When William the Conqueror led the Norman conquest of England in 1066, he, his nobles, and many of his followers from Normandy, but also those from northern and western France, spoke a range of langues d'oïl (northern varieties of Gallo-Romance). One of these was Old Norman, also known as "Old Northern French". Other followers spoke varieties of the Picard language or western registers of general Old French. This amalgam developed into the unique insular dialect now known as Anglo-Norman French, which was commonly used for literary and eventually administrative purposes from the 12th until the 15th century. It is difficult to know much about what was actually spoken, as what is known about the dialect is restricted to what was written, but it is clear that Anglo-Norman was, to a large extent, the spoken language of the higher social strata in medieval England.
It was spoken in the law courts, schools, and universities and, in due course, in at least some sections of the gentry and the growing bourgeoisie. Private and commercial correspondence was carried out in Anglo-Norman or Anglo-French from the 13th to the 15th century though its spelling forms were often displaced by continental spellings. Social classes other than the nobility became keen to learn French: manuscripts containing materials for instructing non-native speakers still exist, dating mostly from the late 14th century onwards.
Although Anglo-Norman and Anglo-French were eventually eclipsed by modern English, they had been used widely enough to influence English vocabulary permanently. Thus, many original Germanic words, cognates of which can still be found in Nordic, German, and Dutch, have been lost or, as more often occurs, exist alongside synonyms of Anglo-Norman French origin. Anglo-Norman had little lasting impact on English grammar, as opposed to vocabulary, although it is still evident in official and legal terms where the ordinary sequence of noun and adjective is reversed, as seen in phrases such as Blood Royal, attorney general, heir apparent, court martial, envoy extraordinary and body politic.
Dieu et mon droit was first used by Richard I (who spoke Anglo-Norman but cannot be proven to have been able to speak English) in 1198 and adopted as the royal motto of England in the time of Henry VI. The motto appears below the shield of the Royal Coat of Arms.
Use and development
Anglo-Norman was never the main administrative language of England: Latin was the major language of record in legal and other official documents for most of the medieval period. However, from the late 12th century to the early 15th century, Anglo-Norman French and Anglo-French were much used in law reports, charters, ordinances, official correspondence, and trade at all levels; they were the language of the King, his court and the upper class. There is evidence, too, that foreign words (Latin, Greek, Italian, Arabic, Spanish) often entered English via Anglo-Norman.
The language of later documents adopted some of the changes ongoing in continental French and lost many of its original dialectal characteristics, so Anglo-French remained (in at least some respects and at least at some social levels) part of the dialect continuum of modern French, often with distinctive spellings. Over time, the use of Anglo-French expanded into the fields of law, administration, commerce, and science, in all of which a rich documentary legacy survives, indicative of the vitality and importance of the language.
By the late 15th century, however, what remained of insular French had become heavily anglicised: see Law French. It continued to be known as "Norman French" until the end of the 19th century even though, philologically, there was nothing Norman about it.
Among important writers of the Anglo-Norman cultural commonwealth is Marie de France.
The languages and literature of the Channel Islands are sometimes referred to as Anglo-Norman, but that usage is derived from the French name for the islands: les îles anglo-normandes. The variety of French spoken in the islands is Norman and not the Anglo-Norman of medieval England.
Trilingualism in Medieval England
Much of the earliest recorded French is in fact Anglo-Norman French. In Northern France at that time,[when?] almost nothing was being recorded in the vernacular because Latin was the language of the Church and consequently of education and historiography, and was thus used for the purpose of records. Latin also remained in use in medieval England by the Church, the royal government and much local administration, as it had been before 1066, in parallel with Middle English. The early [when?] adoption of Anglo-Norman as a written and literary language probably owes something to this history of bilingualism in writing.
Around the same time, as a shift took place in France towards using French as a language of record in the mid-13th century, Anglo-Norman French also became a language of record in England though Latin retained its pre-eminence for matters of permanent record (as in written chronicles). From around this point onwards, considerable variation begins to be apparent in Anglo-French, which ranges from the very local (and most anglicized) to a level of language which approximates to and is sometimes indistinguishable from varieties of continental French. Thus, typically, local records are rather different from continental French, with diplomatic and international trade documents closest to the emerging continental norm. English remained the vernacular of the common people throughout this period. The resulting virtual trilinguism in spoken and written language was one of medieval Latin, French and Middle English.
