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I'm interested in learning Archaic English. As a starting point, I guess simple texts that are easy to comprehend would be a good choice. I would appreciate any suggestions.

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Good answers fellas. I'm having a hard time choosing the answer, I'm gonna go with the one with highest votes. Cheers –  Hamid Dec 8 '10 at 10:40

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There really isn't any "language" called Archaic English. Do you mean Old English? If so, there are textbooks for studying that. Look for books on Anglo-Saxon or Old English.

If you mean Middle English (spoken at the time of Chaucer), you can find texts on that as well.

Shakespeare's writing sounds archaic to our ear, but is actually an example of what is called Modern English.

Are you interested in archaisms in the modern language? If so, you might see if you can find a copy of The Archaicon: A Collection of Unusual Archaic English somewhere.

If none of those work for you, perhaps you can elaborate on what you're really looking for.

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It's not entirely clear what you mean by Archaic English. Obscure words still in common use? Middle English? Old English?

If you mean Old English, then Beowulf is the oldest written work in English. Don't expect it to be easy or light reading though.

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If you want to read something more recent ( what you might think of as the same language we use now but with those archaic usage such as thee and thou ) both Shakespeare and the King James Edition bible are influential and well written. It is also easy to find modern translations or adaptations of both so you can figure out any tricky phrases by comparison with a different version.

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My recommendation would be Shakesphere or if you want really archaic, then Chaucer. –  Orbling Dec 7 '10 at 20:43

I'm not sure it's what you would call "reading material" but James Orchard Halliwell's "Dictionary of Archaic Words" would certainly cover the vocabulary.

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There is a game called Breath of Fire IV, one of the main characters is a god and he just speak in the archaic format.

I think it very easy to understand. It is all mixed up but perhaps you can look for his lines on the game script, or perhaps you can play it :)

Some quotes from the game:

T'would appear thou dost mean not to fulfill thine duty, as thou art called upon to do by our promise?


We art one mind, if not one body! Yet I cannot fathom thy thoughts!


T'would appear that something is amiss. Where art the courtiers? The priests? Why is there not a single voice raised in greeting at thy return?


They art gods.

I also have been looking for resources, I found a page that explains briefly verb conjugation, past tense and some other things...

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As the top voted answer points out, this is pretty much the English as in Shakespeare, which is actually modern English (with a few old words). –  ShreevatsaR Feb 20 '11 at 15:03
While those may be good examples of how modern English speakers perceive the English from a distant past, every single one of the quotations you included is grammatically incorrect according to the rules that govern the language of the period. Art is the second person singular, present tense, of the verb to be. Thine, as a possessive adjective, only occurs before a vowel (the n replaces the glottal stop). It would be a much better idea to look at actual text from the period. Shakespeare is a bit late; The Book of Common Prayer and the King James bible are easy to find. –  bye Feb 20 '11 at 15:18

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