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Carefully, go through the three English translations of the Parable of the Sower (the final one
will be the easiest to understand). In 500 words describe some of the linguistic changes
between the three passages. You may focus on any two aspects of language – phonology,
morphology, word choice, syntax, – or on a mix of all. But be specific and accurate, using
appropriate examples from the text.
Luke 8:5–15:
Old English (West-Saxon Gospels, early eleventh-century); see below for a literal translation
5) Sum man his sǣd sēow, þa he þæt sēow sum fēoll wið þone weġ ond wearð fortreden, ond
heofones fugulas hit frǣton. 6) And sum fēoll ofer þone stān ond hit forscranc forþam þe hit
wǣtan næfde. 7) ond sum fēoll on þa þornas, ond þa þornas hit forþrysmodon. 8) And sum
fēoll on gōde eorðan, ond worhte hundfealde wæstm. … 11) Sōðlice þis is þæt bīspell, þæt
sǣd is godes word; þa ðe sind wið þæne weġ, þæt sind þa þe ġehȳrað. 12) Syððan se dēofol
cymþ, ond ætbryt þæt word of hira heortan þæt hī þurh þone ġelēafan hāle ne ġewurðað. 13)
Ða ðe sind ōfer þone stān þa þæt word mid ġefēan onfōð, ond þa nabbað wyrtruman forþam
þe hī hwīlum ġelȳfað, ond āwaciaþ on þære costnunge tīman. 14) Ðæt sǣd þe fēoll on þa
ðornas þæt sind þa ðe ġehȳraþ, ond of carum ond of welum ond of lustum þiss lifes sind
forþrysmede, ond nanne wæstm ne bringað. 15) Þæt fēoll on ða gōdan eorðan, þæt sind þa ðe
on gōdre ond on selestre heortan ġehȳrende þæt word healdað ond wæstm on ġeþylde
Middle English (Wycliffite, late fourteenth-century)
5) He that sowith, yede out to sowe his seed. And while he sowith, sum fel bisidis the weie,
and was defoulid, and briddis of the eir eten it. 6) And othir fel on a stoon, and it sprunge vp,
and driede, for it hadde not moysture. 7) And othir fel among thornes, and the thornes
sprongen vp togider, and strangliden it. 8) And othir fel in to good erthe, and it sprungun
made an hundrid foold fruyt. … 11) And this is the parable. 12) The seed is Goddis word; and
thei that ben bisidis the weie, ben these that heren; and aftirward the feend cometh, and takith
awei the word fro her herte, lest thei bileuynge be maad saaf. 13) But thei that fel on a stoon,
ben these that whanne thei han herd, resseyuen the word with ioye. And these han not rootis;
for at a tyme thei bileuen, and in tyme of temptacioun thei goen awei. 14) But that that fel
among thornes, ben these that herden, and of bisynessis, and ritchessis, and lustis of lijf thei
gon forth, and ben stranglid, and bryngen forth no fruyt. 15) But that that fel in to good erthe,
ben these that, in a good herte, and best heren the word, and holdun, and brengen forth fruyt
in pacience.
Early Modern English (King James, 1611)
5) A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was
trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6) And some fell upon a rock; and as soon
as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7) And some fell among
thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8) And other fell on good ground, and
sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. … 11) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word
of God. 12) Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away
the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13) They on the rock are
they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a
while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14) And that which fell among thorns are
they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and
pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15) But that on the good ground are
they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit
with patience.
Translation of Old English
Note: This is a fairly literal translation that should be used as a guide to match up the
specific words in each version. Do not use this translation for a description of language
change. Much of the Old English can be figured out if you know the modern English
equivalent provided here.
5) Some man sowed his seed; when he sowed that seed, some fell along the path and was
stepped on, and heaven’s birds ate it. 6) And some fell over the stone and it withered because
it did not have water. 7) And some fell into the thorns and the thorns suffocated it. 8) And
some fell into good earth, and produced hundredfold fruit. … 11) Truly, this is the parable:
that seed is God’s word; those, which are along the path, that are those who hear. 12)
Afterwards the Devil comes and takes away that word from their heart so that they do not
become saved through the faith. 13) Those, which are over the stone, receive that word with
joy and do not have roots because they believe for a while and weaken in the temptation of
time. 14) That seed, which fell into the thorns, that are those who hear hear, and from cares
and from riches and from desires of this life are suffocated, and produce no fruit. 15) That
[seed, which] fell into the good earth, that are those who, in good and in the best heart,
hearing that word, hold [it] and produce fruit in patience.



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