Reading 15th Century English - Advanced Level

You should now be familiar with a few basic characteristics of Middle English, and with the grammatical terminology used to describe it. Now read part one of the Book of Middle English, by J. Burrow and T. Turville-Petre, (Wiley-Blackwell, 2004) pages 3–56. This provides a thorough and detailed introduction to Middle English language. Below is highlighted key passages of relevance (the numbers indicate the passage reference in the Book of Middle English). We suggest you read pages 3–56 first, and then look over these key passages again to reinforce the features in your mind.

  • Vocabulary: origins of words (3.3); changes from OE to ME (1.1.1).
  • Pronouns (4.3, 5.4): þou and how (5.4.1); relative pronouns (who, which); demonstrative (4.3.7); indefinite pronouns; reflexive pronouns.
  • Verb forms (4.5, 5.6): strong (-en) or weak verbs (-ed); use of the y- or i- prefix. Number agreement; tense; mood (indicative, subjunctive); active or passive (5.6.6).
  • Noun inflexions (4.2.1): number; case; plurals; prepositions; datives of time.
  • Adjectives and Adverbs (4.4): agreement; comparative adjective (4.4.3);
  • Dialect features (1.2.1): use of inflexion / prefixes/ nunnation / f - v, and v – f. For a map of Middle English dialects, see p.7.

If you master all of this, you really will be an expert in reading Middle English!