OF THE NORMAN PERIOD
(12th — 13th centuries)
The Norman Conquest. When King Alfred died, fighting with the Danes
soon began again. Parties of the Norsemen sailed round Scotland and over
to Ireland. Others sailed south across the Channel to France. They
conquered the north of France and settled there. In the next hundred
years they came to be called Normans, and their country Normandy.
In the middle of the 11th century the internal feuds among the
Anglo-Saxon earls invited a foreign conquest. The Normans did not miss
their chance. In the year 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, crossed the
Channel and defeated the English at Hastings ['heistirjz] in a great
battle. Within five years William the Conqueror became complete master
of the whole of England. The lands of most of the Anglo-Saxon
aristocracy were given to the Norman barons, and they introduced their
feudal laws to compel the peasants to work for them. The English became
an oppressed nation.
William the Conqueror could not speak a word of English. He and his
barons spoke the Norman dialect of the French language; but the
Anglo-Saxon dialects were not suppressed. During the following 200 years
communication went on in three languages:
1) at the monasteries learning went on in Latin;
2) Norman-French was the language of the ruling class and was spoken at
court and in official institutions;
3) the common people held firmly to their mother tongue. In spite of
this, however, the language changed so much in the course of time that
we must speak about it. How the Language Changed.
1) Many French words came into the language. Under the influence of
French the pronunciation of the people changed. Some French words could
not be pronounced by the Anglo-Saxons, so some of the Norman-French
sounds were substituted by more familiar sounds from Old English. There
appeared many new long vowels (diphthongs) in their native language.
This newly formed pronunciation was nearing that of Modern English.
2) The spelling did not correspond to the pronunciation. The Norman
scribes brought to England their Latin traditions. The Anglo-Saxon
letters p, ? for the sounds  and [?] were runes. The Normans replaced
these letters by the Latin t + h=th.
3) What was particularly new was the use of French suffixes with words
of Anglo-Saxon origin. For instance, the noun-forming suf-1 fixes -ment
(government, agreement) and -age (courage, marriage), giving an abstract
meaning to the noun, and the adjective-forming suffix -able (admirable,
capable) were used to form new words. Examples of such hybrids, as they
are called, are:
fulfilment bondage readable
bewilderment cottage unbearable
bewitchment stoppage drinkable
4) The French prefix dis- was used to make up words of negative meaning:
5) The indefinite article was coming into use.
6) The struggle for supremacy between French and old English words went
on in the following way:
a) If the French word meant a thing or idea for which there was no name
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