Language Change - Middle English

  • Created by: mvolpe
  • Created on: 17-04-16 14:23


- in 1066, William the Conquerer invaded southern England and defeated the Anglo-Saxon rulers
- He redistributed the local land among the Norman noblemen, who then employed peasants to work the land for them
- The Normans brought the language of the courts and law, with words such as court, judge, justice, accuse, arrest, sentence, appeal, condemn, plaintiff, bailiff, jury, felony, verdict, traitor, contract, damage, and prison
-  Matters relating to the crown and royalty also took on Norman words, such as crown, castle, prince, count, duke, viscount, baron, noble, sovereign, and heraldry
- Government and administration gained parliament, government, governor, and city (among others)
- The battle that came from the Norman's invasion had to be retold by the victorious French, so many words relating to battle and combat became French, such as army, armour, archer, battle, soldier, guard, courage, peace, enemy, and destroy
- The theme of authority and control was pervasive among the jubilant Normans, so they oh so kindly handed down a few words on the matter, such as authority, obedience, servant, peasant, vassal, serf, labourer, and charity
- The Norman Nobles lived a life of high luxury, introducing many 'decadent' words such as mansion, money, gown, boot, beauty, mirror, jewel, appetite, banquet, herb, spice, sauce, roast, and biscuit
- Art and literature from the continent were given new Anglo-Norman terms, like art, colour, language, literature, poet, chapter, and question
- The common man spoke English while the ruling upper classes were speaking Norman French, so a disparity began to grow
- The governments were made to speak Norman French like their European king, so a lot of legal discourse comes from Latin
- It's worth noting that the Normans spoke a rural dialect of French, which also has Germanic influences, so assimilation of this strain of French was not as difficult as other, southern dialects could have been
-The Normans brought around 10,000 French words into English, such as nearly all words ending with “-age”, “-ance/-ence”, “-ant/-ent”, “-ment”, “-ity” and “-tion”, or starting with the prefixes “con-”, “de-”, “ex-”, “trans-” and “pre-”.
- English was dropped as a written language, as all instances where English would be used (such as works of the literate upper classes, use in the church, and in legal systems), it was decreed that French should be used instead. This resulting lack of restraints on the English language allowing for rapid language development. English speaking commoners were able to bridge the gaps between dialects such as West Saxon English and Kentish, and the language became more unified among the lower classes
- Different trades took on new names. Humble, less skilled trades kept their given English names, such as shoemaker, baker, and miller. In contrast, more skilled traders that normally catered to aristocracy took on French names, like mason, painter, tailor, and merchant
- Interestingly, cuts of meat now have a different name to the animal from which they came due to the class divide between the farmers that tended to the animals and


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