Historical Background of the Middle English Period

Страница: 1/7


The problem of periodization. The role of the Middle English Period in the history of English language.

The influence of the Scandinavian invasions.

The Norman Conquest.

Early Middle English dialects. Neighborhood of three languages in England.

Written records of the M. E. P.

Late M. E. P.

Development of English dialects and the rise of London dialect.

The historical development of a language is a continuous, uninterrupted process without sudden breaks or rapid transformations. Therefore any periodisation imposed on language history by linguists, with precise dates, might appear artificial. There are some periodizations of the history of English language. The author of the first scientific historical phonetic and grammar of En. Language. H. Sweet suggested the periodization that corresponds to the morphological structure of different centures. He called the Old English Period – ‘The period of full endings ‘, the M. E. P. – ‘The period of reduced endings’ , the New En. P. – ‘The period of lost endings.’ But this periodization is not full because it is not quite right to devide the logical features, but phonological or syntactical ones (they were not mentioned in the periodization.) So, thus I consider that any periodization is based on some principles, but can’t touch all the sides of the language.

One of the prominent and well-known English scientists Henry Sweet worked out several periodisations of the history of English language. He suggested to single out the period of transition and to subdivide the transitional stage between the Old and the Middle English Periods cover 1100-1200. H. Sweet reckoned 1200 to be the limning of the Middle English based on morphological phenomena the Middle English Period is considered to le the Period of Levelled English.

Another periodization is extralinguistical. It’s based on the historical events, which influenced on the English language. I must notice that this one is the most traditional. The commonly accepted traditional periodization divides English language history into three periods: Old English, Middle English and New English with boundaries attached to definite dates and historical effects affecting the language. Old English is connected with the German settle in Britain (5th century) and with the beginning of writing (7th century) and ends with the Norman Conquest (1066). Middle English begins with Norman Conquest end ends on the introduction of printing (1475). The Middle English period itself may be also divided into two smaller ones – Early Middle English and Late Middle English.

Early Middle English covers the main events of the 14th century. It is the stage of greatest dialectal divergence caused by the feudal system and by foreign influences-Scandinavian and French. The dialectal division of present-day English owes its origin to this period of history. Great changes of the language took place at all the levels, especially in lexis and grammar.

Later 14th till the end of the 15th century is a time known as Late or Classical Middle English. This period umbra’s the age of Chaucer, the greatest English medieval writer and forerunner of the English Renaissanu, and is characterized by restoration of English to the position of the state and literary language and by literary flourishing, which has a stabilizing effect on language, so that the rate of linguistic changes was slowed down. At the same time the written forms of the language developed and improved.

The Old English period in the history of the language corresponds to the position of the state and literary language corresponds to the transitional stage from the slave-owning and tribal system to the feudal system in the history of Britain. In the 11th century feudalism was already well established. According to a survey made in the late 11th c. slaves and freemen were declining classes. The majority of the agricultural population (and also of the total population, which amounted to about 2.000.000 people) was bound to their lord and land. Under natural economy, characteristre of feudalism, most of the things needed for the life of the lord and the villain were produced on the estate. Feudal manors were separated from their neighbors by tells, local feuds, and various restrictions concerning settlement, traveling and employment. These historical conditions produced a certain influence on the development of the language.

In Early M.E. the differences between the regional dialects grew. Never in history, before or after, was the historical background more favorable for dialectal differentiation. The main is the dialectal division in England, which survived in later ages with some slight modification of the feudal stage of British history.

In the age poor communication dialect boundaries often coincided with geographical barriers such as rivers, mashes, forests, and mountains, as these barriers would hinder the diffusion of linguistic features.

Реферат опубликован: 7/05/2009