Historical Background of the Middle English Period
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The historical development of a language is a continuous, uninterrupted
process without sudden breaks or rapid transformations. Therefore any
periodisation imposed on language history by linguists, with precise dates, might
appear artificial. There are some periodizations of the history of English
language. The author of the first scientific historical phonetic and grammar of
En. Language. H. Sweet suggested the periodization that corresponds to the
morphological structure of different centures. He called the Old English Period
– ‘The period of full endings ‘, the M. E. P. – ‘The period of reduced endings’
, the New En. P. – ‘The period of lost endings.’ But this periodization is not
full because it is not quite right to devide the logical features, but
phonological or syntactical ones (they were not mentioned in the
periodization.) So, thus I consider that any periodization is based on some
principles, but can’t touch all the sides of the language.
One of the prominent and well-known English scientists Henry
Sweet worked out several periodisations of the history of English language. He
suggested to single out the period of transition and to subdivide the
transitional stage between the Old and the Middle English Periods cover
1100-1200. H. Sweet reckoned 1200 to be the limning of the Middle English based
on morphological phenomena the Middle English Period is considered to le the
Period of Levelled English.
Another periodization is extralinguistical. It’s based on
the historical events, which influenced on the English language. I must notice
that this one is the most traditional. The commonly accepted traditional
periodization divides English language history into three periods: Old English,
Middle English and New English with boundaries attached to definite dates and
historical effects affecting the language. Old English is connected with the
German settle in Britain (5th century) and with the beginning of writing (7th
century) and ends with the Norman Conquest (1066). Middle English begins with
Norman Conquest end ends on the introduction of printing (1475). The Middle
English period itself may be also divided into two smaller ones – Early Middle
English and Late Middle English.
Early Middle English covers the main events of
the 14th century. It is the stage of greatest dialectal divergence caused by
the feudal system and by foreign influences-Scandinavian and French. The
dialectal division of present-day English owes its origin to this period of
history. Great changes of the language took place at all the levels, especially
in lexis and grammar.
Later 14th till the end of the 15th century is a
time known as Late or Classical Middle English. This period umbra’s the age of
Chaucer, the greatest English medieval writer and forerunner of the English
Renaissanu, and is characterized by restoration of English to the position of
the state and literary language and by literary flourishing, which has a
stabilizing effect on language, so that the rate of linguistic changes was
slowed down. At the same time the written forms of the language developed and
The Old English period in the history of the
language corresponds to the position of the state and literary language
corresponds to the transitional stage from the slave-owning and tribal system
to the feudal system in the history of Britain. In the 11th century feudalism
was already well established. According to a survey made in the late 11th c.
slaves and freemen were declining classes. The majority of the agricultural
population (and also of the total population, which amounted to about 2.000.000
people) was bound to their lord and land. Under natural economy, characteristre
of feudalism, most of the things needed for the life of the lord and the
villain were produced on the estate. Feudal manors were separated from their
neighbors by tells, local feuds, and various restrictions concerning
settlement, traveling and employment. These historical conditions produced a
certain influence on the development of the language.
In Early M.E. the differences between the
regional dialects grew. Never in history, before or after, was the historical
background more favorable for dialectal differentiation. The main is the
dialectal division in England, which survived in later ages with some slight
modification of the feudal stage of British history.
In the age poor communication dialect boundaries
often coincided with geographical barriers such as rivers, mashes, forests, and
mountains, as these barriers would hinder the diffusion of linguistic features.
In addition to economic, geographical and social
conditions, dialectal differences in Early M.E. were accentuated by some
historical events, namely the Scandinavian invasions and the Norman Conquest.
Though the Scandinavian invasions of England are
dated in the Old English period, there effect on the language is particularly apparent
in M.E. Eventually the Scandinavians were absorbed into the local population
both ethnically and linguistically, because new settlers and the English
intermarried and intermixed; they lived close together and didn’t differ
either in social rank or in the level of culture and customs; they intermingled
the more easily as there was no linguistic barrier between them.
