The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Historical English

I’m dabbling here; My interest in historical linguistics is strictly amateur. But I do find etymology addictive.

The correct medium for a largely oral history is of course audio. So check out Kevin Stroud’s History of English podcast.

C&C German.

Pronouncing Middle English

I’d like to read some Chaucer to entertain my Swiss flatmates. This is not trivial; a lot happened to English in the last millennium or so.


John Gardner:

[…] For instance, some specialists make consonants sound much like consonants in modern English, except clearer, more precise, while other specialists speak consonants as they would in Danish or, God help us, German. For the beginner there’s a valuable lesson in this: Chaucer’s Middle English is relatively easy to fake. What follows here are some notes on how to fake it convincingly, so that one gets pretty clearly the sound of Chaucer’s verse, making people who know the correct pronunciation believe momentarily that perhaps they’ve learned it wrong.

Read aloud or recite with authority, exactly as when speaking Hungarian – if you know no Hungarian – you speak with conviction and easy familiarity. (This, I’m told by Hungarians, is what Hungarians themselves do.) This easy authority, however fake, gets the tone of the language, its warmth and, loosely, outgoing character – not pushy like low-class German, not jaundiced or intimate-but-weary, like modern French, and not, above all, slurred to a mumble, like modern American. Make Middle English open-hearted, like Mark Twain’s jokes…