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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Ormulum's English
Question: I have a big interest in historical languages. One of them in
particular is Middle English. I have studied the pronunciation of
Chaucer's Middle English, which was a later version of the London
dialect of Middle English. One day, I was reading about Middle
English, and I came across the subject Ormulum. After some
research, I found that the poem was composed in a very early
version of the East Midlands dialect of Middle English. I also
read that the unique orthography and alliterative nature of the
poem preserved much of the pronunciation found in the language in
that dialect at that time, which has allowed linguists to
reconstruct the pronunciation of the dialect at that time.

Now, I have two questions: How did linguists reconstruct the
pronunciation of Ormulum's version of the language? and What was
the pronunciation of Ormulum's version of the lanuguage?

(It would be greatly appreciated if links were provided, along
with a chart for the pronunciation. It would be great if I could
also get a crash course in sound reconstruction.)

Reply: Linguists use clues like rhyme and alliteration to figure out what the pronunciation
was at the time a poem was written. We also use comparisons with other related
languages.

It would be great if we had the time to give you a crash course in historical linguistics,
but we on the Ask-a-Linguist panel are a group of unpaid volunteers. If you go to
scholar.google.com and input the search terms pronunciation historical
reconstruction, you will get at least 100 hits, which include a number of books on
historical linguistics. Best of luck with your avocation.

Reply From: Susan D Fischer      click here to access email
 
Date: 24-Nov-2012
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Ormulum's English    Nancy J. Frishberg     (26-Nov-2012)
  2. Re: Ormulum's English    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (02-Dec-2012)
  3. Re: Ormulum's English    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (24-Nov-2012)

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