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An Introduction to Middle English 

An Introduction to Middle English

Grammar and Texts

Written by: R.D. Fulk

Publication Date: April 17, 2012
500pp • Paperback / PDF
ISBN: 9781551118949 / 1551118947

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An Introduction to Middle English combines an elementary grammar of the English language from about 1100 to about 1500 with a selection of texts for reading, ranging in date from 1154 to 1500. The grammar includes the fundamentals of orthography, phonology, morphology, syntax, regional dialectology, and prosody. In the thirty-eight texts for reading are represented a wide range of Middle English dialects, and the commentary on each text includes, in addition to explanatory notes, extensive linguistic analysis.

The book includes many useful figures and illustrations, including images of Middle English manuscripts as an aid to learning to decipher medieval handwriting and maps indicating the geographical extent of dialect features. This introduction to Middle English is based on the latest research, and it provides up-to-date bibliographical guidance to the study of the language.


"This is an astoundingly rich book, which replaces in one fell swoop all other introductions to Middle English. Fulk has magisterially digested the sometimes dramatic developments of the past fifty years and presents the reader with a comprehensive, lucid and elegantly written account of the grammar of Middle English, its syntax, and its dialect variations. The core of the book is a fine anthology of Middle English texts, ranging from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, girded with insightful commentaries and a selective glossary. Fulk's Introduction is to last a generation, and more." - Rolf Bremmer, Leiden University

"Middle English is not taught as often as it should be. Thanks to this exciting new Introduction to Middle English, it may see a revival! The book consists of a detailed and sophisticated, yet thoroughly enjoyable, Grammar. It also contains excerpts from 38 texts organized in a chronological order. The excerpts are well chosen and each is introduced and followed by insightful linguistic commentary and notes. A glossary completes the book. This Introduction will appeal to students of linguistics and literature alike." - Elly Van Gelderen, Arizona State University

R.D. Fulk is the Class of 1964 Chancellor's Professor of English at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Table of Contents: [Back to Top]



History, Orthography, and Pronunciation

  1. Historical Overview
  2. Orthography


  1. Stress and Syllables
  2. Stressed Vowels
  3. Vowels in Syllables of Lesser Stress
  4. Consonants


  1. Nouns
  2. Adjectives
  3. Numerals
  4. Pronouns and Articles
  5. Verbs

Syntax and Semantics

  1. Historical Overview
  2. The Noun Phrase and Its Elements
  3. The Prepositional Phrase
  4. The Verb Phrase
  5. The Clause

Regional Dialectology

Poetic Form


Reading Texts

Twelfth Century

  1. The Peterborough Chronicle  
  2. The Soul's Address to the Body  
  3. The Ormulum  
  4. Poema Morale  

Thirteenth Century

  1. Ancrene Wisse  
  2. Laȝamon, Brut  
  3. Kentish Sermons  
  4. The Physiologus  
  5. Seinte Marherete  
  6. The Proverbs of Alfred  
  7. The 1258 Proclamation of Henry III  
  8. The Fox and the Wolf  
  9. Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?  
  10. The Thrush and the Nightingale   
  11. King Horn  
  12. The Owl and the Nightingale  
  13. Havelok  
  14. The Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester  

Fourteenth Century

  1. Cursor Mundi  
  2. Robert Mannyng of Brunne, Handlyng Synne  
  3. Michael of Northgate, Ayenbyte of Inwyt  
  4. Laurence Minot, The Siege of Calais  
  5. Richard Rolle, Three Exempla  
  6. The Stanzaic Morte Arthur  
  7. Patience  
  8. The Alliterative Morte Arthure  
  9. William Langland, Piers Plowman  
  10. John Barbour, The Bruce  
  11. John of Trevisa's Translation of Ranulph Higden's Polychronicon  
  12. Petition of the Company of Mercers of London to Parliament (1388)  
  13. John Gower, Confessio Amantis  
  14. Geoffrey Chaucer, The Nun's Priest's Tale, from The Canterbury Tales  

Fifteenth Century

  1. Thomas Hoccleve, La male regle  
  2. John Lydgate, The Siege of Thebes  
  3. The Book of Margery Kempe  
  4. Margaret Paston, Two Letters to John Paston I (1444, 1448)  
  5. The Wakefield Second Shepherds' Play  
  6. Robert Henryson, The Testament of Cresseid  




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An Introduction to Middle English

2012 • 500pp • Paperback • 9781551118949 / 1551118947

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Broadview Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, and also acknowledges the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. Freehand Books, an imprint of Broadview, acknowledges the support of the Canadian Council of the Arts.