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Scandinavian element of the English.-Rev. RICHARD GARNETT, Phil Soc., vol. i., p. 79.


The Norman-French was spoken in the northern parts of France, from the Loire to the confines of Flanders. It is composed of three elements, the Celtic, the Latin, and the Scandinavian. The latter element was introduced by Rollo, a Norwegian chieftain, and the Northmen who settled in Normandy, and gave it its name. NormanFrench was called Langue d'Oil. Its position can be understood from the following statement :—The Latin language of the classical stock, at first confined to Central Italy, was afterward spoken more or less through the Roman empire. Out of the union of the Latin with the several other languages spoken in that empire grew six principal dialects which deserve to be called languages; two eastern, the Italian and Wallachian; two southern, the Spanish and Portuguese; and two north-western, the Norman-French and the Provençal. This last was spoken in the south part of France.

In the year A.D. 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, having landed an army of sixty thousand men in England, at the battle of Hastings killed Harold the king, defeated his army, and thus put an end to the Anglo-Saxon dynasty. After he had ascended the throne his followers were rewarded by the principal offices of trust in the kingdom, and by the estates of the nobility.


The Norman-French, as a consequence, was spoken by the superior classes of society in England, from the Conquest to the time of Edward the Third, 1327; between two and three hundred years. The laws of the realm, the proceedings in Parliament and in the courts of justice, were in the French language. Grammar-schoolboys were made to construe their Latin into French. In the statutes of Oriel College, Oxford, there is a regulation, so late as 1328, that the students shall converse together, if not in Latin, at least in French,

As exemplifying the profound ignorance of the English kings respecting the language of the greater portion of their subjects, we have the following anecdote :-Henry II., who ascended the throne in 1154, having been addressed by a number of his subjects during a journey into Pembrokeshire, in a speech commencing with the words “Good olde Kynge!” asked of his attendants an interpretation of these words !

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In the thirteenth century the mixture of the races was going on extensively and rapidly, and, of consequence, a literature sprang up

between the two extremes, in which the two languages are, without any rule, more or less mixed together, and which belonged to a middle class of society, who spoke both languages.

In the fourteenth century the Anglo-Saxon principle seemed to have gained the upper hand. In 1350, John Cornwall, a schoolmaster, brought in so great an innovation as the making of his boys read Latin into English. By a statute in 1362, all pleas in courts of justice are directed to be pleaded and judged in English, on account of the French being so much unknown.

During the fifteenth century the Anglo-Norman element seemed to be gaining the preponderance; but the proportions still continued to vary, until it became fixed in the age of Queen Elizabeth.




But the question arises, Why is any given object or idea expressed in English by a word derived from one of these languages in preference to a word derived from the other?

The general fact seems to be, that words were adopted into the common language from the Anglo-Norman or the Anglo-Saxon according as the objects or the ideas expressed by those words belonged more exclusively to the one race or the other. In this fact we have the answer. “ Thus we may wonder why, while the Saxon titles of king and queen remained, the principal signs of royalty, the throne, the crown, and sceptre, should be designated by words of Anglo-Norman origin. The difficulty, however, is cleared up, when we consider that, for several ages, the king in his state was an object from which the mass of the Anglo-Saxon population was so far cut off, that, although the title was continually in their mouths, they had almost forgotten these distinguishing marks of his office until they were made acquainted with them through the language of their Norman rulers. The Anglo-Saxon titles earl, lord, lady, and knight superseded their Norman equivalents, being most popular titles in Anglo-Saxon society. Most other words of this class, such as prince,

. duke, 'baron, peer, dame, damsel, esquire, &c., are taken from the Anglo-Norman tongue, and originated in the manners of the AngloNorman aristocracy."

Common articles of dress are Anglo-Saxon, as shirt, breeches, hose, shoes, hat, and cloak. But other articles, subject to the changes of

, fashion, are Anglo-Norman, as gown, coat, boots, mantle, cap, bonnet, &c.

The word house, a common residence, was Anglo-Saxon. But palaces, and castles, and manors, and mansions, and hostels are AngloNorman. The words room and kitchen are Saxon; the words chambers, and parlours, and galleries, and pantries, and laundries, and larders are Anglo-Norman. Hearth, and threshold, and wall,

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and roof, and window are Anglo-Saxon ; chimney is Anglo-Norman, perhaps because the Saxon portion of the population had no chimney. Stool, bench, bed, board, bolster, pillow, sheet are Anglo-Saxon; but table, chair, couch, carpet, curtain are Anglo-Norman.

The names ox, calf, sheep, pig, boar, deer are Anglo-Saxon, because that part of the population was engaged in tending these animals while they were living; but beef, veal, mutton, pork, brawn, venison are Anglo-Norman names, because that part of the population was accustomed to eat their flesh when they were killed. The same is the case with fowls, which is an Anglo-Saxon name given to the birds while living, while poultry is an Anglo-Norman name given to them when killed for eating.

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Walter Scott describes the same thing in his sprightly way.

“Why, how call you those grunting brutes running about on their four legs?' demanded Wamba.

""Swine, fool, swine,' said the herd; every fool knows that.' .

""And swine is good Saxon,' said the jester; 'but how call you the sow when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and hung by the heels like a traitor?'

“Pork,' answered the swineherd.

