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The Scandinavian invasions, the Norman Conquest & the way they influenced English

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Scandinavian invasions

Since the 8th c. the British Isles were ravaged by sea rovers from Scandinavia, first by Danes, later – by Norwegians. By the end of the 9th c. the Danes had succeeded in obtaining a permanent footing in England; more than half of England was yielded to the invaders and recognized as Danish territory – “Danelaw”. The new settlers and the English intermarried and intermixed; they lived close together and did not differ either in social rank or in the level of culture and customs. In the areas of the heaviest settlement the Scandinavians outnumbered the Anglo-Saxon population, which is attested by geographical names. Altogether more than 1,400 English villages and towns bear names of Scandinavian origin (with the element thorp meaning ‘village’, e.g. Woodthorp). Eventually the Scandinavians were absorbed into the local population both ethnically and linguistically. They merged with the society around them, but the impact on the linguistic situation and on the further development of the English language was quite profound. The increased regional differences of English in the 11th and 12th c. must partly be attributed to the Scandinavian influence. Due to the contacts and mixture with O Scand, the Northern dialects had acquired lasting and sometimes indelible Scandinavian features. In later ages the Scandinavian element passed into other regions. The incorporation of the Scandinavian element in the London dialect and Standard English was brought about by the changing linguistic situation in England: the mixture of the dialects and the growing linguistic unification.

The Norman Conquest

The new English king, Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) brought over many Norman advisors and favorites; he distributed among them English lands and wealth to the considerable resentment of the Anglo-Saxon nobility and appointed them to important positions in the government and church hierarchy. He not only spoke French himself but insisted on it being spoken by the nobles at his court. William, Duke of Normandy, visited his court and it was rumored that Edward appointed him his successor. However, the government of the country was still in the hands of Anglo-Saxon feudal lords, headed by the powerful Earl Godwin of Wessex. In 1066, upon Edward’s death, the Elders of England proclaimed Harold Godwin king of England. As soon as the news reached William of Normandy, he mustered (gathered) a big army by promise of land and, with the support of the Pope, landed in Britain. In the battle of Hastings, fought in October 1066, Harold was killed and the English were defeated. This date is commonly known as the date of the Norman Conquest. After the victory at Hastings, William by-passed London cutting it off from the North and made the Witan of London (the Elders of England) and the bishops at Westminster Abbey crown him king. William and his barons laid waste many lands in England, burning down villages and estates. Most of the lands of the Anglo-Saxon lords passed into the hands of the Norman barons, William’s own possessions comprising about one third of the country. Normans occupied all the important posts in the church, in the government and in the army. Following the conquest hundreds of people from France crossed the Channel to make their home in Britain. French monks, tradesmen and craftsmen flooded the south-western towns, so that not only the higher nobility but also much if the middle class was French.

Effect of the Norman Conquest on the linguistic situation

The Norman Conquest was not only a great event in British political history but also the greatest single event in the history of the English language. The Norman Conquerors of England had originally come from Scandinavia. First they had seized the valley of the Seine and settled in what is known as Normandy. They were swiftly assimilated by the French and in the 11th c. came to Britain as French speakers. Their tongue in Britain is often referred to as “Anglo-French” or “Anglo-Norman”, but may just as well be called French. The most important consequence of Norman domination in Britain is to be seen in the wide use of the French language in many spheres of life. For almost three hundred years French was the official language of administration: it was the language of the king’s court, the church, the army and others. The intellectual life, literature and education were in the hands of French-speaking people. For all that, England never stopped being an English-speaking country. The bulk of the population spoke their own tongue and looked upon French as foreign and hostile. At first two languages existed side by side without mingling. Then, slowly and quietly, they began to penetrate each other. The three hundred years of the domination of French affected English more than any other foreign influence before or after. The early French borrowings reflect accurately the spheres of Norman influence upon English life; later borrowings can be attributed to the continued cultural, economic and political contacts between the countries.


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Sveta
Дата: 26.02.2012 00:43
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brief, short. i like it. thanks a lot)

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