Period: Jan 1, 1066 to Jan 1, 1500
The Middle English PeriodThis is the time period known as the Middle English period, Middle Ages, or Medieval Times
Aug 4, 1066
Norman ConquestThe Norman Invasion of England in 1066 introduced the German-affected French dialect. In the years that followed, this dialect and style of writing would influence the Anglo-Saxons, beginning the transition from the Old English to the Middle English period.
English kings after this point were at the same time Dukes of Normandy.
Period: Aug 4, 1066 to Aug 4, 1200
Mingling LanguagesThe Norman Conquest brought in a French-speaking aristocracy, which lead to French being the language of government, politics, and high society. Those under the ruling class, the native English population, spoke English. The English nobles from before the French infusion intermarried with the new aristocracy, which helped mix English and French. Latin was used for educational, religious, scientific, and historical purposes.
Jan 1, 1067
Difference between Old and Middle EnglishMiddle English is distinguished from Old English due to its simplified system of inflection and a vocabulary enriched from French and Scandanavian sources
Jan 1, 1087
The Anglo-Saxon ChronicleThe Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded English history from the year 891 until 1154. It started out in Old English, but later entries appear to be written in an early form of Middle English. In 1087, the Chronicle recorded an obituary for William the Conquerer.
Period: Jan 1, 1087 to Jan 1, 1157
Changes in SpellingThe preterit plural endings of words changed from -on to -en; despite this written change, the oral pronunciation did not change.
The article "the" was also added to the English language.
These changes took place after the Norman Conquest. Because of this conquest, the native literary culture began to recede, and the collapse of the old written standard began.
Jan 1, 1100
Middle English Period Officially BeginsAs Norman and French linguistic influence began to take hold, Anglo-Saxon conventions began to change.
-Word endings began to drop off or become simpler.
-Diclensions began to disappear.
-Word order, more flexible under the Anglo-Saxon model (as in Latin after which it was modeled), became more rigid. Whereas word endings had formerly been the expression of parts of speech, word order became the new method for making meaning.
-In many cases, French-Norman words and Anglo-Saxon words co-existed.
Jan 1, 1100
Definition of RomanceThe Middle English literary period is also known as the Romance period. Romance in literature is defined as non-realistic fiction whose action takes place in a priviliged world somewhere between the folk-tale, the fairy tale, and the novel.
Jan 2, 1100
Influence on English WritingIn addition to its affects on speech, French-Norman language also began to affect English writing. Not only did word endings drop off and word order become more rigid, but spellings began to change to more closely resemble the English we would recognize today,
Jan 1, 1120
Romance LiteratueRomances more often than not compare their characters to ideals, thus acknowledging the imperfections of contemporary reality. Most often the idealism that the characters come up against is the idealistic notion of romantic love and of idealistic integrity, honor. Medieval romances deal with deepest human concerns; maturation, testing virtue by adventure, courage, fear, sorrow, anger, loyalty, and love.
Jan 1, 1136
Geoffrey of Monouth - "Historia Regum Brittanniae"-Born around 1100
-He wrote the "Historia Regum Brittanniae" in 1136 in Latin because Britons needed an account of their history from the beginning of time to the present
-Based his stories off of semi-historical accounts, but he changed the stories so that they sounded the best to him
-He wrote in great detail about the history of each city mentioned in his story; this was a customary practice during this time period
-Because Geoffrey was a historian, people believed his stories were true
Jan 1, 1150
The French InfluenceFrench was a great influence upon the English language and English literature; French romance literature greatly influenced English romance literature by providing the English writers with a model in which they followed. Romance in prose or verse is the most distinctive quality of literature in the Middle Ages. The dominance and the decline of French literature also mark the beginning and the end of the Middle English period.
Jan 1, 1151
Other InfluencesFrench was not the only language that influenced English writers, with the exception of Chaucer and his Italian influence; most other English writers were greatly influenced by Latin literature. But Latin literature influenced English writers throughout all of England’s history.
Aug 4, 1160
BorrowingThe evolution of Middle English was helped along by a trend of borrowing. English constantly borrowed words from the languages being spoken at the same time; French and Latin filled the majority of this role throughout the time period.
Jan 1, 1175
Regions of the Middle English PeriodThe dialects of the Middle English Period can be subdivided into four main groups by region. These groups are Northern, East and West Midland, and Southern. They best represent the change from Old to Middle English, and later, the transition from Middle to Modern English.
