By David Burnley (auth.)
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Additional info for A Guide to Chaucer’s Language
Nicholas finishes with the assertion: 'Thy wif shal I wel sauen out of doute' (A 3561); a phrase in which the adverbs wei and out of doute reinforce the inevitability implicit in shal. The auxiliary wol would have been quite inappropriate here, since although Nicholas would no doubt have wished to save Alisoun for his own reasons, his words are addressed to John, and are crucially aimed at winning his confidence. Nicholas's rival, Absolon, also employs the auxiliary shal in a series of clauses relating to the near future.
Like the 'intrusive r' in modern English phrases such as 'law and order', the n serves here to break the unpleasant hiatus arising from the juxtaposition of vowel sounds in neighbouring syllables. In Chaucer's language, initial h is not regarded as a true consonant, but merely as an aspiration, so that words beginning with h can be regarded as equivalent to those beginning with a vowel: This was thyn ooth and myn also certeyn; (A 1139) Allas myn hertes queene, allas my wif. (A 2775) Structurally, a number of discrepancies can be found between Chaucer's personal pronoun system and our own.
The effect is that of an emphatic pronoun: This to seye myself hath been the whippe (D 175) By contrast, the ordinary forms of the pronoun may be used in reflexive constructions: This Absolon doun sette hym on his knees (A 3723) Demonstratives Chaucer's language uses the demonstratives that and this (singular) and tho and thise (plural) together with a contracted phrase, thilke, and these present few difficulties of interpretation. But two peculiar usages demand discussion: the first is an idiosyncratic use of thislthise; the second is a use of the third-person pronoun in a quasi-demonstrative function.
A Guide to Chaucer’s Language by David Burnley (auth.)