PART II (Middle English). The Norman conquest: The Normans were from Scandinavia (‘North men’) but rapidly adopted French civilization and the French language. Æþelred the Unready, when driven into exile by the Danes, took refuge in Normandy (1002).
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(1) When and how did the upper class learn English?
(2) How far down in the social scale was a knowledge of French at all general?
“The English-speaking majority among the population of some ninety percent did not unlearn their English after the advent of French, nor did they intentionally modify its structures on the French pattern–as Renaissance writers modelled their language on Latin. Influence of French on inflections and, by and large, on syntactical sturctures cannot be proved, but appears unlikely from what we know about bilingualism in Middle English times.” (Görlach 1986)
the bills presented to the justices in eyre at the close of the 13th c.
and Walter of Bibbesworth’s treatise (c. 1250) (http://www.anglo-norman.net/texts/bibbes-contents.html)
Riʒt is,þat Inglische Inglische vnderstond,
Þat was born in Inglond;
Freynsche vse þis gentilman,
Ac euerich Inglische can.
Mani noble ich haue yseiʒe
Þat no Freynsche couþe seye.
(Arthur and Merlin, c. 1325)
one reason was to the Black Death (1349-50), which resulted in a shortage of labour (see also the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt).
The Opening of Parliament in English (although statues were enrolled in French, which had supplanted Latin around 1300, until the 15th c.). English also appears at this time in the acts of towns and guilds (which had been in French alongside Latin).
The Statue of Pleading (all lawsuits to be conducted in English, although enrolled in Latin)
((modernised) translation of a Latin memorandum recording the Brewers’ Guild of London’s 1422 decision to use English as the language of their accounts and proceedings)
1150-1250 the Period of Religious Record:
The Ancrene Riwle, The Ormulum (but also Layamon’s Brut, The Owl and the Nightingale)
1250-1350 Period of Religious and Secular Literature (numerous romances)
1350-1400 Period of Great Individual Writers: Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400), John Gower, William Langland, John Wycliffe (d. 1384), the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
15th c. the Imitative/Transition Period: John Lydgate, Thomas Hoccleve, John Skelton, Stephen Hawes; Thomas Malory, William Caxton; the Scottish Chaucerians (Robert Henryson, William Dunbar, Gawin Douglas, David Lindsay)
William of Malmesbury, De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum (‘About the acts of the bishops of the English’; c. 1125): harshness of the Yorkshire dialect, incomprehensible to Southerners.
Giraldus Cambrensis, Description of Wales (12th c.), Bk. I, ch. 6: the language of Devonshire perceived as more archaic and less agreeable.
The author of the Cursor Mundi (‘The Runner of the World’, i.e. the text ‘runs over’ the history of the word; c. 1300) ‘translates’ a story from southern English into northern English.
for men of þe est wiþ men of þe west, as it were vnder þe same partie of heuene, acordeþ more in sownynge of speche þan men of þe norþ wiþ men of þe souþ; þerfore it is þat Mercii, þat beeþ men of myddel Engelond, as it were parteners of þe endes, vnderstondeþ bettre þe side langages, Norþerne and Souþerne, þan Norþerne and Souþerne vnderstondeþ eiþer oþer.
Al þe longage of þe Norþumbres, and specialliche at ʒork, is so scharp, slitting [=harsh], and frotynge [=grating] and vnschape [=formless], þat we souþerne men may þat longage vnneþe vnderstonde.
Chaucer (in Troilus and Criseyde):
And for ther is so gret diversite
In Englissh, and in writyng of oure tonge,
So prey I god that non myswrite the,
Ne the mys-metre for defaute of tonge.
Oure maunciple, I hope he wil be deed.
Northern: hope = think
Southern: hope = hope
... loke wel þatt he an boc staff wríte twiʒʒess,
... look well that he a letter write twice
Eʒʒwhær þær itt upp o þiss boc is wrǐtten o þatt wise.
everywhere there it up on this book is written on that way
see also PDE: written vs. write
Orm doubles the consonant after a vowel (or uses over the vowel) to mark it short.
