Old English and Middle Ages

  Old English and Middle Ages

  Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) is an early form of the English language that was spoken in England and southern Scotland between the mid-fifth century and the mid-twelfth century. It is a West Germanic language and therefore is similar to Old Frisian and Old Saxon. It is also quite similar to Old Norse (and by extension, to modern Icelandic). Unlike modern English, Old English is a language rich with morphological diversity and is pronounced essentially as it is spelt. It maintains several distinct cases: the nominative, accusative, genitive, dative and instrumental, remnants of which survive only in a few pronouns in modern English.

  Old English was not static, and its usage covered a period of some 700 years ¨C from the Anglo-Saxon migrations into England of the fifth century to some time after the Norman invasion of 1066, when the language underwent a major and dramatic transition. During this period of time it assimilated some aspects of the languages that it came in contact with, such as the Celtic languages and the two variants of the Scandinavian languages from the invading Norsemen who were occupying and controlling the Danelaw in northern and eastern England.

  Middle English is the name given by historical philologists to the diverse forms of the English language spoken in England from around the 12th to the 15th century? a from after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066 to the mid to late 15th century, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London English, began to become widespread, a process aided by the introduction of the printing press into England by William Caxton in the 1470s. The language as spoken after this time is more commonly known as Early Modern English.

  Historical Background

  ? 400 B.C., the Celts from west of France

  ? By the end of the 5 th century, three Teutonic tribes, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes conquered and almost exterminated the Celtic tribes.

  ? 3 invasions

  o 4 th to the 6 th century: Romans

  o 6 th century to 1066: Anglo-Saxon Conquest

  o In 1066: Norman Conquest


  ? Old English Period

  o The earliest form of literature: oral

  Stories were narrated orally or sung to a group of audience, and interesting stories were passed from mouth to mouth. Later, there emerged a kind of professional narrators or singers of stories.

  o Beowulf


  Beowulf is the first great English literary work and is regarded as the national epic of the Anglo-Saxons. Serving as the oldest English epic, it was probably composed in the early 8th century. However, the hero and the setting of Beowulf have nothing to do with England, for the story took place in Scandinavia, where a society that was highly civilized existed and rather newly Christina. It was partly-historical and partly-legendary.