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Middle English Subperiods

 

1348-1509 Dominance of English

 
  • French remained official language of England until second half of 14th c.; by mid to late 14th c. English was normal medium of instruction; in 1362 English became official language of legal proceedings, everyone in England spoke English by end of 14th c., displacing of French, Norse, and Celtic languages
  • Persistence of dialectal differences, increase in English writing, English was more common in legal documents than French or Latin by 15th c.
  • Emergence of London/East Midland dialect as standard spoken and written language; London/East Midland was a compromise dialect: London was a commercial centre, seaport; proximity to Westminster court
  • Printers' activity (William Caxton, 1476), increased literacy
  • Edward III (Windsor) (r. 1327-1377), his claim to French throne led to Hundred Years' War (1337-1453), English victories at Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356), Agincourt (1415), role of Joan of Arc (1429), eventual French victory, loss of all English continental holdings, French was no longer significant to the English and was now the language of the enemy
  • Black Death (1348-1351) resulted in the death of one third of English population, leading to social chaos, labour shortages, emancipation of peasants, wage increases
  • The decline in the relative importance of the upper classes who had been instrumental in retaining French 

  • The new middle class of merchants and craftsmen was becoming increasingly important in the towns; all this lead to an increase in the importance of the language spoken by the peasants and the new middle class

  • In 1362 parliament was opened in English; gradual re-establishment of English in all walks of life

  • Richard II (1377-1399) (grandson of Edward III), John of Gaunt (1340-1399) (son of Edward III); Richard II was deposed by Henry IV (Bolingbroke). The proceedings concerning the deposition of Richard and the accession of Henry IV were in either English or English and Latin, and French was not used at all
  • By the time of Henry VI (r. 1422-1461 and then 1470-1471) petitions and bills are frequently in English

  • After the middle of the fifteenth century only in the case of statutes French holds its place alongside English

  • War of the Roses (1455-1485), York vs. Lancaster: Richard Duke of York vs. Henry VI; Henry VI executed 1471
  • Edward II's brother Richard III (1483-85) killed by Lancastrian Henry VII (Tudor), Henry marries Elizabeth of York (daughter of Edward IV), fathers Henry VIII;
  • In 1509 the reign of Henry VIII begins; end of Middle English period.
 

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MIDDLE ENGLISH SUBPERIODS

  1066-1204 Decline of English

  1204-1348 Rise of English

  1348-1509 Dominance of English

MIDDLE ENGLISH

  Middle English Subperiods

  French vs. English

  Geoffrey Chaucer

  Emerging Standard

  More

 

 
 
 
 

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