Note: This and the following descriptions of regional dialects are not isolated events, but have been given specfic dates to represent, in a particular order, a transition taking place through the Middle English period.
Jan 1, 1200
Layamon - "Layamon's Brut"-Layamon was a parish priest
-Born in Ireland, and moved to England later in life; he is considered an English poet
-"Layamon's Brut" was written in Latin
-His writing style was similar to the verse and conventions of poetry that were popular in the 11th and 12th centuries
-He used alliterative form, but in an unconventional way
-He was influenced by Wace and Homer, and used similar descriptions and similies
-In Layamons' writing, Arthur can do no wrong, he is the noblest of all kings
Jan 1, 1200
Northern England and Scandinavian InfluenceAlthough the Vikings raided parts all over England before the Middle English Period began, their settlements in the Northern region had the earliest linguistic effect. English populations were displaced by Norsemen, who began speaking a compromised dialect that was neither Norse nor English. Evolving faster than any other region, the North had isolated pockets of basically Modern English speakers as early as 1300.
Jan 2, 1200
The Scandanavian English Dialect and Its InfluenceThe Norsemen who settled in Northern England and began to speak a simplified version of English were successful farmers and land-owners. Being more successful and influential than many of the English they displaced, their unique and simple dialect had a greater effect on their neighbors. The Northern dialect began to spread southward. The Norsemen who remained in the North finally conformed more closely to the conventions of existing English than did those who moved south to the Midlands.
Aug 4, 1212
Borrowed Words before 1250From French, English borrowed administrative words like countess, witness, custom, medicine, and constable, along with more every day words like fruit, rich, poor, change, and catch.
Jan 1, 1225
Southern England Relatively UnchangedWhile Scandinavian linguistic influence was sweeping the rest of England from the North, the Southern region remained relatively unchanged, still holding with many conventions of the Old English Period. The Norman Invasion had made a considerable impact, compromising the Southern dialect enough to categorize them fairly as speakers and writers of Middle English, but they held out the longest against the transition toward Modern English that was taking place farther north in the Midlands.
Jan 2, 1225
Kent, Ever ConservativeKentish, the dialect spoken in the eastern part of Southern Enlgland, remained the most like Old English during this period of transition. Even while the rest of Southern England began taking on influence from the neighbors to the North (not to mention the Normans), Kent remained steadfast in their subscription to Old English conventions. Though Kentish once had great influence on the rest of the Southern and Midland England, including London, the tide of change would soon consume it entirely.
Jan 1, 1250
Midlands, East and WestThe Midland dialects, particularly the Eastern dialect, are of the greatest interest to linguistic historians. While both ends of this region evolved under the same forces, their linguistic transitions are best explored apart from one another.
Jan 2, 1250
West Midland, A Perfect MicrocosmWest Midland's dialect can best be described as a representation of what was going on in England on the whole. As in England in its entirety, West Midland had greater Scandanavian influence in the North and less in the South. While the northern portion of West Midland quickly evolved to look and sound like Modern English, the southern part was slower to change. Thus, the part appears the same as the whole.
Aug 4, 1250
Analogy & ImageryAnalogy and imagery were commonly used in Middle English poetry. Many Middle English poets saw the analogus relationship between the corporeal and the spiritual levels of existence. This why many Middle English poets were able to write with imagery.; they also valued imagary's ability to steer the midn towards the supernatural.
Jan 3, 1275
East Midland, The Most Important RegionThe East Midland is considered the most fascinating regional dialect of the Middle English period and also the most imporant to the evolution of Modern English. East Midland, formerly having a dialect most closely resembling Southern and even Kentish, was heavily and quickly influenced by Scandinavian settlers from the North. Long after Northern Scandinavian dialect had settled down, much of it assimilated into the English dialect, East Midland dialect continued to change toward Modern English.
Jan 4, 1275
Why East Midland?Unlike West Midland, which began to solidify later in the Middle English Period, East Midland saw the most prominent and wealthy Scandinavians arrive from the North and the West. These successful land-owners, being of a higher class than the English in that area, began to have a strong linguistic effect. When they began to settle in and around London, Southern linguistic conservation to Old English conventions was doomed to vanish from England entirely.
Jan 1, 1300
Shift in Lingustic PowerAfter the year 1300 or so, English kings began to identify more with the English people and language, rather than their Norman French titles and traditions. This shows a shift in the language used across classes.
