Back to top

Principles of Reading

In these readings we have not intended to achieve full phonetic correctness: instead, we have tried to adhere to what could be called the conservative standard, adopted – with greater or lesser consistency – by most readers of Chaucer. Some rules and strategies:
1.   Vowels are sounded as in Modern German or a Romance language: short a as in Modern German "Mann" (not modern English "hat"); short o as in "long" or Modern German "Gott"; short u as in "put," not "putt." (In a handful of words – love, sonne, etc. – the o is pronounced as the vowel of “put.”) Au has the sound of ou in "loud"; ou that of oo in "food”, and in some words that of ow in “blow.”
2.   Consonants: in knyht or knowe both k and n are pronounced; in nyht or knyht the h is close to ch in Modern German "Ich"; in schame the sch is like Modern English sh; in half the l is audible.
3.   In words drawn from French or Latin (vengance, daunger, passage, marchant, nature, comune, paleis) the main stress may occur at the end, as it tends to do in French (natúre), or occur earlier, as in Modern English (náture). But Gower also uses the French forms of words (histoire, memoire, remue, solein, surmont, symplesce) which Chaucer would typically Anglicize, or avoid.
4.   Minor differences depend on the reader's pronunciation or grammatical/metrical judgement. For instance, unstressed terminal -e (when its sounding is justified by the grammar and meter) can be realised in different ways. It may be reduced to resemble the final vowel of Modern English "Cuba" or "sofa," or it may be closer to the e of Modern English "bed" or "neck".