The increased regional differences of English in
the Scandinavian influence in the areas of the heaviest settlement the
Scandinavians outnumbered the Anglo-Saxon population, which is attested by
geographical names. In Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Northumberland, Cumberland-up
to 75 per cent of the place-names is Danish or Norwegian. Altogether more than
1.400 English villages and towns bear names of Scandinavian origin (with the
element “thorp” meaning “village”, e.g. Woodthorp, Linthorp; “toft”, “a piece
of land”, e. g. “Brimtoft”, “Lowestoft”). Probably, in many districts people
became bilingual, with either Old Norse or English prevailing. Besides due to
the contacts and mixture with O Seand, the Northern dialects (chiefly North
Umbrian and East Mercian) had acquired lasting and something indelible
Scandinavian features. We find a large admixture of Scandinavian words in Early
M.E. records coming from the North East whereas contemporary text from other
regions are practically devoid of Scandinavian borrowings.
In later ages the Scandinavian element passed
into other regions. The incorporation of the Scandinavian element in the London
dialect and Standard English was brought about by the changing linguistic
situation in England: the mixture if the dialects and the grooving linguistic
Soon after Canute’s death (1042) and the
collapse of his empire the old Anglo-Saxon line was restored but their reign
was short-lived. The new English king, Edward the Confessor (1942-1066), who
had been reared in France, brought over many Norman advisors and favorites; he
distributed among them English lands and wealth to the considerable resentment
of the Anglo-Saxon nobility and church hierarchy. He not only spoke French
himself but insisted on it being spoken by the nobles at his court. William,
Duke of Normandy, visited his court and it was rumored that Edward appointed
him his successor. In many respites Edward paved the for Norman infiltration
long before the Norman Conquest. However, the government of the country was
still in the hands of Anglo-Saxon feudal lords, headed by the powerful Earl
Godwin of Wessex.
In 1066, upon Edward’s death, the Elders of
England proclaimed Harold Godwin king of the English. As soon as the news
reached William of Normandy, he mustered a big army by promise of land and
plunder (one third of his soldiers were Normans, other, mercenaries from all
over Europe) and, with the support of the Pope, landed in Britain.
In the battle of Hastings, fought in October
1066, Harold was killed and the English were defeated. This date is commonly
known as the date of the Norman Conquest, though the military occupation of the
country was not completed until a few years later. After the victory of
Hastings, William by passed London cutting it off from the North and made the
William of London and the bishops at Westminster Abbey crown him king. William
his barons laid waster many lands in England, burning down villages and
estates. They conducted a relentless campaign of subjugation, devastated and
almost depopulated Northumbria and Mercia, which tried to rise against the
conquerors. Huge stone Norman castles if earthen forts and wooden stockades,
built during the campaign, soon replaced scores. Most of the lands of the
Anglo-Saxon lords passed into the hands of the Norman barons, William’s own
possession comprising about one third of the country. The Normans occupied all
the important ports in the church, in thee government and in the army.
Following the conquest hundreds of people from
France crossed the Channel to make their home in Britain were also dukes of
Normandy and, about a hundred years later, took possession of the whole western
half of France, thus bringing England into still closer contact with the
continent. French monks, tradesmen and craftsmen flooded the southwestern
towns, so that not only the higher nobility but also much of the middle class
The Norman Conquest was not only a great event
in British political history but also the greatest single event in the history
of the English language. Its earliest effect was a drastre change in the
The Norman Conquerors of England had originally
come from Scandinavia. About one hundred and fifty years before they scized the
valley of the Scine and settled in what was henceworth known as Normandy. They
were swiftly assimilated by the French and in the 11th century came to Britain
as French speakers and bearers of French culture. They spoke the Northern
dialect if French, which differed in some points from Central, Parisian French.
Their tongue in Britain is often reffered to as ‘Anglo-French’ or
‘Anglo-Norman’, but may just as well be called French, since we are less
concerned here with the distinction of French dialects than with the continuous
French influence upon English, both in the Norman period of history and a long
while after the Anglo-Norman language had ceased to exist.