Language of the king and his court
From the time of the Norman Conquest (1066) until the end of the 14th century, French was the language of the king and his court. During this period, marriages with French princesses reinforced the royal family's ties to French culture. Nevertheless, during the 13th century, intermarriages with English nobility became more frequent. French became progressively a second language among the upper classes. Moreover, with the Hundred Years' War and the growing spirit of English and French nationalism, the status of French diminished.
French (specifically Old French) was the mother tongue of every English king from William the Conqueror (1066–1087) until Henry IV (1399–1413). Henry IV was the first to take the oath in (Middle) English, and his son, Henry V (1413–1422), was the first to write in English. By the end of the 15th century, French became the second language of a cultivated elite.
Language of the royal charters and legislation
Until the end of the 13th century, Latin was the language of all official written documents. Nevertheless, some important documents had their official Norman translation, such as the Magna Carta signed in 1215. The first official document written in Anglo-Norman was a statute promulgated by the king in 1275. Thus, from the 13th century, Anglo-Norman became used in official documents, such as those that were marked by the private seal of the king whereas the documents sealed by the Lord Chancellor were written in Latin until the end of the Middle Ages. English became the language of Parliament and of legislation in the 15th century, half a century after it had become the language of the king and of most of the English nobility.
Language of administration and justice
During the 12th century, development of the administrative and judicial institutions took place. Because the king and the lawyers at the time normally used French, it also became the language of these institutions. From the 12th century until the 15th century, the courts used three languages: Latin for writing, French as the main oral language during trials, and English in less formal exchanges between the judge, the lawyer, the complainant or the witnesses. The judge gave his sentence orally in Norman, which was then written in Latin. Only in the lowest level of the manorial courts were trials entirely in English.
During the 15th century, English became the main spoken language, but Latin and French continued to be exclusively used in official legal documents until the beginning of the 18th century. Nevertheless, the French language used in England changed from the end of the 15th century into Law French. This variety of French was a technical language, with a specific vocabulary, where English words were used to describe everyday experience, and French grammatical rules and morphology gradually declined, with confusion of genders and the adding of -s to form all plurals. Law French was banished from the courts of the common law in 1731, almost three centuries after the king ceased speaking primarily French.
Le Roy/La Reyne remercie ses bons sujets, accepte leur benevolence et ainsi le veult.
The King/Queen thanks his/her good subjects, accepts their bounty, and wills it so.
Royal Assent is given for a private bill
Soit fait comme il est désiré.
Let it be done as it is desired.
Royal Assent is withheld
Le Roy/La Reyne s'aviser.
The King/Queen will consider it.
The exact spelling of these phrases has varied over the years; for example, s'avisera has been spelled as s'uvisera and s'advisera, and Reyne as Raine.
Language of the people
Though the great mass of ordinary people spoke Middle English, French, because of its prestigious status, spread as a second language, encouraged by its long-standing use in the school system as a medium of instruction through which Latin was taught. In the courts, the members of the jury, who represented the population, had to know French in order to understand the plea of the lawyer. French was used by the merchant middle class as a language of business communication, especially when it traded with the continent, and several churches used French to communicate with lay people. A small but important number of documents survive associated with the Jews of medieval England, some featuring Anglo-French written in Hebrew script, typically in the form of glosses to the Hebrew scriptures.
Middle English was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman and, later, Anglo-French. W. Rothwell has called Anglo-French 'the missing link' because many etymological dictionaries seem to ignore the contribution of that language in English and because Anglo-Norman and Anglo-French can explain the transmission of words from French into English and fill the void left by the absence of documentary records of English (in the main) between 1066 and c. 1380.
Modern French has changed dramatically compared to the Anglo-Norman period. For example, Anglo-Norman legal documents use the phrase "del Rey" (of the king). This is identical to modern Spanish but different from the modern French "du Roi".
Anglo-Norman morphology and phonology can be deduced from its heritage in English. Mostly, it is done in comparison with continental Central French. English has many doublets as a result of this contrast:
warranty – guarantee
warden – guardian
catch – chase (see below)
wage (Anglo-Norman) – gage (French)
wait – guetter (French, Old French guaitier)
war (from Anglo-Norman werre) – guerre (French)
wicket (Anglo-Norman) – guichet (French, from Norman)
The palatalization of velar consonants before the front vowel produced different results in Norman to the central langue d'oïl dialects that developed into French. English therefore, for example, has fashion from Norman féchoun as opposed to Modern French façon (both developing from Latin factio, factiōnem). In contrast, the palatalization of velar consonants before /a/ that affected the development of French did not occur in Norman dialects north of the Joret line. English has therefore inherited words that retain a velar plosive where French has a fricative:
= chou, caboche
= cheptel (Old French chetel)
= chenil (Vulgar Latin *canile)
= planche, planque
Some loans were palatalized later in English, as in the case of challenge (< Old Norman calonge, Middle English kalange, kalenge, later chalange; Old French challenge, chalonge).
