mid 5th to 7th centuries AD by Anglo-Saxon settlers. With the end of Roman rule in 410 AD, Latin ceased to be a major influence on the Celtic languages spoken by the majority of the population. People from what is now northwest Germany, west Denmark and the Netherlands settled in the British Isles from the mid-5th century and came to culturally dominate the bulk of southern Great Britain until the 7th century. The Anglo-Saxon language, now called Old English, originated as a group of Anglo-Frisian dialects which were spoken, at least by the settlers, in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It displaced to some extent the Celtic languages that predominated previously. Old English also reflected the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms established in different parts of Britain. The Late West Saxon dialect eventually became dominant. A significant subsequent influence on the shaping of Old English came from contact with the North Germanic languages spoken by the Scandinavian Vikings who conquered and colonized parts of Britain during the 8th and 9th centuries, which led to much lexical borrowing and grammatical simplification. The Anglian dialects had a greater influence on Middle English.
After the Norman conquest in 1066, Old English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French, also known as Middle-English. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English or Anglo-Saxon era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English. The conquering Normans spoke a Romance langue d'oïl called Old Norman, which in Britain developed into Anglo-Norman. Many Norman and French loanwords entered the local language in this period, especially in vocabulary related to the church, the court system and the government. Middle English was spoken to the late 15th century. The system of orthography that was established during the Middle English period is largely still in use today. Later changes in pronunciation, however, combined with the adoption of various foreign spellings, mean that the spelling of modern English words appears highly irregular.
Early Modern English – the language used by Shakespeare – is dated from around 1500. It incorporated many Renaissance-era loans from Latin and Ancient Greek, as well as borrowings from other European languages, including French, German and Dutch. Significant pronunciation changes in this period included the ongoing Great Vowel Shift, which affected the qualities of most long vowels. Modern English proper, similar in most respects to that spoken today, was in place by the late 17th century. The English language came to be exported to other parts of the world through British colonisation, and is now the dominant language in Britain and Ireland, the United States and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many smaller former colonies, as well as being widely spoken in India, parts of Africa, and elsewhere. Partially due to United States influence, English gradually took on the status of a global lingua franca in the second half of the 20th century. This is especially true in Europe, where English has largely taken over the former roles of French and (much earlier) Latin as a common language used to conduct business and diplomacy, share scientific and technological information, and otherwise communicate across national boundaries. The efforts of English-speaking Christian missionaries has resulted in English becoming a second language for many other groups.Global variation among different English dialects and accents remains significant today. Scots, a form of English traditionally spoken in parts of Scotland and the north of Ireland, is sometimes treated as a separate language.Midgard
Midgard (an anglicised form of Old Norse Miðgarðr; Old English Middangeard, Swedish and Danish Midgård, Old Saxon Middilgard, Old High German Mittilagart, Gothic Midjun-gards; "middle yard") is the name for Earth (equivalent in meaning to the Greek term οἰκουμένη, "inhabited") inhabited by and known to humans in early Germanic cosmology, and specifically one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology.Peridot
Peridot ( or ) (sometimes called chrysolite) is gem-quality olivine and a silicate mineral with the formula of (Mg, Fe)2SiO4. As peridot is a magnesium-rich variety of olivine (forsterite), the formula approaches Mg2SiO4.Prawn
Prawn is a common name for small aquatic crustaceans with an exoskeleton and ten legs (i.e. a member of the order decapoda), some of which can be eaten.The term prawn is used particularly in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Commonwealth nations, for large swimming crustaceans or shrimp, especially those with commercial significance in the fishing industry. Shrimp that fall in this category often belong to the suborder Dendrobranchiata. In North America, the term is used less frequently, typically for freshwater shrimp. The terms shrimp and prawn themselves lack scientific standing. Over the years, the way shrimp and prawn are used has changed, and nowadays the terms are almost interchangeable.Soldier
A soldier is one who fights as part of an army. A soldier can be a conscripted or volunteer enlisted person, a non-commissioned officer, or an officer.The
The (listen) is a grammatical article in English, denoting persons or things already mentioned, under discussion, implied or otherwise presumed familiar to listeners or readers. It is the only definite article in English. The is the most commonly used word in the English language, accounting for seven percent of all words. It is derived from gendered articles in Old English which combined in Middle English and now has a single form used with pronouns of either genders. The word can be used with both singular and plural nouns and with a noun that starts with any letter. This is different from many other languages which have different forms of the definite article for different genders or numbers.The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales (Middle English: Tales of Caunterbury) is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. In 1386, Chaucer became Controller of Customs and Justice of Peace and, in 1389, Clerk of the King's work. It was during these years that Chaucer began working on his most famous text, The Canterbury Tales. The tales (mostly written in verse, although some are in prose) are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.
