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ENGLISH LANGUAGE

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Originally appearing in Volume V09, Page 595 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ENGLISH LANGUAGE. In its historical sense, the name English is now conveniently used to comprehend the language of the English people from their settlement in Britain to the present day, the various stages through which it has passed being distinguished as Old, Middle, and New or Modern English. In works yet recent, and even in some still current, the term is confined to the third, or at most extended' to the second and third of these stages, since the language assumed in the main the vocabulary and grammatical forms which it now presents, the oldest or inflected stage being treated as a separate language, under the title of Anglo-Saxon, while the transition period which connects the two has been called Semi-Saxon. This view had the justification that, looked upon by themselves, either as vehicles of thought or as objects of study and analysis, Old English or Anglo-Saxon and Modern English are, for all practical ends, distinct languages,—as much so, for example, as Latin and Spanish. No amount of familiarity with Modern English, including its local dialects, would enable the student to read Anglo-Saxon, three-fourths of the vocabulary of which have perished and been reconstructed within 900 years; i nor would a knowledge even of these lost words give him the power, since the grammatical system, alike in accidence and syntax, would be entirely strange to him. Indeed, it is probable that a modern Englishman would acquire the power of reading and writing French in less time than it would cost him to attain to the same proficiency in Old English; so that if the test of distinct languages be their degree of practical difference from each other, it cannot be denied that " Anglo-Saxon " is a distinct language from Modern English. But when we view the subject historically, recognizing the fact that living speech is subject to continuous change in certain definite directions, determined by the constitution and circumstances of mankind, as an evolution or development of which we can trace the steps, and that, owing to the abundance of written materials, this evolution appears so gradual in English that we can nowhere draw distinct lines separating its successive stages, we recognize these stages as merely temporary phases of an individual whole, and speak of the English language as used alike by Cynewulf, by Chaucer; by Shakespeare and by Tennyson? It must not be forgotten, however, that in this wide sense the English language includes, not only the literary or courtly forms of speech used at successive periods, but also the popular and, it may be, altogether unwritten dialects that exist by their side. Only on this basis, indeed, can we speak of Old, Middle and Modern English as the same language, since in actual fact the precise dialect which is now the cultivated language, or " Standard English," is not the descendant of that dialect which was the cultivated language or "Englisc " of Alfred, but of a sister dialect then sunk in comparative obscurity,—even as the direct descendant of Alfred's Englisc is now to be found in the non-literary rustic speech of Wiltshire and Somersetshire. Causes which, linguistically i A careful examination of several Ietters of Bosworth's Anglo-Saxon dictionary gives in 2000 words (including derivatives and compounds, but excluding orthographic variants) 535 which still exist as modern English words. 2 The practical convenience of having one name for what was the same thing in various stages of development is not affected by the probability that (E. A. Freeman notwithstanding) Engle and Englisc were, at an early period, not applied to the whole of the inhabitants of Teutonic Britain, but only to a part of them. The dialects of Engle and Seaxan were alike old forms of what was afterwards English speech, and so, viewed in relation to it, Old English, whatever their contemporary names might be. considered, are external and accidental, have shifted the political and intellectual centre of England, and along with it transferred literary and official patronage from one form of English to another ; if the centre of influence had happened to be fixed at York or on the banks of the Forth, both would probably have been neglected for a third. The English language, thus defined, is not " native " to Britain, that is, it was not found there at the dawn of history, but was introduced by foreign immigrants at a date many centuries later. At the Roman Conquest of the island the languages spoken by the natives belonged all (so far as is known) to the Celtic branch of the Indo-European or Indio-Germanic family, modern forms of which still survive in Wales, Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Isle of Man and Brittany, while one has at no distant date become extinct in Cornwall (see CELT: Language). Brythonic dialects, allied to Welsh and Cornish, were apparently spokeq over the greater part of Britain, as far north as the firths of Forth and Clyde; beyond these estuaries and in the isles to the west, including Ireland and Man, Goidelic dialects, akin to Irish and Scottish Gaelic, prevailed. The long occupation of south Britain by the Romans (A.D. 43–400—a period, it must not be forgotten, equal to that from the Reformation to the present day, or nearly as long as the whole duration of modern English—familiarized the provincial inhabitants with Latin, which was probably the ordinary speech of the towns. Gildas, writing nearly a century and a half after the renunciation of Honorius in 410, addressed the British princes in that language;' and the linguistic history of Britain might have been not different from that of Gaul, Spain and the other provinces of the Western Empire, in which a local type of Latin, giving birth to a neo-Latinic language, finally superseded the native tongue except in remote and mountainous districts,' had not the course of events been entirely changed by the Teutonic conquests of the 5th and 6th centuries. The Angles, Saxons, and their allies came of the Teutonic stock, and spoke a tongue belonging to the Teutonic or Germanic branch of the Indo-Germanic (Indo-European) family, the same race and form of speech being represented in modern times by the people and languages of Holland, Germany, Denmark, the Scandinavian peninsula and Iceland, as well as by those of England and her colonies. Of the original home of the so-called primitive Aryan race (q.v.), whose language was the parent Indo-European, nothing is certainly known, though the subject has called forth many conjectures; the present tendency is to seek it in Europe itself. The tribe can hardly have occupied an extensive area at first, but its language came by degrees to be diffused over the greater part of Europe and some portion of Asia. Among those whose Aryan descent is generally recognized as beyond dispute are the Teutons, to whom the Angles and Saxons belonged. The Teutonic or Germanic people, after dwelling together in a body, appear to have scattered in various directions, their language gradually breaking up into three main groups, which can be already clearly distinguished in the 4th century A.D., North Germanic or Scandinavian, West Germanic or Low and High German, and East Germanic, of which the only important representative is Gothic. Gothic, often called Mbeso-Gothic, was the language of a people of the Teutonic stock, who, passing down the Danube, invaded the borders of the Empire, and obtained settlements in the province of Moesia, where their language was committed to writing in the 4th century; its literary remains are of peculiar value as the oldest specimens, by several centuries, of Germanic speech. The dialects of the invaders of Britain belonged to the West Germanic branch, and within this to the Low German group, represented at the present 1 The works of Gildas in the original Latin were edited by Mr Stevenson for the English Historical Society. There is an English translation in Six Old English Chronicles in Bohn's Antiquarian library. ' ' As to the continued existence of Latin in Britain, see further in Rhys's Lectures on Welsh Philology, pp. 226-227; also Dogatschar, Lautlehre d, gr., lat. u. roman. Lehnworte im Altengl. (Strassburg, [888).day by Dutch, Frisian, and the various "Platt-Deutsch" dialects of North Germany. At the dawn of history the fore-fathers of the English appear to have been dwelling between and about the estuaries and lower courses of the Rhine and the Weser, and the adjacent coasts and isles; at the present day the most English or Angli-form dialects of the European continent are held to be those of the North Frisian islands of Amrum and Sylt, on