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Some Changes in the English Language: Chaucer in the Middle

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  • Mon 23 Mar ’15, 12:15pm – 1:00pm


National Library of New Zealand, 70 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Wellington


All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Free Admission

This event is part of The Book Beautiful exhibition currently on at the Turnbull Gallery.

Ye know ek that in forme of speche is chaunge
Withinne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden pris, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem, and yet thei spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Ek for to wynnen love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry ben usages.

(Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, 2. 22-28)

Chaucer in the middle
One beautiful book in the current exhibition is The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, illustrated by Edward Burne-Jones, and published by William Morris and his Kelmscott Press in 1896. Chronologically, Chaucer (1340?-1400) lived roughly half way between the earliest surviving written English and our own day.

In today’s talk Robert Easting will read some Anglo-Saxon (Old English), Chaucer (Middle English), and Shakespeare (Early Modern English) in their ‘original’ pronunciations, and consider briefly how the language of Chaucer fits amid the ‘chaunge / Withinne a thousand yeer’.

Old English (700-1100), Early Modern English (1500-1700), Middle English (1100-1500), Modern English (1700-today)

Emeritus Professor Robert Easting
Emeritus Professor Robert Easting, MA, DPhil (Oxon.), was born and grew up in the UK, then taught English Language and Literature at Victoria University of Wellington 1973-2010. His research publications focus on medieval European visionary literature in Latin and Middle English.

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