Lectures in history of the English language and method-guides for seminars

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Lectures in history of the English language
Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, The Bee & the Crown - The Road to Ascension in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath
Questions to lecture 3:
1. Where did the first tibes settle on the island What happend to the native Celts
2. What are the major grammatical features of Standard Old English
3. Why was the word order freer in Old English sentences than later

Lecture 4.
Middle English Period.
The leveling of inflections.
The influence of East Midland.
Geoffrey Chaucer

Middle English One result of the Norman Conquest of 1066 was to place all four Old English dialects more or lesson a level. West Saxon lost its supremacy and the centre of culture and learning gradually shifted from Winchester to London. The old Northumbrian dialect became divided into Scottish and Northern, although little is known of either of these divisions before the end of the 13th century (Figure 14). The old Mercian dialect was split into East and West Midland. West Saxon became slightly diminished in area and was more appropriately named the South Western dialect. The Kentish dialect was considerably extended and was called South Eastern accordingly. All five Middle English dialects (Northern, West Midland, East Midland, South

21 Western, and South Eastern) went their own ways and developed their own characteristics. The so-called Katherine Group of writings (1180–1210), associated with Hereford, a town not far from the Welsh border, adhered most closely to native traditions, and there is something to be said for regarding this West Midland dialect, least disturbed by French and Scandinavian intrusions, as a kind of Standard English in the High Middle Ages. Another outcome of the Norman Conquest was to change the writing of English from the clear and easily readable insular hand of Irish origin to the delicate Carolingian script then in use on the Continent. With the change in appearance came a change in spelling. Norman scribes wrote Old English y as u, ȳ as ui, ū as ou (ow when final. Thus, mycel (much) appeared as muchel, fr (fire) as fuir, hūs (house) as hous, and h (how) as how. For the sake of clarity (i.e., legibility) u was often written o before and after m, nu, v, and wand i was sometimes written y before and after m and n. So sunu (son) appeared as sone and him (him) as hym. Old English cw was changed to qu; hw to wh, qu, or quh; ë to ch or tch; s tosh- to -gg-; and -ht to ght. So Old English cwēn appeared as queen hwaet as what, quat, or quhat; d as ditch sip as ship secge as segge; and miht as might. For the first century after the Conquest, most loanwords came from Normandy and Picardy, but with the extension south to the Pyrenees of the Angevin empire of Henry II (reigned
1154–89), other dialects, especially Central French, or Francien, contributed to the speech of the aristocracy. As a result, Modern English acquired the forms canal, catch, leal, real, reward, wage, warden, and warrant from Norman French side by side with the corresponding forms channel, chase, loyal, royal, regard, gage, guardian, and guarantee, from Francien. King John lost Normandy in 1204. With the increasing power of the Capetian kings of Paris, Francien gradually predominated. Meanwhile, Latin stood intact as the language of learning. For three centuries, therefore, the literature of England was trilingual. Ancrene Riwle, for instance, a guide or rule (riwle) of rare quality for recluses or anchorites (ancren), was disseminated in all three languages. The sounds of the native speech changed slowly. Even in late Old English short vowels had been lengthened before ld, rd, mb, and nd, and long vowels had been shortened before all other consonant groups and before double consonants. In early Middle English short vowels of whatever origin were lengthened in the open stressed syllables of disyllabic words. An open syllable is one ending in a vowel. Both syllables in Old English nama name mete meat, food nosu nose wicu week and duru door were short, and the first syllables, being stressed, were lengthened ton me, mēte, nōse, wēke, and dōre in the 13th and 14th

22 centuries. A similar change occurred in 4th-century Latin, in 13th-century German, and at different times in other languages. The popular notion has arisen that final mute -e in English makes a preceding vowel long in fact, it is the lengthening of the vowel that has caused e to be lost in pronunciation. On the other hand, Old English long vowels were shortened in the first syllables of trisyllabic words, even when those syllables were open e.g., hāligdaeg holy day ærende message, errand crīstendōm Christianity and sūtherne southern became hǒliday (Northern hăliday), ěrrende, chrǐstendom, and sǔtherne. This principle still operates in current English. Compare, for example, trisyllabic derivatives such as the words chastity, criminal, fabulous, gradual, gravity, linear, national, ominous, sanity, and tabulate with the simple nouns and adjectives chaste, crime, fable, grade, grave, line, nation, omen, sane, and table. There were significant variations in verb inflections in the Northern, Midland, and Southern dialects (see table. The Northern infinitive was already one syllable (sing rather than the Old English singan), whereas the past participle -en inflection of Old English was strictly kept. These apparently contradictory features can be attributed entirely to Scandinavian, in which the final -n of the infinitive was lost early in singa, and the final -n of the past participle was doubled in sunginn. The Northern unmutated present participle in -and was also of Scandinavian origin. Old English mutated -ende (German -end) in the present participle had already become -inde in late West Saxon (Southern in the table, and it was this Southern - inde that blended with the -ing suffix (German -ung) of nouns of action that had already become near-gerunds in such compound nouns as athswering oath swearing and writingfether writing feather, pen This blending of present participle and gerund was further helped by the fact that Anglo-Norman and French -ant was itself a coalescence of Latin present participles in -antem, -entem, and Latin gerunds in -andum, -endum. The Northern second person singular singis was inherited unchanged from Common Germanic. The final t sound in Midland -est and Southern -st was excrescent, comparable with the final tin modern amidst and amongst from older amiddes and amonges. The Northern third person singular singis had a quite different origin. Like the singis of the plural, it resulted almost casually from an inadvertent retractionof the tongue in enunciation from an interdental
-th sound to postdental -s. Today the form “singeth” survives as a poetic archaism. Shakespeare used both -eth and -s endings (It mercy blesseth him that gives and him that takes The Merchant of Venice. The Midland present plural inflection -en was taken from

23 the subjunctive. The past participle prefix y- developed from the Old English perfective prefix ge-.
Chaucer, who was born and died in London, spoke a dialect that was basically East Midland. Compared with his contemporaries, he was remarkably modern in his use of language. He was in his early s when the Statute of Pleading (1362) was passed, by the terms of which all court proceedings were henceforth to be conducted in English, though enrolled in Latin Chaucer himself used four languages he read Latin (Classical and Medieval) and spoke French and Italian on his travels. For his own literary work he deliberately chose English.

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