1. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    How Do They Talk?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Flying Geese, Aug 12, 2013.

    So I have pretty much already written my first book. It is set in the middle ages because I have always loved the idea of kings and queens and knights etc. My problem is that I am not always sure how they talk or how they would have worded things back in those days. So I would like to know if there are some resources that I could get my hands on so that I could really sharpen my dialogue up some and add some of that old-time feel to it. For instance how would a woman say she is pregnant to another woman? Would she say it how we say it? ex. "I am pregnant." or what?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Well, since it looks like you're going for accuracy, I'll mention that they didn't speak modern English back then. Perhaps it would be better to use modern English even though the story is set in the Middle Ages. I honestly don't think most readers would care.

    But in case you really want to do some research, you should look into either Old English (mid-5th century to mid-12th century) or Middle English (late 12th century to late 15th century).
     
  3. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Aha! Thanks Thirdwind! I had decided that it was best if i just used modern english to an extent, and then dress it up with fancy old english throughout the story. It is working quite well but I do want to look up some old terms. Thanks again.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Google is your friend if you coax the fæmne with the right search string:
    Modern English to Old English Vocabulary

    That's probably a tad too archaic, but there are more sites. Here's another:

    Old English Core Vocabulary

    Or perhaps morph a few of those jewels into a pidgin version of your own making.
     
  5. NeonFraction
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    NeonFraction Member

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    I'd suggest using formal modern English.
    Nonformal: 'I'm scared of the wolf.'
    Formal: 'I am afraid of the wolf.'
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    As to your specific question regarding pregnancy, I would think that if your character says she is 'with child' you'd probably get away with it.

    I like what NeonFraction said, about using formal English. However, I'd be cautious about making it too formal, or sticking in too many archaic words. This will just call attention to itself, and detract from the flow of your story. What you probably want to achieve is something that sounds natural for the time period, but doesn't sound hackneyed or too difficult for the modern eye/ear to absorb.

    If you want to read recent historical novels that are expertly crafted as to dialogue —although it's a later time period, the Tudor era—read any of the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom. He really is the best at this. The stories are great, too!

    Whatever you do, make sure your characters don't use any slang, or say anything that refers to something that has been invented or happened since that time period.

    You say you like kings, queens and knights, etc. Unless you are writing a fantasy, where you can create a world to suit yourself, I'd be sure to read as much as you can about the particular time period you've chosen. If you're writing about England, a good source is Ian Mortimer's The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England which is currently available, very cheaply, from Amazon and bookstores. It's a source book for writers, mainly, and gives lots of details about that period in England. It's a very entertaining read, and you'll whip through it in no time.

    Getting hold of a historical timeline or two is also a good idea. Get one that shows wars, kings and queens of various lands. This will certainly be important if you're writing about specific kings and queens, as they tended to marry each other ...a German princess might marry an English king, etc. They also tended to get involved in foreign wars. Also get a timeline of inventions, medical breakthroughs, etc ...anything you might be writing about. This will keep you from making silly setting mistakes, or folding your story around events that hadn't happened yet!

    Good luck! Your project sounds very interesting to me. I love reading about that time period as well.
     
  7. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    GingerCoffee you are a life saver!
     
  8. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Jannert, I talked to an editor and they said the same thing about someone being "with child". I hadn't heard that until then so I wasn't sure. Thanks everyone these are some very helpful replies! Im nearly done!
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'with child' goes back quite a few centuries, so would make best sense...
     
  10. alexandriadeloraine
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    alexandriadeloraine Member

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    Hey there Flying Geese;

    This might be a stretch, but if you want to get a real taste of Middle English then Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English
    are a great place to start. The works of Shakespeare, Thomas Dekker, and Ben Johnson (among others) may give you some better ideas if you're
    setting is closer to the 16th / 17th century and you're keen on the research and reading. Like others have said though, sticking to modern English
    is probably just fine. :)

    Good luck!

    - Alexandria de Loraine
     
  11. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Shakespeare and the King James Bible would be good places to start to get a feel for wordings that sound old but are still mostly comprehensible to modern readers.
     
  12. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Thanks B93 I hadn't thought to use those!
     

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