aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

The Birth of Christ in Middle English

The following is Luke 2:1-20, Wycliffe's translation. To help you read it, some notes on Middle English might be helpful, to wit:
1. In ME, there is no distinction, orthographically, between 'u' and 'v'. So where you would expect a 'v', go ahead and pronounce it, and vice versa.

2. Meanwhile, there was as yet no distinction between 'i' and 'j,' both of which could stand for the 'y' sound or (rarely) our 'j' sound. 'Y' when used as a vowel is pronounced (more or less) like 'i.'

3. However, the 'y' character in modern type often represents a ME yogh, a character that looks like a script 'z'. It has a gutteral sound that can sometimes be best approximated as our consonant 'y' and sometimes as the ancestor of the sound written 'gh' in "night" and "eight" -- a sound originally pronounced in the back of the throat, but silent in Modern English. So 'nyyt' is pronounced [nikht].

4. The final 'e' in many words was mostly no longer pronounced in ME in unaccented syllables. ME "place" was pronounced [plahss].

5. "Hem" was the surviving OE plural personal pronoun, later replaced by the Norse-derived "them." Likewise, when Wycliffe writes 'her flock,' that is a plural -- "their flock."

6. Double vowels are the way ME wrote long vowels, which are not pronounced differently from the short vowels, but held longer. We pronounce "shepherd" with two very short, clipped vowels. 'Scheepherdis' has our short 'e' sound held extra long; our 'ee' sound, as in modern "sheep" is a result of the Great Vowel Shift that came a bit later. Likewise, 'maad' ("made") has a short 'a' (pronounced [ah]) held extra long; what we call 'long a,' as in modern "made" is another result of the Great Vowel Shift.

7. 'Sche' ("she") is pronounced more like 'shay' than 'shee.'

8. Words ending in '-ioun' (modern '-ion') were fully pronounced. 'Professioun' would be pronounced with four syllables and the double 's' would not have the 'sh' sound it does in our day.

9. The 'k' was pronounced in words that begin with 'kn,' just as in German Knabe today. 'Knyythod' would be pronounced approximately as [k-nikht-hod]. 'Heuenli knyythod' is "heavenly knighthood (= host)."

10. The 'ng' sound was almost always voiced, particularly when a now-silent 'e' followed it. So, 'ng' as in "finger," not as in "singer."

11. 'Bethleem' does not contain a long vowel. Pronounce it with three syllables as you normally would, but leave out the 'h': Beth-le-em.

12. Initial 'w' in words like 'wlapped' was still (probably) pronounced, at least by rounding the lips before proceeding to the next consonant. Also, the suffix '-ed' formed a full syllable, as in "learnéd" or "naked."

And it was don in tho daies, a maundement wente out fro the emperour August, that al the world schulde be discryued. This firste discryuyng was maad of Cyryn, iustice of Sirie. And alle men wenten to make professioun, ech in to his owne citee. And Joseph wente vp fro Galilee, fro the citee Nazareth, in to Judee, in to a citee of Dauid, that is clepid Bethleem, for that he was of the hous and of the meyne of Dauid, that he schulde knouleche with Marie, his wijf, that was weddid to hym, and was greet with child. And it was don, while thei weren there, the daies weren fulfillid, that sche schulde bere child. And sche bare hir first borun sone, and wlappide hym in clothis, and leide hym in a cratche, for ther was no place to hym in no chaumbir.

And scheepherdis weren in the same cuntre, wakynge and kepynge the watchis of the nyyt on her flok. And lo! the aungel of the Lord stood bisidis hem, and the cleernesse of God schinede aboute hem; and thei dredden with greet drede. And the aungel seide to hem, Nyle ye drede; for lo! Y preche to you a greet ioye, that schal be to al puple. For a sauyoure is borun to dai to you, that is Crist the Lord, in the citee of Dauid. And this is a tokene to you; ye schulen fynde a yong child wlappid in clothis, and leid in a cratche. And sudenli ther was maad with the aungel a multitude of heuenli knyythod, heriynge God, and seiynge, Glorie be in the hiyeste thingis to God, and in erthe pees be to men of good wille.

And it was don, as the aungelis passiden awei fro hem in to heuene, the scheephirdis spaken togider, and seiden, Go we ouer to Bethleem, and se we this word that is maad, which the Lord hath maad, and schewide to vs. And thei hiyynge camen, and founden Marie and Joseph, and the yong child leid in a cratche. And thei seynge, knewen of the word that was seid to hem of this child. And alle men that herden wondriden, and of these thingis that weren seid to hem of the scheephirdis. But Marie kepte alle these wordis, berynge togider in hir herte. And the scheepherdis turneden ayen, glorifyinge and heriynge God in alle thingis that thei hadden herd and seyn, as it was seid to hem.

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