In 1066 the Normans invaded and French became the language of the governing classes although English was still spoken by the majority of the population. However, after the loss of Normandy by King John in 1204 and the hundred years war, ties were lost with France and many ‘Normans’ began to think of themselves as English. At the beginning of the ME period there were many different dialects and each author wrote in their own dialect. Therefore there is some variation in the writing of this time. During the course of the period however, the speech of the London region gradually emerged as the standard form used for writing and eventually developed into Standard Modern English.
The word stock
The Norman conquest had a huge influence on the word stock of the language. Many English words were replaced by French words which are still present in the language today.
OE ME MnE
Rice cuntre country
Genoh plente plenty
Dl porcioun portion
* Some French spelling conventions were borrowed. For example <th> was gradually introduced to replace thorn and eth
* <v>was used to represent either /v/ word initially or /u/ elsewhere
* <ch> was introduced to represent // where OE had simply used <c>
* Middle English scribes introduced <wh> instead of <hw> for the sound at the start of ‘what’
* <qu> replaced <cw> under influence from Latin
* Double vowel letters were introduced to represent long vowels
In general many inflections were lost in Middle English. This is due partly to phonetic changes and partly to analogy. The first change to happen was that inflectional –m became –n, for example in the dative plurals of some nouns. This meant that a distinction was lost from other cases and eventually the –n was lost altogether. At around the same time, distinct vowels (-a, -u, -e) all merged to schwa which was written as... [continues]
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