15 thoughts on “Language quiz

  1. @ Matthew. No wonder it sounds familiar. I have listened to it before and remember being able to understand some words but not others which had not undergone pronunciation changes.

  2. It’s the prologue to “The Canterbury Tales” in Middle English.

    Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
    The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
    And bathed every veyne in swich licour
    Of which vertu engendred is the flour
    Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
    Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
    The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
    Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne
    And smale foweles maken melodye
    That slepen al the nyght with open ye
    So priketh hem Nature in hir corages
    Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
    And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
    To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes

  3. I thought it sounded like English but I just couldn’t figure it out. The transcription really helped. When I listened again following along with the transcription I understood the meaning quite well. I have studied Middle English and Chaucer a bit (on my own) so I really should have gotten it.

  4. Yes it’s Middle English- and I must say a beautifully spoken recording. I just wish such recordings had been available when I studied this text at school.

  5. It is indeed Middle English and the prologue to The Canterbury Tales. It was read by a friend of mine from Prague who is currently doing a degree in English at Charles University.

  6. Very beautiful recording, indeed! 🙂 As with Middle English, it’s actually easier to READ it than as it was spoken, since much of, if not most, of the words are the same then as today, owing a bit to changes in spelling, which most English speakers’ minds can forgive as badly-spelt English….yet pronounced entirely with Germanic pronunciation. The change into a more familiar-sounding English really came about prior to Elizabethan/Shakespearean times- About 500 years ago.

    (I’m a fan of modernised Old English, bringing the old tongue of Beowulf into a modern context, as some have done. 🙂 )


  7. Just to add, it’s been easier to find readings of Beowulf in proper Old English than it has been to find Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales recorded in proper middle English- To that, this recording is a welcome one, as I see it. 🙂


  8. AR, sorry for the “duh.” I had to listen to a few lines too before I got it. I’m not fond of reconstructed pronunciation. 😉

  9. Aah… I was confused by the vocabulary sounding like English, but the accent being Eastern European. Alas, it is a Czech reading Middle English!

  10. Seumas: I’d say it’s accurate, since Middle English still had retained its very Germanic character up to that point. The shift away from the Germanic pronunciation was probably about a century after Chaucer, and all but disappeared by the time of Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare.


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