the west coast of Schleswig. It is well known that the greater part of the ancient Friesland has been swept away by the encroachments of the North Sea, and the disjecta membra of the Frisian race, pressed by the sea in front and more powerful nationalities behind, are found only in isolated fragments from the Zuider Zee to the coasts of Denmark. Many Frisians accompanied the Angles and Saxons to Britain, and Old English was in many respects more closely connected with Old Frisian than with any other Low German dialect. Of the Geatas, Eotas or " kites," who, according to Bede, occupied Kent and the Isle of Wight, and formed a third tribe along with the Angles and Saxons, it is difficult to speak linguistically. The speech of Kent certainly formed a distinct dialect in both the Old English and the Middle English periods, but it has tended to be assimilated more and more to neighbouring southern dialects, and is at the present day identical with that of Sussex, one of the old Saxon kingdoms. Whether the speech of the Isle of Wight ever showed the same characteristic differences as that of Kent cannot now be ascertained, but its modern dialect differs in no respect from that of Hampshire, and shows no special connexion with that of Kent. It is at least entirely doubtful whether Bede's Geatas came from Jutland; on linguistic grounds we should expect that they occupied a district lying not to the north of the Angles, but between these and the old Saxons. The "earliest specimens of the language of the Germanic invaders of Britain that exist point to three well-marked dialect groups: the Anglian (in which a further distinction may be made between the Northumbrian and the Mercian, or South-Humbrian); the Saxon, generally called West-Saxon from the almost total lack of sources outside the West-Saxon domain; and the Kentish. The Kentish and West-Saxon are sometimes, especially in later times, grouped together as southern dialects as opposed to midland and northern. These three groups were distinguished from each other by characteristic points of phonology and inflection. Speaking generally, the Anglian dialects may be distinguished by the absence of certain normal West-Saxon vowel-changes, and the presence of others not found in West-Saxon, and also by a strong tendency to confuse and simplify inflections, in all which points, moreover, Northumbrian tended to deviate more widely than Mercian. Kentish, on the other hand, occupied a position intermediate between Anglian and West-Saxon, early Kentish approaching more nearly to Mercian, owing perhaps to early historical connexion between the two, and late Kentish tending to conform to West-Saxon characteristics, while retaining several points in common with Anglian. Though we cannot be certain that these dialectal divergences date from a period previous to the occupation of Britain, such evidence as can be deduced points to the existence of differences already on the continent, the three dialects corresponding in all likelihood to Bede's three tribes, the Angles, Saxons and Geatas. As it was amongst the Engle or Angles of Northumbria that literary culture first appeared, and as an Angle or Englisc dialect was the first to be used for vernacular literature, Englisc came eventually to be a general name for all forms of the vernacular as opposed to Latin, &c.; and even when the West-Saxon of Alfred became in its turn the literary or classical form of speech, it was still called Englisc or English. The origin of the name A ngul-Seaxan(Anglo-Saxons) has been disputed, some maintaining that it means a union of Angles and Saxons, others (with better foundation) that it meant English Saxons, or Saxons of England or of the Angel-cynn as distinguished from Saxons of the Continent (see New English Dictionary, s.v.). Its modern use is mainly due to the little band of scholars who in the 16th and 17th centuries turned their attention to the long-forgotten language of Alfred and PElfric,, which, as it differed so greatly from the English of their own day, they found it convenient to distinguish by a name which was applied to themselves by those who spoke it.1 To these scholars " Anglo-Saxon " and English " were separated by a gulf which it was reserved for later scholar-ship to bridge across, and show the historical continuity of the English of all ages. As already hinted, the English language, in the wide sense, presents three main stages of development—Old, Middle and Modern—distinguished by their inflectional characteristics. The latter can be best summarized in the words of Dr Henry Sweet in his History of English Sounds:2 "Old English is the period of full inflections (nama, gifan, caru), Middle English of levelled inflections (naame, given, caare), and Modern English of lost inflections (name, give, care = ndm, giv, car). We have besides two periods of transition, one in which nama and name exist side by side, and another in which final e [with other endings] is beginning to drop." By lost inflections it is meant that only very few remain, and those mostly non-syllabic, as the -s in stones and loves,,the -ed in loved, the -r in their, as contrasted with the Old English stan-as, lufah, luf-od-e and luf-od-on, pa-ra. Each of these periods may also be divided into two or three; but from the want of materials it is difficult to make any such division for all dialects alike in the first. As to the chronology of the successive stages, it is of course impossible to lay down any exclusive . series of dates, since the linguistic changes were inevitably gradual, and also made them-selves felt in some parts of the country much earlier than in others, the north being always in advance of the midland, and the south much later in its changes. It is easy to point to periods at which Old, Middle and Modern English were fully developed, but much less easy to draw lines separating these stages; and even if we recognize between each part a " transition " period or stage, the determination of the beginning and end of this will to a certain extent be a matter of opinion. But bearing these considerations in mind, and having special reference to the midland dialect from which literary English is mainly descended, the following may be given as approximate dates, which if they do not demarcate the successive stages, at least include them: Old English or Anglo-Saxon to 'too Transition Old English (" Semi-Saxon ") . Imo to 1150 Early Middle English 1150 to 1250 (Normal) Middle English 1250 to 1400 Late and Transition Middle English . 1400 to 1485 Early Modern or Tudor English 1485 to 1611 Seventeenth century transition 1611 to 1688 Modern or current English . . . 1689 onward Dr Sweet has reckoned Transition Old English (Old Transition) from 1050 to 1150, Middle English thence to 1450, and Late or Transition Middle English (Middle Transition) 1450 to 1500. As to the Old Transition see further below. The OLD ENGLISH or Anglo-Saxon tongue, as introduced into Britain, was highly inflectional, though its inflections at the date when it becomes known to us were not so full as those of the earlier Gothic, and considerably less so than those of Greek and Latin during their classical periods. They corresponded more closely to those of modern literary German, though both in nouns and verbs the forms were more numerous and distinct; for example, the German guten answers to three Old English forms,—gbdne, godum, Wan; guter to two—gOdre, Odra; liebten to two,—lufodon and lufeden. Nouns had four cases, Nominative, Accusative (only sometimes distinct), Genitive, 1 tEthelstan in 934 calls himself in a charter " Ongol-Saxna cyning and Brytaenwalda eallaes thyses iglandes "; Eadred in 956 is " Angul-seaxna cyning and casere totius Britanniae," and the name is of frequent occurrence in documents written inLatin. These facts ought to be remembered in the interest of the scholars of the 17th century, who have been blamed for the use of the term Anglo-Saxon, as if they had invented it. By Anglo-Saxon " language they meant the language of the people who sometimes at least called themselves " Anglo-Saxons." Even now the name is practically useful, when we are dealing with the subject per se, as is Old English, on the other hand, when we are treating it historically or in connexion with English as a whole. ' Transactions of the Philological Society (1873-1874), p. 620; new and much enlarged edition, 1888. Dative, the latter used also with prepositions to express locative, instrumental, and most ablative relations; of a distinct instrumental case only vestiges occur. There were several declensions of nouns, the main division being that known in Germanic languages generally as strong and weak,—a distinction also extending to adjectives in such wise that every adjective assumed either the strong or the weak inflection as determined