In the early 13th c., as a result of lengthy and
inefficient wars with France John Lackland lost the French provinces, including
the dukedom of Normandy. Among other consequences the loss of the lands in
France cut off the Normans in Britain from France, which speeded up the
Anglo-France, which speeded up the decline of the Anglo-French language.
The most immediate consequence of the Norman
domination in Britain is to be seen in the wide use of the French language in
many spheres of life. For almost free hundred years French was the official
language of administration: it was the language of the king’s court, the law
courts, the church, the army and the castle. It was also every day language of
many nobles, of the higher clergy and of many townspeople in the South. The
intellectual life, literature and education were in the hands of
French-speaking people; French, alongside Latin, was the language of writing.
Teaching was largely conducted in French and boys at school were taught to
translate their Latin into French instead of English.
For all that, England never stopped being an
English-speaking country. The bulk of the population held fast to their own
tongue: the lower classes in the towns, and especially in the country-side,
those who lived in the Midlands and up north, continued to speak English and
looked upon French as foreign and hostile. Since most of the people were
illiterate, the English language was almost exclusively used for spoken
At first the two languages existed side by side
without mingling. Then, slowly and quickly, they began to permeate each other.
The Norman barons and the French town-dwellers had to pick up English words to
make themselves understood while the English began to use French words in
current speech. A good knowledge of French would mark a person of higher
standing giving him a certain social prestige probably many people become
bilingual and had a fair command of both languages.
These peculiar linguistic conditions could not
remain static. The struggle between French and English was bound to end ion the
complete victory of English, for English was the living language of the entire
people, while French was restricted to certain social spheres and to writing.
Yet the final victory as still a long way off. In the 13th c. only a few steps
were made in that direction. The earliest sign of the official recognition of
English by the Norman hinges was the famous Proclamation issued by Henry 3 in
1258 to the councilors in Parliament. It was written in three languages: French,
Latin and English.
The three hundreds years of the domination of
French affected English more than any other foreign influence before or after.
The early French borrowings reflect accurately the spheres of Norman influence
upon English life; later borrowings can by attributed to the continued
cultural, economic and political contacts between the countries. The French
influence added new features to the regional and social differentiation of the
language. New words, coming from French, could not be adopted simultaneously by
all the speakers if English; they were first used in some varieties of the
language, namely in the regional dialects of Southern England and in the speech
if the upper classes, but were unknown in the other varieties of the language.
The use of a foreign tongue as the state
language, the diversity of the dialects and the decline of the written form of
English created a situation extremely favorable for increased variation and for
more intensive linguistic change.
The regional M.E. dialects had developed from
respective OE dialects. A precise map of all the dialects will probably never
be made, for available sources are scare and unreliable: localized and their
approximate boundaries have been determined largely by inference; for later ME
the difficulty lies in the growing dialect mixture.
With these reservation the following dialect
groups can be distinguished in Early M.E.
The Southern group included the Kentish and the
South-Western dialects. Kentish was a direct descendant of the O.E. Saxon
dialects, - not only West Saxon, but also East Saxon. The East Saxon dialect
was not prominent in OE but became more important in Early M.E., since it made
the basis of the dialect of London in the 12th and 13th c. Among the dialects
of this group the Gloucestes dialect and the London dialect may be mentioned.
The group of Midland (‘Central’) dialect –
corresponding to the OE Mercian dialect – is divided into West Midland and East
Midland as two main areas, with further subdivisions within: South-East midland
and North-East Midland, South-west Midland and North-West Midland. In M.E. the
Midland area became more diversified linguistically than the OE Mercian kingdom
occupying approximately the same territory: from the Thames in the South to the
Welsh-speaking area in the West and up north to the river Humber.
The Northern dialect had developed from OE
Northumbrian. In Early M.E. the Northern dialects included several provincial
dialects, e.g. the Yorkshire and the Lancashire dialects, and also what later
became known as Scottish.
