Middle English is the period in the history of the English language between the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century.

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What type of punishment was “Then thou shalt drink !”?

In The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies of John Heywood (1562) among the many historical English proverbs which I recognized, one particular epigram stood out. Entitled “Of Catching a Fly” It ...
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The origins and usages of “waffle”

Scottish dogs used to waff American voters waffled in 2000 British politicians “waffle on” for hours And Swedish children eat them on March 25th Waffle nowadays has basically three meanings: ...
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How did *Old* English transform into *Middle* English so quickly?

Anglo Saxon Old English was the most common language in England before the Norman invasion. To the modern eye, it is unintelligible without specialist learning: lange ...
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Correct way of reading The Nibelungenlied

I'm trying to read "The Nibelungenlied" in metrical English translation by George Henry Needler (http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/niebn10h.htm). However, I've got certain difficulties with doing ...
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Translation of Gower's Middle English

I would like to know the meaning of the following sentence in Gower's Confessio Amantis: Nogh al per chance as ye it wolden Bot so as ye be reson scholden
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Which is more correct: “skewen” or “skewn”?

Which spelling for the past participle of skew is more correct: skewen or skewn? (I recognise it is not the more common spelling of skewed, but regionally and personally skewen is more in use in ...
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58 views

Middle English Date citations in Oxford English Dictionary [closed]

I have seen some citations in the OED that use dates such as 'c. 1295', which I assume to mean 'circa 1295'. However, I have also seen dates that appear as 'a. 1393' - what does this 'a' stand for? ...
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149 views

What was the difference between “ye” and “thy”?

I'm PRETTY sure that my History of the english Language professor told me that "ye" was actually pronounced [ði], because the character that closely resembles a Modern English "y" was actually ...
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58 views

What is a bileue?

I was looking up the word "god" in the Oxford English Dictionary On-Line, which led me to this entry: d. the god of this world : the Devil, Satan. c1384 Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce ...
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437 views

What's the reason, words like “Thou” and “Thee” are no longer used in English language

When going through old English literature, especially stories and poems, we can see they have been full of words like "thou" and "thee" etc. Some of my English teachers told me that they were used ...
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Middle English or Elizabethan English as a second language? [closed]

Are there books, web sites, or language courses designed for English speakers who want to learn Middle English or Elizabethan English in the same way that they would learn a foreign language? It would ...
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1answer
142 views

What is the meaning of “tëuk” in this sentence, and “wizzle” in this other one? (might be Middle English?)

I'm reading T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone to my daughter, and mostly I can find explanations for the historical lexicon (fewmets and corkindrills and so on), mainly relying on this rather useful ...
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324 views

How do we know how words were pronounced hundreds of years ago?

Recently, I've spent some time reading "The Canturbury Tales", by Geoffrey Chaucer. There are a number of resources out there to help make sense of the old language he uses, but I've noticed that ...
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770 views

Is English actually a pidgin or creole? [closed]

Because Middle English was a hodgepodge mélange of Old English (a Germanic tongue) and Norman French (a Romance language), it seems like Middle English was actually a kind of pidgin or creole. My ...
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1answer
750 views

English words of Latin origin: Did they replace existing words?

According to Wikipedia, the Latin influence on English builds more than half of its vocabulary. The same source furnishes a percentage of 26% for words of Germanic origin. Although I can easily ...
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1answer
208 views

When can the word “Noel” be used?

I came across the word "Noel" in a Christmas song recently. I only knew the French word "Noël" before so I looked "Noel" up in Leo. [Leo states] Noel also: Noël French - used especially ...
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What is the meaning of “Twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain!”

The phrase "Twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain!" occurs in the obscure fairy tale Molly Whuppie (more original version?) after a princess tricks a giant by stealing his sword. Contextually: "Woe ...
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Is there a rule prescribing the absence of the -eth third person ending in late middle English?

Is there a rule prescribing the absence of the -eth third person ending in late middle English ? In the King James Bible, there are many verses which contain verbs in the third person without the ...
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Is “qo” a step in the evolution of the question mark?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Question_mark According to the wikipedia article I've linked to above, "qo" was sometimes used in the middle ages to abbreviate the latin word "questio" in the way that we ...
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Particular verbal inflection classes in “The Proclamation of Henry III”

I'm reading a document about "The Proclamation of Henry III", in which the text is presented and a short commentary and glossary follow. I'm interested in the survival of some of the distinct verbal ...
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What did we gain in return for the loss of phonemic vowel length from Old English?

In Old English, vowel length was phonemic, but stress and certain kinds of consonant voicing were not. In Modern English, that situation is reversed: vowel length is no longer phonemic, but stress ...
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Time and tide wait for no man

In the old proverb: Time and tide wait for no man. Our first record of the proverb is from St Marher in 1225: And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet. When it was ...
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Describe the detailed phonetic environment for the appearance/presence of /ɜ:/. [closed]

One recent vowel phoneme in English is /ɜ:/. It would seem that this sound only developed in a certain phonetic environment, or to phrase it differently: it only appeared under certain conditions.
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Send, sent; end, *ent?

The past tense of a number of verbs changes from -end to -ent: bend → bent lend → lent rend → rent send → sent spend → spent wend → went However, most do not, notably end. Granted, I say “I ent ...
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When did we stop speaking Old English? [closed]

There is Old English, and there is the English we speak now. When did exactly did the British (or Americans) change from speaking Old English to speaking the current form of English?
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Did English ever have a word for 'yes' for negative questions?

The Germans have doch and the French have si as a word that means "yes" in response to a negative question, such as: Don't you want some ice-cream? Yes [I do]! In English, we only have yes (as ...
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256 views

Where is the root morpheme in Middle English talon (talon, claw) and muscheron (mushroom)?

Is it possible to consider -on, -eron as suffixes (as they are in Middle French)?
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209 views

Where is the root morpheme in the Old English cristalla (crystal) and cymen (cumin)?

Where is the root morpheme in the Old English cristalla (crystal) and cymen (cumin)? It seems to be wrong to identify the morphemes in loanwords from etymological point of view.
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What were nightmares called before “nightmare” was used in that sense?

Apparently the word "nightmare" has only been used in the sense of "bad dream" since c. 1829. Before then the term referred to the agent causing the dreams—a mare < mera, mære 'goblin, ...
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What is the meaning of “runneth”?

What is the meaning of “runneth” in My Cup Runneth Over?
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Is the “wit” in “to wit” the root of any other English words?

...and if not, where'd it go? One obvious venture is that the noun "wit", in the sense of cleverness and general know-how, has an etymological affinity with the Old English witen, "to know", and which ...
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Why does English spelling use silent letters?

Why have a letter in a word when it’s silent in pronunciation, like the b in debt? Can anyone please clarify my uncertainty here?
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Archaic text suggestions

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.