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This early contribution to English literature gets its importance from three areas: First, it is a generous example of Middle English, the first major collective refinement from its Anglo-Saxon and other roots, and as such helps linguists follow the development of the language from Old English to modern English, seeing how and why spellings, inflections, etc. change. Secondly, it gives a sharp picture of society, especially non-royalty, in its satirical portraits of a wide range of characters in many occupations and with many moral views, while at the same time illustrating how the classes, especially the ranks of the church, interacted. Thirdly, as an often anthologized and studied work of literature, it serves as a readily available sample for literary study – character, dialogue, plot, travel literature, etc. It can be compared to literature in other developing languages of the same period – Boccaccio’s Decameron Nights is an Italian example ready to hand; both are collections of short stories recited to a captive audience.
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