There were also vowel differences: Compare Anglo-Norman profound with Parisian French profond, soun sound with son, round with rond. The former words were originally pronounced something like 'profoond', 'soon', 'roond' respectively (compare the similarly denasalised vowels of modern Norman), but later developed their modern pronunciation in English. The word veil retains the /ei/ (as does modern Norman in vaile and laîsi) that in French has been replaced by /wa/voile, loisir.
Since many words established in Anglo-Norman from French via the intermediary of Norman were not subject to the processes of sound change that continued in parts of the continent, English sometimes preserves earlier pronunciations. For example, ch used to be /tʃ/ in Medieval French, where Modern French has /ʃ/, but English has preserved the older sound (in words like chamber, chain, chase and exchequer). Similarly, j had an older /dʒ/ sound, which it still has in English and some dialects of modern Norman, but it has developed into /ʒ/ in Modern French.
The word mushroom preserves a hush sibilant not recorded in French mousseron, as does cushion for coussin. Conversely, the pronunciation of the word sugar resembles Norman chucre even if the spelling is closer to French sucre. It is possible that the original sound was an apical sibilant, like the Basques, which is halfway between a hissing sibilant and a hushing sibilant.
The doublets catch and chase are both derived from Low Latin *captiare. Catch demonstrates a Norman development while chase is the French equivalent imported with a different meaning.
Distinctions in meaning between Anglo-Norman and French have led to many faux amis (words having similar form but different meanings) in Modern English and Modern French.
Although it is a Romance language, Norman contains a significant amount of lexical material from Old Norse. Because of this, some of the words introduced to England as part of Anglo-Norman were of Germanic origin. Indeed, sometimes one can identify cognates such as flock (Germanic in English existing prior to the Conquest) and floquet (Germanic in Norman). The case of the word mug demonstrates that in instances, Anglo-Norman may have reinforced certain Scandinavian elements already present in English. Mug had been introduced into northern English dialects by Viking settlement. The same word had been established in Normandy by the Normans (Norsemen) and was then brought over after the Conquest and established firstly in southern English dialects. It is, therefore, argued that the word mug in English shows some of the complicated Germanic heritage of Anglo-Norman.
Many expressions used in English today have their origin in Anglo-Norman (such as the expression before-hand, which derives from Anglo-Norman avaunt-main), as do many modern words with interesting etymologies. Mortgage, for example, literally meant death-wage in Anglo-Norman. Curfew (fr. couvre-feu) meant cover-fire, referring to the time in the evening when all fires had to be covered to prevent the spread of fire within communities with timber buildings. The word glamour is derived from Anglo-Norman grammeire, the same word which gives us modern grammar; glamour meant first "book learning" and then the most glamorous form of book learning, "magic" or "magic spell" in Medieval times.
The influence of Anglo-Norman was very asymmetric: very little influence from English was carried over into the continental possessions of the Anglo-Norman kings. Some administrative terms survived in some parts of mainland Normandy: forlenc (from furrow, compare furlong) in the Cotentin Peninsula and Bessin, and a general use of the word acre for land measurement in Normandy until metrication in the 19th century, but these words are probably linguistic traces of Saxon or Anglo-Scandinavian settlements between the 4th and the 10th centuries in Normandy. Otherwise the direct influence of English in mainland Norman (such as smogler "to smuggle") is from direct contact with English in later centuries, rather than Anglo-Norman.
When the Normans invaded England, Anglo-Saxon literature had reached a very high level of development. The important Benedictine monasteries both wrote chronicles and guarded other works in Old English. However, with the arrival of the Norman, Anglo-Saxon literature came to an end and literature written in Britain was in Latin or Anglo-Norman. The Plantagenet kings encouraged this Anglo-Norman literature. Nevertheless, from the beginning of the 14th century, some authors chose to write in English, such as Geoffrey Chaucer. The authors of that period were influenced by the works of contemporary French writers whose language was prestigious. Chaucer is considered to be the father of the English language and the creator of English as a literary language.
