Topic 42 – The norman conquest. French influence on the english language. Loanwords and calques.

Topic 42 – The norman conquest. French influence on the english language. Loanwords and calques.

1 Historical approach

2 linguistic consequences of the norman conquest

3 influence of french upon middle english syntax the adjective article + relative pronoun inf + pres part/gerund development of prepositions do take french “corps”

4 borrowings in the ME period

5 rebirth of classical learning

6 enrichment of vocabularyfrench sufixes and prefixes

7 calcs


During Cnute´s rule, Edward the confessor, son of Ethelred and Emma, daughter of a former Duke of Normandy, returned from a long exile in Normandy, strongly influenced by the Norman clergy and more interested in being a monk than a king. When he assumes the throne in 1042 he probably spoke better french than english. He appoints Normans to high positions in the English clergy and government, and introduces them into English commercial life.

When Edward dies in 1066, he leaves no direct heir. There are two oblique heirs. Edward Atheling, 16 and too young to the throne, and Harold II, more distant relation but with the blood of the king Olaf of Sweden. He was finally chosen to be king.

William, the duke of Normandy, although a second cousin to Edward, had no right over the throne. But had always lived with this expectancy. Only by force could he become king. 1066. He lands at Pevensey, finding no opposition, since Harold was occupied in the north of England meeting an invasion by the king of normandy, another claimant.

Harold hurries south with his army, and gets to Senlac, near Hastings, where he awaits William´s attack. When this is produced, Harold makes the most of his position and gets to keep on the hill. William pretends to be retiring his troops, and when followed by part of Harold´s ones, William makes a stand and the battle is renewed on more even terms. Harold is pierced in the eye by an arrow and dies. Two of his brothers had already fallen. Without leaders, the english become disorganized and lose the battle. On Christmas day, William was crowned King of England.

William erases the old political distinctions between the Dane law and the South. England is, though brutally oppressed, united under one sovereign king. He also replaces English nobility and church with Norman barons and clergy.


The members of the new ruling class continued to use their own language. Soon, through intermarriage and association with the ruling class numerous people of England learned the new language. The language of the masses, uncultivated now, continued to be English. On the other hand, many of the upper class would acquire some familiarity with it.

The fusion of normans and English was rapid and after the loss of normandy and the growing antagonism toward France the union of all the inhabitants of england was complete.

Shortly after 1200 conditions changed. England lost parts of her possessions abroad. A feeling of rivalry developed between the two countries, accompanied by the 100 years war (1340s-1450s) In the 14th english universal use again, and 15th spoken french disappears from england. Paradoxically, these centuries are those in which more french words come into English, precisely brought by those who shifted from french to english.


The adjective:

Stereotyped expressions: body politic, state general, poet laureate.

Chaucer : (plural and after) letters patentez goddes celestials

Article + relative pronoun

The which (lequel) Translator Caxton

Inf + present part/ger: Go running, come singing

Development of prepositions:

ME: levelling of vowels, loss of gender and inflectional endings.

Except considering concerning during for why

Do: int, neg, causat (do bind them (have them bound))

Take: advantage, leave, at random

The old french word “corps”:

Chaucer: “I pray to God to save thy gentil Corps”

Somebody, anybody, everybody, nobody.


1ST Stage: 1066-1250 Words that the lower classes would become familiar with through contact with a french speaking nobility:

baron, noble, dame, servant, messenger, minstrel, juggler

2nd Stage: 1250-> Those who used to speak french, turn to speak English, introducing French words:

Governmental and administrative:

Government administer state parliament chancellor royal authority sovereign minister majesty tyrant tak oppress court treason

Noble sir prince princess duke count marquis baron


Prelate pastor cardinal vicar novice dean abbess

Crucifix mitre incense

Creator virgin mystery saint trinity miracle

Law words:

Judge advocate sentence plea defendant

Accuse arrest blame

Perjury adultery assault fraud felony

Army and navy

Army navy enemy soldier guard sergeant lieutenant

Fashion meals social life

Fashion dress boots cape gown robe

Bacon salmon sausage sardine sole supper pord veal

Art learning medicine

Art literature music story painting rime tragedy

Poison pain leper gout physician


15TH many translators set to translate from latin to english

massive adoption from french and latin

latin + french +english = richness in synonims

Popular. Literary. Learned.

Holy sacred consecrated

Ask question interrogate

Time age epoch

Rise mount ascend



13c-15c reclassify

14c disallows. Encircle. International.

15c maladapted.

15c-20c decontaminate


13c baggage fishery

14c breakable confederacy entrance assertive amusement pressure

15c contaminate employee sparkle

16c auctioneer piglet

17c alcoholic

18c shakesperian


AIR 13TH the gas we breath


APOGEE 17TH point in the orbit of a planet

AUTOMOBILE, GRAND PRIX, FLAN (by a chef ) MARGARINE (french nutritionist) 19th

GARAGE, 20th