He doesn’t double the consonant (or uses over the vowel) to mark it as long.
And for as moche as this present booke is not for a rude vplondyssh man to laboure therin ne rede it but onely for a clerke & a noble gentylman that feleth and vnderstondeth in faytes of armes in loue, & in noble chyualrye Therfor in a meane moderate and readable terms bytwene bothe, I haue reduced & translated this sayd booke in to our englysshe, not ouer rude ne curyous, but in suche termes as shall be vnderstanden, by goddys grace, accordynge to my copye.
This part in our maker or Poet must be heedyly looked vnto, that it be naturall, pure, and the most vsuall of all his countrey: and for the same purpose ratherthat which is spoken in the kings Court, or in the good townes and Cities within the land, then in the marches and frontiers, or in port townes, where straungers haunt for traffike sake, or yet in Vniuersities where Scholers vse much peeuish affectation of words out of the primatiue languages, or finally, in any vplandish village or corner of a Realme, where is no resort but of poore rusticall or vnciuill people: neither shall he follow the speach of a craftes man or carter, or other of the inferiour sort, though he be inhabitant or bred in the best town and Citie in this Realme, for such persons do abuse good speaches by strange accents or illshapen soundes, and false ortographie. But he shall follow generally the better brought vp sort, such as the Greekes call [charientes] men ciuill and graciously behauoured and bred.
Changes in morphology and syntax, see also Companion 7.4, 7.6-7.10.
These changes were not ‘caused’ by the Norman Conquest. Rather, the Norman Conquest accelerated already existing changes, which could now go forward unchecked (see B&C: 167).
-m > -n > ø
-a, -u, -e, -an, -um > -e 
-e extended by analogy to the Nom. Sing. e.g. OE stān > ME stone
-(e)s taken to be a marker of plurality alongside –en, the latter being initially favoured in the south
all distinctions are lost (the Nom. form is used) except with short monosyllables ending in a consonant
sē, sēo, þæt tho (until Elizabethan times), the, that
þēs, þēos, þis this, these, those
- the dative replaces the accusative
- reduction in the number of strong verbs. One third died out early in the ME period. More than half have now disappeared from the standard language (and even those which have survived have undergone changes). This has been due e.g. to the analogical extensions of weak forms.
E.g. bow, brew, burn, climb, flee, flow, help, mourn, row, step, walk, weep
Remember that both weak and strong forms often coexisted (e.g. stope and stepped).
Etað þisne hlāf, hit is mīn līchama (Ælfric)
Eat this bread it is my body
(The influence of French is direct here.)
1) less numerous (~ 900; the largest group associated with the church)
2) more likely to show the influence of Anglo-Norman phonology
3) different conditions from the following period, when people accustomed to use French turned to English ( a very large number of common French words between 1250 and 1400; but in the 15th c. most words came from literary rather than colloquial channels.)
ox vs. beef
sheep vs. mutton
swine vs. pork
calf vs. veal
Sometimes the competition is between English (popular), French (literary), Latin (learned):
time – age – epoch
rise – mount – ascent
1) phonetic changes in French
2) borrowing from AN rather than Central French
OF feste > ME feste > ModE feast
OF feste > ModF fête
OF juge [dZ], chant [tS] > ModE judge [dZ], chant [tS]
OF juge [dZ], chant [tS] > ModF juge [Z], chant [S]
vs. ModE chaperone [S], rouge [Z]
caitiff [k] < AN caitif [k] vs. CF chaitif [tS]
ModE carry [k] vs. ModF charrier [S]
AN cachier [k] > ModE catch
CF chacier [tS] > ModE chase (vs. ModF chasser)
ModE warrant (from AN [w-]) vs. ModF garantir
ModE quit (from AN [kw-]) vs. ModF quitter [k-]
> AN frut [y] > ME fruit [(I)U]
> CF fruít (stress on i)
AN reial > ModE real
CF royal > ModE royal
AN –arie > ModE –ary (salary)
CF –aire (cf. ModF salaire)
- the use of prefixes declines (exceptions: over-, under-)
- the decline of suffixes is, however, less marked
- self-explaining compounds were also weakened