Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lazy Sunday Musing: The Weirdness of English

One of the things I find most fascinating is how the English language has evolved over time. Every now & then, videos & articles show up on Facebook demonstrating how researchers believe English sounded centuries ago. It's easy enough to SEE the changes (how many of us had to memorize the "Prologue" to Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales?"), but what did the language SOUND like?

Here's one really good clip that I shared on Facebook this week, "Speke Parrott" by Jack Skelton, poet laureate under Henry VII: 

While he wasn't at court during Richard's era, he did arrive in 1488, so what you hear in this poem is very close to the English spoken in Richard's court.

Here's another clip, this time with a researcher reading aloud one of Richard III's own letters:

While we can recognize words & phrases in these clips, it does sound as though Early & Middle English are foreign languages & not English at all.  Because of this, I often wonder if people who lived back then would be able to understand our modern English.  It's an interesting conundrum that's not often addressed in time travel novels, movies, & TV shows ("Doctor Who" & "Star Trek" are exceptions.) 

The most interesting thing I learned about English this week did not come from a video, however. It came from an article on Mental Floss by Arika Okrent & discusses why we say "won't" instead of "willn't."

It's always fascinating to find out new things about English, even more so when they connect with Richard III. 

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