Episode 121: English Ascent

In the years immediately following the Black Death, a labor shortage in the countryside led to the rise of yeomen and other rural laborers. The rise of these English-speaking classes led to corresponding rise in the prestige of English. The ascendency of English culminated with the Statute of Pleading which made English the official language of the government for the first time since the Norman Conquest.


8 thoughts on “Episode 121: English Ascent

  1. I can’t help but speculate about this term Yeoman. And extrapolate to the legendary Youngling dynasty and maybe to the German word Jünker.
    My speculation is that the origin of the concept of the legendary Youngling dynasty is when the remnants of the prestine germanic world in Scandinavia was shattered by men returning from serving in Romes armies. Archeology shows great upheaval in Scandinavia in the Roman Ironage. Dwellings that had existed for a thousand years or more cease to be used and new ones apear just a few hundred meters away. My speculation is that young men went to serve either in Roman auxilary units, or they went to serve in these new Germanic supertribes such as the Alemanni, Marcomanni and such, that came together to get a slice of the wealth flowing out of Rome. Like, the Marcomanny, the men on the border, it sounds like a salespitch, come join us, we control a spot on the Roman border! Subsidies! Trade! Raiding! Fortune!

    Anyway, I read alot of Peter Heather. And his arguments make sense. Rome fundamentally changed barbarian society, technology, culture, military. When young men that went down to europe and took part in this and learned these new political innovations and military techniques. What happened when they came home to Scandinavia? Maybe they used that they had learned a whole new dimension of violence and politics to overthrow the old order? Maybe in the old traditional tribal society alot of power had been wielded by tribal elders? And maybe that is what the “Yngling dynasty” is a memory of, how the young men of violence and brutality turned society on its head?

    Anyway, I have no idea if the similarity between these three different germanic words hold any significance whatsoever. I just can’t help speculating about it.

    • I also read these place name statistical analysis by John Kraft. And it seems that many of the Scandinavian pagan gods are not all that old. This too speaks of a new, warlike ideology arriving from the continent in the Roman Ironage.

      • But what about the fact that most archaeologists agree that Germanic peoples started displacing the Celts in central Europe at least 1000 years before the “Migration Period” that you refer to? Also, what does “pristine germanic world” even mean?

    • With respect to the etymology question, my understanding is that ‘Yngling’ meant ‘descendant’ and is simply the Norse version of ‘youngling.’ I’m not 100% sure about that, but if that’s true, and if ‘yeoman’ literally means ‘young man’ (which is also uncertain), then both terms would share the same Germanic root for ‘young.’ German ‘Jünker’ is derived from that same Germanic root and literally means ‘young lord.’

      • The Norse sagas (including Snorre) speak of the Ynglinge-lineage, supposedly from Sweden, descended from the Norse gods. From what I can tell, the etymology of “Yngling” is unknown, but may either mean “descendants of Yngve” or “the young ones.” However, “Yngve” appears to be a version of the first name “Inge,” which is Norse for “ancestor,” apparently from the Germanic “ingwaz,” “Ing” is commonly found in Scandinavian names, including “Ingrid” (my mother’s name), Ingeborg, Ingegerd, Ingolf, etc.

  2. Ain’t gonna lie: as a French-speaker I have mixed feelings about the decline of French influence. Our Dear Narrator, on the other hand, sounds rather chuffed!

    One note: at 57:40 one is told that the French of Paris is “standard French”. It’s true that around that time Paris French became a prestigious language. It should also be considered that until the mid-1300s, the “langues d’oïl” were standard in northern France, while the standard language of southern France was Provençal. The Celtic language Breton was spoken in the northwestern peninsula, Catalan was spoken in the South; in the east, Germanic languages were spoken. There were also many other dialects.

    As late as the time of the French Revolution, Parisien French was a minority language in the country.

    • If I’m chuffed, it’s only because I may finally get a break from having to pronounce so many French words in the podcast. 😉

      With respect to the dialectical diversity in France, I am aware of that situation, and I actually gave that issue some thought when I was preparing my comments at the end of the episode. I agree that ‘standard French’ is difficult to define at this point in history, and it isn’t necessarily the same as Parisian French. That was why I qualified my statement at the end when I said that the French spoken in Paris was the “standard literary dialect of French.” I intentionally added the word ‘literary’ in that sentence because I wanted to qualify how I used the term ‘standard French,’ and I thought it was more accurate to refer to Parisian French as the standard ‘literary’ dialect rather than simply calling it the ‘standard dialect.’ Even that qualification is debatable, but my main objective at the end of the episode was to draw a contrast between Anglo-Norman French and the French which was perceived as ‘proper’ or ‘standard’ by Englishmen – which happened to be the French spoken in Paris.

  3. if there is one area where Anglo-Norman (or isolated words from that language) survived, it is in the profession you belong to, dear Kevin, especially the type of law you practice. Will we get an earful of Law French in the future? I certainly hope so. 😉

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