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Something else to add to your site would be the linguistic repercussions
of 1066. I wrote a short research paper on it and it is very
interesting. This was the time in which Old English turned to Middle
English, losing some of its linguistic complexities and adding about
20,000 French words to the vocabulary.

Here is a portion of my paper is you are interested...If not ignore it
and be on your merry way.

This complex and richly developed language was intensely changed by one single event in history and its results. In the year 1045, King Edward of England married with no resulting heir. This created the inevitable question of who would be his successor. Edward, residing most of his young life in Normandy, had created a bonding friendship between himselfand William, Duke of Normandy. In 1051, when it bacame apparent that Edward would father no children, he promised the throne of England to William. However the Witan, a controlling power in England, had other ideas for the crown. When Edward fell ill, the Witan appointed an official named Harold as the future king. Edward died and Harold was crowned king of England. He was ironically thought of a being "capable of dealing with any invasion from Norway or Normandy" (Partridge 152). In 1066, refusing to let go of his claim to the throne, William invadedEngland and conquered Harold at the Battle of Hastings. William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day, 1066 (Partridge 153). From 1066 to 1204, French nobility moved to England from Normandy and other French regions to establish themselves as the new noble class. With them came their culture (including feudalism) and, most importantly, their language ("Middle English"). Rapidly, French became the language of the ruling and upper classes while English was reduced to the language of the commoners (Finnegan 524). All important events, such as governmental, legal and religious affairs, were all conducted in French. English as a language was conquered by the more "prestigious" French language. Even schools were taught in either Latin or French ("Middle English").
The linguistic result of the Norman Conquest was radical. English,
especially the dialect of West Saxon, was demoted from a position of
power to a spoken vernacular language of the lower classes. England
became, for a time, a bilingual state in that Middle class learned to
speak both English and French in order to communicated with the lower
and upper classes ("Middle English"). This drop in status removed any
cultural pressure for uniformity in the language, allowing it to change
and evolve into the language of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Thousands of "loan" words were added to the English lexicon between 1066and the 1400’s. The major contributing languages were French (Norman and Parisian dialects) and Scandinavian. Many words having to do with courtwere borrowed from French (the word "court" included). Some examples are judgment, plea, verdict, evidence, proof, and prison. (Finnegan 524). Norman French "donated" words like "catch" and "reward" while Parisian French gave words such as, " chase" and "guarantee." Strangely, in giving English all the words revolving around legal matters, French failed to loan the word "law," which was provided by Scandinavian ("Middle English"). In addition to a flood of borrowed words, English experienced many other changes in the conversion from Old to Middle. Pronunciation underwent considerable transformation. While most of the long vowels remained the same, the long "a" became a long "o" as in ‘boon’ (bone) and ‘stoon’ (stone). All the short vowels were eventually replaced with a schwa   (/ /). Many diphthongs were simplified in the transition. The words son became ‘see’ and bon became ‘be’ thus illustrating the shift of the long /e/ sound to an /i/ in Modern English. The sound /dg/ began to be used as the initial sound of a word like judge or juice ("Modern English"). Also consonant clusters were simplified, dropping the /h/ in front of an /l/,/n/, /k/ or /r/. Therefore, hlot became lot, hnecca became neck, cnif became (k)nife and cnoll became (k)noll (Finnegan525). Certain vowel/ consonant clusters reversed, or experienced metathesis, creating bird from brid, thirst from thrist, and first from frist ("Middle English").
French influence greatly effected the orthography of Middle English. The letter combinations hw became wh, cw became qu and sc became sh. The Old English letters of and t were replaced with the letter combination of th and was replaced by the letter a. New letter combinations wereintroduced giving words like thief (ie), phantom (ph) and pick (ck) ("Middle English"). Inflection was greatly effected by phonological shifts in the language. Some sets of inflection were so changed that they became indistinguishable after the transition. Noun and Adjective paradigms were reduced in complexity and gender disappeared altogether. The remnants of the noun case system was reflected in such irregular plural nouns as deer/deeres/deere and loor/loore. Also, nouns were beginning to be used as verbs as in "to fish" ("Middle English"). Along with the other cases, the rich adjectival inflection of Old English was also lost in the transition. The only forms to survive the change were few and after a while they too disappeared as well (Finnegan 527). Middle English was a transitional period, syntactically speaking, because the inflectional cases were slowly disappearing, taking with them the flexible word order and leaving an increasingly rigid syntax. In the 12th century the combination of S-V-O and S-O-V work order was lost in favor of the sole use of S-V-O even in a subordinate clause as is the case with the following Middle English
phrase: But in tat contree tere is a cursed custom…
(that) (there)

In the centuries that followed the Norman Invasion, the English language made a slow but steady return to its former status. In 1204, possession of Normandy was lost by King John, removed from his position as Duke of Normandy by the King of France. England therefore no longer was connected to France in any way. Fifty years later the remaining French nobles on English soil declared themselves English and made an effort to adopt the language of their new homeland. In 1348 the Plague hit England, wiping out the peasantry and ending feudalism. As a result, the remaining serfs entered the already forming guilds in the cities. As they elevated in society, their language (English) went with them. Finally, the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 firmly reestablished the lower class and the English language among the middle class, therefore regaining the power that had been lost for the last three centuries ("Middle English"). The long and rich history of the English language is highlighted by many events which havedistanced it forever from its Germanic origins. The most important of these events was the Norman Conquest. Not only did the Invasion change English society, it completely altered the ensemble of the language. Inflection was defused, creating a stricter work order, verb paradigms were simplified and orthography was transformed. The importance and grandeur of change is demonstrated by the unintelligibility of Old English as compared with Middle English.


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copyright Glen Ray Crack - Battle - East Sussex - United Kingdom
Submitted 10th January 1998
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