by associated grammatical forms. The first and second personal pronouns possessed a'dual number =we two, ye two; the third person had a complete declension of the stem he, instead of being made up as now of the three stems seen in he, she, they. The verb distinguished the subjunctive from the indicative mood, but had only two inflected tenses, present and past (more accurately, that of• incomplete and that of completed or " perfect " action)—the former also used for the future, the latter for all the shades of past time. The order of the sentence corresponded generally to that of German. Thus from King Alfred's additions to his translation of Orosius: " Donne py ylcan doge hi hine to pum ade beran wylla6 J'onne todu1a6hi his feoh j'aet J'aer to lafe bib aefter pum gedrynce and J'um plegan, on fif o66e syx, hwilum on ma, swa swa J'aes feos andefn bib " ("Then on the same day [that] they him to the pile bear will, then divide they his property that there to remainder shall be after the drinking and the sports, into five or six, at times into more, according as the property's value is"). The poetry was distinguished by alliteration, and the abundant use of figurative and metaphorical expressions, of bold compounds and archaic words never found in prose. Thus in the following lines from Beowulf (ed. Thorpe, 1. 645, Zupitza 320): Strut wus stan-fah, stig wisode Gumum utga dere. g66-byrne scan 1 Heard hond-locen. hring-iren stir Song in searwum, tea hie to sele fur,5um In hyra gry're geatwum gangan cwomon. Trans.: The street was stone-variegated, the path guided (The) men together; the war-mailcoat shone, Hard hand-locked. Ring-iron, sheer (bright ring-mail) Sang in (their) cunning-trappings, as they to hall forth In their horror-accoutrements going came. The Old English was a homogeneous language, having very few foreign elements in it, and forming its compounds and derivatives entirely from its own resources. A few Latin appellatives learned from the Romans in the German wars had been adopted into the common West Germanic tongue, and are found in English as in the allied dialects. Such were strata (street, via strata), camp (battle), caseee (Caesar), mil (mile), pin (punishment), mynet (money), pund (pound) , win (wine); probably also cyriee (church), biscop (bishop), lceden (Latin language), case (cheese), bettor (butter), piper (pepper), olfend (camel, elephantus), ynce (inch, uncia), and a few others. The relations of the first invaders to the Britons were to a great extent those of destroyers; and with the exception of the proper names of places and prominent natural features, which as is usual were retained by the new population, few British words found their way into the Old English. Among these are named broc (a badger), brat (breeches), cliat (clout), pal (pool), and a few words relating to the employment of field or household menials. Still fewer words seem to have been adopted from the provincial Latin, almost the only certain ones being castra, applied to the Roman towns, which appeared in English as ccestre, ceaster, now found in composition as -caster, -Chester, -tester, and culina(kitchen),which gave cylen(kiln). The introduction and gradual adoption of Christianity, brought a new series of Latin words connected with the offices of the church, the accompaniments of higher civilization, the foreign productions either actually made known, or mentioned in the Scriptures and devotional books. Such were mynster (monasterium), munue (monk), nunne (nun), maesse (mass), .rchol (school), almesse (eleemosyna), candel (candela), turtle (turtur), fic (ficus), cedar (cedrus). These words, whose number increased from the 7th to the loth century, are commonly called Latin of the second period, the Latin of the first period including the Latin words brought by the English from the continent, as well as those picked up in Britain either from the Roman provincials or the Welsh. The Danish invasions of the 8th and loth centuries 590 resulted in the establishment of extensive Danish and Norwegian populations, about the basin of the Humber and its tributaries, and above Morecambe Bay., Although these Scandinavian settlers must have greatly affected the language of their own localities, but few traces of their influence are to be found in the literature of the Old English period. As with the greater part of the words adopted from the Celtic, it was not until after the dominion of the Norman had overlaid all preceding conquests, and the new English began to emerge from the ruins of the old, that Danish words in any number made their appearance in books, as equally " native " with the Anglo-Saxon. The earliest specimens we have of English date to the end of the 7th century, and belong to the Anglian dialect, and particularly to Northumbrian, which, under the political eminence of the early Northumbrian kings from Edwin to Ecgfriti, aided perhaps by the learning of the scholars of Ireland and Iona, first attained to literary distinction. Of this literature in its original form mere fragments exist, one of the most interesting of which consists of the verses uttered by Bede on his deathbed, and preserved in a nearly contemporary MS.: Fore there neid faerae . naenig uuiurthit thonc snotturra . than him tharf sie, to ymb-hycggannm . aer his hin-iongae, huaet his gastae . godaes aeththa yflaes, aefter deoth-daege . doemid uueorthae. 'Trans.: Before the inevitable journey becomes not any Thought more wise than (that) it is needful for him, To consider, ere his hence-going, What, to his ghost, of good or ill, After death-thy, doomed may be. But our chief acquaintance with Old English is in its West-Saxon form, the earliest literary remains of which date to the 9th century, when under the political supremacy of Wessex and the scholarship of King Alfred it became the literary language of the English nation, the classical " Anglo-Saxon." If our materials were more extensive, it would probably be necessary to divide the Old English into several periods; as it is, consider-able differences have been shown to exist between the " early West-Saxon " of King Alfred and the later language of the t1th century, the earlier language having numerous phonetic and inflectional distinctions which are "levelled" in the later, the inflectional changes showing that the tendency to pass from the synthetical to the analytical stage existed quite independently of the Norman Conquest. The northern dialect, whose literary career had been cut short in the 8th century by the Danish invasions, reappears in the loth in the form of glosses to the Latin gospels and a service-book, often called the Ritual of Durham, where we find that, owing to the confusion which had so long reigned in the north, and to special Northumbrian tendencies, e.g. the dropping of the inflectional n in both verbs and nouns, this dialect had advanced in the process of inflection-levelling far beyond the sister dialects of Mercian and the south, so as already to anticipate the forms of Early Middle English. Among the literary remains of the Old English may be mentioned the epic poem of Beowulf, the original nucleus of which has been supposed to date to heathen and even continental times, though we now possess it only in a later form; the poetical works of Cynewulf; those formerly ascribed to Cmdmon; several works of Alfred, two of which, his translation of Orosius and of The Pastoral Care of St Gregory, are contemporary specimens of his Ianguage; the Old English or Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; the theological works of 1Elfric (including translations of the Pentateuch and the gospels) and of Wulfstan; and many works both in prose and verse, of which the authors are unknown. The earliest specimens, the inscriptions on the Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses, are in a Runic character; but the letters used in the manuscripts generally are a British variety of the Roman alphabet which the Anglo-Saxons found in the island, and which was also used by the Welsh and Irish 1 Several of the Roman letters had in Britain developed forms, and retained or acquired values, unlike those used on the continent, in particular Spa nr Z 1 See on this Rhys, Lectures on Welsh Philology, v.,F'(d f g r s t). The letters q ands were not used, q being represented by cw, and k was a rare alternative to c; u or v was only a vowel, the consonantal power of v being represented as in Welsh by f. The Runes called thorn and wen, having the consonantal values now expressed by th and w, for which the Roman alphabet had no character, were at first expressed by th; tS (a contraction for 88 or 8h), and v or u; but at a later period the characters p and p were revived from the old Runic alphabet. Contrary to Continental usage, the letters c and g (g) had originally only their