During the Middle English period, scribes developed a variety of spelling innovations to distinguish the sound of the various vowels. Some of those innovations were borrowed from French, and some were native to English. In this episode, we explore those spelling techniques, many of which still survive in Modern English.
The Middle English document called the Ormulum is a goldmine for historical linguists because the text explicitly indicated how the vowel sounds in the text were to be pronounced. The text was written at a time when the vowels in many words were changing. Some long vowels were being pronounced as short vowels, and vice versa. The Ormulum captured many of these changes for posterity. In this episode, we explore the concept of long vowels and short vowels, and we see how Modern English uses many of the same spelling innovations first documented in the Ormulum.