The Norman Conquest School Site

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Language

The Normans may well have introduced Feudalism, although they probably continued a process that had already begun.

One thing the Norman Conquest had a remarkable affect upon was the language of England.

The Norman Conquest of 1066 stirred the native language on from 'Old English'.  French became far more used and a combination of French and English known as 'Middle English' developed.  The most famous example of 'Middle English' is Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.


Chaucer

How did 'Middle English' develop?

French quickly became the language of the ruling and 'upper classes'.  English merely became a spoken language of the lower classes - the Anglo-Saxons.

There was a complicated linguistic situation in England from 1066 onwards.  It was not just bilingual, but actually trilingual.  French was the language for the ruling 'class' and government, English was the language of the lower 'classes' and Latin was the language of the Church and universities.

As the Anglo-Saxon 'lower class' cooked for the Norman 'upper class', the words for most domestic animals are English (e.g.  sheep, cow or deer) but the words for the meat from them are French (e.g.  mutton, beef or venison).

English

French

[actual animal]

[meat eaten from animal]

Sheep

Mutton
Cow Beef
Deer Venison

The Anglo-Saxons looked after the animals (explaining the English names) but the Normans ate the meat from them (explaining the French names).

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Last updated Wednesday, 02 July 2003