hard or guttural powers, as in the neighbouring Celtic languages; so that words which, when the Continental Roman alphabet came to be used for Germanic languages, had to be written with Is, were in Old English written with c, as awe =keen, eyed =kind.2 The key to the values of the letters, and thus to the pronunciation of Old English, is also to be found in the Celtic tongues whence the letters were taken. The Old English period is usually considered as terminating 1120, with the death of the generation who saw the Norman Conquest. The Conquest established in England a foreign court, a foreign aristocracy and a foreign hierarchy.3 The French language, in its Norman dialect, became the only polite medium of intercourse. The native tongue, despised not only as unknown but as the language of a subject race, was left to the use of boors and serfs, and except in a few stray cases ceased to be written at all. The natural results followed.4 When the educated generation that saw the arrival of the Norman died out, the language, ceasing to be read and written, lost all, its literary words. The words of ordinary life whose preservation is independent of books lived on as vigorously as ever, but the literary terms, those that related to science, art and higher culture, the bold artistic compounds, the figurative terms of poetry, were speedily forgotten. The practical vocabulary shrank to a fraction of its former extent. And when, generations later, English began to be used for general literature, the only terms at hand to express ideas above those of every-day life were to be found in the French of the privileged classes, of whom alone art, science, law and theology had been for generations the inheritance. Hence each successive literary effort of the reviving English tongue showed a larger adoption of French words to supply the place of the forgotten native ones, till by the days of Chaucer they constituted a notable part of the vocabulary. Nor was it for the time being only that the French words affected the English vocabulary. The Norman French words introduced by the Conquest, as well as the Central or Parisian French words which followed under the early Plantagenets, were mainly Latin words which had lived on among the people of Gaul, and, modified in the mouths of succeeding generations, had reached forms more or less remote from their originals. In being now adopted as English, they supplied precedents in accordance with which other Latin words might be converted into English ones, whenever required; and long before the Renascence of classical learning, though in much greater numbers after that epoch, these precedents were freely followed. While the eventual though distant result of the Norman Con-quest was thus a large reconstruction of the English vocabulary, 8 During the Old English period both c and a appear to have acquired a palatal value in conjunction with front or palatal vowel-sounds, except in the north where c, and in some cases g, tended to remain guttural in such positions. This value was never distinguished in Old English writing, but may be deduced from certain phonetic changes depending upon it, and from the use of c, cc, as an alternative for tj (as in ort Beard, orceard = orchard, fetian, feccean = fetch), as well as from the normal occurrence of ch and y in these positions in later stages of the language, e.g. cud =child, ,taecean = teach, $iellan=yell, dae3 =day &c. 8 For a discriminating view of the effects of the Norman Conquest on the English Language, see Freeman, Norman Conquest, ch. xxv. 4 There is no reason to suppose that any attempt was made to proscribe or suppress the native tongue, which was indeed used in some official documents addressed to Englishmen by the Conqueror himself. Its social degradation seemed even on the point of coming to an end, when it was confirmed and prolonged for two centuries more by the accession of the Angevin dynasty, under whom every-thing French received a fresh impetus. the grammar of the language was not directly affected by it. There was no reason why it should—we might almost add, no way by which it could. While the English used their own words, they could not forget their own way of using them, the inflections and constructions by which alone the words expressed ideas—in other words, their grammar; when one by one French words were introduced into the sentence they became English by the very act of admission, and were at once subjected to all the duties and liabilities of English words in the same position. This is of course precisely what happens at the present day: telegraph and telegram make participle telegraphing and plural telegrams, and naive the adverb naively, precisely as if they had been in the language for ages. But indirectly the grammar was affected very quickly. In languages in the inflected or synthetic stage the terminations must be pronounced with marked distinctness, as these contain the correlation of ideas; it is all-important to hear whether a word is bonus or bonis or bonas or bonos. This implies a measured and distinct pronunciation, against which the effort for ease and rapidity of utterance is continually struggling, while indolence and carelessness continually compromise it. In the Germanic languages, as a whole, the main stress-accent falls on the radical syllable, or on the prefix of a nominal compound, and thus at or near the beginning of the word; and the result of this in English has been a growing tendency to suffer the concluding syllables to fall into obscurity. We are familiar with the cockney winder, sofer, holler, Sarer, Sunder, would yer, for window, sofa, holla, Sarah, Sunday, would you, the various final vowels sinking into an obscure neutral one now conventionally spelt er, but formerly represented by final e. Already before the Conquest, forms originally hatu, sello, tunga, appeared as hate, selle, Lunge, with the terminations levelled to obscure L; but during the illiterate period of the language after the Conquest this careless obscuring of terminal vowels became universal, all unaccented vowels in the final syllable (except i) sinking into e. During the 12th century, while this change was going on, we see a great confusion of grammatical forms, the full inflections of Old English standing side by side in the same sentence with the levelled ones of Middle English. It is to this state of the language that the names Transition and Period of Confusion (Dr Abbott's appellation) point; its appearance, as that of Anglo-Saxon broken down in its endings, had previously given to it the suggestive if not logical appellation of Semi-Saxon. Although the written remains of the transition stage are few, sufficient exist to enable us to trace the course of linguistic change in some of the dialects. Within three generations after the Conquest, faithful pens were at work transliterating the old homilies of lElfric, and other lights of the Anglo-Saxon Church, into the current idiom of their posterity .l Twice during the period, in the reigns of Stephen and Henry II., IElfric's gospels were similarly modernized so as to be " understanded of the people."2 Homilies and other religious works of the end of the 12th century 3 show us the change still further advanced, and the language passing into Early Middle English in its southern form. While these southern remains carry on in unbroken sequence the history of the Old English of Alfred and fElfric, the history of the northern English is an entire blank from the 1th to the 13th century. The stubborn resistance of the north, and the terrible retaliation inflicted by William, apparently effaced northern English culture for centuries. If anything was written in the vernacular in the kingdom of Scotland during the same period, it probably perished during the calamities to which that country was subjected during the half-century of struggle for independence. In reality, however, the northern English had entered upon its transition stage two centuries earlier; the glosses of the loth century show that the Danish inroads had there anticipated the results hastened by the Norman Conquest in the south. 1 MS. Cotton Vesp. A. 22. 