In the course Early M.E. the area if the English language in
the British Isles grew. Fallowing the Norman Conquest the former Celtic
kingdoms fell under Norman recluse. Wales was subjugated in the late 12th c. the
English made their first attempts to conquest Ireland. The invaders settled
among the Irish and were soon assimilated, a large proportion of the invaders
being Welshmen. Though part of Ireland was ruled from England, the country
remained divided and had little contact with England. The English language was
used there alongside Celtic languages-Irish and Welsh – and was influenced by
The E.M.E. dialectal division was preserved in
the succeeding centuries, though even in Late M.E. the linguistic situation
changed. In Early M.E. while the state language and the main language of
literature was French, the local dialects were relatively equal. In Late M.E.,
when English had been reestablished as the main language of administration and
writing, one of the regional dialects, the London dialect, prevailed over the
For a long time after the Norman Conquest there
were two written languages in England, both of them foreign: Latin and French.
English was held in disdain as a tongue used only by common illiterate people
and not fit for writing. In some dialects the gap in the written tradition
spanned almost two hundred years.
The earliest samples of Early M.E. prose are the
new entries made in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles from the year 1122 to the year
1154, known as the Peterborough Chronicle.
The works in the vernacular, which began to
appear towards the end of the 12th c., were mostly of a religions nature. The
great mass of these works are homilies, sermons in prose and verse, paraphrases
from the Bible, psalms and prayers. The earliest of these religious works, the
Poema Morala (‘Moral Ode’) represent the Kentish dialect of the late 12th or
the early 13th.
Of particular interest for the history of the
language is ‘Ormulum’, a poem composed by the monk Orm in about 1200 in the
North-East Midland dialect (Lineolnshire). It consist of unrhymed metrical
paraphrases of the Gospels. The text abounds in Scandinavianists and lacs
French borrowings. Its most outstanding feature is the spelling system devised
by the author. He doubled the consonants after short vowels in closed syllables
and used special semicircular marks over short vowels in open syllables. Here
are some lines from the poem where the author recommends that these rules
should be followed I copying the poem.
Among other works of religious nature we can mention
‘Ancrene Riwle’ (‘The Rule of Anchorites’), a prose treatise in the Northern
dialect: ‘Cursor Mundi’, an amplified version of the Gospels, and ‘the Pricke
of Conscience’, a translation attributed to Richard Rolle of Hampole.
Alongside these religious works there sprang up a new kind
of secular literature inspired by the French romances of chivalry. Romances
were long composition in verse or prose, describing the life and adventures of
knights. The great majority of romances fell into groups or cycles concerned
with a limited number of matters. Those relating to the ‘matter of Britain’
were probably the most popular and original works of English poets, though
many of them were paraphrased from French.
One of the earliest poems of this type was ‘Brut’ composed
by Layamon in the early 13th c. It is a free rendering of the 12th c., which
tells the story of the legendary foundation of Britain by Brutus, the alleged
great grandson of Aeneas of Troy; the last third of the poem is devoted to
Brut’s most famous descendant, the mythical British King Arthur and his
‘Knights of the Round Table’, Who became the favourite subject of English
knightly romances. The poem is written in alliterative verse with a
considerable number of rhymes. It is noteworthy that the West Midland dialect
of Brut, thought nearly a century and a half after the Norman Conquest,
contains very few French words; evidently the West Midlands were as yet little
affected by French influence.
Some romances deal with more resemnt events and distinctly
English themes: episodes of the Crusades of Scandinavian invasions. ‘Havelock
the Dane (East Midland dialect of the later 13th c.) narrates the adventures of
a Danish prince who was saved by a fisherman, Grim (the founder of Grimsby).
Another poem in the same dialect and century, ‘King Horn’, is more of a love
story. Doth poems make use of characters and plots found in French sources but
are nevertheless original English productions.
