Middle English External History History of the English Language
Norman Invasion (1066) • Norman Conquest of England (1066) signals the shift from Old English to Middle English. • Perhaps the most significant event in the historical development of the English Language. Without it, the English language would retained more of its Germanic characteristics (more inflections, Germanic vocabulary, word formation/compounding). • As a result the English becomes heavily influenced by French
Norman Invasion (Consequences) • As a result of the Norman Conquest, our language becomes a linguistic hybrid of two different I-E language families: Germanic and Italic (French). This creates several significant shifts: • an enormous infusion of French words (borrowing); • shifts in sounds (especially vowel sounds); • increased loss of inflections (shift from synthetic to analytic).
History Behind the Norman Conquest Normans (Northmen)— Like the Scandinavians who raided England these are Vikings who settle in Normandy in 9th - 10th centuries. Rollo (first Duke of Normandy) establishes treaty with French King (Charles the Simple) in 912 giving them official possession of the land in what is present day Normandy.
Scandinavians (Vikings) • Scandinavian (Viking) adaptability-- Like the Scandinavians who invade Anglo-Saxon England, the Normans assimilate into French culture (convert to Christianity) and adopt the French language as their own (with some alterations). • Compare to the assimilation of the Vikings in England after the establishment of the Danelaw.
The Situation in England • Aethered the Unready: Appropriately named English King; driven out of England by the Danes in 1002 and settles in Normandy (his wife is the sister of the Duke of Normandy). • His son, Edward the Confessor, grows up in Normandy and is essentially more French than English. • Ascends to the English throne in 1042 and brings his French Norman associates with him. Reigns from 1042-1066; a French atmosphere pervades the English court.
Situation in England • Edward dies in 1066 (childless). • English nobility elects Harold, Earl of West Saxon, as King that same year. • Battle of Hastings (1066)-- Harold is killed; the English are routed and the French Normans under the leadership of William take over the country.
Consequences • English nobility is wiped out, either killed or placed in exile. • Norman nobility take their place. Foreign troops brought in for support. • French becomes the official language of the English court (politics and government). • Norman clerics take over all of the English churches. • French is the language of literature and entertainment.
Consequences • For approximately 200 years (1066-1272), French becomes the official language used in the court, in the churches, and among the upper classes in England. • The number of French speaking Normans was relatively small compared to the overall English population, but they held all major positions of power.
Consequences • English is regarded as an uncultivated, inferior language or "vulgar tongue," socially inferior. • While Normans were not "hostile" toward English (did not try to eradicate it), they regarded it as the language of the masses. • Some intermixing or intermarriages evident during this era, but assimilation means learning French. General attitude of indifference toward English by the Normans. • English ceases to function as the official language of England, although it continues to thrive among the lower classes.
Consequences • Middle-Class Merchants (made up of French Normans and Englishmen) bridge the linguistic divide between the French nobility and the lower classes. • Possibility of a French-English pidgin or Creole. A pidgin is a simplified language used for communication between speakers of different languages for business, economic, or trading purposes between speakers of European and African or Asian languages. • Insufficient evidence to prove this. French and English held in tension as two distinct languages.