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  1. Reximus
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    Reximus Member

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    Writing in Middle English- How to?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Reximus, Jan 23, 2010.

    I'm trying to write in a dialect of middle-english but it's kind of hard to totally change the way you go about saying things.

    A example would be the difference between:

    You shouldn't kill
    Thou shalt not kill

    I am seeking advice on how to go about writing in middle-english. I need a character in my novel to talk in it so it's important for me to know how to do it.

    Thank you and I appreciate all advice.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Middle English is significantly more than just the use of the archaic first person thou.

    The syntactic and orthographic differences are pronounced and there are differences in grammar like remnants of the inflected system still in use. During the period known as Middle English, there are even letters in use in the alphabet which would not be familiar to you.

    The following is written in Middle English:

    Syððan wæs geworden þæt he ferde þurh þa ceastre and þæt castel: godes rice prediciende and bodiende. and hi twelfe mid. And sume wif þe wæron gehælede of awyrgdum gastum: and untrumnessum: seo magdalenisce maria ofþære seofan deoflu uteodon: and iohanna chuzan wif herodes gerefan: and susanna and manega oðre þe him of hyra spedum þenedon.

    Middle English
     
  3. Reximus
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    Reximus Member

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    I actually found out I was mistaken. I wanted to learn how to write in early-modern english. I taught myself how and its working out. Sorry >.<
     
  4. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Well, I'm glad, for your sake, it's not going to be like Wrey's example. You'd probably have trouble getting helpful reviews.;)
     
  5. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wreybies, thank you ever so much! I was going to say something of the sort but it would require an enourmous amount of time for me to be able to stir up the Middle-English.

    So, to summarize, Reximus, "what he said".

    Of course, even doing it in early-modern is going to be tricky. I'm assuming this is a period piece??? Do lots -- repeat -- LOTS of research before you wade into those waters. Some people have a 'natural' ear for such dialectics but, if you don't it's going to be a tough road.
    Good luck
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I'm a bit curious as to why you want to. It isn't used any more, and would likely put most readers off.
     
  7. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    I assume its a period piece of some sort. Though I'm a little curious as to when 'Early Modern' is. In Academia the Early Modern period is classed as 370-900 AD, but I don't think that's quite what Rex has in mind.
     
  8. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Early modern English is what Shakespeare wrote in.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The "Early Modern Era" is not the same same as "Early Modern English."

    Early Modern English begins (arguably, since there is of course no sharp
    demarcator but instead a slow progression) just prior to the 1600's.

    EDIT ~ I have my own correction to make. The example I posted is in
    fact NOT Middle English. It is Old English. My apologies. Here is a correct
    example of Middle English c. 1250 - 1300 for anyone who cares to see.

    Psalm 23

    Lauerd me steres, noght wante sal me:
    In stede of fode þare me louked he.
    He fed me ouer watre ofe fode,
    Mi saule he tornes in to gode.
    He led me ouer sties of rightwisenes,
    For his name, swa hali es.
    For, and ife .I. ga in mid schadw ofe dede,
    For þou wiþ me erte iuel sal .i. noght drede;
    Þi yherde, and þi stafe ofe mighte,
    Þai ere me roned dai and nighte.
    Þou graiþed in mi sighte borde to be,
    Ogaines þas þat droued me;
    Þou fatted in oli me heued yhite;
    And mi drinke dronkenand while schire es ite!
    And filigh me sal þi mercy
    Alle daies ofe mi life for-þi;
    And þat .I. wone in hous ofe lauerd isse
    In lengþe of daies al wiþ blisse.
     
  10. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was just about to comment that that was old english haha. For an example of Middle English, look up the original Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. And also, Middle English began in 1066 and ran to about 1350/1400. Just for the record.
     
  11. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Just a few notes from someone who travelled down that road. There is a lot of great 'medieval' or 'middle' English websites and online dictionaries or word lists that'll help out. Read up some some Medieval prose (there's books at the library usually).

    Read it out loud.

    Try to understand it.

    Make up some dialog.

    Get the feel for it.

    Then -- scratch it. The problem is, YOU might teach yourself the ins and outs. BUT your reader -- they're not likely to have the same in-depth knowledge and therefore, many of your witty dialogue is gonna fall flat at least. Or it could fall into utter frusteration and confusion and make the reader close the book without a second thought.

    So what's a writer to do? This is the reason that movies generally depict Medieval people throwing around "thee" and "thou", even if it's not grammatically correct. It's the -feel-.

    of course, if you're like me, "thee" and "thou" sounds cliche and tacky and makes you want to bang thee head on thine desk. What I prefer to do is learn some key phrases that are easy to understand no matter your knowledge on the subject.

    Great examples are interjections and exclamations like 'fie' and 'zounds'. Other ideas are a few "pet" nouns like "sire" or "sirrah" (a sorta derogatory intimate name I believe).

    Just keep in mind you want to capture the feel, but keep it understandable. At the same time, you don't want it to look sloppy.

    Now we know why writers usually resort to just period pronouns.
     
  12. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've played around with Middle English in my writing, just cuz it's so much fun. I just read a lot of Geoffrey Chaucer with accompanying explanations of what the heck he's saying, took a lot of notes, and let 'er fly. I have a longish short story where one of the characters talks entirely in rhymed mock-Middle English.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And if you are going to thou - thee - thine it up, then let us be sure to get it correct.


    Thou ~ Subject of the sentence. (Nominative Case)

    Thou art a cad.

    Art thou my/mine brother?



    Thee ~ Object of the sentence. (Known variously as the Acute Case, Objective Case. Can be divided in the Accusative, Dative, and Instrumental Cases)

    I did see thee amongst the parishioners.

    I would not have thought to punish thee for actions not thine.



    Thy/Thine ~ Possessive. (Also known as the Genitive Case)

    Thy mother hath a sharp tongue

    Now that we are married, what is mine is also thine.

    Thine eyes hath a blue most rare.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just like that? In a matter of a few hours? Okay.

    You may want to ask yourself whether you really want to render your character's dialogue like that, though. If you're trying for authenticity, god help you. If you succeed, you'll probably lose your readers to the tedium of wading through it.

    If what you want is to give the impression of archaic speech, just sprinkle with a few of the formal pronouns, as Wrey explained them. I'd recommend he mostly speak modern English, perhaps slightly stilted, and only slip into the thees and thous when agitated.

    Authenticity can be a curse. You want to make your readers feel like they are part of the scene, but too much authenticity makes it abundantly clear they are somewhere they don't belong. It destroys the illusion you are trying to create.

    So now that you have a grip on the how, it is a good time to take a good look at the why.
     
  15. Reximus
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    Reximus Member

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    Just to clarify, I didn't mean I literally completely mastered early-modern english (Shakespearean) just like that. I should have said that i'm getting the hang of it. And I would never try to get something published with some of that in it if I suspected their were faults in the writing. I'm just designing a novel on the side, I probably not gonna actually try to get it published for years. Sorry for saying it to seem mistakenly literal. Thanks for your support though guys :-D.
     
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