2 Gospels in Anglo-Saxon, &c., ed. for Cambridge Press, by W. W. Skeat (1871-1887), second text. 3 Old English Homilies of Twelfth Century, first and second series, ed. R. Morris (E.E.T.S.), (1868-1873). Meanwhile a dialect was making its appearance in another quarter of England, destined to overshadow the old literary dialects of north and south alike, and become the English of the future. The Mercian kingdom, which, as its name imports, lay along the marches of the earlier states, and was really a congeries of the outlying members of many tribes, must have presented from the beginning a linguistic mixture and transition; and it is evident that more than one intermediate form of speech arose within its confines, between Lancashire and the Thames. The specimens of early Mercian now in existence consist mainly of glosses, in a mixed Mercian and southern dialect, dating from the 8th century; but, in a 9th-century gloss, the so-called Vespasian Psalter, representing what is generally held to be pure Mercian. Towards the close of the Old English period we find some portions of a gloss to the Rushworth Gospels, namely St Matthew and a few verses of St John xviii., to be in Mercian. These glosses, with a few charters and one or two small fragments, represent a form of Anglian which in many respects stands midway between Northumbrian and Kentish, approaching the one or the other more nearly as we have to do with North Mercian or South Mercian. And soon after the Conquest we find an undoubted midland dialect in the transition stage from Old to Middle English, in the eastern part of ancient Mercia, in a district bounded on the south and south-east by the Saxon Middlesex and Essex, and on the east and north by the East Anglian Norfolk and Suffolk and the Danish settlements on the Trent and Humber. In this district, and in the monastery of Peterborough, one of the copies of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, transcribed about 1120, was continued by two succeeding hands to the death of Stephen in 1154. The section from 1122 to 1131, probably written in the latter year, shows a notable confusion between Old English forms and those of a Middle English, impatient to rid itself of the inflectional trammels fvhich were still, though in weakened forms, so faithfully retained south of the Thames. And in the concluding section, containing the annals from 1r32 to 1154, and written somewhere about the latter year, we find Middle English fairly started on its career. A specimen of this new tongue will best show the change that had taken place: 1140 A.D.—And 4 te eorl of Angxu ward ded, and his sune Henri toc to Pe rice. And te cuen of France to-dnlde fra Pe king, and sc corn to Pe iunge eorl Henri. and he toc hire to wiue, and al Peitou mid hire. Pa ferde he mid micel faerd into Engleland and wan castles—and te king ferde agenes him mid micel mare ferd. PoPwnthere fuhtten hi noht. oc ferden Pe aercebiscop and to wise men betwux heonz, and makede that sahte that te king sculde ben lauerd and king wile he liuede. and aefter his dni ware Henri king. and he helde him for fader, and he him for sune, and sib and snhte sculde ben betwyx heom, and on al Engleland.5 With this may be contrasted a specimen of southern English, from to to 20 years later (Hatton Gospels, Luke i. 466) : Da cww Maria: Min saute mersed drihten, and min gast geblissode on gode minen hnlende. For Pam Pe he geseah his Pinene eadmodnysse. So5lice henen-for6' me eadige segge6 alle cneornesse; for Pam Pe me mychele Ping dyde se Pe mihtyg ys; and his name is halig. And his mildheortnysse of cneornisse on cneornesse hine ondraedende. He worhte maegne on hys earme; he to-daelde Pa ofermode, on moda heora heortan. He warp Pa rice of setlle, and Pa eadmode he up-an-hof. Hyngriende he mid gode ge-felde, and Pa ofermode ydele for-let. He afeng israel his cniht, and gemynde his mildheortnysse; Swa he spraec to ure fxderen, Abrahame and his snde on a weorlde. To a still later date, apparently close upon 1200, belongs the versified chronicle of Layamon or Laweman, a priest of Ernely on the Severn, who, using as his basis the French Brut of Wace, expanded it by additions from other sources to more than twice the extent: his work of 32,250 lines is a mine of illustration for the language of his time and locality. The latter was intermediate between midland and southern, and the language, though forty years later than the specimen from the Chronicle, is much more archaic in structure, and can scarcely be considered even as Early Middle English. The following is a specimen (lines 9064–9079) The article re becomes te after a preceding t or d by assimilation. 5 Earle, Two of the Saxon Chronicles parallel (1865), p. 265. 6 Skeat, Anglo-Saxon and Northumbrian Gospels (1874). 592 On Kinbelines daeie . . . Pe king wes inne Bruttene, corn a Pissen middel aerde . anes maidenes sune, iboren wes in BePleem • . of berste alre burden. He is ihaten Jesu Crist . . . t'urh gene halie gost, alre worulde wunne . . . walden englenne; faeder he is on heuenen . froure moncunnes; sune he is on eor5en • of sele Pon maeidene, & Pene halie gost . halde5 mid him seoluen. The MIDDLE ENGLISH was pre-eminently the Dialectal period of the language. It was not till after the middle of the 14th century that English obtained official recognition. For three centuries, therefore, there was no standard form of speech which claimed any pre-eminence over the others. The writers of each district wrote in the dialect familar to them; and between extreme forms the difference was so great as to amount to unintelligibility; works written for southern Englishmen had to be translated for the benefit of the men of the north: " In sotherin Inglis was it drawin, And turnid is haue it till ur awin Langage of Pe northin lede That can na nothir Inglis rede." Cursor Mundi, 20,064. Three main dialects were distinguished by contemporary writers, as in the often-quoted passage from Trevisa's translation of Higden's Polychronicon completed in 1387:-- " Also Englysche men . . . hadde fram pe bygynnynge pre maner speche, Souperon, Norperon and Myddel speche (in Pe myddel of Pe lond) as by come of pre maner people of Germania. . Also of Pe forseyde Saxon tonge, pat ys deled a Pre, and ys abyde scarslyche wit' feaw uplondysche men and ys gret wondur, for men of Pe est wit' men of he west, as hyt were under Pe same part of heyvene, acordet' more in sounynge of speche Pan men of Pe norP wit' men of to soup; Perfore hyt ys Pat Mercii, Pat buP men of myddel Engelond, as hyt were parteners of Pe endes, undurstondeP betre Pe syde longages NorPeron and Souperon, Pan Norhrern and SouPern undurstondeP oyPer oPer." The modern study of these Middle English dialects, initiated by the elder Richard Garnett, scientifically pursued by Dr Richard Morris, and elaborated by many later scholars, both English and German, has shown that they were readily distinguished by the conjugation of the present tense of the verb, which in typical specimens was as follows: Southern. Ich singe. We singeP. Pou singest. 3e singeP. He singer. Hy singeP. Midland. Ich, I, singe. We singen. Pou singest. 3e singen. He singeP. Hy, thei, singen. Northern. Ic. I, sing(e) (I Pat singes). We sing(e), We Pat synges. pu singes. 3e sing(e), 3e foules synges. He singes. Thay sing(e), Men synges. Of these the southern is simply the old West-Saxon, with the vowels levelled to e. The northern second person in -es preserves an older form than the southern and West-Saxon -est; but the -es of the third person and plural is derived from an older -elk, the change of -th into -s being found in progress in the Durham glosses of the loth century. In the plural, when accompanied by the pronoun subject, the verb had already dropped the inflections entirely as in Modern English. The origin of the -en plural in the midland dialect, unknown to Old English, is probably an instance of form-levelling, the inflection of the present indicative being assimilated to that of the past, and the present and past subjunctive, in all of which -en was the plural termination. In the declension of nouns, adjectives and pronouns, the northern dialect had attained before the end of the 13th century to the simplicity of Modern English, while the southern dialect still retained a large number of inflections, and the midland a consider-able number. The dialects differed also in phonology, for while the northern generally retained the hard or guttural values of k, g, sc, these were in the two other dialects palatalized before front vowels into ch, j and sh. Kirk, chirche or church, bryg, bridge; scryke, shriek, are examples. Old English hw was written in the north qu(h), but elsewhere wh, often sinking into w. The original long 4 in stein, mdr, preserved in the northern stone, mare, became o elsewhere, as in stone, more. So that the north presented a. general aspect of conservation of old sounds with the most thorough-going dissolution of old inflections; the south, a tenacious retention of the inflections, with an extensive evolution in the sounds. In one important respect, however,phonetic decay was far ahead in the north: the final e to which all the old vowels had been levelled during the transition stage, and which is a distinguishing feature of Middle English in the midland and southern dialects, became mute, i.e., disappeared, in the northern dialect before that dialect emerged from its three centuries of obscuration, shortly before 1300. So thoroughly