About Middle English Grammar
Without schooling in written English, early Middle English writers wrote in their own local dialects, so that the modern reader who becomes familiar with one text must learn another system to read a text from a different part of the country. Although the fourteenth-century London dialect of Geoffrey Chaucer begins to resemble modern English, many of hiscontemporaries, such as the poet of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, continued to write in local dialects. This, combined with the archaic meanings of words and older grammatical forms, can make Middle English a challenge for today. For the most part, however, these problems are overcome through practice and memorisation of vocabulary. In general, most diligent students begin to read with good fluency withinfive to six weeks
Here are some tips to remember:
• There is no set spelling system in Middle English; the same words are often spelt more than one way. Reading aloud can help you recognise the intended word.
• In Middle English the endings –(e)s and –(e)n had multiple functions: the plurals and possessives of nouns, and various forms of verbs. In order to determine the meanings of wordswith these endings, it may be necessary to consider all the possibilities before deciding which is appropriate.
The letters a, e, i, o, and u are generally pronounced as in Spanish.
Sometimes e, i, o, and u are pronounced in as in English.
Especially when followed by two consonants. The rules for which pronunciation you should use are actually pretty complicated.
Try bothpronunciations and go with what feels right to you. You’ll be right the majority of the time.
The letter e is always pronounced, even at the ends of words. In unstressed syllables (generally that means in prefixes or after the first syllable of a word without a prefix), the pronunciation is something like the e in happen.
The vowel i may also be spelt y or j. The pronunciation is the same. The letteri can be used to represent the consonant j, as in ioi (or ioy) for joy.
The vowel u can sometimes be represented v or w. The pronunciation is the same. The letter u can sometimes represent the sound of v, as in wiues for wives.
Middle English scribes employ various combinations of vowels. As a general rule, oi/oy are pronounced as in Modern English boy. Au/aw are pronounced as in Modern Englishhouse.
Ou/ow are pronounced as in Modern English boot. Ai/ay/ei/ey are pronounced like the vowel in
find. Double vowels like aa are pronounced just like single vowels.
f is pronounced like in Modern English. However, in southern England this sound was pronounced v and is often spelt v or u (voxe/uoxe = ‘fox’).
g is pronounced as in goat before the vowels a, o, and u. Before iand e it may be pronounced like j. The combination gg sometimes represents the g sound (e.g. pigge) and sometimes represents the j sound (e.g. egge, segge). Generally, you can use the consonant in Modern English as a guide to the Middle English pronunciation (e.g. pig, edge); however, the j sound sometimes appears in Modern English as y (e.g. Middle English seggen ‘to say’).
ȝ is the MiddleEnglish letter ‘yogh’. Between vowels such as a, o, and u it was pronounced like the ch in Scottish loch, but with more vibration of the vocal cords. Next to e and i, it is pronounced like y. In some later texts, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the yogh is used to represent an s sound. In other, especially later, texts the sound may be spelt with i/y or gh, depending upon the pronunciation.
his pronounced like in Modern English. However, because many medieval scribes were used to writing French, in which h is silent, the letter h occasionally occurs at the beginning of words that in English begin with a vowel.
k is pronounced like in Modern English. It is always pronounced before n, as in knife, knight.
l is pronounced like in Modern English. It is always pronounced in words...
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