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The Dialect of the Middle Ages

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8/23/2009 15:48:26   

I am currently writing a story set in the Middle Ages (who isn't) I was just wondering-what is your opinion on dialect back then?

Ex. "Where be the girl, heathen? If you do not divulge the information, by God's wrath, I shall rip you asunder with my holy and just blade!" That is, what I consider, typical dialect from a knight from back then.

Ex. "Where is the girl, you filth? Dern it, tell me, or else I'll slice you open without blinking a lash!" That is, an excerpt from my story. I was wondering-do you consider it acceptable?
Post #: 1
8/23/2009 15:59:26   
The Extinguisher

How middle ages? Because after a certain point, they start speaking a new language all together. Middle English is not something you want to write in.
Post #: 2
8/23/2009 16:08:09   

I am thinking around the time of the feudal system-a bunch of little warlords (kings) ruling over small pockets of alnd, with knights patrolling it, and the poor serfs always getting atxed anf beat up. So I'd say...Late 13th century, early 14th century? Something along those lines.
Post #: 3
8/23/2009 16:18:52   

Mail Moogle of AdventureQuest

Tell me, you trying BEFORE or AFTER shakespere? Like literally, you should write in shakesperean and should NOT try Old English. Want old english, try the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. Original version, that'll show you how odd it was back in the real middle ages >.>
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 4
8/23/2009 16:29:41   

So, basically, my second example could be considered post-Shakespeare, or am I missing something? I defiantly do NOT want to write everything in a flowery tone like example 1.
Post #: 5
8/23/2009 17:16:05   
The Extinguisher

It's not all flowery. They all cursed and spoke short sentences. People only think it's flowery because of Shakespeare, and literature is hardly the best place to examine how people spoke. Also, if you use the word "ye" I will hunt you down and destroy you.

But your second example sounds too much like modern-southern. Somewhere in the middle.
Post #: 6
8/23/2009 18:10:09   

Hm, thanks, great, but, eh, ye sure you want to kill me, eh? Alright, great thanks, middle, great!
Post #: 7
8/24/2009 0:12:39   

I think the trick is to write something that is modern enough that it flows with your audience, but not so modern that it screams, well, "Modern!"

If you use medieval jargon, it's like a old man trying to read 1337 speak (or me trying to write 1337). It's almost an entirely different language, and even if you know how to use it properly, your audience won't understand it. If you use terms like "thee" and "thou," you end up sounding pretentious and distracting. In fiction (with the possible exception of literary fiction), don't use prose that distracts your audience from the story.

But what is just as distracting as theeing and thouing is using phrases that are, blatantly, modern. If a character says "It's sick!", they better be saying it's ill, not saying that it's good. And if they say "It's cool!" they better be referring to the low temperature, not the fact that it's popular.

Good luck with your story. The essence is to convey what you want to convey without annoying your audience.
AQ  Post #: 8
11/8/2009 20:24:15   
Constructively Friendly!

Why not just drop hints of the language in there? A few well-chosen words can work wonders.
Post #: 9
11/23/2009 7:38:36   

Anachronisms are a thing to definitely avoid, as Firefly points out.

As for Shakespeare's verbosity, it isn't characteristic of his time for everyone to speak like the majority of the characters in his play, who spoke in Verse. Most people spoke Prose, although, judging from the demographics of the stereotypical Shakespearean audience, most would have understood both Verse and Prose.

Middle Ages is a tricky one to write now, isn't it? Too much into the nitty-gritty of archaic English and your audience gets bored due to lack of empathy, too much anachronisms (accidental or not) and the audience laughs.

Ken Follett is one of the must-read authors if you choose to go full steam ahead with your Middle Ages creative piece. Look for his book The Pillars of the Earth to get some hints on how previous authors have attempted to convey a sense of realism of the Middle Ages to their audience. However, the Pillars of the Earth may contain some sexual themes, and as such is a read for a mature audience.

Good luck my friend.

< Message edited by khalim456 -- 11/23/2009 7:40:21 >
AQ  Post #: 10
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