Pronunciation: Tips and Tricks


The pronunciation of consonants in Chaucer’s language resembles that in our own (though it is believed that Chaucer would have rolled his ‘r’s and that he would have pronounced the ‘k’ in the combination ‘kn’ as in ‘knight’).  


It is in its vowel sounds that Chaucer’s English differs significantly from the English we speak. Learning these few sounds makes it easy to pronounce Chaucer’s verse as he would have pronounced it. Listen carefully as you read along:

Middle English  Sounds like Modern 
i, y “sight, myne”  “meet” 
e, ee “me, meet, mete” (close e)  “mate” 
e “begge, rede” (open e)  “bag” 
a, aa “mate, maat”  “father” 
u, ou “hus, hous”  “boot” 
o, oo “bote, boot” (close o) oak” 
o “lof, lok” (open o)  “bought” 

The vowel sounds in the modern words used to illustrate the sounds of vowels in Middle English are directly related to those earlier sounds. In a change that took centuries (but was just beginning in Chaucer’s day), the vowels in Middle English were ‘raised’ — a physical fact and description, since, over time, the tongue was placed higher in the mouth when making these vowel sounds.