After a long list of works written earlier in his career, including Troilus and Criseyde, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls, The Canterbury Tales is near-unanimously seen as Chaucer's magnum opus. He uses the tales and descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church. Chaucer's use of such a wide range of classes and types of people was without precedent in English. Although the characters are fictional, they still offer a variety of insights into customs and practices of the time. Often, such insight leads to a variety of discussions and disagreements among people in the 14th century. For example, although various social classes are represented in these stories and all of the pilgrims are on a spiritual quest, it is apparent that they are more concerned with worldly things than spiritual. Structurally, the collection resembles Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, which Chaucer may have read during his first diplomatic mission to Italy in 1372.
It has been suggested that the greatest contribution of The Canterbury Tales to English literature was the popularisation of the English vernacular in mainstream literature, as opposed to French, Italian or Latin. English had, however, been used as a literary language centuries before Chaucer's time, and several of Chaucer's contemporaries—John Gower, William Langland, the Pearl Poet, and Julian of Norwich—also wrote major literary works in English. It is unclear to what extent Chaucer was seminal in this evolution of literary preference.
While Chaucer clearly states the addressees of many of his poems, the intended audience of The Canterbury Tales is more difficult to determine. Chaucer was a courtier, leading some to believe that he was mainly a court poet who wrote exclusively for nobility.
The Canterbury Tales is generally thought to have been incomplete at the end of Chaucer's life. In the General Prologue, some 30 pilgrims are introduced. According to the Prologue, Chaucer's intention was to write four stories from the perspective of each pilgrim, two each on the way to and from their ultimate destination, St. Thomas Becket's shrine (making for a total of about 120 stories). Although perhaps incomplete, The Canterbury Tales is revered as one of the most important works in English literature. It is also open to a wide range of interpretations.Thorn (letter)
Thorn or þorn (Þ, þ) is a letter in the Old English, Gothic, Old Norse, Old Swedish and modern Icelandic alphabets, as well as some dialects of Middle English. It was also used in medieval Scandinavia, but was later replaced with the digraph th, except in Iceland, where it survives. The letter originated from the rune ᚦ in the Elder Fuþark and was called thorn in the Anglo-Saxon and thorn or thurs in the Scandinavian rune poems. It is similar in appearance to the archaic Greek letter sho (ϸ), although the two are historically unrelated.
It is pronounced as either a voiceless dental fricative [θ] or the voiced counterpart of it [ð]. However, in modern Icelandic, it is pronounced as a laminal voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative [θ̠], similar to th as in the English word thick, or a (usually apical) voiced alveolar non-sibilant fricative [ð̠], similar to th as in the English word the. Modern Icelandic usage generally excludes the latter, which is instead represented with the letter eth ⟨Ð, ð⟩; however, [ð̠] may occur as an allophone of /θ̠/, and written ⟨þ⟩, when it appears in an unstressed pronoun or adverb after a voiced sound.In typography, the lowercase thorn character is unusual in that it has both an ascender and a descender (other examples are lowercase Cyrillic ф and in some fonts, the Latin letter f).Turmeric
Turmeric (pronounced , also or ) is a flowering plant, Curcuma longa of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, the roots of which are used in cooking. The plant is a perennial, rhizomatous, herbaceous plant native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, that requires temperatures between 20 and 30 °C (68 and 86 °F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. Plants are gathered each year for their rhizomes, some for propagation in the following season and some for consumption.
The rhizomes are used fresh or boiled in water and dried, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a coloring and flavoring agent in many Asian cuisines, especially for curries, as well as for dyeing. Turmeric powder has a warm, bitter, black pepper-like flavor and earthy, mustard-like aroma.Although long used in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is also known as haridra, no high-quality clinical evidence exists for use of turmeric or its constituent, curcumin, as a therapy.