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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: I will not be able to give you the details about Ormulum's pronunciation, as my areas of
expertise do not extend to this level of detail in the history of English. However, I am
familiar with the principles of historical reconstruction, and methods for working with a
text (or even better recording, though outside the range of technologies available so

You will want to use the terms "historical reconstruction" and perhaps "linguistics" in a
search engine to find descriptions of methods used. But it's quite possible that there is
no crash course adequate for your needs online. Wikipedia's articles about Historical
Linguistics, Comparative Method, and Sound Change will be useful. And most
introductory linguistics books include 1-2 chapters on historical change, where you're
most interested in phonological change.

Hope this helps.

Reply From: Nancy J. Frishberg      click here to access email
Date: 26-Nov-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Ormulum's English    Susan D Fischer     (24-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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