The major Norman-French influence on English can still be seen in today's vocabulary. An enormous number of Norman-French and other medieval French loanwords came into the language, and about three-quarters of them are still used today. Very often, the Norman or French word supplanted the Anglo-Saxon term, or both words would co-exist but with slightly different nuances: for example, cow (describing the animal) and beef (describing the meat). In other cases, the Norman or French word was adopted to signify a new reality, such as judge, castle, warranty.
In general, the Norman and French borrowings concerned the fields of culture, aristocratic life, politics and religion, and war whereas the English words were used to describe everyday experience. When the Normans arrived in England, their copyists wrote English as they heard it, without realising the peculiarities of the relationship between Anglo-Saxon pronunciation and spelling and so the spelling changed. There appeared different regional Modern-English written dialects, the one that the king chose in the 15th century becoming the standard variety.
In some remote areas, agricultural terms used by the rural workers may have been derived from Norman French. An example is the Cumbrian term sturdy for diseased sheep that walk in circles, derived from étourdi meaning dizzy.
Influence in Ireland
The Norman invasion of Ireland began in 1169, on the first of May in Bannow Bay, and led to Anglo-Norman control of much of the island. Norman-speaking administrators arrived to rule over the Angevin Empire's new territory. Several Norman words became Gaelic words, including household terms: garsún (from Norman garçun, "boy"); cóta (cote, "cloak"); hata (hatte, "hat"); gairdín (gardin, "garden"); and terms relating to justice (Irish giúistís, bardas (corporation), cúirt (court)).
Place-names in Norman are few, but there is Buttevant (from the motto of the Barry family: Boutez en avant, "Push to the Fore"), the village of Brittas (from the Norman bretesche, "boarding, planking") and the element Pallas (Irish pailís, from Norman paleis, "boundary fence": compare palisade, The Pale). Others exist with English or Irish roots, such as Castletownroche, which combines the English Castletown and the Norman Roche, meaning rock.
Quebec French, also known as Québécois French, is the predominant variety of the French language spoken in Canada. It is the dominant language of the province of Quebec, used in everyday communication, in education, the media, and government.
Law French is an archaic language originally based on Old Norman and Anglo-Norman, but increasingly influenced by Parisian French and, later, English. It was used in the law courts of England, beginning with the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Its use continued for several centuries in the courts of England and Wales and Ireland. Although Law French as a narrative legal language is obsolete, many individual Law French terms continue to be used by lawyers and judges in common law jurisdictions.
Francisque Xavier Michel was a French historian and philologist.
Provençal is a Romance language, either considered as a variety of Occitan or a separate language, spoken by people in Provence and parts of Drôme. Historically, the term Provençal has been used to refer to the whole of the Occitan language, but today it is considered more technically appropriate to refer only to the variety of Occitan spoken in Provence. However it can still be found being used to refer to Occitan as a whole, e.g. Merriam-Webster states that it can be used to refer to general Occitan, though this is going out of use.
Old French was the language spoken in most of the northern half of France from approximately the 8th to the 14th centuries. Rather than a unified language, Old French was a linkage of Romance dialects, mutually intelligible yet diverse, spoken in the northern half of France. These dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc in the south of France. The mid-14th century witnessed the emergence of Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance in the Île de France region; this dialect was a predecessor to Modern French. Other dialects of Old French evolved themselves into modern forms, each with its own linguistic features and history.
Picard is a langue d'oïl of the Romance language family spoken in the northernmost part of France and Hainaut province in Belgium. Administratively, this area is divided between the French Hauts-de-France region and the Belgian Wallonia along the border between both countries due to its traditional core being the districts of Tournai and Mons.
The langues d'oïl are a dialect continuum that includes standard French and its closest autochthonous relatives historically spoken in the northern half of France, southern Belgium, and the Channel Islands. These belong to the larger category of Gallo-Romance languages, which also include the historical languages of east-central France and western Switzerland, southern France, portions of northern Italy, and the Val d'Aran in Spain.
Norman or Norman French is a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Oïl languages along with French, Picard and Walloon. The name "Norman French" is sometimes used to describe not only the Norman language, but also the administrative languages of Anglo-Norman and Law French used in England. For the most part, the written forms of Norman and modern French are mutually intelligible. This intelligibility was largely caused by the Norman language's planned adaptation to French orthography (writing).