modern had its form consequently become that we. might almost call it Modern English, and say that the Middle English stage of the northern dialect is lost. For comparison with the other dialects, however, the same nomenclature may be used, and we may class as Middle English the extensive literature which northern England produced during the 14th century. The earliest specimen is probably the Metrical Psalter in the Cotton Library,' copied during the reign of Edward II. from an original of the previous century. The gigantic versified paraphrase of Scripture history called the Cursor Mundi,' is held also to have been composed before 1300. The dates of the numerous alliterative romances in this dialect have not been determined with exactness, as all survive in later copies, but it is probable that some of them were written before 1300. In the 14th century appeared the theological and devotional works of Richard Rolle the anchorite of Hampole, Dan Jon Gaytrigg, William of Nassington, and other writers whose names are unknown; and towards the close of the century, specimens of the language also appear from Scotland both in official documents and in the poetical works of John Barbour, whose language, barring minute points of orthography, is identical with that of the contemporary northern English writers. From 1400 onward, the distinction between northern English and Lowland Scottish becomes clearly marked. In the southern dialect one version of the work called the Ancren Riwle or " Rule of Nuns," adapted about 1225 for a small sisterhood at Tarrant-Kaines, in Dorsetshire, exhibits a dialectal characteristic which had probably long prevailed in the south, though concealed by the spelling, in the use of v for f, as valle fall, vordonne fordo, vorto for to, veder father, vrom from. Not till later do we find a recognition of the parallel use of z for s. Among the writings which succeed, The Owl and the Nightingale of Nicholas de Guildford, of Portesham in Dorsetshire, before 1250, the Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester, 1298, and Trevisa's translation of Higden, 1387, are of special importance in illustrating the history of southern English. The earliest form of Langland's Piers Ploughman, 1362, as preserved in the Vernon MS., appears to be in an intermediate dialect between southern and midland.3 The Kentish form of southern English seems to have retained specially archaic features; five short sermons in it of the middle of the 13th century were edited by Dr Morris (1866) ; but the great work illustrating it is the Ayenbite of Inwyt (Remorse of Conscience), 1340,' a translation from the French by Dan Michel of Northgate, Kent, who tells us " pet Pis boc is y-write mid engliss of Kent; is boc is y-mad uor lewede men, Vor uader, and uor moder, and uor oPer ken, Ham uor to ber3e uram alle manyere zen, pet ine hare inwytte ne bleue no uoul wen." In its use of v (u) and z for f and s, and its grammatical inflections, it presents an extreme type of southern speech, with peculiarities specially Kentish; and in comparison with con-temporary Midland English works, it looks like a fossil of two centuries earlier. Turning from the dialectal extremes of the Middle English to the midland speech, which we left at the closing leaves of the r Edited for the Surtees Society, by Rev. J. Stevenson. 2 Edited for the Early English Text Society, by Rev. Dr Morris. 3 The Vision of William concerning Piers the Ploughman exists in three different recensions, all of which have been edited for the Early English Text Society by Rev. W. W. Skeat. ' Edited by Rev. Dr Morris for Early English Text Society, in 1866. Peterborough Chronicle of 1154, we find a rapid development of this dialect, which was before long to become the national literary language. In this, the first great work is the Ormulum, or metrical Scripture paraphrase of Orm or Ormin, written about 1200, somewhere near the northern frontier of the midland area. The dialect has a decided smack of the north, and shows for the first time in English literature a large percentage of Scandinavian words, derived from the Danish settlers, who, in adopting English, had preserved a vast number of their ancestral forms of speech, which were in time to pass into the common language, of which they now constitute some of the most familiar words. Blunt, bull, die, dwell, ill, kid, raise, same, thrive, wand, wing, are words from this source, which appear first in the work of Orm, of which the following lines may be quoted: " Pe Judewisshe folkess boc hemm se33de, patt hemm birrde Twa bukkes samenn to Pe preost att kirrke-dure brinngenn; And ten pa didenn blipeli3, swa summ Pe boc hemm tahhte, And brohhtenn twe33enn bukkess has Drihhtin PnrwiM' to lakenn. And att 1 to kirrke-dure toc Pe preost to twe33enn bukkess, And o patt an he le33de )ter all pe33re sake and since, And let itt eornenn forPwiPP all tit inntill wilde wesste; And toc and snap patt ot'err bucc Drihhtin pxrwiNi to lakenn. All piss wass don forr here ned, and ec forr ure nede; For hemm itt hallp biforenn Godd to clennssenn hemm of sinne; And all swa matt itt hellpenn le Siff P att tu willt [itt] foll3henn. 3iff patt tu willt full innwarrdli3 wipe fulle trowwpe lefenn All pats tatt wass bitacnedd ta=r, to lefenn and to trowwenn." Ormulum, ed. White, 1. 1324. The author of the Ormulum was a phonetist, and employed a special spelling of his own to represent not only the quality but the quantities of vowels and consonants—a circumstance which gives his work a peculiar value to the investigator. He is generally assumed to have been a native of Lincolnshire or Notts, but the point is a disputed one, and there is somewhat to be said for the neighbourhood of Ormskirk in Lancashire. It is customary to differentiate between east and west midland, and to subdivide these again into north and south. As was natural in a tract of country which stretched from Lancaster to Essex, a very considerable variety is found in the documents which agree in presenting the leading midland features, those of Lancashire and Lincolnshire approaching the northern dialect both in vocabulary, phonetic character and greater neglect of inflections. But this diversity diminishes as we advance. Thirty years after the Ormulum, the east midland rhymed Story of Genesis and Exodus' shows us the dialect in a more southern form, with the vowels of modern English, and from about the same date, with rather more northern characteristics, we have an east midland Bestiary. Different tests and different dates have been proposed for subdividing the Middle English period, but the most important is that of Henry Nicol, based on the observation that in the early 13th century, as in Ormin, the Old English short vowels in an open syllable still retained their short quantity, as ndma, Over, mete; but by 1250 or 1260 they had been lengthened to nd-me, o-ver, me-te, a change which has also taken place at a particular period in all the Germanic, and even the Romanic languages, as in bu6-no for bd-num, pd-dre for pd-trem, &c. The lengthening of the penult left the final syllable by contrast shortened or weakened, and paved the way for the disappearance of final e in the century following, through the stages nd-me, 'Here, and in tall, tu, tae', for pact, pu, paet, after t, d, there is the same phonetic assimilation as in the last section of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle above. z Edited for the Early English Text Society by Dr Morris (1865).na-me, na-m', nam, the one long syllable in nam(e) being the quantitative equivalent of the two short syllables in nd-me; hence the notion that mute e makes a preceding vowel long, the truth being that the lengthening of the vowel led to the e becoming mute. After 1250 we have the Lay of Havelok, and about 1300 the writings of Robert of Brunne in South Lincolnshire. In the 14th century we find a number of texts belonging to the western part of the district. South-west midland is hardly to be distinguished from southern in its south-western form, and hence texts like Piers Plowman elude any satisfactory classification, but several metrical romances exhibit what are generally considered to be west midland characteristics, and a little group of poems, Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knighte, the Pearl, Cleanness and Patience, thought to be the work of a north-west midland writer of the 14th century, bear a striking resemblance to the modern Lancashire dialect. The end of the century witnessed the prose of Wycliff and Mandeville, and the poetry of Chaucer, with whom Middle English may be said to have culminated, and in whose writings its main characteristics as distinct from Old and Modern English may be studied. Thus, we find final e in full use representing numerous original vowels and