Among the Early M. E. texts in the South-Western dialects we
should mention ‘ The London Proclamation’ of the year 1258 and the political
poems of the early 14th c. which voiced the complaint of the poor against their
oppressors. In the poem ‘Evil Times of Edward2’ the unknown author described
the vices of the clergy and the nobility as the causes of the wretched
condition of the people. Those were the earliest M.E. texts in the London
Early M.E. written records represent different
local dialects, which were relatively equal as forms of the written language,
beneath the twofold oppression of Anglo-Norman and Latin writing. They retained
a certain literary authority until it was overshadowed in the 14th c. by the
prestige of the London written language.
The domination of the French language in England came to an
end in the source of the 14th c. The victory of English was predetermined and
prepared for by previous events and historical conditions. Little by little the
Normans and English drew together and intermingled. In the 14th c. Anglo-Norman
was a dead language; it appeared as corrupt French to those who had access to
the French of Paris through books, education or direct contacts. The number of
people who Knew French had fallen; Anglo-Norman and French literary
compositions had lost their audience and had to be translated into English.
Towards the end of the 14th c. the English language had
taken the place of French as the language of literature and administration.
English was once more the dominant speech of all social classes in all regions.
It had ousted French since it had always remained the mother tongue and the
only spoken language of the bulk of the population.
It may be interesting to mention some facts showing how the
transition came about. In 1362 Edward 3 gave his consent to an act of
Parliament ordaining that English be used in the law courts, sine ‘French has
become much unknown in the realm’. This reform, however, was not carried out
for years to come: French, as well as Latin, continued to be used by lawyers
alongside English until the 16th c. Yet many legal documents which have
survived from the late 14th and 15th c. are written in English: wills,
municipal acts, petitions. In 1363, for the first tome in history, Parliament
was opened by the King’s chancellor with an address in English. In 1399 King
Henry 4 used English in his official speech when accepting the throne. In 1404
English diplomats refused to conduct negotiations with France in French,
claiming that the language was unknown to them. All these events testify to the
recognition of English as the state language.
Howly and inevitably English regained supremey in the field
of education. As early as 1349 it was ruled that English should be used at
school in teaching Latin, but it was not until 1385 that the practice became
general, and even the universities began to conduct their curricula in English.
By the 15th c. the ability to speak French had come to be regarded as a special
accomplishment, and French like Latin, was learnt as a foreign language. At the
end of the 15th c. William Caxton, the first English printer, observed: ‘the
most quantity of the people understand not Latin nor French here in this noble
realm of England’.
One might have expected that the triumph of English would
lead to weakening of the French influence upon English. In reality, however,
the impact of French became more apparent. As seen from the surviving written
texts, French loan-words multiplied at the very time when English became a
medium of general communication. The large-scale influx of French loads can be
attributed to several causes. It is probably that many French words had been in
current use for quite a long time before they were first recorded. As it was
aforementioned records in Early M.E. were scare and came mostly from the
Northern and Western regions, which were least affected by French influence.
Later M.N. texts were produced in London and in the neighboring areas, with a
mixed and largely bilingual population. In numerous translation from French –
which became necessary when the French language was going out of use-many
loan-words were employed for the sake of greater precision, for want of a
suitable native equivalent or due to the translator’s inefficiency. It is also
important that in the course of the 14th c. the local dialects were brought
into closer contact; they intermixed and influenced one another: therefore the
infiltration of French borrowings into all the local and social varieties of
English progressed more rapidly.
As with other foreign influences, the impact of French is to
be found, first and foremost, in the vocabulary. The layers and the semantic
spheres of the French borrowings reflect the relations between the Norman
rulers and the English population, the dominance of the French language in
literature and the contacts with French culture. The prevalence of French as
the language of writing led to numerous changes in English spelling.
The dialect division which evolved in Early M.E. was on the
whole preserved in later periods. In the 14th and 15th c. the same grouping of
dialects was present: the Southern group. Including Kentish and the
South-Western dialects, the Midland group with its minute subdivision and the
Northern group. And yet the relations among them were changing. The extension
of trade beyond the conjines of local boundaries, the growth of towns with a
mixed population favored the intermixture and amalgamation of the regional
dialects. More intensive inter-influence of the dialects, among other facts is
attested by the penetration of Scandinavian loan-words into the West-Midland
and Southern dialects from the North and by the spread of French borrowings in
the reverse direction. The most important went in changing linguistic situation
was the rise of the London dialect as the prevalent written form of language.
