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14-Aug-2017 15:30

Detail from Robert of Gretham, Mirur, in Anglo-Norman (WLC/LM/4, f.57v) The earliest literary document in English in the University of Nottingham’s collections is a fragment from the life of St Bridget, from the South English Legendary, composed in the late thirteenth century.The scribe uses the Anglo-Saxon letters ‘yogh’ for ‘y’ or ‘g’ (ȝ) and thorn for ‘th’ (þ).Three different languages were in use in England in the later medieval period – Middle English, Anglo-Norman (or French) and Latin.Authors made choices about which one to use, and often used more than one language in the same document.The introduction to the passage is in Latin, and reads 'Gower, qui Anglicus est, sua verba Gallica …excusat' ('Gower, who is English, makes excuse for his French words').His explanation concludes that everybody, both the educated (‘lered’) and unschooled (‘lewed’), old and young, can understand the English tongue.

Many legal terms still in existence today derive from French, such as 'attorney', 'bailiff' and 'defendant'.The theologian John Wycliffe began to translate the Bible into English in the late fourteenth century, but the Lollard movement with which he was associated was persecuted by the authorities, so late medieval Bibles in English are rare.



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