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History of the English Language. Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”. Old English 1 .

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history of the english language

History of the English Language

Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”

old english 1
Old English 1

West Germanic invaders from Jutland and southern Denmark began populating the British Isles in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. The three groups of invaders were Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.

slide3
2
  • Together they were called Anglo-Saxons.
  • The words England and English come from the word Angle.
  • They spoke a mutual language that is called Old English.
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3

These invaders pushed the original, Celtic-speaking inhabitants out of what is now England into Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland, leaving behind a few Celtic words.

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  • These Celtic languages survive today in Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland and in Welsh.
  • About half of the most commonly used words in modern English have Old English roots.
middle english 5
Middle English 5
  • William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, invaded and conquered England and the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 A.D.
  • The new royalty spoke a dialect of Old French known as Anglo-Norman
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  • Many legal terms, such as indict, jury, and verdict have Anglo-Norman roots because the Normans ran the courts.
  • Over time, the French nobles lost their loyalty to France and began to speak a modified English instead of Anglo-Norman.
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  • In 1349, the Black Death began, killing about one-third of the English population.
  • The middle class grew in economic and social importance, and along with them English increased in importance compared to Anglo-Norman.
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8

This mixture of the two languages came to be known as

Middle English.

canterbury tales by geoffrey chaucer 1
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer 1
  • Written 1387-1400 (Middle English), unfinished
  • Chaucer wrote the Tales intermittently, adding new tales, revising others and re-using poems he had written earlier, until he died
  • The work is unfinished
  • The precise order and, in some cases, speaker, of the Tales is open to debate
geoffrey chaucer c 1343 1400 2
Geoffrey Chaucerc. 1343-1400 2
  • Considered the father of English poetry
  • Wrote in the vernacular
  • Served as a soldier, government servant, and member of Parliament
  • Introduced iambic pentameter
  • First writer buried in Westminster Abbey
what was it like in 14 th century england 3
What was it like in 14th Century England?3
  • Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales depicts a 14th century England populated by peasants, tradesmen, knights, and clerics, most of whom appear to be healthy and well fed.
  • But the 14th century in which Chaucer lived was one of plague, rebellion, and corruption. Between 1349 and 1350, England lost nearly half its population to the Black Death.
  • This enormous loss of life only exacerbated the shortage of farm labor and intensified the growing class conflict that resulted in the violent rebellion known as The Peasant's Revolt in 1381.
england in the middle ages 4
England in the Middle Ages 4
  • Feudalism replaced the Nordic social system.
    • The primary duty of males above the serf class was to serve in the military—Knighthood.
    • Women had no political rights.
    • Chivalry and courtly love served as the system of social codes
setting of canterbury tales 5
Setting of Canterbury Tales 5

A pilgrimage on a spring day in April from Southwark (across the Thames from London) to Canterbury (50 miles) to the burial site or shrine of St. Thomas Beckett, martyred in 1170.

the canterbury tales 6 snapshot of an age
The Canterbury Tales: 6Snapshot of an Age
  • It frames a story of characters on a religious pilgrimage to Canterbury.
  • The characters are a concise portrait of an entire nation.
  • The pilgrimage is a quest narrative that moves from images of spring and awakening to penance, death, and eternal life.
  • The characters tell stories that reflect “everyman” in the universal pilgrimage of life.
metaphorically pilgrimage life hardship of pilgrimage hardship of life
Metaphorically, pilgrimage = life Hardship of pilgrimage = hardship of life

The five-day journey itself brings spiritual enlightenment

7

the prologue of canterbury tales 8
The Prologue of Canterbury Tales 8
  • Each pilgrim
    • tell two stories on the way to Canterbury
    • two stories on the way back
      • Plan proposed by Harry Bailey, host of the Tabard Inn
  • Teller of best tale is rewarded at the end
    • A dinner provided by his fellow pilgrims at the Tabard
      • Harry Bailey is judge
characters on the journey 9
Characters on the Journey 9
  • Represent a wide range of 14th century English society
    • 3 Groups Represented:
      • Agricultural feudalism
        • Landownership and service
          • Knight’s yeoman
          • Franklin
      • Urbanization
        • Change in feudal structure
          • Doctor
          • Guildsmen
      • The Church
        • One of the most powerful elements in medieval society
          • 9 of pilgrims belong to clergy
characters on the journey
Characters on the Journey:
  • Familiar and fairly popular journey
  • People did combine with strangers into traveling companions for safety
  • Highly unlikely that such a varied group as Chaucer describes would have existed
  • Each character is described as a representative of his or her own social group, which covers the social spread of 14th-century England
  • No representatives of either the aristocracy or the true peasantry, an unskilled land-worker