terminations as Him thoughte that his herte wolde breke, in Old English Him l?uhte 1'wt his heorte wolde brecan, which may be compared with the modern German-- Ihm dauchte dass sein Ilene wollte brechen. In nouns the -es of the plural and genitive case is still syllabic— Reede as the berstl-es of a sow-es eer-es. Several old genitives and plural forms continued to exist, and the dative or prepositional case has usually a final e. Adjectives retain so much of the old declension as to have -e in the definite form and in the plural The tend-re cropp-es and the yong-e sonne. And smal-e fowl-es maken melodic. Numerous old forms of comparison were in use, which have not come down to Modern English, as herre, ferre, lenger, Next= higher, farther, longer, highest. In the pronouns, ich lingered alongside of I; ye was only nominative, and you objective; the northern thei had dispossessed the southern hy, but her and hem (the modern 'em) stood their ground against their and them. The verb is I lov-e, thou lov-est, he lov-elk; but, in the plural, lov-en is interchanged with lov-e, as rhyme or euphony requires. So in the plural of the past we love-den or love-de. The infinitive also ends in en, often e, always syllabic. The present participle, in Old English -ende, passing through -inde, has been confounded with the verbal noun in -ynge, -yng, as in Modern English. The past participle largely retains the prefix y- or i-, representing the Old English ge-, as in i-ronne, y-don, Old English zerunnen, zed6n, run, done. Many old verb forms still continued in existence. The adoption of French words, not only those of Norman introduction, but those subsequently introduced under the Angevin kings, to supply obsolete and obsolescent English ones, which had kept pace with the growth of literature since the beginning of the Middle English period, had now reached its climax; later times added many more, but they also dropped some that were in regular use with Chaucer and his con-temporaries. Chaucer's great contemporary, William Langland, in his Vision of William concerning Piers the Ploughman, and his imitator the author of Pierce the Ploughman's Crede (about 'goo) used the Old English alliterative versification for the last time in the south. Rhyme had made its appearance in the language shortly after the Conquest—if not already known before; and in the south and midlands it became decidedly more popular than alliteration; the latter retained its held much longer in the. north, where it was written even, after r-Sbo: many of the northern romances are either simply alliterative, or have both alliteration and rhyme. To thetsi characteristics of northern and southern verse respectively Chaucer alludes in the prologue of the " Persone," who, when called upon for his tale said:— " But trusteth wel; I am a sotherne man, I cannot geste rota, ram, ruf, by my letter, And, God wote, rime hold I but litel better: And therefore, if you list, I wol not glose, I wol you tell a litel tale in prose." The changes from Old to Middle English may be summed up thus: Loss of a large part of the native vocabulary, and adoption of French words to fill their place; not infrequent adoption of French words as synonyms of existing native ones; modernization of the English words preserved, by vowel change in a definite direction from back to front, and from open to close, a becoming 9, original e, o, tending to ee, oo, monophthongization of the old diphthongs eo, ea, and development of new diphthongs in connexion with g, h, and w; adoption of French orthographic symbols, e.g. ou for u, qu, v, ch, and gradual loss of the symbols 7, P, p; obscuration of vowels after the accent, and especially of final a, o, u to e; consequent confusion and loss of old inflections, and their replacement by prepositions, auxiliary verbs and rules of position; abandonment of alliteration for rhyme; and great development of dialects, in consequence of there being no standard or recognized type of English. But the recognition came at length. Already in 1258 was issued the celebrated English proclamation of Henry III., or rather of Simon de Montfort in his name, which, as the only public recognition of the native tongue between William the Conqueror and Edward III., has sometimes been spoken of as the first specimen of English. It runs: " Henri bur3 godes fultume king on Engleneloande Lhoauerd on Yrloande. Duk on Normandie on Aquitaine and eorl on Aniow. Send igretinge to alle hise holde ikerde and ileawede on Huntendoneschire. pet witen 3e wel alle bnt we willen and vnnen Pmt pnt vre raedesmen alle oper Pe moare dl of heom Pmt beob ichosen pur3 us and pur3 bast loandes folk on vre kuneriche. habbeb idon and schullen don in be worpnesse of gode and on vre treowpe. for pe freme of he loande. pur3 pe besi3te of ban to-foren-iseide redesmen. beo stedefust and ilestinde in alle binge a buten mnde. And we hoaten alle vre treowe in be treowbe but heo vs o3en. baet heo stedef ustliche healden and swerien to healden and to werien bo isetnesses put ben imakede and beon to makien bur3 ban to-foren iseide raedesmen. oper pur3 be moare dml of heom alswo alse hit is biforen iseid. And but mhc oper helpe but for to done bi Pan ilohe ore a3enes alle men. Ri3t for to done and to foangen. And noan ne nime of loande ne of e3te. wherbur3 his besi3te mu3e beon ilet oper iwersed on onie wise. And 3if oni oper onie cumen her on3enes; we willen and hoaten but alle vre treowe heom healden deadliche ifoan. And for but we willen but his beo stedefust and lestinde; we senden 3ew his writ open iseined wit) vre seel. to halden amanges 3ew ine hoed. Witnesse vs seluen wt Lundene. Dane E3tetenpe day. on be Monpe of Octobre In be Two-and-fowerti3pe 3eare of vre cruninge. And his wes idon aetforen vre isworene redesmen.. . . " And al on ho ilche worden is isend in to xurihce obre shcire ouer al pure kuneriche on Engleneloande. and ek in tel Irelonde." The dialect of this document is more southern than anything else, with a slight midland admixture. It is much more archaic inflectionally than the Genesis and Exodus or Ormulum; but it closely resembles the old Kentish sermons and Proverbs of Alfred in the southern dialect of 1250. It represents no doubt the London speech of the day. London being in a Saxon county, and contiguous to Kent and Surrey, had certainly at first a southern dialect; but its position as the capital, as well as its proximity to the midland district, made its dialect more and more midland. Contemporary London documents show that Chaucer's language, which is distinctly more southern than standard English eventually became, is behind the London dialect of the day in this respect, and is at once more archaic and consequently, more southern. During the next hundred years English gained ground steadily, and by the reign of Edward III. French was so little known in England, even in the families of the great, that about 1350 " John Cornwal, a maystere of gramere, chaungede pe Iore ( =teaching) in gramere scole and construccion of [i.e. from] Freynsch into Englysch ";1 and in 1362–1363 English by statute took the place of French in the pleadings in courts of law. Every reason conspired that this " English i' should be the midland dialect. It was the intermediate dialect, intelligible, as Trevisa has told us, to both extremes, even when these failed 1 Trevisa, Translation of Higden's Polychronicon. to be intelligible to each other; in its south-eastern form, it was the language of London, where the supreme law courts were, the centre of political and commercial life; it was the language in which the Wycliffite versions had given the Holy Scriptures to the people; the language in which Chaucer had raised English poetry to a height of excellence admired and imitated by con-temporaries and followers. And accordingly after the end of the 14th century, all Englishmen who thought they had anything to say to their countrymen generally said it in the midland speech. Trevisa's own work was almost the last literary effort of the southern dialect; henceforth it was but a rustic patois, which the dramatist might use to give local colouring to his creations, as Shakespeare uses it to complete Edgar's peasant disguise in Lear, or which 19th century research might disinter to illustrate obscure chapters in the history of language. And though the northern English proved a little more stubborn, it disappeared also from literature in England; but in Scotland, which had now become politically and socially estranged from England, it continued its course as the national language of the country, attaining in the 15th and 16th centuries a distinct development and high literary culture, for the details of which readers are referred to the article on SCOTTISH LANGUAGE. The 15th century of English history, with its bloody French