“I am very glad every fool knows that too,' said Wamba; and dork, I think, is good Norman-French; and so, when the brute lives and is in charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name; but becomes a Norman, and is called pork, when she is carried to the castle hall to feast among the nobles. What dost thou think of this doctrine, friend Gurth, ha?'

“ It is but too true doctrine, friend Wamba, however it got into thy fool's pate.

« Nay, I can tell you more,' said Wamba, in the same tone. There is old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet while he is under the charge of serfs and bondmen such as thou, but becomes beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. “Mynheer Calf," too, becomes “Monsieur de Veau" in the like manner. He is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name when he becomes matter of enjoyment.?» -Ivanhoe, chap. i.

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SECTION LXXV.-INFLUENCE OF THE NORMAN CONQUEST. “ Had the Plantagenets, as at one time seemed likely, succeeded in uniting all France under their government, it is probable that England would never have had an independent existence.

The noble language of Milton and Burke would have remained a rustic dialect, without a literature, a fixed grammar, or a fixed orthography,


and would have been contemptuously abandoned to the use of boors. No man of English extraction would have risen to eminence except by becoming in speech and habits a Frenchman.”—MACAULAY'S History of England.

“The influence of the Norman Conquest upon the language of

“ England was like that of a great inundation, which at first buries the face of the landscape under its waters, but which, at last subsiding, leaves behind it the elements of new beauty and fertility. Its first effect was to degrade the Saxon tongue to the exclusive use of the inferior orders; and, by the transference of estates, ecclesiastical benefices, and civil dignities to Norman possessors, to give the French language, which had begun to prevail at court from the time of Edward the Confessor, a more complete predominance among the higher classes of society. The native gentry of England were either driven into exile, or depressed into a state of dependence on their conqueror, which habituated them to speak his language. On the other hand, we received from the Normans the first germs of romantic poetry; and our language was ultimately indebted to them for a wealth and compass of expression which it probably would not otherwise have possessed.”—THOMAS CAMPBELL'S Essay on English Poetry.


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Nothing can be more difficult, except by an arbitrary line, than to determine the commencement of the English language; not so much, as in those on the Continent, because we are in want of materials, but rather from an opposite reason, the possibility of showing a very gradual succession of verbal changes that ended in a change of denomination. We should probably experience a similar difficulty if we knew equally well the current idiom of France or Italy in the seventh or eighth centuries; for, when we compare the earliest English of the thirteenth century with the Anglo-Saxon of the twelfth, it seems hard to pronounce why it should pass for a separate language rather than a modification of the former. We must conform, however, to usage, and say that the Anglo-Saxon was converted into English: 1. By contracting and otherwise modifying the pronunciation and orthography of words. 2. By omitting many inflections, especially of the noun, and consequently, making more use of articles and auxiliaries. 3. By the introduction of French derivatives. 4. By using less inversion and ellipsis, especially in poetry. Of these the second alone, I think, can be considered as sufficient to describe - a new form of language; and this was brought about so gradually, that we are not relieved of much of our difficulty as to whether some compositions shall pass for the latest offspring of the mother, or the earlier fruits of the daughter's fertility. It is a proof of this difficulty that the best masters of our ancient language have lately introduced the word Semi-Saxon, which is to cover everything from A.D. 1150 to A.D, 1250.”—HALLAM's Introduction to the Literature of Europe.

From this chapter the student can understand how the historical elements which enter into the composition of the English language were introduced. For a full exhibition of those elements themselves, and also of miscellaneous elements, changed though they often are, in order to conform to English analogies, see Part IV., on Etymological Forms.


QUESTIONS UNDER CHAPTER III. 1. Give some account of the race from which the Celtic element was introduced into the English language.

2. Mention the two branches of the Celtic family, and the several divisions of each. 3. Mention the four classes of elements in the present English, with some examples, 4. To what class of objects in the British islands are Celtic words applied ?

5. Give some account of the introduction of the Latin element into the English language.

6. Was the Latin element extensively introduced into the English language during the Celtic period ?

7. What class of Latin words were chiefly introduced during the Celtic period ? 8. What class of Latin words were introduced during the Saxon period ?

9. What class of Latin words were introduced after the Norman Conquest, and wbat analogies do they follow?

10. Mention the occasion upon which the Saxons came into England, and at what time.

11. Give some account of the Saxon race.

12. Mention the names of the three tribes that came into England, and into what part, and at what time they severally came.

13. From what is the term England derived ?
14., Who was a distinguished king of the West Saxons, and what is said of him?

15. What was the geographical position of the Jutes, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Frisians in their own country?

16. What objection has been made to the compound term Anglo-Saxon ?

17. What was the character of the language spoken in England before the Norman conquest?

18. Give some account of the race from which the Danish element was introduced into the English language.

19. How long did the Danes occupy the throne of England, and in what part of the country was this language especially introduced ?

20. Give some account of the Anglo-Norman element, and by whom and when it was introduced.

21. By what classes was Norman-French spoken, and how long ?
22. What causes operated to promote the currency of the Norman-French ?
23. What effect was produced by a mixture of the races on the language ?

24. To what classes of objects were Anglo-Norman words applied, and to what classes: of objects were Anglo-Saxon words applied ?

25. What can you say of the influence of the Norman Conquest upon the language ? 26. What can you say of the transition of the Anglo-Saxon into English ?

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