Medieval English for Dummies
Talk by Dr. Phil Uttley
Given at the Amsterdam Nerd Nite, on November 29, 2012
The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. This could not be more true for language and none more so than English, which went from being an über-Germanic language spoken by a small number of warrior-tribes to a hotch-potch creole and Lingua Franca spoken around the world by over a billion people. Modern English was forged in the Middle Ages and this process is recorded in the English we use now, especially in its eccentric and illogical system of spelling and pronunciation. In this talk we will see how Medieval English evolved from its more Germanic roots and how the language of six-hundred or more years ago is fossilised in the language we use today. Along the way we will discover how, using a few simple tricks, a modern English-speaker can get by in Medieval England.
Phil Uttley doesn’t like much really, but what he does like, he loves passionately. He is an average scientist, mediocre historian and lazy linguist. Besides working on the time-variability of X-ray emission from black holes, he has also discovered that it is far easier to learn your own language from centuries ago than Dutch.