Middle English

Formerly spoken in




Middle English is called the form of the English language that was spoken about between the 12th and the mid 15th century. This period is marked by drastic changes at all linguistic levels, and since the evidence also come from different dialect areas, the term Middle English stands for a wide range of varieties from which only gradually became clear the London Standard.

Opposite the Old English Middle English texts have the following important changes:

  • A strong simplification of the inflectional forms; so, for example, is the usual plural ending for almost all nouns - it and -en (the latter has also been greatly reduced for Modern- down ). The grammar is replaced by the natural gender. From the case of the noun only a distinction between genitive and non - genitive remains.
  • The resulting replacement or preference analytical instead synthetic constructions
  • The inclusion of numerous French words ( and some Scandinavian ) origin in the vocabulary
  • The Nordic They (her, 3rd person plural) replaced the West Germanic form here
  • Simplification of conjugation: singular and plural of the past tense coincide, most personal endings of verbs fall away. Verbal prefixes (ge -, be -, for- ) advised as deriving means disuse and disappear.

After the Norman conquest of Anglo-Norman became the language of the court and the administration; Latin was the language of the Church and of science; only the common people continued to speak English. This resulted in an up to the present time reaching differentiation of vocabulary. There are, for example, in English three different adjectives that express all a relationship with the term king kingly from Old English, from French royal and regal from Latin. Each of them has a different shade of meaning: the Old English kingly makes us think of a king in a fairy tale; the French royal the splendor of a medieval royal court and the Latin regal to the king, which sets the right.

  • 3.1 uppercase and lowercase

Middle English literature

The most famous work in the medium of English language are the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340-1400 ), a collection of stories that are embedded in a frame plot and a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral, to the grave of St. Thomas Becket, to content has. Through his works Chaucer contributed significantly to establishing the (Central ) English as a literary language.

Phonetics of Middle English

The pronunciation of the Middle English today can only be reconstructed. About some details to argue the scholars. However Secured is the displacement of the vowels ( Frühneuenglische Vowel Shift Great Vowel Shift or ), which marks the end of the Middle English period. In the phase of transition from Old English to Middle English there is a vocalization of some consonants: / j / becomes / i /, / w / and the voiced version of / x are / to / u /. The following reconstruction refers to the Chaucer English.




  • [ ŋ ] is an allophone of / n /, the before / k / and / g / occurs.
  • [ ç, x] are allophones of / h /, which occur in Silbenauslaut, [ ç ] after front vowel and [ x] after back vowel.


Uppercase and lowercase letters

It is not yet established. Capitalization is used more to highlight than the observance of rules. Inconsistencies are common. People are usually capitalized.

Text sample

The Lord's Prayer in a Middle English version by John Wycliffe first translation of the Bible from the 1380s, to compare the text in modern English ( Book of Common Prayer 1928) and German ( ecumenical text 1971):