Language and Linguistics







English Language Samples:
Old English, Middle English, and Early Modern English

Major historical Periods of the English Language

  • Old English AD 449- AD 1066

  • Middle English 1066-1509

  • Early Modern English 1509-1755

  • Present Day English 1755-present

Old English

Her for se here of East Englum ofer Humbremuþan to Eoforwicceastre on Norþhymbre, ond þær wæs micel ungeþuærnes þære þeode betweox him selfum, ond hie hæfdun hiera cyning aworpenne Osbryht, ond ungecyndne cyning underfengon Ællan; ond hie late on geare to þam gecirdon þæt hie wiþ þone here winnende wærun, ond hie þeah micle fierd gegadrodon, ond þone here sohton æt Eoforwicceastre, ond on þa ceastre bræcon, ond hie sume inne wurdon, ond þær was ungemetlic wæl geslægen Norþanhymbra, sume binnan, sume butan; ond þa cyningas begen ofslægene, ond sio laf wiþ þone here friþ nam.

(Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, A.D. 867)


Middle English

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

(Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, c. 1400)


Early Modern English

To be, or not to be, that is the Question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the minde to suffer
The Slings and Arrowes of outragious Fortune,
Or to take Armes against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to dye, to sleepe
No more; and by a sleepe, to say we end
The Heart-ake, and the thousand Naturall shockes
That Flesh is heyre too? 'Tis a consummation
Deuoutly to be wish'd. To dye to sleepe,
To sleepe, perchance to Dreame; I, there's the rub,
For in that sleepe of death, what dreames may come,
When we haue shuffel'd off this mortall coile,
Must giue vs pawse. There's the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life

(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, c. 1600, First Folio)


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Last updated: September 4, 2018 15:42


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