[Milton-L] Language epochs

Nancy Charlton charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com
Sun Dec 9 23:40:29 EST 2018


The other day there was an article posted the a Facebook group about
volunteer archaeologists finding two letters that slipped through some
cracks at Knole, ancestral home of the Sackville family. One was on vellum,
in terrible shape, and was turned over to a team of expert restorers. The
author of the article spoke of how difficult it was to read the “Old
English.” I can’t  copy it or I’d post it here, but I replied with a very
short history of the English language. I quoted from the Beowulf as an
example of real Old English, from Chaucer as Middle English as “getting
there,” and citing poets and authors in law and science to give a taste of
progressing modernity. I cited Milton as tipping the language into becoming
easily readable by us in C 21, except for 18th C attempts to straitjacket
it into Latinate structure; I could have added that we’ve now been
Hemingwayed into such simplicity that we read the old texts with
bewilderment.

I’ve had several compliments on this, with thanks for bringing out things
many people have never heard of, as history of the language is not part of
most public school curricula.

I really backed up to get a running go at this request: could I have some
recommendations as to more information on history of English for the
general reader? It seems to be treated as a very specialized niche.

Thank you.

Nancy Charlton
Soon to be gone from Portland, Oregon.
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