Toward the end ofthe Old Englishperiod an eventoccurred that hadgreater effect on theEnglish languagethan any other in thecourse of its history.This event was theNorman Conquest in1066.
The Origin of NormandyIt derives itsname from thebands ofNothmen whosettled therein the ninthand thenthcenturies.At the sametime similarbands weresettling in thenorth and eastof England.
The year 1066Edward becomes king of England•Godwin, earl of the west saxon earldom•becomes Edwards advisorHarold ,son of Godwin becomes earl•after his father deathKing Edward dies childless and Harold•becomes kingWilliam,Duke of Normandy and second•cousin of the former king oposes Edward
The year 1066•In September William landed at Pevensey,I n thesouth coast of England•His landing was unopposed. King Harold wasoccupied in the north of England meeting aninvasion by the king of Norway, another claimantto the throne.•Hardly had Harold triumphed over the invaderswhen word reached him of Williams landing•Harold was killed during the battle•The English capitulated and on Christmas Day1066, William was crowned king of England
The Norman SettlementOne of the most important of theseconsequences was theintroduction of a new nobility.For several generations after theconquest the important positionsand the great states were almostalways held by Normans or men offoreign blood.
The Use of French by the UpperClassFor 200 years after the NormanConquest , French remained thelanguage of ordinary intercourseamong the upper classes in England.At first tghose who spoke French werethose of Norman origin, but soonthrough intermarriage and associationwith the ruling class many people ofEnglish extraction must have found itto their advantage to learn the newlanguage.
Circumstances Promoting theContinued Use of FrenchThe most important factor in thecontinued use of French by theEnglish upper class untill thebeginning of the 13th century wasthe close connection that existedthrough all these years betweenEngland and the continent.
The Attitude toward EnglishIn the period which we are at themoment concerned-the period upto 1200-the attitude of the kingand the upper classes toward theEnglish language may becharacterized as one of simpleindifference. They did notcultivate English-which is not thesame as saying they had noacquaintance of with it-becausetheir activities in England did notnecessitate it and their constantconcern with continental affairsmade French for them muchmore useful.
French Literature at the Englishcourt.It is interesting to find a considerablebody ofFrench literature beingproduced in England from thebeginning of the twelfth century,addressed to English patrons anddirected toward meeting their specialtastes and interests.Philippe de Thaun wrote his Bestiary, a poem describing rather fancifullythe nature of various animals andadding to each description a moralstill more fanciful. Gaimar wrote hisHistory of the English , likewise inFrench verse. At the same timeSamson de Nanteuli devoted 11,000lines of verse to the proverbs ofSalomon. In the reign of Henry II.Wace wrote his celebrated Romanthe Brut.
Fusion of the two peoples.This early fusion of French andEnglish in England is quite clearfrom a variety of evidences. It isevident in the marriage of Normansto English women, as when Robertd’Oily further enriched himself bymarrying Eadgyth, the daughter of agreat English landowner. It isevident from the way in which theEnglish gave their support to theirrulers an Norman prelates, as whenWilliam II and Henry I drove offforeign invaders with armies madeup almost wholly of English troopsor when Anselm and Becket foundtheir staunchest supporters amongthe English.
The Diffusion of French andEnglishFrench was the language ofthe upper classes and thecourt , English the speech ofthe mass of the people. Canwe however., define theposition of the two languagesmore specifically? Thequestion to be asked is reallytwofold: (1) When and howdid the upper class generallylearn English? (2) How far inthe social scale was aknowledge of French at allgeneral?.
Knowledge of English amongthe upper class.Knowledge of English was notuncommon at the end of thiscentury among those whohabitually used French: thatamong churchmen and men ofeducation it was even to beexpected; and that among thosewhose activities brought them intocontact with both upper and lowerclasses the ability to speak bothlanguages was quite general.
Knowledge of French among themiddle class.Among the knightly classFrench seems to have beencultivated even when themother tongue was English.Next to the knights theinhabitants of towns probablycontained the largest number ofthose among the middle classwho knew French. In manytowns, especially in importanttrading centers, men withNorman names were the mostprominent burgesses andprobably constituted a majorityof the merchant class.
BibliographyBIBLIOGRAPHY:Baugh, A. C. & Cable T. (2002). The Norman Conquest and the Subjection ofEnglish. En Baugh, A. C. & Cable T. (5th Edition) History of the EnglishLanguage. (108-126). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.