The Middle English Language

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Middle English refers to the varieties of the English language spoken after the Norman Conquest (1066) until the late 15th century The event that began the transition from Old English to Middle English was the Norman Conquest of 1066, when William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy and, later, William I of England) invaded the island of Britain from his home base in northern France, and settled in his new acquisition along with his nobles and court. William crushed the opposition with a brutal hand and deprived the Anglo-Saxon earls of their property, distributing it to Normans (and some English) who supported him. However, the peasantry and lower classes (the vast majority of the population, an estimated 95%) continued to speak English - considered…show more content…
This includes the reduction (and eventual elimination) of most grammatical cases, and the simplification of noun, adjective and verb inflection. Middle English also saw a mass adoption of Norman French vocabulary, especially in areas such as politics, law, the arts, religion and other courtly language. Everyday English vocabulary remained mostly Germanic, with Old Norse influence becoming apparent. Anglo-Norman French became the language of the kings and nobility of England for more than 300 years (Henry IV, who came to the English throne in 1399, was the first monarch since before the Conquest to have English as his mother tongue). While Anglo-Norman was the verbal language of the court, administration and culture, though, Latin was mostly used for written language, especially by the Church and in official…show more content…
The second half of the fourteenth century saw the flowering of Middle English literature in the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland, and the Gawain poet. Chaucer drew from the work of illustrious medieval Italian writers such as Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, as well as ancient Roman poets. Chaucer had an ideal of great poetry, but he also viewed that ideal ironically and distanced himself from it. In the fifteenth century two religious women, Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, allow us to see the church and its doctrines from female points of view. Near the close of the period, Sir Thomas Malory gave the definitive form in English to the legend of King Arthur and his
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