Wiktionary:About Middle English

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Middle English was the form of English spoken in England between 1150 and 1500. The aim of this page is to standardise the layout of Middle English entries and explain the rationale behind that standardisation.

Diacritical marks[edit]

Although they usually appeared in many Middle English dictionaries to indicate the length and stress of vowel sounds, diacritical marks were not widely used in Middle English writing to distinguish between short and long vowels. Such marks are modern additions used in dictionaries and textbooks – that is why some editors use macrons (¯), while others use acute accents (´), circumflexes (^), and/or breves (˘). Consequently, Middle English entries here should be without diacritical marks in the page title. Within the entry itself, optional marks can be used with the word as given under the part-of-speech heading. The custom here is to forgo using diacritics for Middle English altogether. Otherwise, in links, these marks can be piped in, e.g. [[gliden|glīden]].

Th, Þ, Ð and Y[edit]

In Middle English (as in Old English), the letters thorn (þ) and eth (ð) were largely interchangeable: the use of one over the other being more a matter of dialectal preference than of orthography. Oftentimes it was customary to use þ at the beginning and medial positions of a word, and ð at the end. In time, þ began to replace ð in all positions, and it is the form most often seen in Middle English dictionaries. The combination th was also in use, especially for foreign words (i.e. words borrowed from Latin or Greek). In later Middle English, thorn came to be written as y, and this wont can still be seen in archaic spellings such as Ye Olde Schoppe (= The Olde Schoppe). For consistency, entries here are usually given with th. There is no reason why entries using þ, ð and y should not exist as well; there is a lot of work waiting for someone if they want to start creating triplicate entries with thorns, eths and y's.

Ȝ[edit]

As in the case with þ and ð, Middle English yogh (ȝ) has counterparts in consonantal y (/j/), gh (velar fricatives /ɣ/ and /x/), and w. By the late Middle English period, yogh was no longer being used. Again, for the sake of ease, entries here are usually given with y, gh and w, but there is no reason why entries using ȝ should not exist.

Æ[edit]

As with yogh, ash (æ) was used very early in the Middle English period. Words using æ usually have later counterparts with a or e.

Grammatical gender[edit]

The normal progression of Middle English was toward simplification. This was especially true for the grammatical gender of nouns. Although grammatical gender continued for some time into the Middle English period, surviving longest in Southern dialects, entries here should be given without reference to grammatical gender. This helps in cases where there are conflicting genders for the same word, and for words where the gender is not precisely known.

Verbal infinitives[edit]

The standard verbal infinitive marker used for the Middle English verb is -en (e.g. singen), or -n for verbs with infinitives of one syllable (e.g. don).

Present participles[edit]

Several endings were utilised to mark the present participles of verbs, and varied according to location and date. The most common were -ende (Midlands), -and (Northern), and -inde (Southern). These later developed into -inge/-ynge in the Midlands and South, giving rise to our Modern English present participle in -ing (Northern -and survives in altered form in a few words like blatant, flippant, and wanion). Consequently, -inge is the default used by the {{enm-verb}} template.

Typesetting[edit]

Many browsers’ default fonts render Middle English diacritics and other special characters poorly. On Wiktionary, text marked as Middle English therefore uses the special "Latinx" script code, which helps browsers choose the best font. {{lang}} tags text as Middle English and applies this script formatting. It can be as a wrapper around Middle English text:

#* 1340, Dan Michel, ''Ayenbyte of Inwit'':
#*: {{lang|enm|Nou ich wille þet ye ywite hou hit is ywent}}
#*: {{lang|enm|þet þis boc is ywrite mid Engliss of Kent.}}
#*: {{lang|enm|Þis boc is ymad vor lewede men}}
#*: {{lang|enm|Vor vader and vor moder and vor oþer ken}}
#*: {{lang|enm|ham vor to berȝe vram alle manyere zen}}
#*: {{lang|enm|þet ine hare inwytte ne bleve no voul wen.}}
#*: {{lang|enm|'Huo ase god' in his name yzed,}}
#*: {{lang|enm|Þet þis boc made god him yeve þet bread,}}
#*: {{lang|enm|Of angles of hevene, and þerto his red,}}
#*: {{lang|enm|And ondervonge his zaule huanne þet he is dyad. Amen.}}
#*:: Now I will have you know how it has come about,
#*:: That this book is written in the English of Kent,
#*:: This book is made for laymen,
#*:: For father and for mother and for other kin,
#*:: To save them from all manner of sin,
#*:: So that in their consciences would remain no foul blemish,
#*:: 'Who like God' in His name said,
#*:: That this book made God give him that bread,
#*:: By angels of heaven, and also his council,
#*:: And to receive his soul up once he has died. Amen 
    • 1340, Dan Michel, Ayenbyte of Inwit:
      Nou ich wille þet ye ywite hou hit is ywent
      þet þis boc is ywrite mid Engliss of Kent.
      Þis boc is ymad vor lewede men
      Vor vader and vor moder and vor oþer ken
      ham vor to berȝe vram alle manyere zen
      þet ine hare inwytte ne bleve no voul wen.
      'Huo ase god' in his name yzed,
      Þet þis boc made god him yeve þet bread,
      Of angles of hevene, and þerto his red,
      And ondervonge his zaule huanne þet he is dyad. Amen.
      Now I will have you know how it has come about,
      That this book is written in the English of Kent,
      This book is made for laymen,
      For father and for mother and for other kin,
      To save them from all manner of sin,
      So that in their consciences would remain no foul blemish,
      'Who like God' in His name said,
      That this book made God give him that bread,
      By angels of heaven, and also his council,
      And to receive his soul up once he has died. Amen

Any template that requires a language code will apply the appropriate formatting to the text given to it automatically. This includes basic and widely-used templates like {{l}}, {{term}}, {{t}}, {{head}} and so on.

{{term|theode|lang=enm}}

theode

* Middle English: {{t|enm|forbus}}

See also[edit]

External links[edit]