war abroad and Wars of the Roses at home, was a barren period in literature, and a transition one in language, witnessing the decay and disappearance of the final e, and most of the syllabic inflections of Middle English. Already by 1420, in Chaucer's disciple Hoccleve, final e was quite uncertain; in Lydgate it was practically gone. In 1450 the writings of Pecock against the Wycliffites show the verbal inflections in -en in a state of obsolescence; he has still the southern pronouns her and hem for the northern their, them: " And here-a3ens holi scripture wole pat men schulden lacke be coueryng which wommen schulden haue, & thei schulden so lacke bi pat be heeris of her heedis schulden be schorne, & schulde not growe in lenghe doun as wommanys heer schulde growe.. . . " Also here-wipal into pe open si3t of ymagis in open chirchis, alle peple, men & wommen & children mowe come whanne euere Pei wolen in ech tyme of he day, but so mowe bei not come in-to be vice of bokis to be delyuered to hem neiper to be red bifore hem; & berfore, as for to soone & ofte come into remembraunce of a long mater bi ech oon persoon, and also as forto make pat be mo persoones come into remembraunce of a mater, ymagis & picturis serven in a specialer maner ran bokis doon, hou3 in an oper maner ful substanciali bokis seruen better into remembrauncing of ho same materis ran ymagis & picturis doon; & berfore, Pou3 writingis seruen weel into remembrauncing upon pe bifore seid Pingis, 3it not at be ful: Forwhi pe bokis han not pe avail of remembrauncing now seid whiche ymagis han." 2 The change of the language during the second period of Transition, as well as the extent of dialectal differences, is quaintly expressed a generation later by Caxton, who in the prologue to one of the last of his works, his translation of Virgil's Eneydos (1490), speaks of the difficulty he had in pleasing all readers: " I doubted that It sholde not please some gentylmen, whiche late blamed me, sayeng, yt in my translacyons I had ouer curyous termes, whiche coud not be vnderstande of comyn peple, and desired me to vse olde and homely termes in my translacyons. And fayn wolde I satysfy euery man; and so to doo, toke an olde boke and redde therein; and certaynly the englysshe was so rude and brood that I coude not wele vnderstande it. And also my lorde abbot of Westmynster ded do shewe to me late certayn euydences wryton in olde englysshe for to reduce it in to our englysshe now vsid. And certaynly it was wreton in suche wyse that it was more lyke to dutche than englysshe; I coude not reduce ne brynge it to be vnderstonden. And certaynly, our langage now vsed varyeth ferre from that whiche was vsed and spoken whan I was borne. For we englysshemen ben borne vnder the domynacyon of the mone, whiche is neuer stedfaste, but euer wauerynge, wexynge one season, and waneth and dycreaseth another season. And that comyn englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a nother. In so much that in my days happened that certayn marchauntes were in a shipe in tamyse, for to haue sayled ouer the sea into zelande, and for lacke of wynde thei taryed atte forlond, and wente to lande for to refreshe them. And one of theym named sheffelde, a mercer, cam in to an hows and axed for mete, and specyally he axyd after eggys, And the goode wyf answerde, that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry, 2 Skeat, Specimens of English Literature, pp. 49, 54. for he also coulde speke no frenshe, but wolde haue hadde egges; and she vnderstode hym not. And thenne at laste a nother sayd that he wolde haue eyren ; then the good wyf sayd that she vnderstod hym wel. Loo! what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, egges or eyren? certaynly, it is harde to playse euery man, by cause of dyuersite & chaunge of langage. For in these dayes, euery man that is in ony reputacyon in his countre wyll vtter his comynycacyon and maters in suche maners & termes that fewe men shall vnderstonde theym. And som honest and grete clerkes haue ben wyth me, and desired me to wryte the moste curyous termes that I coude fynde. And thus bytwene playn, rude and curyous, I stande abasshed; but in my Iudgemente, the comyn termes that be dayli vsed ben lyghter to be vnderstonde than the olde and auncyent englysshe." In the productions of Caxton's press we see the passage from Middle to Early Modern English completed. The earlier of these have still an occasional verbal plural in -n, especially in the word they ben; the southern her and hem of Middle English vary with the northern and Modern English their, them. In the late works, the older forms have been practically ousted, and the year 1485, which witnessed the establishment of the Tudor dynasty, may be conveniently put as that which closed the Middle English transition, and introduced Modern English. Both in the completion of this result, and in its comparative permanence, the printing press had an important share. By its exclusive patronage of the midland speech, it raised it still higher above the sister dialects, and secured its abiding victory. As books were multiplied and found their way into every corner of the land, and the art of reading became a more common acquirement, the man of Northumberland or of Somersetshire had forced upon his attention the book-English in which alone these were printed. This became in turn the model for his own writings, and by-and-by, if he made any pretensions to education, of his own speech. The written form of the language also tended to uniformity. In previous periods the scribe made his own spelling with a primary aim at expressing his own speech, according to the particular values attached by himself or his con-temporaries to the letters and combinations of the alphabet, though liable to disturbance in the most common words and combinations by his ocular recollections of the spelling of others. But after the introduction of printing, this ocular recognition of words became ever more and more an aim; the book addressed the mind directly through the eye, instead of circuitously through eye and ear; and thus there was a continuous tendency for written words and parts of words to be reduced to a single form, and that the most usual, or through some accident the best known, but not necessarily that which would have been chosen had the ear been called in as umpire. Modern English spelling, with its rigid uniformity as to individual results and whimsical caprice as to principles, is the creation of the printing-office, the victory which, after a century and a half of struggle, mechanical convenience won over natural habits. Besides eventually creating a uniformity in writing, the introduction of printing made or at least ratified some important changes. The British and Old English form of the Roman alphabet has already been referred to. This at the Norman Conquest was superseded by an alphabet with the French forms and values of the letters. Thus k took the place of the older c before e and i; qu replaced cw; the Norman w took the place of the wen (p), &c.; and hence it has often been said that Middle English stands nearer to Old English in pronunciation, but to Modern English in spelling. But there were certain sounds in English for which Norman writing had no provision; and for these, in writing English, the native characters were retained. Thus the Old English g (g), beside the sound in go, had a guttural sound as in German tag, Irish magh, and in certain positions a palatalized form of this approaching y as in you (if pronounced with aspiration hyou or ghyou). These sounds continued to be written with the native form of the letter as bur3, 3 our, while the French form was used for the sounds in go, age,—one original letter being thus represented by two. So for the sounds of th, especially the sound in that, the Old English thorn (j) continued to be used. But as these characters were not used for French and Latin, their use even in English became disturbed towards the 15th century,and when printing was introduced, the founts, cast for continental languages, had no characters for. them, so that they were dropped entirely, being replaced, 3 by gh, yh, y, and p by th. This was a real loss to the English alphabet. In the north it is curious that the printers tried to express the forms rather than the powers of these letters, and consequently 3 was represented by z, the`'black letter form of which was confounded with it, while the p was expressed by y, which its MS. form had come to approach or in some cases simulate. So in early Scotch books we find zellow, ze, yat, yem= yellow, ye, that, them; and in Modern Scottish, such names as Menzies, Dalziel, Cockenzie, and the word gaberlunzie, in which the z stands for y.
End of Article: ENGLISH LANGUAGE
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