Gallo is a regional language of eastern Brittany. It is one of the langues d'oïl, a Romance sub-family that includes French. Today it is spoken only by a minority of the population, as the standard form of French now predominates in this area.
Anglo-Norman literature is literature composed in the Anglo-Norman language and developed during the period of 1066–1204, as the Duchy of Normandy and the Kingdom of England were united in the Anglo-Norman realm.
Francization or Francisation, Frenchification, or Gallicization is the expansion of French language use—either through willful adoption or coercion—by more and more social groups who had not before used the language as a common means of expression in daily life. As a linguistic concept, known usually as gallicization, it is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand in French.
Canadian French is the French language as it is spoken in Canada. It includes multiple varieties, the most prominent being Québécois. Formerly Canadian French referred solely to Quebec French and the closely related varieties of Ontario (Franco-Ontarian) and Western Canada—in contrast with Acadian French, which is spoken by Acadians in New Brunswick and some areas of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador.
The flag and coat of arms of Normandy are symbols of Normandy, a region in north-western France.
The Anglo-Norman horse is a warmblood horse breed developed in Lower Normandy in northern France. A major center of horse breeding, the area had numerous regional types that were bred to one another and then crossed with Thoroughbreds to form the Anglo-Norman. Various body types developed within the Anglo-Norman breed, two of which were split off to form the Norman Cob and French Trotter. The remaining types were eventually standardized, although there remained some criticism of the "hybrid" nature of the breed's conformation. However, it is successful as an international sport horse, especially in the sport of show jumping. The Anglo-Norman also contributed to the development of several other breeds in Europe and Asia.
New England French is a variety of French spoken in the New England region of the United States. It descends from Canadian French because it originally came from French Canadians who immigrated to New England during the Grande Hémorragie.
The Norman Cob or Cob Normand is a breed of light draught horse that originated in the region of Normandy in northern France. It is of medium size, with a range of heights and weights, due to selective breeding for a wide range of uses. Its conformation is similar to a robust Thoroughbred, and it more closely resembles a Thoroughbred cross than other French draught breeds. The breed is known for its lively, long-striding trot. Common colours include chestnut, bay and seal brown. There are three general subsets within the breed: horses used under saddle, those used in harness, and those destined for meat production. It is popular for recreational and competitive driving, representing France internationally in the latter, and is also used for several riding disciplines.
Walter of Bibbesworth (1235–1270) was an English knight and Anglo-Norman poet. Documents confirm that he held land in the parish of Kimpton, Hertfordshire at the farm now called Bibbsworth Hall. About 1250 he served in Gascony under the seneschal Nicholas de Molis in the army of the English king Henry III. In 1270/1271 he is believed to have taken part in the Ninth Crusade on the evidence of a tençon or poetic argument between himself and Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln. In the poem Walter, about to depart for Palestine, teases Henry for staying at home for the love of a certain woman. In fact the young Henry de Lacy, "recently married and with heavy responsibilities at home", did not take part in the Ninth Crusade. Walter went and returned. He was buried early in Edward I's reign at Little Dunmow in Essex.
The Treatise is an Anglo-Norman poem written in the mid-13th century by Walter of Bibbesworth, addressed to Dionisie de Munchensi, with the aim of helping her to teach her children French, the language of the Norman aristocracy. It was a popular text in medieval England, and is a very early example of a book intended for reading to children.
Angevin is the traditional langue d'oïl spoken in Anjou, a historic province in western France. It was also spoken in neighboring regions like the Pays Nantais, Maine and Touraine.
The influence of French on English pertains mainly to its lexicon but also to its syntax, grammar, orthography, and pronunciation. Most of the French vocabulary in English entered the language after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, when Old French, specifically the Old Norman dialect, became the language of the new Anglo-Norman court, the government, and the elites. That period lasted for several centuries until the aftermath of the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453). However, English has continued to be influenced by French. According to Laura K. Lawless, more than a third of current English vocabulary is of French origin. And according to the linguist Henriette Walter, words of French origin represent more than two-thirds of the English vocabulary.
Anglo-Norman Dictionary, online version: http://www.anglo-norman.net. A–S, U, W, Y and Z second edition (2005–); T, V and X reproduce the first (printed edition). The site also provides a searchable textbase of more than 70 Anglo-Norman texts, selected publications by the editorial team, a general introduction to Anglo-Norman and a bibliography off all Anglo-Norman primary sources.
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