Anda di halaman 1dari 7

Millaman 1 Paulina Millaman Mrs.

Paula Jullian British Language and Tradition 2 May, 2012 From Latin to Middle English: A Brief Diachronical Overview of English Language Daniel Defoes verse: your Roman Saxon Danish Norman English ( Defoe 11), condensed the early history of English language as a chronicle of lexical invasions . Therefore, this phenomenon became the essence of English Language as it can be appreciated even nowadays. This essay will display a diachronic overview of this fact in order to describe the main influences which shaped English Language from early Celtic to Norman invasions. To commence, Celts arrived in Britain in 700 B.C. approximately ( Mc Dowall 6). However, their influence was reduced by further invaders who destroyed their communities and displaced them to extreme areas such as Wales and Scotland. Consequently, their influence in English language is scarce. Furthermore, few Celtic words have survived into Modern English. For instance, iron which assists to trace the transmission of ironworking capabilities from one people to another at an early date ( Irvine 29). Later, Romans imposed their culture and language. Additionally, they established an innovative device: writing. As a result, Romans gave a biased viewpoint of Celts as the only historical records of Celts transmitted to us. Added to that, Roman soldiers and merchants introduced fresh concepts and renamed local objects and experiences (Crystal 12); thus, 200 hundred Latin loans were employed during this period. Most of them are related to Nature, Food and Household items and some interesting examples are : pise (pea), plante (plant), cyse ( cheese), catte ( cat), etc. ( Crystal 12). At the same time, Romans named several cities by adding the suffix ceaster (city) and its derivations, as seen in these examples: Gloucester, Leicester, Doncaster, Winchester, Chester, Lancaster, among others. Furthermore, by mispronouncing pretani, the word used for naming native inhabitants of Britain, Romans named the island Britannia (McDowall, 13)

Millaman 2 The fall of the West Roman Empire rushed the arrival of Germanic tribes in waves around the fifth-century A.D. Angles, Jutes and Saxons replaced the Latinized culture and imposed their own world view. This event was especially mirrored in language by lexicon and syntax. For instance, days of the week are from Anglo Saxon origin (McDowall, 11). In relation to grammar, flexibility was the predominant characteristic of Old English; e.g. adjectives are not invariable and suffixes were used to denote word function within the sentence. This fact was also observed in terms of nouns, pronouns and adjectives since it distinguishes different cases ( nominative, accusative, genitive, dative and instrumental) accusative, genitive, dative, and instrumental), genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and numbers (singular, plural) ( Irvine, 46) Christianity became one of the cardinal organizations during the Anglo-Saxon rule when Romans left the Island by the 4th. Century A.D (Mc Dowall 11) .As the matter of fact, culture and literature survived due to the settlement of monasteries and schools devoted to scholarly achievement and keep Greco Roman Culture safe from disappearing. By literacy, Roman Alphabet was incorporated as the medium to entitled Old English as the prestige dialect of literature and administration. The writing of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Bedes Ecclesiastical History of the English People (McDowall, 15) were the peak of this prodigy. A new linguistic alliance was formed around the ninth century A.D. when the Danes (Vikings) raided England. As consequence, several lexemes were incorporated during the Danish rule to the Anglo Saxon inventory because the Vikings brought items unknown in England. In fact, nearly 1000 [Norse words] eventually [became] part of Standard English (Crystal 27). These borrowings were the result of the close contact between the Anglo Saxons and the Danes .Indeed, this phenomenon can be observed even today, e.g. the third person singular s- ending in the present tense was a product of the Scandinavian influence. The last linguistic invasion took place when William of Normandy was crowned king after defeating Saxons in the battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. The result of that was the imposition of Norman Aristocracy as the ruling class and French and Latin as the prestige languages to deal with the countrys affairs. Consequently, Old English was reduced to a basolect spoken only by Saxons commoners and peasants . Furthermore, key linguistic variations affected English during this period. The most important was simplification of

Millaman 3 grammar since French authorities did not understand the complexities of Anglo Saxon Syntax. Another interesting fact was the addition of new lexical items with a Latinized base. The vast majority of Latin- origin lexemes came from this period since Norman authorities introduced terms associated to ecclesiastical, scholarly and governmental affairs while Anglo Saxon words were associated to concrete aspects of reality. To conclude, English language should not be simplified as a mere combination of languages. Although early invasions were brutal, these phenomena illustrated how they were compulsory to settle Old and Middle English basis. Finally, linguistic evolution is deeply rooted in English History story as a fluent exercise of either violent or pacific cultural contact which establishes the essence of contemporary multiculturalism and multilingualism.


