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Lesson 11

Norman Conquest, Linguistic Situation

Norman Conquest
After a brief period of independence England was overrun by Danes. The new English king, Edward the Confessor (1042-1066), who grew up in France, brought over many Norman advisors. The nobles at his court had to speak French, but the government of the country was still in hands of Anglo-Saxon lords. In 1066, upon Edwards death William of Normandy with a big army landed in Britain. This date is commonly known as the date of the Norman Conquest, when the English were defeated. William the Conquerer was crowned the king. Following the conquest hundreds of people from France crossed the Channel to make their home in Britain.
Linguistic Situation
The Norman Conquest changed the linguistic Situation.
The Norman conquerors of England had originally come from Scandinavia. About one hundred and fifty years before they had seized the valley of the Seine and settled in what was known as Normandy. In llth c.they came to Britain as French Speakers and who brought French culture. They spoke the Northern dialect of French, which differed in some points from Central, Parisian French.
The result of the Norman domination in Britain is 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 law courts, the church, the army and the castle. It was also the every-day language of many nobles. The intellectual life, literature and education were in the hands of French-speaking people; French and Latin were the languages of writing.
But England never stopped being an English-speaking country. The major population spoke their own tongue. Since most of the people were illiterate, the English language was used for spoken communication. At first the two languages existed side by side. Then, slowly they began mingling.
The struggle between French and Enslish finished in the complete victory of English, for English was the living language of the major population, while French was restricted to certain social spheres and to writing,
. The most important event in the changing linguistic Situation was the rise of the London dialect as written and spoken standart.
The history of London goes back to the Roman period. Even in OE times London was one of the biggest towns in Britain, although the capital of Wessex the main OE kingdom was Winchester. The capital was transferred to London a few years before the Norman conquest.

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