Episode 112: Northern Messenger

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

At the dawn of the 14th century, Edward I was forced to deal with a popular uprising in Scotland. At the same time, a poet in northern England composed the oldest surviving poem in the Northern dialect of Middle English called the Cursor Mundi. In this episode, we turn our attention to northern England and Scotland, and we examine the unique features of this northernmost dialect of Middle English.

Episode 111: Laying Down the Law

One of Edward I’s most notable accomplishments as King of England was the conquest of Wales, and his desire to extend that authority to the north of Britain led some to call him “The Hammer of the Scots.” But beyond Edward’s attempts to rule all of Britain, he is probably most well-known for his legal reforms including a series of statutes passed early in his reign. As king, Edward was the supreme judge of England. There was no appeal from his decisions. In that regard, Edward thought his legal authority extended to Scotland as well. He even used that authority to decide a dispute over the kingship of Scotland. Edward’s aggressive policies ultimately led to war with his northern neighbor, and in many respects, that war was rooted in this dispute over legal jurisdiction. This time, we’ll explore those events, and we’ll see how Edward’s legal reforms impacted the English language.

Episode 110: Dyed In the Wool

In this episode, we explore important role of the wool and cloth industries in Medieval England. Not only was England a major producer of sheep and wool, it also developed its own cloth industry in the 1300s. This was also a period in which clothing fashions were undergoing some major changes. We examine the ways in which clothing was changing, and we look at the cloth-making process. We also explore lots of words and phrases related to the traditional wool and cloth industries.

Episode 109: The Romantic Warriors

In the late 1200s, romantic literature started to be composed in English for the first time.  The oldest surviving English romance is a poem called King Horn. In this episode, we explore the poem and examine the linguistic developments revealed by the language of the poem. Then we take a look at the oldest surviving secular love song in the English language.  These developments took place during the early reign of Edward I, so we also examine the English king known as “Longshanks” and his beloved wife Eleanor.

Episode 108: On the Move

In this episode, we look at the movement of people and their money in the 13th century. This was a period when international trading networks carried goods and people to the far-flung corners of the known world. This was also the era of Genghis Khan’s Mongolian conquests and Marco Polo’s travels to China. We explore those events and consider the impact of those developments on the English language.

Episode 107: Parlez-Vous Anglais?

Even though English writing started to re-emerge in the early 1200s, government and legal documents remained the exclusive domain of Latin and French.  English finally found a voice in the English government in the mid-1200s with a series of government reforms known as the Provisions of Oxford. The population of England was informed of the reforms through a proclamation issued in English. In this episode, we explore the events leading to those reforms and the important role of English in the political maneuvering that followed.

Episode 106: An Illuminating Development

The 12th and 13th centuries saw the saw the transfer of book production from monasteries to professional bookmakers. In this episode, we look at the birth of the Medieval book trade. We also examine how early illuminators worked with color, and how early English dealt with the introduction of new colors terms into the language.

Episode 105: Suffix Summary

In this episode, we explore some of the suffixes that were in common use in the early 1200s at the time the Ancrene Wisse was composed. These include traditional Old English suffixes, as well as several new suffixes that were borrowed from French and Latin. We also examine the longevity of such suffixes in Modern English.

Episode 104: Prefix Preferences

During the early Middle English period, many loanwords from Latin and French were borrowed into English.  Very often, those loanwords came in with prefixes and suffixes that were new to the English language. Many of those new affixes appear for the first time in the Ancrene Wisse.  In this episode, we explore the decline of Old English prefixes and the rise of continental prefixes in the early Middle English period.