John Trevisa

In 1385 John Trevisa translated from Latin into English Ranulph Higden's Polychronicon, including and expanding Higden's comments on the state of the English Language:


As hit is yknowe how many maner people beth in this ylond,
ther beth also of so many people longages and tonges.
Notheles Walschmen and Scottes, that beth noght y-melled
with other nacions, holdeth wel nigh here furste
longage and speche, bot yif Scottes, that were som time
confederat and wonede with the Pictes, drawe somwhat
after here speche. Bote the Fleminges that woneth in
the west side of Wales, habbeth yleft here strange
speche and speketh Saxonlych ynow. Also Englischmen,
theigh hy hadde fram the beginning three maner speche,
Southeron, Northeron, and Middel speche in the middel
of the lond, as hy come of three maner people of Germania,
notheles by commixstion and melling, furst with
Danes and afterward with Normans, in many the contray
longage is apeired, and som useth strange wlaffyng,
chytering, harryng, and garryng grisbittyng.
This apeiring of the burth-tonge is because of twey
thinges. One is for children in scole, ayenes the usage and
manere of al other nacions, beth compelled for to leve here
owne longage and for to construe here lessons and ther thinges
a Freynsch, and habbeth siththe the Normans come furst
into Engelond. Also gentil men chlidren beth ytaught for to
speke Freynsch from time that a beth yrokked in here cradel
and conneth speke and play with a child his brouch; and
oplondysch men wol likne hamsilf to gentil men, and fondeth
with gret bisynes for to speke Freynsch, for to be more
ytold of.

This maner was moche y-used tofore the furste moreyn,
and is siththe somdel y-chaunged. For John Cornwal, a
maister of gramere, changede the lore in gramer-scole
and construccion of Freynsch into Englysch; and Richard
Pencrych lurned that maner of teching of him, and other
men of Pencrych, so that now, the year of oure Lord a
thousand three hondred foure score and five, of the
secund Kyng Richard after the Conquest nine, in the
gramer-scoles of Engelong children leveth Frensch
and construeth and lurneth an Englisch, and habbeth
therby avauntage in on side and desavauntage in
another. Here avauntage is that a lurneth here gramere
in lasse time than children wer y-wonded to do.
Disavauntage is that now childern of gramer-scole conneth
no more Frensch than can here left heele, and that
is harm for ham and a scholle passe the se and travaile
in strange londes, and in many caas also. Also gentil men
habbeth nowe moche y-left for to teche here childern Frensch.

. . .

Al the longage of the North-humbres, and specialich at York,
is so scharp, slytting, and frotyng and unschape
that we Southeron men may that longage unnethe understand.
Y trowe that that is bicause that a beth nigh to strange
men and aliens, that speketh straungelich, and also because
that the kinges of Engelond woneth alwey fer from that

except that
wonede = dwelled
here = their

ynow = enough
though they

hy = they
mixture and mingling
many cases the country
impaired. . . stammering
chattering, snarling,
and grating gnashing of teeth
impairment. . . two

a = in

a = they

provincial. . . try



construe. . . on = in
on = one
here = their. . . a = they
children. . . know

ham = them. . . and a = if they

piercing, and rasping, and unshapely