Difference Between Old English and Middle English

Main difference

The main difference between Old English and Middle English is that Old English was spoken between AD 450 and 1100 ( mid-5th to mid-11th centuries); in contrast, Middle English is used during AD 1100-AD 1500 (late 11th century to late 15th century).

Old English vs. Middle English

Old English is the oldest historical form of the English language known as the Anglo-Saxon language form; on the other hand, Middle English is generated from Old English after the Norman Conquest. The duration that Old English was spoken is from 400 to 1100 (mid 5th to mid 11th century), while Middle English was in use from the 11th to about the 15th century (late 11th to late of the fifteenth century).

The main influence on Old English was Latin and the Germanic languages; on the other hand, the main influence on the everyday vocabulary of Middle English was that of German and French. Word order and sentence structure in Old English are freestyle, and words did not follow a fixed word order; on the other hand, Middle English began to exhibit a fixed word order with an SVO sentence structure. Old English has many inflectional forms of its nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs. Middle English tends to reduce these inflectional forms.

Old English is not similar to Modern English; On the other hand, Middle English is somewhat similar to Modern English. The grammatical cases of Old English are known to be the dative and instrumental cases; by contrast, Middle English changed these dative and instrumental cases to prepositional constructions. Old English inscriptions used a runic system before, but later a version of the Latin alphabet replaced this system. Printing was invented in the Middle English era and developed a standard alphabet.

Comparison chart

Old English Intermediate English
The oldest classification of the English language that was spoken during 450 AD-1100 AD is Old English. The classification of the English language that was used during AD 1100-AD 1500 is Middle English.
Source
North Sea Germanic Wessex
inflections
Many bending shapes and terminations Many simplified inflectional forms
grammatical case
Dative and instrumental cases prepositional constructions
Influence
Latin, Germanic Germanic, Old French
modern english
no similarity Similar to modern English
Word order
not standardized Standardized

What is Old English?

Old English is the oldest form of the English language. Its use was from the middle of the 5th century to the middle of the 12th century. The English language is a widely spoken language throughout the world. The three main classifications of the English language are Old English, Middle English, and Modern English. The use of Old English was observed during the High Middle Ages in Great Britain from the 400s to the 1100s. Anglo-Saxon settlers introduced it to England in the 5th century. There is an influence of Latin and Germanic languages ​​in Old English. Related languages ​​are Old Saxon and Old Frisian.

Old English is subdivided into three subdivisions, namely Prehistoric Old English (450-650), Early Old English (650-900), and Late Old English (900-1066). Old English grammar and vocabulary had similarities to modern German. Old English word structure did not follow a fixed order; instead, he had a freestyle. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs had various inflectional forms and endings.

There are four main dialects of Old English based on the tribes in which it was spoken. These dialects are West Saxon, Northumbrian, Kentish, and Mercian. The first Old English inscription dates back to the 7th century . The Old English alphabet used the runic system (a writing system used by the Germanic peoples from about the 3rd century to the 16th century AD). It was later replaced by the Latin alphabet in the 9th century .

What is Middle English?

Middle English is the modified form of Old English with a significant change in its grammar, structure, pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling, etc. Its duration is from 1100 AD to 1500 AD (late 11th century to late 15th century), and it started after the Norman quest (1066). Middle English simplified grammatical features and reduced many grammatical cases. Middle English began to exhibit a fixed word order with an SVO sentence structure. The sentence structure in Middle English is the same as in Modern English.

The Germanic influence of Old English carried over into Middle English. But some of the words were changed as many words were borrowed from French (brought over by the Norman conquest). Most word endings were softened, blended, or missing. The main influence on the everyday vocabulary of Middle English was that of German and French. Old English dative and instrumental cases changed to prepositional constructions in Middle English. Middle English also reduced inflectional forms and Old English endings.

A writing system based on the London dialect became the standardized writing system for Middle English. It was standardized with the start of printing in England (1470). Some famous writers who wrote in Middle English are Wycliffe and Geoffrey Chaucer. In Middle English pronunciation, all letters were spoken and there was no silent letter. But at the time of Geoffrey Chaucer, the final “e” became silent. Middle English is similar to Modern English, so a Modern English speaker can understand Middle English a little.

Key differences

  1. Old English was spoken during AD 450-AD 1100; in contrast, Middle English is used during AD 1100-AD 1500
  2. Old English is the Anglo-Saxon language and the oldest historical form of the English language, while Middle English was generated from Old English after the Norman Conquest (1066).
  3. Old English developed and originated from North Sea Germanic; on the other hand, Middle English developed from Wessex.
  4. Old English has many inflectional forms of its nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs; by contrast, Middle English simplified these forms of inflection.
  5. Old English had some silent letters; on the other hand, there was no silent letter in Middle English until Chaucer’s time.
  6. Word order and sentence structure in Old English are freestyle, and words did not follow a fixed word order; on the other hand, Middle English began to exhibit a fixed word order with an SVO sentence structure.
  7. Old English was never standardized; by contrast, Late Middle English became standardized in the 15th century with the start of the printing press in England.
  8. There were dative and instrumental cases in Old English, while in Middle English, dative and instrumental cases were replaced by prepositional constructions.
  9. The main influence on Old English was Latin and the Germanic languages; conversely, the main influence on the everyday vocabulary of Middle English was that of German and French.
  10. Old English shows no similarity to Modern English; conversely, Middle English is somewhat similar to Modern English.

Final Thought

Old English and Middle English are the two different periods of the English language. Both classifications are different based on the considerable difference in their grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, and spelling.

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