Episode 83: A Trilingual Nation

During the reign of Henry II, the speech of England was dominated by three languages – English, French and Latin. In this episode, we examine the relative roles of those three languages, and we also explore how the social barriers between those languages were breaking down in the 12th century.

14 thoughts on “Episode 83: A Trilingual Nation

  1. Hi! I love your podcast and eagerly await each episode. I just have someting (humbly) to add. I took a course in Middle English in college, read sections of the Acrene Wisse for that class, and still own a copy of it in Middle English. The Ancrene Wisse was actually written for monastic women, or anchoresses, not for monks or anchorites. I only mention this because, as I learned it in that class, it is one of the earliest pieces of English literature intended for the use of women, and is also significant for that aspect.
    Looking forward to your next episode! Thank you for all your hard work on this subject. It’s so fascinating.


    • Hi Tricia,

      You are absolutely correct. In fact, I have an entire episode planned for the Ancrene Wisse because it is such an important document in early Middle English. When I wrote the episode, I was thinking that ‘Anchorite’ was a gender neutral term, but you are correct that the female form in ‘Anchoress.’ I should have used the female form since the book was intended for women.

  2. Wow! Thank you Tricia for that insight. And thank you Kevin for continuing with your wonderful podcast. I celebrated my 83rd birthday on Friday by listening to episode 83.

  3. This episodes remind me of mass borrowing of words in south east Asia. People speaks broken English mixing with mandarin, various Chinese dialects, Malay, Indian words and typically with mandarin grammar. Even Japanese can have fully borrowed subjects and objects in a sentence, with Japanese particles to join them, and in Japanese prononciation. You may have come across singlish and manglish in YouTube.

    • Hi Kevin,

      I recently did a bonus episode at patreon.com about English pidgins and creoles that are spoken in the South Pacific. Is a fascinating topic, and it shows that English itself is currently producing it own daughter languages as we speak. I will certainly address this topic in more detail when we get to Modern English.

      • I slightly agree with the English pidgins producing daughter languages as Tok Pisin in a society of thousand languages. What a fascination if given the empirical language planning and necessary impetus need to develop this English baby language.

  4. Kevin,
    I was wondering if you could tell me again the couple of podcasts that you recommended in this episode again. I recently listened to it, but forgot what they were.

  5. Hi Kevin, I’m confused about why French is not a part of the English family if a large number of Britains spoke French. Also French was one of the three main languages at one point. How did English become Germanic while French became a Romance language?

    • Hi Deborah. I’m curious if you’ve listened to the podcast from the very beginning because I think that would answer your questions. Essentially, English originated as a Germanic dialect in northern Europe. In its original form, it was very similar to the early forms of Dutch, the Low German dialects and even the Norse languages of Scandinavia. Meanwhile, French evolved out of Latin, and at one time was very similar to Spanish, Italian, etc. So each language evolved from a different source language (though they ultimately share the same Indo-European roots). French didn’t really begin to influence English substantially until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. I recommend listening to ‘Episode 1: Introduction’ and the Bonus Episode after Episode 118 called ‘Regarding English.’ Both of those episodes provide a brief overview of the history of the English language and its relationship to French.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.