Analysis Paper 1: Historical Changes in Language
Throughout history, spoken and written language has changed as various countries and its people have invaded, migrated, and conquered other countries. By bringing different languages to other civilizations, language merged with the native tongues. For example, Old English was similar to Modern German, Middle English stemmed from the Norman Conquest and brought with it French vocabulary, and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is a major piece of literature from this period which reflects this influence. “While vocabulary can change quickly, sentence structure--the order of words in a sentence--changes more slowly” (Mahoney). The General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales written during the Middle English time period is an example of this as, although the etymologies of the words have their basis in Middle English, the sentence structure allows the modern ...view middle of the document...
” (The General Prologue—Translation). If a reader were to concentrate on the Middle English spelling, the context might be lost as would the rhythm of the writing.
Through the etymology of Chaucer’s words and the Great Vowel Shift, most of his language is able to be recognized and translated into Modern English (Mahoney). Pronunciation of vowels changed and it is presumed the spelling reflects those changes. There are words in The General Prologue which are more difficult to understand and translate. Words such as ‘bifil’ became ‘befell’, ‘corages’ became ‘ramp and rage’, and ‘everichon’ became ‘every one’. These changes could reflect the introduction of another language to Chaucer’s Middle English vocabulary. Tracing words from Old English to Middle English can be a result of the Scandinavian and Norman invasions during the early part of the Middle English period (The nature of language change). The invaders brought their language and integrated it with the dialects of the invaded country.
Lockerby states that “Chaucer created a new meld of words and phrases” by combining Germanic English and Norman English and this language become Middle English which assisted in the creation of a language for literature (Lockerby). Through the use of languages from other countries, Chaucer was able to combine grammar, phonology, and morphology from these sources to produce Middle English which then became widespread. It is through the etymology of his words that we are able to understand the progression of his words to our Modern English.
Kolln, Martha, and Loretta Gray. Rhetorical Grammar. Seventh ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 101-16. Print.
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