42. 42. THE THE NORM NORMAN AN CONQ CONQUE UEST ST.. FREN FRENCH CH INFL INFLUE UENC NCE E ON ENGL ENGLIS ISH H LANGUAGE. BORROWINGS AND CALQUES.
The topic of this paper is the Norman Conquest and its influence on English language. To do so effectively, I will divide m presentation into five sections. I will first give an overview of the situation immediately before the Norman Conquest. I will then move on to the second section and provide a historical approach of the Norman Conquest to the understanding of the French influence in Britain. In the third section, I will discuss the influence of French on English language and account for the borrowings through different periods. This will lead us to the fourth section, which will show some of the French calques remaining in nowadays English language. Finally, I will show the implications of the influence of French on English language for teacher of English as a foreign language.
After the migration of the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th C. from the continent to Britain, the Norman Conquest was the most important even in the history of Britain.
Directly across from England, on the Northern coast of France is the territory known as Normandy. Its name derives from the bands of Northmen who settle there in the 9th and 10th C. A generation after Alfred the Great reached an agreement with Northmen in England, a similar understanding was reached between Rollo, the leader of the Danes in Normandy, and Charles the Simple, king of France. In 912, Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy. In the foll follow owin ing g cent centur ury y and and a half half,, a succ succes essi sion on of mast master erfu full duke dukes s rais raised ed the the Dukedom to a position of great influence, overshadowing the power of the king.
Normans had soon absorbed the most important elements of French civilisation. They profited from their contact with French military forces and they soon had one of the most important armies of Europe. They had also one of the outstanding legal systems of the world, including the idea of the jury. They accepted Christianity and began the construction of great cathedrals, which are
still considered marvels of the architecture. But most important of all, they soon gave up their language and learnt French. At the time of the Norman Conquest, the civilisation of Normandy was essentially French, and was among the most advance and progressive peoples of Europe.
Some years before the Norman Conquest, the relations between England and Normandy were very close. In 1002, Aethelred the Unready married a Norman wife, and when driven to exile by the Danes, he took refuge with his brother-in-law, the duke of Normandy. So, his son Edward, who grew up in France was almost more French than English. However, when the Danish line died out, Edward, known as the Confessor, was restored to the throne from which his father had been driven.
This meant a strong French atmosphere in the English court, since he brought with him a number of his Norman friends, enriched them and gave them important places in the government.
Although relations between England and France were cordial, there was a fact which triggered the Norman Conquest. In January 1066, when Edward the Confessor died child-less, England was again faced with the choice of a successor.
eldest son of Godwin, the most powerful and influential of
the earls, was elected king the day after Edward’s death.
duke of Normandy and Edward’s cousin, had lived
with the expectation of becoming Edward’s successor. Only by force could William obtain the crown to which he believed himself entitled. William the Great, as chronicles called him, lost no time in beginning preparations. He secured the cooperation of his vassals by the promise of liberal rewards, came into terms with his rivals and enemies on the continent and appealed to the Pope to receive the blessing of the Church. In September, William landed on the South coast of England with a formidable force.
Harold drew up his forces on a broad hill not far from Hastings, and awaited William’s attack. So well did the English defend themselves that William
had to resort to a desperate stratagem. Unfortunately, Harold died during the battle, and deprived of their leader, the English became disorganised. The confusion spread and Normans quickly profited by the situation.
Although William had won the battle of Hastings, he still found some resistance but finally, the English capitulated and on Christmas Day, William was crowned king of England.
One of the most important consequences was the introduction of new nobility. Many of the English higher class had been killed on the field of Hastings, and their places were filled by William’s Norman followers. For several generations after the conquest, the important positions and the great estates were almost always held by Normans.
In like manner, Normans were gradually introduced into all important positions in the Church.
It is less easy to speak with certainty of the Norman population that came into England after William’s victory. The numerous castles which the Conqueror built were apparently garrisoned by Norman troops. Likewise merchants and craftsmen from the continent settle in England in considerable number. It is quite impossible to say how many Normans and French people settled in England in the century and a half following the Conquest, but since the governing class in both church and state was almost exclusively made up from them, their influence was out of all proportion to their number.
I will now move on to the third section and discuss the influence of French on English language and account for the borrowings through different periods.
The Norman Conquest not only changed the history of Britain, but also the whole course of the English language.
Whatever the number of Normans settled in England, it is clear that the members of the new ruling class were sufficiently predominant to continue using their own language. For two hundred years after the Norman Conquest, French remained the language among the upper classes in England. However, English remained the language of the masses.
The most important factor which contributed to continue using French in the English upper class was the close connection between England and the continent. At his death, William the Conqueror gave Normandy to his eldest son, and England to William, his second son. Later, both domains were united in the hands of Henry I. Upon the accession of Henry II, Count of Anjou, English possessions in France were still further, and by his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine, he controlled about two thirds of France.
