A Book of Middle English


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Old and Middle English: Selected full-text books and articles

Matthews details how the careers, class positions, and ambitions of only a few scholars gave shape and direction to the discipline. Mostly from the lower middle class, they worked in the church or law and hoped to exploit medieval literature for financial success and social advancement. Matthews explores the influence of aristocratic patronage and the societies formed to further the editing and publication of texts. And he examines the ideological uses of Middle English and the often contentious debates between these scholars and organizations about the definition of Englishness itself.

A thorough work of scholarship, The Making of Middle English presents for the first time a detailed account of the formative phase of Middle English studies and provides new perspectives on the emergence of medieval studies, canon formation, the politics of editing, and the history of the book.

The Making of Middle English will prove interesting to all those involved in the study of Middle English and of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literary culture.

The Making of Middle English, — University of Minnesota Press

Matthews offers a healthy reminder that we should not overlook the scholars and the scholarship of the past lest in our own convictions of superior wisdom we neglect an interesting and useful source of study. Matthews compellingly reconstructs the personal and political agendas that produced Middle English as an academic subject…. His book will reward readers with interest in broad themes of intellectual as well as literary and linguistic history.


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A welcome addition to a growing body of disciplinary self-historicizing. Its researches are wide-ranging, bringing to light a whole range of critical materials long buried in the archives. A major contribution to the historiography of medieval studies By the time we reach The Canterbury Tales c. According to the Oxford English Dictionary , by the end of the Middle English period around 30 per cent of English vocabulary is French in origin.

The Making of Middle English, 1765-1910

This had a huge impact on the development of Middle English. Middle English also saw a huge increase in the use of affixes prefixes and suffixes , producing an influx of new words. Excluding inflectional endings, there are just over prefixes and suffixes available for use in everyday English, and at least one of these will be found in around half of all the words in the language.

The suffixes were especially productive, a trend typified by words such as tournament , defendant , solemnity and avoidance.

Studies in the Age of Chaucer

The - tion ending alone produced hundreds of creations, such as damnation , contemplation and suggestion. The flow of French loanwords into English reduced during the 15th century, but the overall rate of foreign borrowing did not decline because of the growing influence of Latin. Thanks chiefly to its role as the language of religion, scholarship and science, Latin words would eventually have a much greater impact on English than French. Today, just over 30, words excluding derived forms have French identified as part of their history in the OED ; for Latin, the corresponding figure is over 50, In literature, a style developed in which authors attempted to emulate the great classical writers, with intricate sentence patterns and erudite, euphonious vocabulary.

When we take into account borrowings from other languages, such as Old Norse and Dutch, we begin to get a sense of the scale of the lexical change that had taken place during Middle English. At the end of the Old English period the size of the lexicon stood at something over 50, different words.

Many words then fell out of use, but the rate of replacement was such that by the end of the Middle English period we see this total doubled. By , something like half of the available word-stock was non-Germanic.

Browse By Language: Middle English

Thanks to the nature of English grammar, which continued to give a high profile to such words as the , of , and and have , the fundamental Anglo-Saxon character of the language was maintained. And in vocabulary, too, if we were to order Middle English words in terms of their frequency of use, we would find that around half of the most commonly used words were from Old English.

The real importance of the Middle English period was the way in which this additional vocabulary became the primary means of introducing new concepts and new domains of discourse into the language, as well as giving novel ways of expression to familiar concepts within old domains of discourse. The period was offering people a much greater linguistic choice. In , people could only ask ; by they could question from French and interrogate from Latin as well. During Middle English we see the evolution of a language which is increasingly exploiting the potentialities of regional, social and stylistic variation.

At one extreme there was a learned, literary style, typically formal and elaborate, characterised by a lexicon of French and Latin origin, and employed by the aristocratic and well-educated. The reputation of Chaucer's successors in the 15th century has suffered in comparison with him, though Lydgate , Thomas Hoccleve , and Skelton are widely studied. Henryson and Douglas introduced a note of almost savage satire, which may have owed something to the Gaelic bardic poetry , while Douglas's version of Virgil's Aeneid is one of the early monuments of Renaissance literary humanism in English.

It was a vibrant time for religious drama as well: many morality plays and miracle plays were produced, and some scripts survive today.

Middle English Period : English Before Chaucer

Sidrak and Bokkus is another example of late Middle English literature. In the late 15th century the first English printer, William Caxton , printed four-fifths of his works in English. He translated a large number of works into English; Caxton translated 26 of the titles himself. Caxton is credited with printing as many as books, 87 of which were different titles.

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However, the English language was changing rapidly in Caxton's time and the works he was given to print were in a variety of styles and dialects. Caxton was a technician rather than a writer and he often faced dilemmas concerning language standardisation in the books he printed.

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He wrote about this subject in the preface to his Eneydos. Caxton is credited with standardising the English language that is, homogenising regional dialects through printing. This facilitated the expansion of English vocabulary, the development of inflection and syntax and the ever-widening gap between the spoken and the written word.


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However, Richard Pynson , a Frenchman who started printing in London in or and who favoured Chancery Standard English, was a more accomplished stylist and consequently pushed the English language even further toward standardisation. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. English literature.

A Book of Middle English A Book of Middle English
A Book of Middle English A Book of Middle English
A Book of Middle English A Book of Middle English
A Book of Middle English A Book of Middle English
A Book of Middle English A Book of Middle English
A Book of Middle English A Book of Middle English
A Book of Middle English A Book of Middle English
A Book of Middle English A Book of Middle English

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