English origin

Middle English Origin – The Influences



This article mainly focuses on the origin of Middle English. Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, for about three centuries, the Norman kings and their high nobility spoke only one of the languages called Anglo-Norman. It was a variation of the Old Norman used in England and in the British Isles during the Anglo-Norman period. While English continued to be the language of the common people, Middle English was deeply influenced by both Anglo-Norman and, later, Anglo-French


After the decline of Norman, French maintained the rank of a formal or prestige language. It had a noteworthy influence on the Middle English language, which can be seen in Modern English today. Having more formal connotations, an inclination for Norman-derived words, continues to the present day. As for example, most modern English speakers would regard a "cordial reception" -from French to be more proper than a "hearty welcome" which is Germanic.

Another change during the Middle English period is to be seen in the very remarkable building of the words for animals. They were separate from the words for their food products, for example, beef and pork being the products of the Germanically named animals 'cow' and 'pig'.


The Anglo-Saxon account continued until 1154, most other literature from this Middle English origin was in Old Norman or Latin.  The Norman influence is the trademark of the linguistic changes in English over this period of time. The result was the Middle English language. The Celtic languages also marked their influence with the introduction of the continuous aspect. Although this feature is found in many modern languages today, it was developed earlier and more thoroughly in Middle English period. Geoffrey Chaucer is the most famous writer from the Middle English period and his best known work is “ The Canterbury Tales”.


A change in political climate and decline in Anglo-Norman, made the English literature more respectable. In 1258 the Provisions of Oxford was released. It was the first English government paper to be circulated in the English language since the Conquest. Edward III, in 1362, became the first king to speak to Parliament in English. The end of that century saw even the royal court switching over to English. Anglo-Norman was used in limited circles somewhat longer, but it was no longer a living language.


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