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The French influence on the English vocabulary

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  1. The Norman conquest (1066-1070).
    1. External history.
    2. The demographic situation after the conquest.
    3. The relation between England and France after the conquest.
    4. The linguistic situation after the conquest .
  2. The loss of Normandy (1204) and its consequences.
    1. External history .
    2. Linguistic consequences.
  3. French influence on the English language.
    1. Loans.
    2. Distinction between anglo-norman and central french loans.

This quotation of the contemporary glossary by Robert of Gloucester brilliantly sums up the linguistic situation of the English society in the centuries after the Norman Conquest. While French became the language of power and prestige and left its mark on the English language, English remained the means of communication among the greatest part of the population.

This essay deals with the French influence on the English language which began in the 11th century and to a certain extent, continued into modern times. However, the main focus will be on the first 500 years. The first part will deal with the Norman Conquest and its social and linguistic consequences. The second part treats the loss of Normandy and the social and linguistic developments following it. In the last part, the French linguistic influence on the English language will be analyzed in more detail. This part will concentrate on vocabulary as it was here that the French exerted its main influence.

[...] French Influence on the English language III.1 Loans The influence of French on the English language can be seen most clearly in its vocabulary. In an analysis cited by Berndt, (1984) (Horn list of 1926)[52] the results show that 45% of the 10,000 most frequently used Modern English words are of French origin. This proportion is by far larger than that of Old English words ( 31.8 According to calculations based on the Oxford English Dictionary, about 10,000 French loans entered the English language, out of which about 75% are still in use today.[53] A small number of loans existed already before 1066 such as prud (proud), sot (foolish), tur (tower) or capun (capon).[54] After the Norman Conquest, more and more French words entered the English language but the number of loans remained quite modest. [...]

[...] Consequently, this social group was not entirely French but constituted an ethnically mixed community which probably favored intermarriage at an earlier stage than in the high aristocracy.[18] The influx of French immigrants after the conquest had various consequences on the different groups of the English society: while political and ecclesiastical life was dominated by the Norman intruders, their culture and the language of the peasantry was hardly affected by the Norman conquest and its effects (if one disregards the immediate consequences as pillaging and burning which undoubtedly affected the population strongly). [...]

[...] to the English throne and thus created a political situation in which the French had a strong and lasting influence on the English culture and language. But certain less known events that occurred prior to this date were crucial for William in order to put a claim on the English throne. William of Normandy was a second cousin of Edward the Confessor, the former English king. Edward, son of a former Anglo-Saxon king and a Norman noblewoman, had grown up in Normandy. [...]

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