Jan 1, 1300
Regional Shifts in a NutshellEventually, the transition from Old, through Middle, toward Modern English would sweep up every region of England. But during most of the Middle English Period, the South remained relatively unchanged while the North evolved quickly but only to a limited extent. The biggest and most ongoing linguistic change took hold in the Midlands, especially in the East. Whereas commoners still held to many of the older conventions, the aristocracy spoke in a dialect closer to Early Modern English.
Jan 2, 1300
Reflections in LiteratureLiterature from the Middle English Period reflects the state of linguistics and dialects all over England. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which features characters from everywhere, offers different dialects depending on the origins of the storyteller. For instance, the Reeve's Tale offers a distinctly Northern dialect, while the Parson's Tale has a more conservative quality, his character being from the South.
Aug 4, 1320
Borrowed Words between 1250 and 1350During this period, English borrowed many simple, often-used words such as easy, sound, piece, face, people, and honest.
Jan 1, 1348
English in SchoolsAt this time, English replaced Latin as the language used to teach in schools. Latin had traditionally been the language of learning, but it was now being pushed aside in favor of English.
Jan 1, 1362
English in LawFollowing the shift of aligiance in English kings, the language of law shifted to give English power. Around this time, English was used in Parliament for the first time.
Jan 1, 1373
Julian of Norwich - "A Revelation of Divine Love"-Female writer
-She was born in 1342 and died in 1429
-She wrote "A Revelation of Divine Love" in 1373
-Her book is about a series of religious visions that came to her at age 30
-She was illiterate and had her works written down by a scribe
-She was very religious
-Her writing has been jidges as a mystical treatise of exceptional interest
Jan 1, 1384
The Bible in EnglishJohn Wycliffe, an English scholar, translated the Bible into English for the first time. This opened the world of theology to speakers of the English language.
Jan 1, 1387
Geoffry Chaucer - "The Canterbury Tales"-Born in 1340, died in 1400
-He wrote "The Canterbury Tales" in 1387
-He lived a very interesting life: he was a page to a countess before becoming a writier, he fought in France, and in 1370 he was granted a life pension and was sent abroad to run diplomatic errands for King Edward III
-In 1386, before writing his book, Chaucher was elected to be the Knight of the Shire for Kent
-When he died, he was buried in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey
Jan 1, 1400
The Pearl & Gawain Poet-The author of "The Pearl" and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is unknown, but due to their similarities, it is believed that he same poet wrote both pomes
-Due to the use of phonology, syntax, accidence, rhyme, and vocabulary, this poet is believed to be from the Northwest Midlands area
-This poet was fond of usuing alliterative verse
Aug 4, 1415
Borrowed Words after 1350English began to borrow more and more complicated words from French, such as combustion, solace, conjecture, and explicit.
Jan 1, 1436
Margery Kempe - "The Book of Margery Kempe"-Born in 1373, died in 1439
-She wrote "The Book of Margery Kempe" in 1436 about her spiritual experiences
-Her writing has unusual style and language patters, but this could due to the fact that she was illiterate and had at least two scribes write down her revelations for her
-She had 14 children; her first revelation came after giving birth to her first child
-She went on several pilgrimages to various parts of England and Europe, and Jerusalem
-She led a spiritual life of chastity and prayer
Jan 1, 1470
Sir Thomas Malory - "Le Morte Darthur"-Born in 1399, died in 1471
-He wrote "Le Morte Darthur" in 1470
-He was in the military and was a memeber of Parliament in 1445
-After the War of Roses, he was imprisoned because he supported and was related to the losing side (the Lancasters)
-He was in jail when he wrote "Le Morte Darthur"
Jan 1, 1476
William Caxton-He was the first English printer
-He established his printing press in Westminster in 1476
-He influenced and contributed to the development of an early modern prose style
-He published Sir Thomas Malory's "Le Morte Darthur" and translated it to "Morte D'Arthur" in 1485
Aug 4, 1476
More on the Printing PressThe printing press was the main force behind establishing a standard "Chancery English," which helped along the move to Modern English.
Jan 1, 1499
Difference between Middle and Modern EnglishMiddle English is distinguished from Modern English because Modern English's inflections are further simplified and has a vocabulary further enriched and diversified, especially from Latin
Jan 1, 1500
Middle English Period Ends.The End of the Middle English Period and the Rise of Early Modern English.