The Norman Conquest had a third language, French, influence to an already bilingual situation in England, consisting of Old English and Latin (Burrow et Turville-Petre, 2005). The influence of French language along with the Latin influence over the English language marked the social difference during the time of the Hundred years war and the Black Death. The translation of the Bible into many languages and the invention of printing system during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries marked the rise of humanism. During the Middle Age, English began to emerge as a prestigious language forming the concept of ‘standard English’.
During and after the Norman Conquest French has a great influence on the language usage in England. Baugh et Thomas (2002) stated that in the 12th century, French was the language of the court and the upper classes and English, the speech of the mass of the people. However, the 13th century, as Baugh et Thomas (2002) stated, should be viewed as a period of shifting emphasis upon the two languages: French and English, spoken in England. In this period, the upper classes continued to speak French whereas English made steady advances. By the middle of this century, as Baugh et Thomas (2002) stated the separation of the English nobles from the French nobles has caused English to become a matter of general use among the upper classes. During this period, the adoption of French words into the English language has occurred.
Considering the French influence on the vocabulary of English language, the Middle English (ME) period can be parted into two stages: an earlier and a latter one. In the first phase from 1150 to 1250, there were less French words adopted into the English (about 900) than in the second phase. The borrowings show characteristics of the Anglo- Norman phonology and were mostly from the areas of the nobility (e.g. servant, messenger), literature (e.g. story, rime) and the church (Baugh et Thomas,2002). In the second stage (1250-1500), there was a rapid change in the prestige of the French language with a climax at the end of the 14th century. The Norman French developed its own peculiarities to the so-called Anglo- Norman dialect, but it was more and more regarded as old-fashioned, and rustic compared to the Central French spoken in Paris (Baugh et Thomas,2002).
The diffusion of French and the adoption of the French words into the different fields of English language had happened due to the several reasons. Baugh et Thomas (2002) stated that where the two languages exit side by side for a long time and the relations between the people speaking them are as intimate as they were in England, a considerable transference of words from one language to the other is inevitable. One reason for the adoption of French words is the war situation in the country. Baugh et Thomas (2002) stated that the control of the army and navy was in the hands of those who spoke French during the Middle Ages. For instance, the words like peace, enemy, arms, battle, combat, soldier, sergeant, captain etc. came into English vocabulary usage. Another reason is the trade and business as the merchants spoke both French and English and “managers (sheriffs, bailiffs) on large estates were bilingual” (Middle English, n.d). Furthermore, English was regarded as inferior thus, as Albert et al (1993) (as cited in Claudia, 2000), it had more to gain from the language spoken by the upper classes. The words related to government and administrative; crown, state, empire, government, authority, chancellor, minister, prince, duke, baron etc., the words related to law; judge, complaint, traitor, petition, accuse, award etc., the words related to fashion; dress, apparel, the words related to social life; chair, screen, pantry, the words related to art and learning; painting, art, color, beauty and the words related to medicine; physician, surgeon, stomach, poison etc. have been transferred from French language to the English language during ME period (Shamari, n.d.). another reason is the impact of religion. In monasteries and religious houses, French was used for a long time. Thus, many words related to French have transferred into English such as theology, sermon, baptism, cardinal, pastor, chapter etc. Shamari (n.d) stated that during ME period, over 10,000 French words were adopted into the English language and about 75 percent of these are still in use.
However, the decline of French language used in England due to many reasons caused to the reemergence of English language with the rise of humanism in the 14th and 15th centuries. One reason for the decline of French as a vernacular was the “loss of Normandy to the French crown in 1204” (Shamari, n.d. p122). At this time, many noblemen had properties in England and Normandy and had to decide whether to become English or to go back to France. Many Norman landholders chose to stay and the coming up of national thinking in England must have increased the importance of the English language (Baugh et al ,2002). Another reason is that the tendency to speak English was becoming constantly stronger even in the church and the universities. “A 14th century statute of Oxford required the students to construe and translate English” (Baugh et al ,2002, p127). Furthermore, the Hundred Years War (1337- 1453) which reasoned to create the social difference during the14th and 15th century was another reason for the decline of French. This struggle between the English and French over several issues, including the legitimate claim to the French throne caused to the large number of deaths. Following the Hundred Years War, many English regarded French as the enemy’s language and this led to the arousing of the English language. It promoted English nationalism (Algeo, 2010). Baugh et Thomas (2002) stated that the improvement in the condition of the mass of the people and the rise of a substantial middle class was an important factor in both helping English to recover its former prestige and declining the French language. During the latter part of the ME period, the condition of the laboring classes was rapidly improving and among the rural population villeinage was dying out. Fixed money payments were substituted, and the status of the villein more nearly resembled that of the free tenants (Baugh et Thomas,2002).
Moreover, the black death is another situation which caused “to increase the economic importance of the laboring class” (Wilson, 2003, p 125) and “with it the importance of the English language which they spoke” (Baugh et Thomas ,2002, p131). Horabin et Smith (2002) stated that the slump in the population following the black death in the 14th century meant social turbulence, a labor shortage and a consequent increase in prosperity for the remaining lower-class population caused to the new social developments. Furthermore, the rise of the craftsmen and the merchant class in England caused to mark the changes in the social and economic life along with the English language during that century (Middle English, n.d.). Due to the decline of the French language, by the end of the middle ages, English had become marginalized in England as ‘high-status’ language (Horabin et Smith,2002).
