Chapter 6: Middle English: 1150-1500

Middle English is usually considered to begin around 1150, when the synthetic character of Old English starts to change. This change occurs at different times in different parts of Britain: in the North and East, it proceeds faster than in the South and West, probably due to Scandinavian influence. The loss of endings and the many loans we discussed in the previous chapter make Middle English look 'modern'. Several different points can be considered the end of Middle English: 1400, when the Great Vowel Shift starts; 1476, when print is introduced; or 1485, when Henry VII comes to the throne. Here, we will consider the year 1500, when the most radical morphological and syntactic changes are complete, as the end of Middle English. This chapter discusses the sources, writing system, and sounds of Middle English, and examines its morphology and syntax (its grammar). The chapter also provides texts for analysis.

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