The early part of the 12th century represented the darkest days of the English language. English writing had almost disappeared, and spoken English was divided among a variety of regional dialects that were often incomprehensible to speakers in other parts of the country. For most prominent people in England, both Latin and French were considered to be far superior languages. English was mocked and ridiculed. This view even extended to Anglo-Saxon names which started to disappear during this period. The English language that everyone knew was dying out. In parts of the country, it was already dead. In its wake, a new English was emerging, but that new language had not yet been revealed in writing.
In this episode, we explore the events leading to the death of William the Conqueror. And we’ll look at the reign of his son and namesake, William Rufus. The story of William’s succession is also the story of a sibling rivalry. William’s three sons fought with each other – and even with their father – for control of the Anglo-Norman kingdom. But one thing that William and all of his sons had in common was a love for hunting, and the importance of hunting is reflected in the English language which contains many words and phrases originating in the language of Medieval hunters.
For more than a century following the Norman Conquest, English writing fell out of favor. During that hiatus, French words continued to flow into English. A lot of those words were associated with the manors that dotted the English countryside where most of the peasants lived and worked. In this episode, we look at some of those French and Latin words associated with manors and peasants. We also examine how the manorial courts were used as tool to exploit the peasants and tie them to the land.
In the two decades that followed the Norman Conquest, most of the land in England passed into the hands of French-speaking nobles. This process not only brought the feudal system to England, it also brought the French language to the peasants out in the countryside. In this episode, we explore these developments, and we look at some of the first words to pass from Norman French into English. We also examine an early Middle English passage from Robert of Gloucester.
It may come as a surprise that William the Conqueror embraced English after the Norman Conquest. He also maintained much of the existing Anglo-Saxon bureaucracy. Had William continued those policies, the English language would be very different today. Despite William’s attempt to rule as an ‘English’ king, his favorable policies quickly vanished in the wake of a series of rebellions throughout his newly conquered kingdom. Afterwards, William initiated the process by which the Anglo-Saxon nobility and land holders were removed from power and replaced with his French allies. The new French aristocracy established a social environment which shaped the transition of Old English into Middle English.
In this episode, we look at the events of 1066 – one of the most important dates in the history of English. Of course, this was the year of the Norman Conquest and the beginning of the end of Old English. It was an incredibly active year. And if the events had not unfolded in the way they did, it is likely that William’s conquest would have failed, and English would be a completely different language today. As we look at the events of 1066, we also explore the etymology of the names of the seasons and other related words.
Many scholars consider the Norman Conquest of England to be the most important event in the history of the English language. The man who directed that conquest was William of Normandy. In this episode, we examine William’s rise from a young Duke to the eve of the Norman Conquest. It was a rise marked by a series of broken promises. Along the way, we will examine more features of Norman French which impacted English. And we will return to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to see how this history was documented in the Old English language which was soon to be wiped away.
In the century before the Norman Conquest of England, Normandy gradually emerged as a powerful player in the politics of northern Europe. Meanwhile, the language of the Normans underwent a major transition. The original Scandinavian language of the Normans gave way to a unique French dialect. In this episode, we explore the rise of Normandy, and we examine the changing language of the Normans. We also examine the legacy of the Norman vocabulary on Modern English.
The Normandy of William the Conqueror was a product of the feudal age of Western Europe. In this episode, we explore the history of feudalism, and we examine words associated with feudalism which entered the English language. We also look at the early history of Normandy to see how it fits into the feudal puzzle. Along the way, we examine certain aspects of Norman French, and we explore some of the differences between the Norman French dialect and the standard Old French spoken in places like Paris.
In this bonus episode we look at the etymology of certain words related to animals. We also examine words related to stuffing.