Middle english. Lecture 3
1. MIDDLE ENGLISHHistorical Events
2. Scandinavian InvasionsThe remarkable feature of the ME period is great
differences in regional dialects. They were accentuated by
such historical events as the Scandinavian invasions and the
Scandinavian conquest of England had begun as
early as the 8th century. In the late 9th c. the Scandinavians
had occupied the whole English territory north of the
Thames. This territory was called Danelaʒ (Danish Law).
In 1016 the Danish king Knut (Canute) became ruler
of England. Scandinavian power was overthrown in 1042
when the power of the old English nobility was restored
under King Edward the Confessor.
3. Scandinavian InvasionsThe Scandinavian conquest had far-reaching
consequences (далеко идущие последствия) for the English language.
The Scandinavian dialects belonged to the North Germanic
languages and their phonetic and grammatical structure was
similar to that of OE. Scandinavians and Englishmen could
understand each other well without translation. As a result,
Scandinavian and English dialects blended. This process was
especially intensive in the north and east of the country.
4. The Norman ConquestThe Norman Conquest, which began in 1066,
proved to be a turning point in the English history and
had a considerable influence on the English language.
The Normans were Scandinavians by origin: Norman<
Norþman. In the 9th c. they began inroads (набеги) on
the northern coast of France. Later this territory was
called Normandy. So, the Normans settled in France,
mixed with the native population and adopted the
In the 11th c., in spite of the Scandinavian origin,
they were bearers of French feudal culture (носители
французской феодальной культуры) and of the
5. The Norman ConquestIn 1066 king Edward the Confessor died. William, Duke of
Normandy, who had claimed (заявлять о правах) the English
throne, assembled an army, landed in England and routed
(разгромить) the English troops under king Harold near Hastings
on the 14th of October, 1066. The Normans became masters of
England. During several centuries French was the dominating
language in England. It was the language of the court, the
government, the church. English was reduced to a lower social
sphere: the main mass of peasantry (крестьянство) and
townspeople. The struggle between the English and French
languages lasted for 3 centuries and resulted in the following:
1)It ended in favour of English;
2)The Engish was considerably changed: its vocabulary
enriched by a great number of French words; its grammatical
structure underwent material changes.
6. Spelling Changes in Middle EnglishThe written forms of the words in Late ME texts resemble their modern
forms. But the words were pronounced according to OE pronunciation habits.
In OE Germanic tribes used three different alphabets: Latin, Greek, but the
earliest was the Runic alphabet. It was employed in inscriptions (надписи) on
hard material: stones, bones and so on.
The word ‘rune’ originally meant ‘secret’, ‘mystery’. The runes were used
as letters; each letter to indicate a separate sound.
Thus, thorn þ ‘thorn’ stood for [θ] or [ð]; wynn Ƿ ‘joy’ - [w].
In ME the runic letters went out of use.
þ ‘thorn’, ð, Ð ‘eth’ were replaced by th
Ƿ ‘wynn’ by w
7. French Scribal TraditionMany innovations in ME spelling are due to the French
1) E.g. diagraphs
ou, ie, ch were adopted together
with French borrowings and began to indicate in English
[u:, e, ʧ ].
Fr. double ME out [u:t] from OE ūt
2) The letters j, k, v, q were first used in imitation of
8. French Scribal Tradition3) The two-fold use of g,c owes its origin to
French as well.
g – [ʤ ], c – [s]
before front vowels
e.g. gentil, mercy
g – [g], c – [k]
before back vowels
e.g. good [go:d], cours [ku:rs]
9. Wider Use of DiagraphsIn Late ME there appeared the diagraph sh
(ssh,sch) to denote the sibilant [ʃ]:
OE scip>ME ship
The sound [ʤ] could be shown by g, j and
the diagraph dg:
ME edge [eʤə]
Wh replaced the OE sequence hw:
OE hwæt>ME what [хwat]
10. Wider Use of Diagraphs* Long
sounds were shown by double letters:
OE bōc > ME book
* The diagraph gh helped to distinguish
fricatives [х, х’] from the aspirate [h]:
ME knyght [kniх’t]
ME he [he:]
11. Replacements to Avoid Confusion of Resembling LettersThe letter o could denote in ME not only the
sound [o], but [u] as well. O was used
instead of U when U in OE words stood next
to m, n, v.
The reason for it is the following. The letters
u, n, m, v were made up of vertical down
strokes (вертикальные штрихи) and were
hard to distinguish in written texts.
OE munuc > ME monek [munək] , monk
12. Interchangeable LettersW and U were interchangeable in the
diagraphs ou, ow
ME doun, down [du:n]
Y was an equivalent of I (if it didn’t stand at
the beginning of the word; in this case it
denoted [j] yet), but it was preferred when I
could be confused with the letters n,m and
13. Ornamentation of a WordSometimes y as well as w were put at the
end of a word for purely ornamental reasons,
so as to finish the word with a curve.
ME very ['veri], my [mi:]