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Nonstandard English in "the Canterbury Tales"

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Pascaru Anastasia-Elena

German- English

Nonstandard English in “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer

Nonstandard English refers to any dialect of English other than Standard English and is sometimes referred to as nonstandard dialect or non-standard variety. The term Nonstandard English is sometimes used disapprovingly by non-linguists to describe "bad" or "incorrect" English.”[1].

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories and has over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer. „Tales of Caunterbury” is the original title in Middle English that Geoffrey Chauser has written between 1387 and 1400.

Chaucer is known for metrical advance and originality, inventing the „rhyme royal”. He was one of the first English poets to use the five-stress line, which was converted into a standard poetic form in English. The poetry of Chaucer is attributed as one of the most relevant tools that facilitated the standardization of the London Dialect of the Middle English Language. This author is recognized in the Oxford English Dictionary as the first author to use several widespread English words in manuscripts.

Chaucer is known as the starting point of the English vernacular usage. He is also considered the „father” of modern English literature. His achievement establishment of a vernacular literature in different parts of Europe. Though Chaucer’s language is similar to Modern English it is vastly different from modern publications.

He had become Controllor of Customs and Justice of Peace in 1386. After two years had become Cleark of the King’s work. In this period Geoffrey Chaucer started working on his most famous text, „The Canterbury Tales”.

His tales are presented as a part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return. The tales are mostly written in verse, although some are in prose.

Geoffrey Chaucer uses the tales and descriptions of it characters to paint an ironic and critical portait of English society in that time, particularly the church. Although the characters are fictional, they still offer a variety of insights into customs and practices of the time. Such insight leads to a variety of discussions and disagreements among people in the 14th century.

Although various social classes are represented in these stories and all of he pilgrims are on a spiritual quest, it is apparent that they are more concerned with wordly things than spiritual.

It has been suggested that the greatest contribution of „The Canterbury Tales” to English literature was the popularisation of the English vernacular in mainstream literature, as opposed to French, Italian or Latin. English had been used as a literary language centuries before Chaucer’s time.

Chaucer wrote in a language that is now known as Middle English. It is the immediate precursor to Modern English, the language that we speak today.

Middle English comes into begin in the 12th century as the Normans and the Anglo Saxons interact in the wake of the Norman Conquest. In the wake of the Norman Conquest, Anglo Saxon peasant women and French Norman soldiers routinely intermarried. In such households, the husband spoke Anglo Saxon. Their children would speak a combination of the two parent languages.  The Norman Invasion brought radical changes in English and the transition from Old English to Middle English (1100- 1450).

Due to the influence of the Roman Empire the Western dialect of Germanic which later gave rise to English, Dutch and German borrowed a large number of Latin words in the first few centuries AD.

Examples from the text. honor: honor, esteem, public office; in (+ acc. ): into, toward, against; labor: hardship, fatigue, distress; magnificence: magnificentia; reverence: reverential; dominus: domain, dominate; large: largus, generous, plentiful.

Germanic borrowings. Due to the contact and mixing with Old Norse, there were two important effects in the language of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain. Examples from the text: man (from manni-people), Lord, Worthy.

French borrowings: science, merveille- marvellous; Anglo-French: large- broad, wide, generous; reverence, magnificence, storie- tale, virtue- vertu

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