Similarities between Middle English and other foreign languages

The platform activities really helped me make sense of the Middle English text in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Of course English wasn’t completely standardized in terms of spelling at this point in history; so I always assumed the only way to make sense of the language was through context clues.  I know now that there are grammar patterns and those can help the reader understand who/what is the subject, direct object, verb, etc.  The verbs have rough conjugations and the forms of nouns are relevant to their number/gender.  As a Spanish-speaker, this immediately reminded me of basic Spanish grammar.

Take, for example, the Middle/Modern English verb “say/saye” and the Spanish verb “hablar” (to speak).

says/sayes/sayez- you speak; hablas- you speak.  Both verbs, ending with an “s” (or -as,-es, -ez, or whatever the case may be for Middle English) denotes the singular second person form of the verb.

sayn/sayen- they speak; hablan- they speak.  Both verbs, ending with an “n”, denote the plural third person form of the verb.

talkande- talking; hablando- talking.  Both verbs, ending with an “-ando/-ande” denote the present participle (gerund) of the verb.  Neither of these verbs would make sense to use as verbal nouns.

Of course, although English (both middle and modern) are both influenced by Latin, it has plenty of other factors that contribute to its creation as well.  As college students, it is very likely that everyone in this class has taken a few foreign language courses (and very likely in Romance languages).  Finding a parallel between Middle English and another language that you (at least sort of) know can help you commit this stuff to memory.  At least I know that thinking this way helped me.  I hope it helps you too!




One thought on “Similarities between Middle English and other foreign languages

  1. I’ve definitely picked up on this too! I feel like previous experience in a different language made it easier to connect with some of these concepts. Not that I totally have it down, but I can see a little bit of how it works.

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