The history of the London dialect reveals the sources of the
literary language in Late M.E. and also the main source and basis of the
Literary Standard, both in its written and spoken forms.
The Early M.E. records made in London-beginning with the
Proclamation of 1258 – show that the dialect of London was fundamentally East
Saxon; in terms of the M.E. division, it belonged to the South-Western dialect
group. Later records indicate that the speech of London was becoming more
mixed, with East Midland features gradually prevailing over the Southern
features. The most likely explanation for the change if the dialect type and
for the mixed character of London English lies in the history of the London population.
In the 12th and 13th c. the inhabitants of London came from
the south-western district. In the middle of the 14th c. London was practically
depopulated during the ‘Black Death’ (1348) and later outbreaks of bubonic
plague. It has bun estimated that about one third of the population of Britain
died in the epidemies, the highest proportion of deaths occurring in London.
The depopulation was speedily made good and in 1377 London had over 35.000
Most of the new arrivals came from the East Midlands:
Norfolk, Suffolk, and other populous and wealthy counties of Malieval England,
although not bordering immediately on the capital. As a result the speech of
Londoners was brought much closer to the East Midland dialect. The official and
literary papers produced in London in the late 14th c. display obvious East
Midland in features. The London dialect became more Anglian than Saxon in
This mixed dialect of London, which had extended to the two
universities (in Oxford and Cambridge) ousted French from official spheres and
from the sphere of writing.
The flourishing of literature, which marks the seconds half
of the 14th c., apart from its cultural significance, testifies, to the
complete rustablishment of English as the language of writing. Some authors
wrote in their local dialect from outside London, but most of them used the
London dialect or forms of the language combining London and provincial traits.
Towards the end of the century the London dialect had become the principal type
of language used in literature a sort of literary ‘pattern’ to be imitated by
The literary text of the late 14th c. preserved in numerous
manuscripts, belong to a variety of genres. Translation continued, but original
composition were produced in abundance; party was more prolific than prose.
This period of literary florescence is known as the ‘age of Chaucer’; the
greatest name in English literature before Shakespeare other writers are
referred to as ‘Chaucer’s contemporaries’).
One of the prominent authors of the time was John de Trevisa
of Cornwall. In 1387 he completed the translation of seven books on world
history - ‘Polychronicon’ by R. Higden – from Latin into the South-Western
dialect of English. Among other information it contains some curious remarks
about languages used in English: ‘ Trevisa:…gentle men have now left to teach
(i.e. ‘stopped teaching’) their children French. …Higden: It sums a great
wonder how Englishmen and their own language and tongue is so diverse in sound
in this one island and the language of Normandy coming from another land has
one manner of sound among all men that speak it right in England…men of the
East with men of the West, as it were under the same pared of heaven, award
more in the sound of their speech than men if the North with men of the South.
Of Greatest linguistic consequence was the activity of John
Wyclif (1324-1384), the forerunner of the English Reformation. His most
important contribution to English prose was his (and his pupils’) translation
of the Bible completed in 1384. He also wrote pamphlet protesting against the
corruption of the Church. Wyelif’s Bible was copied in manuscript and read by
many people all over the country. Written in the London dialect, it played an
important role in spreading this form of English.
The chief poets of the time, besides Chaucer, were John
Gower, William Langland and, probably, the unknown author of ‘Sir Gawaine and
the Green Knight’).
The remarkable poem of William Langland ‘The Vision
Coneerning Piers the Plowman’ was written in a dialect combining West Midland
and London features; it has survived in three versions, from 1362 to 1390; it
is an allegory and a satire attacking the vises and weaknesses of various
social classes and sympathizing with the wretchedness of the poor. It is
presented as a series of visions appearing to the poet in his dreams. He
susdiverse people and personifications of vices and virtues and explains the
way to salvation, which is to serve Truth by work and love. The poem is written
in the old alliterative verse and shows no touch of Anglo-Norman influence.
