The Influence of French in Middle English Syntax

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Universität Stuttgart Institut für Linguistik: Anglistik HS Topics in Middle English Syntax Dr. Thomas McFadden WS 2007/2008

14/11/2007 Christine Pöhler

The influence of French in Middle English Syntax
In contrast to Scandinavian, French did not change the OE phonology or syntax but its vocabulary: French became the “most substantial source of new words in written Middle English.” (Blake: 423) Why did French have this kind of impact on English and its lexis? - The number of the conquerors was relatively small: only around 7000 men and the French-born population only represented 2 to 10 per cent - Norman language was adopted because the French-speaking conquerors were in the high positions: o Local aristocracy was replaced by William’s Norman followers. o Church and Education were, as well, in control of the Normans. Norman French was the language of ruling class (aristocracy, court, administration, church and education) for more than 200 years.  Command of French, as the language of the entire upper classes, was a key qualification for advancement. Anglo-Norman French was the language of social prestige but it never became the mothertongue of the majority of the population and bilingualism was rare. All the time through people continued to speak English or, more precisely, the English dialects of their regions. Consequently, English kept on developing through the predominantly oral use of the lower classes. But there was no standard literary English and no standardization in spelling, pronunciation and grammar. When English got the official language again, it had changed a lot under the foreign influences.

The rise and fall of French:
11th and 12th century - The Norman dialect of French, called Norman French, changed to Anglo-Norman French. - Anglo-Norman French is spoken by the entire upper classes but rarely by the lower classes. th 13 century - 1204 King John loses Normandy. - Parisian Central French became the new courtly language while Norman...
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