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.
EHistLing provides an illustrated overview
of Middle English and its historical development.
Background information on many Middle English authors is available on the Web, including
this site about Geoffrey Chaucer at the University of
North Carolina and one on ME authors in general.
Medieval Life & Towns
Judith Patterson and Stephen Alsford have constructed a site on the
history of medieval English towns.
NOVA has a site on medieval wars.
The University of Rochester provides an immense number of various
short Middle English texts.
The University of Michigan provides a corpus of ME texts.
Georgetown University hosts a number of texts in its "Labyrinth Library", including
works by the Pearl poet and Chaucer.
There are recipees, more recipees, musical texts, alchemy and lots more.
The National Library of Scotland hosts facsimiles of the Auchinleck Manuscript, an important
The story of Sir Orfeo can be found at either the National Library of Scotland or the University of Rochester.
An Anglo-Norman dictionary is available here.
Dr. Johnnesson of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has a page describing many Middle English dialects.
There is a Middle English page with audio of Chaucer.
Brief recorded excerpts from Piers Plowman and
Gawain and the Green Knight are provided on the Palgrave and Norton sites.
Background for title image
provided courtesy of Tom Murphy VII
and used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike
All other images are believed to be public domain.
Neither Elly van Gelderen, Tim Gades, nor ASU is responsible in any way for the information provided by the external links on this page, and make no claims as to its applicability or accuracy.