Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
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.)
You probably need to do some reading in the methodology of historical linguistics, and also in the history of English.
This is not an easy matter thing to study on your own, and you would benefit from a teacher. Can you sign up for any courses online or at a local university?
Orrm had a brilliant mind (though his poetry is deadly dull), and a good ear for phonetics. He is an important source for information of Middle English pronunciation because he is so explicit and systematic in his spelling. He used a doubled consonant (as in his name) to signal a short preceding vowel. Have you seen The Ormulum Project (http://www2.english.su.se/nlj/ormproj/ormulum.htm)?
You can hear a bit of the Orrmulum at: <a href='http://www.palgrave.com/language/freeborn/site/' target='_blank'>http://www.palgrave.com/language/freeborn/site/</a>
(The book is worth buying too).
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