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A Social History of English by D. Leith

By D. Leith

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But they were not always associated with the same power base in society. In both France and Spain, it was the usage of Court and monasteries in the areas of political power— the regions of Paris and Castile respectively—that determined its selection. In countries where political autonomy was achieved relatively recently, standardisation took a different course. Thus, while Tuscan developed as a literary norm during the later Middle Ages in Italy, it did not have a political dimension until the unification of the country in the 1860s.

It was only when this ruling class lost its possessions in Normandy at the beginning of the thirteenth century that it could begin to think of itself as English. By that time, French had become firmly established in England as the High language of law, government, administration, and also, to some extent, courtly literature and religion. It was not until the fourteenth century that English was re-developed within these domains. 1 Linguistic map of the British Isles c. AD 1000 We need to distinguish, therefore, two phases of contact with French.

LANGUAGES IN CONTACT 19 between English and Scandinavian (as in the relationship between British English and American English today). At any rate, similarity in language, as in custom and social organisation, facilitated the absorption of the newcomers in many parts of England, although some distinctive Scandinavian practices, such as land-measurement, survived in what was formerly the Danelaw. Contact between the languages occurred at the oral level, in those areas where ordinary English people encountered, in face-to-face interaction, their Danish counterparts.

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