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Month: December 2021

The Canterbury Tales in Middle English with translation, lines 1 to 18

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales in 1392. He wanted to include characters from all over England in his story but he died before finishing it. It is one of the most well known stories in Middle English. The Middle English period ran from the conquest of England by William the Conqueror all the way to the 1400s.

When the printing press was invented writers and printers started standardising the way words were spelled to give their books a bit more consistency and to make the printing process more straightforward. Before the printing press was invented people wrote mostly phonetically although there were some standards. Here are the first 18 lines of the Canterbury Tales read in the original Middle English

Words are more connected than you think

When I was growing up, words just seemed random. That was a dog, this was a cat and I just got on with life. It was only much later that I began to notice that the words in other languages seemed strangely familiar. If a word in another language is similar, how did it get like that? Did they take our word? Did we take their word? Or is there another explanation for what’s going on?

Have you ever watched a really old movie? Like a movie from the 30’s or 40’s? Everyone talks differently. Not differently enough that you can’t understand them, but the difference is definitely noticable. Now think about how people spoke in Shakespeares time. “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Each word is a bit different than you might expect. “Wherefore” is not a fancy way of saying “where”. It actually means “why”. Juliet is asking why Romeo is the way that he is. Why did her love have to be in the family and situation he is in. You can analyse the word as meaning “what is it for”, like “What is this thing for”.