As the results of the Norman Conquest, there was the Latin influence in the language usage in the ME period. Latin was especially the second (or third) language of the scholar or ‘clerk’, who learned it in the Grammar course which formed the ?rst part and foundation of the common medieval school syllabus (the Seven Liberal Arts) (Burrow,2005, p 15). It was also the common written language of of?cial documents, chronicles, the liturgy of the Church and theological treatises. Many native poets, too, wrote their verses in Latin. Horobin et Smith (2002) stated that in the written mode Latin had national documentary functions, for instance, it was used for ‘magna carta’ in 1215 and the various offices of state has continued to use Latin well in to the fifteenth century. A large number of words have borrowed directly from Latin. Baugh et Thomas (2002) stated that these borrowings differed from the French borrowings in being less popular and in going admission generally through the written language. Furthermore, Latin was a spoken language among ecclesiastics and men of learning and a certain number of Latin words could well have passed directly in to spoken English. Such words related to religion that appeared in the English language are collect, dirge, meditator, redeemer etc. As the result of the translation of the Latin texts, so many words came into English language such as testament, omnipotent, etc. Horobin et Smith (2002) stated that the great wave of Latin borrowings into English takes place from the 15th century onwards with the first late medieval stirrings of what developed into ‘renaissance humanism’ which is associated with the appearance of ‘aureate diction’ in which most vocabulary derived from Latin during the end of the ME period. Moreover, the words related to the legal terms: client, conviction, subpoenaed and the words related to the science: dissolve, equal, essence, medicine etc. appeared in English. The introduction of unusual words such as abusion, dispone, equipollent etc. from Latin became a conscious stylistic device in the 15th century, extensively used by the poets and the writers of prose (Algeo, 1992).
The final success of English over the French with the rise of humanism was observable in the 14th century where those who spoke French as their mother-tongue were turning to the use of English, “in other words, the point at which French ceased to be a language acquired in conversation with those around them and must be painstakingly learned with the help of books and tutors” (Blake,1992, p 427). Furthermore, he stated that the French language had not entirely gone out of the use and it was used in the court though English had largely taken its place. In 1362, the statute pf pleading was enacted, requiring all court proceedings to be constructed in English (Algeo, 2010). Moreover, the Customal of Winchester was translated into English at the end of the fourteenth century. The 14th century also saw the development of a mystical tradition in England written in mainly in English and Latin that carried through to the early 15th century and included works still read, such as Richard Rolle’s Form of Perfect Living, the anonymous Cloud of Unknowing, Walter Hilton’s Scale of Perfection, Julian (or Juliana) of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, and even the emotionally autobiographical Book of Margery Kempe, more valuable for its insights into medieval life than for its spiritual content (Algeo, 2010). The late 14th century saw a blossoming of alliterative, unrhymed English poetry that was a development of the native tradition of versification stretching back to Anglo-Saxon times (Algeo, 2010). The most important work of that revival was William Langland’s Piers Plowman, which echoes much of the intellectual and social ferment of the time. By the end of the 14th century, public documents and records began to be written in English, for instance, the articles of the accusation were read to the parliament in English and Henry IV used English to claim the throne in 1399 (Baugh et Thomas, 2002; Algeo, 2010). Furthermore, the promotion of the first complete translation of scripture into the English language (the Wycliffite Bible) by the John Wycliffe and the Geoffrey Chaucer’s production of English poetry during 14th century marked another significant influence into the development of the English language (Algeo,2010). Such instances in the 14th century proved that English was again the principle tongue of England.
At the end of the Middle Age period, English was developing as an elaborated language available across the country for use in a range of functions which is evident of the emergence of sociolinguistic variation in the use of English (Horobin et Smith ,2002). ME had its own four principle dialects such as Northern, East Midland, West Midland and Southern. Among these local dialects towards the end of the 14th century, East Midland which also known as London English has become the recognized ‘standard’ due to several reasons. One reason is that Midland dialect has occupied a middle position between the extreme divergences of the north and south. Another reason is that the Midland dialect was the largest and most populous of the major dialects (Baugh et Thomas, 2002; Algeo et Pyles,1992). Furthermore, the presence of the universities such as Oxford and Cambridge in this region was also caused east midland dialect to become a ‘standard’. Most influential factor in the rise of ‘standard English’ as the importance of London as the capital of England (Baugh et Thomas, 2002). With the introduction of printing of a new influence of great importance in the dissemination of London English came into play as from the beginning London has been the center of book publishing in England. (Baugh et Thomas, 2002; Horobin et Smith ,2002). Horobin et Smith (2002) stated that the use of printing for the reproducing English texts from the end of the 15th century provided prescriptive norms for contemporary manuscript usage. The richly diverse spelling system of the ME became inconvenient and more exotic spellings were purged. At the later stage, the London English spelling system was adopted as the basis of present-day usage resulting the standardization of the written mode (Horobin et Smith ,2002). Due to the above reasons, London English emerged as a prestigious form of a written ‘standard English’ during the end of the 15th century. Baugh et Thomas (2002) stated that the history of ‘Standard English’ was almost the history of London English as the English language ceased to be the medium of merely parochial literary and began to take on national functions in the succession to Latin and French.
Considering the above-mentioned facts, it is clear that with the influence of the French and the Latin, ME emerged as a prestigious form of English resulting the decline of the French language due to the loss of Normandy to the French crown, the impact of the hundred years war and the Black death which marked the influence of the social difference in terms of the rise of the humanism in the 14th to 16th centuries. However, though there are several dialects in ME, London English emerged as the ‘standard’ written for of English whereas no clear evident found to prove the standardization of spoken English. Finally, the ME period may, therefore be said to have ended with the establishment of a new national written ‘standard’ which led the roots for the present-day English.