The Influence of French and Other Languages on Chaucer’s English

The Influence of French and Other Languages on Chaucer’s English

By Hirabayashi Mikio

Bulletin of Daito Bunka University, Vol. 42 (2004)

Abstract: This is the revised and enlarged version of the paper read at the 17th East Branch Congress of Japan Society for Medieval English Studies, held at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, on 30 June 2001. In this paper the present writer examines and refers to Christianity in the 14th century England, the problems of various manuscripts of Chaucer, the difference of the texts by Skeat, Robinson, and Benson, the influence of French, its expression, French spellings and pronunciation on Chaucer’s English, the Germanic construction and pronunciation that are persistently alive in Chaucer’s works, though few linguists would not point out, and lastly to the influence of Latin and its literature on Chaucer’s English, especially to the problems of rhetoric by Ovid and Aristotle that are observable in Chaucer. In conclusion, although in the works of Chaucer many French usages are plentifully observable, the basic structure of English as a Germanic language, remained intact.

Introduction: The present paper examines the influence of languages of the Continent on Chaucer’s language with special reference to French, that is, Old French, Anglo-French and Northern French. Other languages of the Continent such as Latin and German are also investigated to some degree in this paper, the former being an important language since it is the language of Metamorphoses by Ovid, a fine specimen of rhetoric that ultimately goes back to Aristotle. As a preliminary survey we must solve the difficult problems of many different kinds of manuscript, the social conditions at those times, Chaucer’s scholarly attainments on literature, French and Latin. Furthermore the effect of Norman Conquest (1066) and Guerre de Cent Ans (1337-1453) on English.

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