The Middle English Period (1100-1500)

Topics: English language, Vowel, French language Pages: 5 (1438 words) Published: December 4, 2011
The Middle English Period (1100-1500)

Middle English (ME) was the dominant and traditional spoken language form in many parts of England during the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages are so called as the middle period between the decline of the Roman Empire and prior to the period called the Renaissance.

Brief History of the Middle English
The Norman Conquest
The period of Middle English begins with the Norman invasion of 1066 CE. The Norman Conquest was a pivotal event in English history and all subsequent developments in the English monarchy, government, society, language and outlook are coloured by it. King Edward the Confessor had died without heirs,

and William, Duke of Normandy, believed that he would become the next king. However, upon learning that Harold was crowned king, William invaded England, killed Harold and crowned himself king during the famous Battle of Hastings. Yet William spoke only French. As a result, the upper class in England began to speak French while the lower classes spoke English.

French became the language of law, administration, literature and government. English was banned from all polite and official usage, and practically ceased to be a written language.

The Rise of English in England
But by 1250 CE, French began to lose its prestige. King John had lost Normandy to the French in 1204 CE, and after him, King Edward I spoke only English. At this time, many foreigners entered England which made the nobility feel more "English" and so encouraged more use of the English language. The upper class tried to learn English, but they did still use French words sometimes, which was considered somewhat snobbish. French still maintained its prestige elsewhere, and the upper class did not want to lose it completely. The Black Death also played a role in increasing English use with the emergence of the middle class. Several of the workers had been killed by the plague, which increased the status of the peasants, who only spoke English. By 1362 CE, the Statute of Pleading (although written in French) declared English as the official spoken language of the courts. By 1385 CE, English was the language of instruction in schools. Although the popularity of French was decreasing, several words (around 10,000) were borrowed into English between 1250 and 1500 CE. Many of the words were related to government, law ,social life fashion and learning .So, English became dominant in Britain again, but with many French words added. This language is called Middle English. It was the language of the great poet Chaucer. The changes that occurred during this period may be noted in every aspect of the language : in its sounds, in the meanings of its words and in the nature of word stock, where many Old English words were replaced by French ones( like café and chef). Also, many of the grammatical distinctions of the Old English period disappeared.

Medieval Culture
The Middle Ages saw the emergence of great changes in English culture. The violent times of the Dark Ages had led to a primitive society lacking in elegance or refinement . The Middle Ages saw society changing due to the influence from various foreign cultures . The Characteristics of the Medieval Culture

The society was organized as a pyramid of sorts. The nobles were at the top, with a great many peasants at the bottom. Peasants worked on the land and lived in rough huts, which they often shared with their animals. They slept on straw mattresses on the floor. In the middle were the scientists, merchants, craftsmen. Attitudes towards women changed. Now, women were treated with respect. But, women were seen as helpless, beautiful, and pure . In Europe during the Middle Ages the only recognized religion was Christianity, in the form of the Catholic religion. The lives of the Medieval people of the Middle Ages was dominated by the church. The Normans were tremendous builders of castles built much of...
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