John Gover, Chaucer’s friend and an outstanding poet of the
time, was born in Kent, but there are not many Kentisins in his London dialect.
His first poems were written in Anglo-Norman and in Latin. His longest poem
‘Vox Clamantis’ (’the Voice of the Crying in the Wilderness’) is in Latin; it
deals with Watiyler’s rebellion and condemns all roans of Society for the sins
which brought about the terrible revolt. His last long poem I is in English:
Confession Amantis (‘The Lover’s Confession), a composition of 40000
acto-syllabis . It contains a vast collection of stories drawn from various
sources and arranged to illustrate the seven deadly sins. John Gower told his
tales easily and vividly and for long was almost as popular as Chaucer.
There was one more poet whose name is unknown. Four poems
found in a single manuscript of the 14th c. – ‘Peasl’, ‘Patience’,
‘Cleanness’, and ‘Sir Gawaineand the Green Knight’ – have been attributed to
the same author. Incidentally, the latter poet belongs to the popular Arthurian
cycle of Knightly romances, though the episodes narrated as well as the form
are entirely original. The poems are a blending of collaborate alliteration, in
line with the OE tradition, and new rhymed verse, with a variety of difficult
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) was by far the most outstanding
figure of the time. A hundred years later William Caxon, the first English
printer, called him ‘the worshipful father and fist founder and embellisher of
ornate eloquence in our language. ‘In many books on the history of English
literature and the history of English Chaucer is described as the founder of
the literary language.
His carried works more of less imitative if other authors –
Latin, French or Italian – though they bear abundant evidence of his skill. He
never wrote in any other language than English. The culmination of Chaucer ‘s
work as a poet ; his great unfinished collection of stories ‘The Canterbury
Chaucer wrote in a dialect which in the main coincided with
that used in documents produced in London shortly before his time and for a
long time after. Although he did not really create the literary language, as
a poet of outstanding talent he made better use if it than contemporaries and
set up 2 pattern to be followed in the 15th c. His poems were copied so many
times that over sixty manuscripts of ‘The Cantervary Tales’ have survived to
this day. No books were among the first to be printed, a hundred years after
Chauser’s literary language, based in the mixed (lavgely
East Midland) London dialect is known as classical M.E. In the 15th and 16th
c. it became the basis of the national literary English language.
The 15th c. could produce nothing worthy to rank with
Chaucer. The two prominent poets, Thomas Hoccleve and John Lydgate, were
chicfly translators and imitators. The style of Caucer’s successors is believed
to have drawn farther away from everyday speech; it was highly effected in
character, abounding in abstact words and strongly influenced by Latin rhetoric
(it is termed ‘aureate language’).
Whereas in English literature the decline after Chaucer is
apparent, the literature of Scotland forms a Northern dialect of English
flourished from the 13th until the 16th c. ‘The Bruce’ , written by John
Barbour between 1373 and 1378 is a national epic, which describes the real
history of Rolert Bruce a hero and military chief who defeated the army of
Edward 2 at Bannockburn in 1314 and secured the independence of Scotland. This
poem was followed by others, composed by prominent 15th c. poets: e.g.
‘Wallace’ attributed to Henry the Minstel; ‘ Kind’s Quhair’ (King’s Book’) by
King James of Scotland.
- Iliyish B. ‘History of the English Language’, Leningrad,
- Rastorgueva T.A. ‘A History of English’, Moscow, 1983, 347p.
- Ярцева В. Н. ‘Развитие национального литературного
английского языка’, М., 1969.
- Костюченко Ю. П. ‘История английского языка’, К. 1953б 360с.
- Ярцева В. Н. ‘История английского языка 9-15 в. в.’, М
- Иванова, Чахоян, Беляева. «История английского языка», К.: 1996
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