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Main historical events of Old English and Middle English periods and their






Linguistic consequences.

1066-1075 William crushes uprisings of Anglo-Saxon earls and peasants with a brutal hand; in Mercia and Northumberland, uses (literal) scorched earth policy, decimating population and laying waste the countryside. Anglo-Saxon earls and freemen deprived of property; many enslaved. William distributes property and titles to Normans (and some English) who supported him. Many of the English hereditary titles of nobility date from this period.
  English becomes the language of the lower classes (peasants and slaves). Norman French becomes the language of the court and propertied classes. The legal system is redrawn along Norman lines and conducted in French. Churches, monasteries gradually filled with French-speaking functionaries, who use French for record-keeping. After a while, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is no longer kept up. Authors write literature in French, notEnglish. For all practical purposes English is no longer a written language.
  Bilingualism gradually becomes more common, especially among those who deal with both upper and lower classes. Growth of London as a commercial center draws many from the countryside who can fill this socially intermediate role.
The English kings lose the duchy of Normandy to French kings. England is now the only home of the Norman English.
First book in English appears since the conquest.
First royal proclamation issued in English since the conquest.
ca. 1300 Increasing feeling on the part of even noblemen that they are English, not French. Nobility begin to educate their children in English. French is taught to children as a foreign language rather than used as a medium of instruction.
Start of the Hundred Years' War between England and France.
English becomes official language of the law courts. More and more authors are writing inEnglish.
ca. 1380 Chaucer writes the Canterbury tales in Middle English. the language shows French influence in thousands of French borrowings. The London dialect, for the first time, begins to be recognized as the "Standard", or variety of English taken as the norm, for all England. Other dialects are relegated to a less prestigious position, even those that earlier served as standards (e.g. the Wessex dialect of southwest England).
William Caxton brings a printing press to England from Germany. Publishes the first printed book in England. Beginning of the long process of standardization of spelling.

 



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