Similarities between Middle English and other foreign languages

The platform activities really helped me make sense of the Middle English text in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Of course English wasn’t completely standardized in terms of spelling at this point in history; so I always assumed the only way to make sense of the language was through context clues.  I know now that there are grammar patterns and those can help the reader understand who/what is the subject, direct object, verb, etc.  The verbs have rough conjugations and the forms of nouns are relevant to their number/gender.  As a Spanish-speaker, this immediately reminded me of basic Spanish grammar.

Take, for example, the Middle/Modern English verb “say/saye” and the Spanish verb “hablar” (to speak).

says/sayes/sayez- you speak; hablas- you speak.  Both verbs, ending with an “s” (or -as,-es, -ez, or whatever the case may be for Middle English) denotes the singular second person form of the verb.

sayn/sayen- they speak; hablan- they speak.  Both verbs, ending with an “n”, denote the plural third person form of the verb.

talkande- talking; hablando- talking.  Both verbs, ending with an “-ando/-ande” denote the present participle (gerund) of the verb.  Neither of these verbs would make sense to use as verbal nouns.

Of course, although English (both middle and modern) are both influenced by Latin, it has plenty of other factors that contribute to its creation as well.  As college students, it is very likely that everyone in this class has taken a few foreign language courses (and very likely in Romance languages).  Finding a parallel between Middle English and another language that you (at least sort of) know can help you commit this stuff to memory.  At least I know that thinking this way helped me.  I hope it helps you too!




Changing Text

As I’ve been reading through OUMEM I’ve found myself focusing on the changes made to text over time- more specifically, how those changes would affect the understanding taken by readers. A great example of this can be found on page 26, “Will then cries out to Kynd for advice in avenging Elde, and Kynd counsels him to retreat to Unity (Holy Church), and ‘lerne to loue’ (line 208), promising that he will never lack life’s necessities: “and thou loue <treuly> : lake schal thou neuer.” This line is one of many places in Douce where the corrector has visibly supplanted a word he thought his MHE audience would not understand.”

Take a look at how I typed out that quote one more time. Did you catch the alterations I made in order to fit it into this post? There are two places where I replaced the “thorn” letter with a th because I didn’t know how to type them into this. I also replaced the taller pointed brackets found around the word “truly” with these things for a similar reason: <>. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, these tiny changes alter the way anyone reading this post experiences the text. My hope was that it would make it easier to understand (maybe you don’t automatically read the th sound when you come across a “thorn”), but it’s also possible that I have stripped away some of its authenticity. The text says that words were supplanted in Douce in order to make it more legible to a MHE audience, but I can’t help but think that corrections like this carry a bit of the corrector’s bias within them.

After reading both of the readings for tonight, I found many different interesting aspects about both “OEMUM” and in Broadview. However, the most interesting part of my readings that really stood out to me was the manuscript of Sir Degrevant. The most interesting part of this that made it really stand out to me was the fact that not only were more than one scribes present in the manuscript, but also the fact that the manuscript is made up of both Anglicana and Secretary forms of script. On page 31, there is an in-depth description of characteristics found in the manuscript that are from both forms of script. This really intrigued me because the two styles seem to be very diverse and the way that they were intertwined into one piece by different scribes made the piece seem unique and allowed it to stand out from the other manuscripts that we read about so far. One major example of this that I remember is the W’s throughout the piece. Also on page 31, it is pointed out to the reader that the w’s throughout the manuscript fluctuate between secretary and Anglicana. Also with this same manuscript, I found it interesting that the handwriting and the form of the manuscript was not professionally done. On page 30, the description of the scribe was that she was “unprofessional” and “loose, sloppy, and untidy”. This stood out to me because up to this point, everything we have looked at has been very sophisticated, beautiful, professional, and flows across the page. This particular manuscript however was botched, corrected, crossed out, uneven, and frankly, unpleasant to the eye. Altogether, this manuscript had many characteristics that allowed the piece to really stand out in my mind. It was very interesting to learn about and I enjoyed looking at it thoroughly.


I only have the Broadview book at the moment, so my blog post will be about the aspects of that reading that I found most interesting. First off, I was interested in how the book points out specific instances in which different manuscripts paint moments in history quite differently. On page XLVII, a writing done by a scribe in Peterborough that accounts King Harold’s murder at the hands of William during the Norman conquest is quoted. The scribe briefly mentions King Harold’s death, simply stating that William killed him along with Earl Tostig in one sentence. Later in the same paragraph, the scribe goes on to say, “Leofric, Abbot of Peterborough, was at the campaign and fell ill there, and came home and died soon after…God have mercy on his soul. In his days there was every happiness and every good at Peterborough, and he was beloved by everyone…” Here, the book makes a point to suggest that the effects of the Norman Conquest and Battle of Hastings may not have been immediately felt by the people of Britain or, furthermore, seen as significant to the culture as we have come to view it today. Going off on this same idea, the book quotes a scribe in Winchester who wrote of the same events. Similarly to the previously mentioned scribe, William’s conquest and Harold’s death are mentioned briefly in one sentenced and, subsequently, followed by a noting of the building of a church and a sighting of a comet. These manuscripts show that our conceptions of history can be altered by different authors and time itself. Events in history, such as the Norman Conquest, that we see today as holding historical significance could very well have been regarded with less importance to the people of the time period, and major effects of the events may have occurred so much later after the events themselves that the scribes of the time never noticed a change to record in their life times.