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Вопр Effect of the Norman conquest on the linguistic situation in Britain. Middle English dialects. Principal Middle English written records

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  1. A) Read the following extract from an essay by V. Belinsky and summarize it in English.
  2. A) Travelling and holiday-making are in a way related to each other. Read the following dialogue for enlarging your topical vocabulary (A — student of English; В — teacher).
  4. C) Discuss the effect of such techniques with the group members.
  5. Chronological division in the history of English: the Early New English period.
  6. Compose short situations in dialogue form using the word combinations and phrases.
  7. Compose short situations in dialogue form using the word combinations and phrases. Pay attention to the intonation of the stimuli and responses.
  8. Division of the sentence: principal vs secondary parts
  12. Exercise 4. Translate into English.

Effect of the Norman Conquest on the linguistic situation

The Norman Conquest was not only a great event in British political history but also the greatest single event in the history of the English language. The Norman Conquerors of England had originally come from Scandinavia. They were swiftly assimilated by the French and in the 11th c. came to Britain as French speakers.

The most important consequence of Norman domination in Britain is to be seen in the wide use of the French language in many spheres of life. For almost three hundred years French was the official language of administration: it was the language of the king’s court, the church, the army and others. The intellectual life, literature and education were in the hands of French-speaking people.

The third period, known as Early Middle English, starts after 1066, the year of the Norman Conquest, and covers the 12th, 13th and half of the 14th c. It was the stage of the greatest dialectal divergence caused by the feudal system and by foreign influences – Scandinavian and French. The dialectal division of present-day English owes its origin to this period of history. Under Norman rule the official language in England was French, or rather its variety called Anglo-French or Anglo-Norman

The dialectal position of Middle English is basically a continuation of that of Old English.


NORTHERN This dialect is the continuation of the Northumbrian variant of Old English. Note that by Middle English times English had spread to (Lowland) Scotland . Velar stops are retained (i.e. not palatalised) as can be seen in word pairs like rigg/ridge; kirk/church.


KENTISH This is the most direct continuation of an Old English dialect and has more or less the same geographical distribution.

Characteristics. The two most notable features of Kentish are (1) the existence of /e:/ for Middle English /i:/ and (2) so-called "initial softening" which caused fricatives in word-initial position to be pronounced voiced as invat, vane and vixen (female fox).


SOUTHERN West Saxon is the forerunner of this dialect of Middle English. Note that the area covered in the Middle English period is greater than in the Old English period as inroads were made into Celtic-speaking Cornwall. It shares some features of both Kentish and West Midland dialects.


WEST MIDLAND This is the most conservative of the dialect areas in the Middle English period and is fairly well-documented in literary works. It is the western half of the Old English dialect area Mercia.

Characteristics. The retention of the Old English rounded vowels /y:/ and /ø:/ which in the East had been unrounded to /i:/ and /e:/ respectively.

EAST MIDLAND This is the dialect out of which the later standard developed. To be precise the standard arose out of the London dialect of the late Middle English period. Note that the London dialect naturally developed into what is called Cockney today .

Characteristics. In general those of the late embryonic Middle English standard.

Middle English written records

The most conspicuous feature of Late ME texts in comparison with OE texts is the difference in spelling. The written forms of the words in Late ME texts resemble their modern forms, though the pronunciation of the words was different.

In ME the runic letters passed out of use. Thorn – þ – and the crossed d – đ, ð – were replaced by the digraph th, which retained the same sound value: [Ө] and [ð]; the rune “wynn” was displaced by “double u” – w – ; the ligatures æ and œ fell into disuse. After the period of Anglo-Norman dominance (11th–13th c.) English regained its prestige as the language of writing. Though for a long time writing was in the hands of those who had a good knowledge of French.

The digraphs ou, ie, and ch which occurred in many French borrowings and were regularly used in Anglo-Norman texts were adopted as new ways of indicating the sounds [u:], [e:], and [t∫].

In addition toch, ou, ie, and th Late ME notaries introduced sh (also ssh and sch) to indicate the new sibilant [∫], e.g. ME ship (from OE scip), dg to indicate [dз] alongside j and g; the digraph wh replaced the OE sequence of letters hw as in OE hwæt, ME what [hwat]. Long sounds were shown by double letters, e.g. ME book [bo:k], though long [e:] could be indicated by ie and ee, and also by e.


So, o was employed not only for [o] but also to indicate short [u] alongside the letter u; it happened when u stood close to n,m, or v, e.g. OE lufu became ME love [luvə]. The letter y came to be used as an equivalent of i and was evidently preferred when i could be confused with the surrounding letters m, n and others. Sometimes, y, as well w, were put at the end of a word, so as to finish the word with a curve, e.g. ME very [veri], my [mi:]; w was interchangeable with u in the digraphs ou, au, e.g. ME doun, down[du:n], and was often preferred finally, e.g. ME how [hu:], now [nu:]. For letters indicating two sounds the rules of reading are as follows. G and с stand for [dз] and [s] before front vowels and for [g] and [k] before back vowels respectively. Y stands for [j] at the beginning of words, otherwise, it is an equivalent of the letter i, e.g. ME yet [jet], knyght [knix’t]. The letters th and s indicate voiced sounds between vowels, and voiceless sounds – initially, finally and next to other voiceless consonants, e.g. ME worthy [wurði].

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