How far back in time could you go and still communicate to English-speakers in English?

Many fantasy books and films either take place in the past, or have characters traveling back in time. Take the show Outlander, for example. Ever wondered if you’d be able to speak to your town’s locals a few hundred years ago? It’s good to prepare, you know, in case you accidentally stumble upon a magical portal.

Kathy Copeland Padden, provides an excellent analysis on the subject in her article which can be found below.

Kathy Copeland’s Article

Here are some examples she brings…can you understand them? Try this challenge, from easiest to hardest:

Level One ( William Caxton, late 1400s )

“For we Englysshe men ben borne under the domynacyon of the mone, whiche is never stedfaste but ever waverynge, wexynge one season and waneth and dyscreaseth another season. And that comyn Englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a-nother …”

“For we Englishmen are born under the domination of the moon, which is never steadfast but ever wavering, waxing one season and waning and decreasing another season. And that common English that is spoken in one shire varies from another …”
Answer

Level Two ( The Canterbury Tales, 14th century )

“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour”

“When April’s gentle rains have pierced the drought

Of March right to the root, and bathed each sprout

Through every vein with liquid of such power

It brings forth the engendering of the flower”

Answer

Level Three ( The Canterbury Tales, 14th century )

If you get this one, you’re all ready for time-travel!

“Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum

þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon

hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon.”

“Listen! We — of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore,

of those clan-kings — heard of their glory,

how those nobles performed courageous deeds.”

Answer

Many fantasy books and films either take place in the past, or have characters traveling back in time. Take the show Outlander, for example. Ever wondered if you’d be able to speak to your town’s locals a few hundred years ago? It’s good to prepare, you know, in case you accidentally stumble upon a magical portal.

Kathy Copeland Padden, provides an excellent analysis on the subject in her article which can be found below.

Kathy Copeland’s Article

Here are some examples she brings…can you understand them? Try this challenge, from easiest to hardest:

Level One ( William Caxton, late 1400s )

“For we Englysshe men ben borne under the domynacyon of the mone, whiche is never stedfaste but ever waverynge, wexynge one season and waneth and dyscreaseth another season. And that comyn Englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a-nother …”

“For we Englishmen are born under the domination of the moon, which is never steadfast but ever wavering, waxing one season and waning and decreasing another season. And that common English that is spoken in one shire varies from another …”
Answer

Level Two ( The Canterbury Tales, 14th century )

“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour”

“When April’s gentle rains have pierced the drought

Of March right to the root, and bathed each sprout

Through every vein with liquid of such power

It brings forth the engendering of the flower”

Answer

Level Three ( The Canterbury Tales, 14th century )

If you get this one, you’re all ready for time-travel!

“Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum

þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon

hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon.”

“Listen! We — of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore,

of those clan-kings — heard of their glory,

how those nobles performed courageous deeds.”

Answer

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