Millaman 4 Crystal, D. (1997) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge.: Cambridge University Press. Irvine, Susan (2006). Beginnings and Transitions: Old English in The Oxford History of English, Ed. By Linda Mugglestone. New York: Oxford University Press McDowall, D. (2000). An Illustrated History of Britain. Great Britain: Longman. Rowse, A.L. (1998). The Spirit of English History. Great Britain: Longmans, Green & Co. Townend, Matthew (2006). Contacts and Conflicts: Latin, Norse, and French in The Oxford History of English, Ed. By Linda Mugglestone. New York: Oxford University Press

Origin and Development of English Feudalism: From William the Conqueror to The Great Charter

Millaman 5 The Norman Rule affected all aspects of English life from Language to the political system since [t]he Norman Conquest consisted not only in driving one king from the English Throne and putting another in his place, but in placing the Norman Companions and followers of William in all positions of influence in England (Chewney 85). Consequently, the political base of Norman government was an administrative system imported by William the Conqueror called Feudalism. The core idea of Feudalism can be defined as a performance of military service in return from a grant of land (Chewney 86). That is to say, landlords paid obedience to the king by providing him military supplies and soldiers while the king rewarded them with serfs and lands to administrate in his behalf. Obviously, those donated lands were Saxon territories confiscated to their previous owners. Simultaneously, English Feudal system supported a complex pyramidic structure where every man has a lord, and every lord has a land ( McDowall 24); i.e. each man in England had to promise loyalty and service to his lord from the bottom of the social pyramid to the top of it. Nonetheless, English feudalism presented distinctive attributes in opposition to its continental version: William and his descendants considered England as their property and divided the land in small portions to avoid the rising of opposite forces, which may jeopardize the power of the crown. In fact, an intricate legal scaffolding supported English Feudalism. As an example, every time a lord died, his son made a payment to the king in order to inherit the state (Mc Dowall 30). Furthermore, the King afforded his military campaigns by taxing his lords state production even though he delegated their administration to his lords. Otherwise, Saxons were excluded from this organization. Although, William kept Saxon system of Sheriff, most lands were divided into Norman lords, since the king had tp make sure he had enough satisfied nobles who would be willing to fight for him ( Mc Dowall 25). In 1086 A.D., William had distributed lands for all over England and he needed the exact amount of his properties in order to plan his tax policy. Hence, he developed a unique mechanism to collect this information: an economic census which was defined as a great survey made of all the land of all England, which has entered as the property of its new owners ( Dickens 58). This measure was extremely unpopular, since the population felt they cannot escape from Williams power. In fact, this survey was named

Millaman 6 The Domesday book because it was compared to the the paintings of the Day of Judgement ( McDowall 25) since it represented the overwhelming presence of Normans in Saxon Life. In spite of that, this roll constitutes an extraordinary historical record of the country at this time. After William's decease, English Feudalism continued its empowerment process by transforming itself into a vehicle to obtain lands and power. In fact, English Feudalism over passed the Isle borders when Henry, son of William II, invaded Normandy ( his brothers inheritance ). However, English Feudalism started to show its collapse when John, Williams the Conquerors grandson, decided to display his greedy. By overtaxing his nobles and bishops since he needed financial support to recover Normandy, he became an extremely unpopular king. As a response to that, a group of barons forced him to sign a new agreement, which established the basis for for future Parlamentarism. The Magna Carta or Great Charter, limited Johns prerogatives by establishing the protection of all free men and their right to a legal and fair trial. Subsequently, the lords agreed on a limited military service whose duration should not exceed forty days in which the king must supply a payment for his soldiers. Future Kings were not allowed to forge the Magna Carta since Noblemen began to act as a powerful class instead of a submitted group of vassals. Furthermore, The Great Charter will be issued in the form of inheritable liberties to all free men ( Feilhing 160). Finally, this event was the turning point of English Feudalism declining. Furthermore, its strength was based on the absolute power of the king by controlling military, judicial and economic aspect of government. However, this system created an empowered political force which was born under kings protection but soon fought to limited the kings power. This was the first link to future democratic states and set England as the early antecedent of a limited government based on the respect of certain liberties and prerogatives.


Millaman 7 McDowall, D. (2000). An Illustrated History of Britain. Great Britain: Longman Dickens,CH. (2008). A Childs History of England.. Adelaide: Ebooks/ University of Adelaide. Feilhing, K ( 1948). A History of England. Oxford: BCA. Chewney, E. (1904). A Short History of England. Boston: Ginn & Company.