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| The Middle English Essay

The development of the Middle English is very mush associated with the Norman Conquest. In 1066 AD, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded and successfully conquered the Anglo-Saxons and England. The new conquerors had an old French dialect known as Anglo-Norman that also had a Germanic stock. The name “Norman” originates from the word “Norseman”. The Anglo-Norman was a dialect of the French language that had adopted some Germanic influences together with it Latin roots (Coila, 02010)

Before this conquest, Latin’s influence on English was negligible. It occurred through the relics the Roman occupation and resultant conversion of Britain into Christianity. This was during the 7th century and English benefit by adopting ecclesiastical words such as mass, priest and vicar. The Norman Conquest however brought a wide range of wards that were infused into the Middle English (Coila, 02010) .

Normans influence on English can be clearly shown using the words cow and beef. Beef was derived from Anglo-Norman and was mainly consumed by the aristocrats. On the other hand the common Anglo-Saxons who reared cattle retained the word cow which is of Germanic origin. English also adopted many legal terms from the Anglo-Normans who ran the courts. For instance, they adopted words such as verdict, indict and jury. There was a clear differentiation between the Anglo-Normans who were in the aristocracy and used words of with Romantic roots and the commoners of Anglo-Saxons who mostly used word of Germanic origin (English Club, 2010).

In some instance, new word of French origin totally replaced the old English words. For example uncle replace eam, and crime replace firem. In other instance the new French words combined with old English word to generate new word. A good example of this it the French word gentle which combined within the Germanic word man to form gentleman. Also, in some cases words with more or less the same meaning survived and were used interchangeably. Such words include the French word judgment and Germanic word doom, desire and wish.

Later, in 1204 AD, the King of French annexed the province of Normandy from King John. As a result the England’s Norman noble increasingly became alienated from their French counterparts. This made England their main concern of these noble more than their French estates. From then they slowly adopted a modified English to serve as their native tongue. Later, in 1349-50, about 150 years after King John lost the province of Normandy, the Black Death lead to demise of close to one third of the then English population. Merchants and laboring classes grew in terms of social and economic significance. This phenomenon was accompanied with the increase of the importance of English compared to the Anglo-Norman.

The new mixture brought about by the mixing of these two languages came to be known as the Middle English. Famous example of works done in the Middle English is the Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Although with some difficult, the modern English speakers can read and understand the Middle English.

By early 1362 the differences that existed linguistically between the nobility and the Anglo-Saxon commoners was over. In the same year, there was the adoption of the statute of pleading that made English t he main language to be used in the courts. The use of English also extended to the parliament. The Middle English stayed in existence up to 1500 AD when modern English took over. The Middle English period came to a close around 1500 AD with the rise of Modern English.

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