Article

Middle English Language

Thomas Cable

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online June 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0071
Middle English Language

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
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The English language between c. 1100 and c. 1500 is known as Middle English, one of the three main stages recognized by historians of the language. In the usual classification, Middle English is preceded by Old English from its origins in the 5th century ce (although the earliest extant texts date from the 7th century) and followed by Modern English, a highly variable stage chronologically and geographically, comprising the past five centuries. These divisions and dates are more or less arbitrary, and each period contains within it subperiods, which must also be understood as convenient approximations. Middle English is characterized by a simplification of the inflectional system of Old English, already in progress before the Norman Conquest; by a profound change in the long vowels at the end of the period, especially during the 15th century; and by an expansion of the lexicon from French sources.

Article.  4470 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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