How Does Language Change In Middle English

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William Caxton’s “ Morte D‘Arthur” was first published in 1485, making it a Middle English text. Many of the grammatical and lexical features of the Middle English vernacular are discernable in Caxton’s work. It becomes clear how many changes the English language had to go through to evolve into the Modern English we know today. Especially the preface of “Morte D’Arthur” is an excellent example of these changes. One of the most noticeable developments has taken place in spelling. For instance, words as “Myn”, “knyghtes”, “lyf” and “whyche”, show that the ‘i’ was written as an ‘y’ in Middle English. This is a consequence of the phenomenon known as the Great Vowel Shift. In Old English, the “i” would have been pronounced as ‘ee’. However after…show more content…
The first difference lies in the word order. For example, a negative is no longer placed at the end of a sentence. “We falle not” would become “we do not fall” in Modern English. The second difference that is very noticeable, and which places “Morte D’Arthur” in Late Middle English (which is much closer to Early Modern English), is the use of pronouns. In Early Middle English, pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘They’ would be used as ‘Ich’ and “Hi or Heo” respectively, as Scott Kleinman proved in his article. Again, the same change occurred in Dutch not too long ago. Where Dutch first used the pronoun ‘Gij’ (a polite form of ‘you’) which could mean both single and plural, Dutch now uses the word “jij” or ‘u’, which can only be used as a single. The last major difference concerning grammar is the inflection. Baugh explains the decay of inflection in his article: “But the decay of inflections and the confusion of forms that constitute the truly significant development in Middle English grammar are the result of the Norman Conquest only insofar as that event brought about conditions favorable to such changes.” (Baugh 155) Baugh explains that because French was the more prestige language, grammar was easier to change, since everyone that spoke English was uneducated, and nobody would correct them. Some examples of the decay discussed above are: plurals of nouns normally end in –s in modern spelling, but in Middle English plurals could also end in –es. This is made clear by the nouns: ‘knyghtes’ and ‘dedes’, used in Caxton’s preface. Plurals for verbs were used differently in Middle English as well. In Middle English, an ‘-e’ or ‘-en’ was added at the end of verbs to express either plurals or past particles. In Caxton’s text, this is also noticeable in the verbs: passe (pass) and lerne (learn). Not only have verbs and nouns suffered from inflection developments, articles and adjectives have gone through quite a change as well from

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