Test Your Knowledge of Middle English

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What was the Chancery Standard?

A standard based on the London dialects that became established by the end of the Middle English period

What was the impact of Norse on Middle and Modern English development?

It had a significant impact

What was the Great Vowel Shift?

A major change in the pronunciation of English vowels that occurred in the Middle English period

What is the difference between weak and strong verbs in Middle English?

The past tense of weak verbs is formed by adding an -ed(e), -d(e) or -t(e) ending, while strong verbs form their past tense by changing their stem vowel

What is the nominative form of the feminine third-person singular in Middle English?

It was replaced by a form of the demonstrative that developed into sche (modern she)

What is the inflection of Middle English adjectives when modifying a noun in the plural?

Adjectives are inflected with -e

Which dialect influenced the Middle English orthography?

The East Midlands-influenced speech of London

What was the writing convention during the Middle English period?

Writing conventions varied widely

Who is the most well-known writer of Middle English?

Geoffrey Chaucer

Study Notes

Middle English: A Summary

  • Middle English (ME) was spoken from the 12th to the 15th centuries and followed the Old English period.

  • During this stage, there were significant changes to vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and orthography.

  • Writing conventions varied widely, and the language became fragmented and localized.

  • A standard based on the London dialects (Chancery Standard) became established by the end of the period.

  • Scots developed concurrently from a variant of the Northumbrian dialect.

  • Many Old English grammatical features either became simplified or disappeared altogether.

  • Norse had a significant impact on Middle and Modern English development.

  • The loss of case endings was part of a general trend from inflections to fixed word order.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer is the most well-known writer of Middle English.

  • The Chancery Standard emerged in the late Middle English period and was used by bureaucrats for most official purposes.

  • The main changes in sound systems from Old English to Middle English include vowel changes and the Great Vowel Shift.

  • Middle English retains only two distinct noun-ending patterns from the more complex system of inflection in Old English.Overview of Middle English Language

  • Middle English nouns are inflected for case and gender. Masculine nouns are referred to with the accusative adjective ending -ne.

  • Adjectives are inflected with -e when modifying a noun in the plural, after the definite article, after a demonstrative, after a possessive pronoun, or with a name or in a form of address.

  • Comparatives and superlatives are usually formed by adding -er and -est. Adjectives with long vowels sometimes shorten these vowels in the comparative and superlative.

  • Middle English personal pronouns were mostly developed from those of Old English. The third-person plural is a borrowing from Old Norse. The nominative form of the feminine third-person singular was replaced by a form of the demonstrative that developed into sche (modern she).

  • Verbs in the present tense end in -e, -(e)st, and -eþ for the first, second, and third-person singular, respectively. Plural forms vary by dialect.

  • The past tense of weak verbs is formed by adding an -ed(e), -d(e) or -t(e) ending. Strong verbs form their past tense by changing their stem vowel.

  • Middle English orthography was based on the East Midlands-influenced speech of London. Spelling was mostly regular, except for the silent letter ⟨e⟩, which indicated a lengthened and modified pronunciation of a preceding vowel.

  • The basic Old English Latin alphabet had 20 standard letters plus four additional letters: ash ⟨æ⟩, eth ⟨ð⟩, thorn ⟨þ⟩ and wynn ⟨ƿ⟩. Yogh, written ⟨ȝ⟩, was used for a variety of sounds.

  • Middle English spelling was never fully standardized. Many scribal abbreviations were used, and the Lollards often abbreviated the name of Jesus to ihc.

How well do you know Middle English? Take this quiz to test your knowledge on the language that was spoken from the 12th to the 15th centuries. From its significant changes in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation to the emergence of the Chancery Standard and the impact of Norse on its development, this quiz covers all the essential aspects of Middle English. See if you can identify the different inflections, noun-ending patterns, and verb tenses, and discover fascinating facts about Middle English orth

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