The English nobility was not so much a nobility of England, but an AngloFrench aristocracy. English landowners had possessions on the continent too. The king and his nobles crossing the Channel with military forces, business of ecclesiastics and merchants, this constant going and coming across the narrow seas made the continued use of French by those concerned, not only natural, but inevitable. Meanwhile, English was considered an uncultivated language, the language of a socially inferior class. But there is plenty of evidence of mutual respect and intermarriage between the Normans and the English.
Although French had the social and cultural prestige, Latin remained the language of religion and learning, while English survived as the common speech. The mingling of these three powerful traditions can be seen, for example, in the word “kingly” . Anglo-Saxons had only one word to express this concept – made up from king -. After the Normans, three synonyms entered the language: royal, regal, sovereign. The capacity of expressing three or four different words for the same meaning is characteristic of the language after the Norman Conquest (ask - question – interrogate).
The influence of French on English is more complex than that of the Scandinavian languages, since there is as prolonged history in which French influenced English as a technical written language.
There were two main ways of importation of French words into English.
From Anglo-Norman (Early Middle English) (1)
From Central French (Late Middle English and beyond) (2)
The earliest borrowings from the language of the conquerors are possibly
words borrowed from Latin and rendered with the spelling and conventions proper to French, such as chancellor, council, charity, prior, privilege, war, peace, justice, miracle, mass, scholar, cannon or castle, which refers now to the military fortifications rather than the villages which were its reference in Old English. Especial mention deserves the group of borrowings referring to titles and aristocratic concerns, such as duke, court, count, countess, rent, arrest .
Yet the language of the peasants remained English. The peasants worked on the land and reared sheep, cows or swine (words from Old English), while the French upper classes ate mutton, beef or pork (words of French origin). Hence, the different words in Modern English to refer to these animals in the farmyard or on the plate.
Borrowings from Central –Parisian- French have poured into English
language reflecting the French domination in spheres of fashion, lifestyle, arts and sciences: dress, fashion, garment, gown, habit, petticoat, luxury, comedy, copy, page, romance, story, tragedy, engineer, college, lecture, medicine, physician, surgery, library, etc.
And also numerous gastronomic words, such as bonbon, casserole, champagne, crêpe, fondant, menu, praline, restaurant, crème, etc. were introduced.
Many loans have been adapted to English sound patterns, however, especially later borrowings, have kept phonetic or intonation patterns of the
donor language. Thus, we can hear garage completely /’gᴂr Əᴣ/ or partially assimilated /’gᴂra:dᴣ/, /’gᴂridᴣ/ or even more French-sounding pronunciations as /gƏ’ra:dᴣ/ especially in American English.
Special mention deserves the following vestige of the influence of French on English language. In morphology, the lasting effect of French was to increase the number of weak verbs, shown in the past and past participle endings and so, indirectly, induce native strong verbs to follow the same pattern. This is the reason why we find in Modern English that the past and past participle of verbs as learn, can be learned or learnt.
Apparently, the density of French borrowings increased with the passing of the time. During the Renaissance most of the borrowings were connected to literary terms, such as genre and numerous abstract terms ending in –ance, -ence, -ant, -ent, -ment.
The coming of the Industrial Age, in the 17th and 18th C. brought an intensive activity, with borrowings such as chaise, clique, salon, bouquet, canteen,
silhouette, cuisine, police, debut, souvenir, etc.
Together with borrowings, several calques still remain in nowadays English language. Calques are loan-translations or the literal translation element by element of a word from other language (French) into the lexicon of another (English) using not the roots of the originating language but those of the borrowing language. Some of these French calques are Adam’s Apple (calques pomme d’Adan), deaf-mute (calques sourd-muet ), free verse (calques vers libre), by heart (calques par Coeur ), crime of passion (calques crime passionel ), point of view (calques point de veu ), flea market (calques marché aux puces), marriage of convenience (calques marriage de convenance), bushmeat (calques viand de brousse), etc.
To finalise my presentation, I would like to make a comment on how English teachers should approach this topic when teaching the target language.
According to Decree 233/2002, 6th June, by which the Decree 78/1993 is modified, and establishes the curriculum for ESO in Galicia, and the Decree 126/2008, 19th June, which establishes the curriculum for Upper Secondary School (Baccalaureate) in Galicia, one of the goals is the knowledge of the most relevant cultural aspects of the target language. Grasp on the history of English language will help students to familiarise with different cultures and to identify wide range of French lexicon. As an example activity, I would li ke to suggest the comparison of English language during the period after the Norman Conquest with the Galician language during the so-called “Dark Centuries”. It can be presented as a speaking activity requiring the participation of all the students, so that they can compare the foreign language they are learning with their own language.