Difference between Old English and Middle English language

Posted in History
at 2016.07.04
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old and middle english difference

English as we know it today is a resultant blend of many languages. There have various other dialects that have impacted the English language throughout the centuries. At this point, a separation must be between the Old English and the Middle English which later on evolved into the modern language spoken today. The difference arises in the time periods in which the languages were spoken, the dialects that influenced it, the morphology and orthography.

How old English is different from middle English?

First is the difference in time in which the languages were used. Old English was spoken sometime between the 5th and 12th centuries. The Middle English was widely used late into the 11th century to around the end of the 15th century. The Old English developed over three periods with these sub-sects, the prehistoric, early Old English and the late Old English. Middle English came about in the second half of the 11th century and was spoken throughout the 12th and 13th centuries.

The influencing languages on the Old and Middle English dialects were another difference. Old English was shaped by Latin, Norse and Celtic. The Celtics were a major influence. The fist came through the Anglo-Saxons entered Britain followed by Latin when they were spreading Christianity and finally the Normans as they subdued England. The Norse impact started off with adoption of Scandinavian words with the Vikings invasion of England.

There was also variance in the number of dialects of these subsets of the English language. The Old English had four main dialects: Mercian, Kentish, Northumbrian and West Saxon. The Middle English had many dialects spoken in different area in England. However, in the course of the 15th century, the language attained some level of standardization.None of the two was monolithic.

Old English was previously recorded in runes and later in insular scripts. All letters were pronounced. The Middle English sub-set had all letters pronounceable without any silent letters. However, as it developed the last ‘e’ was made silence was observable.

The Old English was a Germanic language. Its roots are in the Ingvaeonic people who were Germanics of the West. It is the one that evolved into the language the Anglo-Saxons used. It spread across England and was spoken in parts of Scotland as well. The Middle English originated from Wessex and came to be associated with modern Frisian in its structure. However, the current English language has borrowed form more sources than these. Through warfare, diplomacy, trade, religion and art, the language has absorbed a lot in terms of structure and vocabulary. Unlike the clear difference between Old English and Modern English, that of the later and Modern English is not that distinct.

In conclusion, it is possible to say that English language just like any other language has undergone major changes throughout its existence. In the process new words have come to play and some have become extinct. This is the beauty of language; it is dynamic and takes different shape according to the time.


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