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Barbosu Alina-Florentina English Italian L232

The Story of English. An English Speaking World. The French Influence on the English Language

Being the most widely used language in the world, English has over 400 million native speakers. It has often been referred to as a "world language" and also the lingua franca of the modern era. By international treaty, English is considered the official language for aeronautical and maritime communications and it is one of the official languages of the United Nations. Taking into account some of the most important events in the history of Great Britain, linguists have distinguished three main periods in the evolution of English: Old English (ca. 450 1150), Middle English (ca. 1150 1500) and Modern English (from 1500 to our times). During these really long periods of time, the English language passed through a great number of changes, some of them caused by the natural process that occurs in all languages and other, as a result of language contact. One of the languages that had a great influence on the history of English language was French. The fundamental event of the Middle English period, the Norman Conquest (1066) had a major impact not only on the country but also on the English language. The Duke of Normandy invaded the country and was crowned king of England therefore the ruling class, their servants, the bishop were French men who continued to use their own language for about 200 years after the conquest. The Anglo-Norman kings were not aware of their peoples language; even the government was conducted in French. The interesting fact is that the French language has been used before the conquest, the AngloSaxons society had fairly close relations with France. Due to these changes, the ruling

class of England spoke Norman-French, while the other great part of people spoke Anglo-Saxon. The two languages were used side by side and since the two sections of society couldnt live separately and had some relations with each other, they gradually come to learn and understand one another. A lot of the words of French origin are still used along with the English ones: sheep mutton, cow beef, swine/pig - pork, chicken poultry, calf veal. Seen by many linguists as a blessing in disguise, the influence of French was so great that after the Norman Conquest the English language was very different from the language of Anglo-Saxons. Under the influence of French, the spelling and pronunciation change, from their rulers language English acquired a new variety of vocabulary for many different fields, 10.000 new words were gained from the Normans: fashion (dress, habit, gown, robe, trousers, lace), art (painting, sculpture, music, beauty, literature, tragedy, prologue), religion (ceremony, baptism, Bible, prayer, sermon, miracle, abbot) law (attorney, felony, judge, jury, prison accuse) military (army, navy, battle, defense, soldier) titles and offices (duke, marquis, baron, count, lieutenant, mayor, dean) government ( people, parliament, reign, domicile). Names such as William, Robert, Richard soon became common. As a result, the vocabulary was the most influenced field. If before in the Old English period they preferred to enlarge the vocabulary by suffixes and prefixes, in the Middle English they simply borrowed from French the word they needed, and they also borrowed words connected with: religion, army, art, government and administration. The greatest influx of French words was between 1250 and 1400. The French loans were of different parts of speech, the English borrowed nouns, verbs, adjectives. However, what is really interesting is the fact that all of English function words are of Old English origin. The only sign of French influence is because of an English version of par cause de. After the Norman Conquest the English language was enriched to the extent that half of its vocabulary was French. The French language has also influenced the spelling. The churchly writers, who had studied in France and knew French, gradually changed the Anglo-Saxon forms of Latin letters, replacing them with French ones. For example: u was substituted by ou

(hus>hous>house; mus>mous>mouse), qu instead of cw (queen and cwen; quick and cwicu). Due to the fact that after the Norman Conquest, English turned into a spoken language only, people didnt write in English until the thirteenth century and the standard system of spelling and pronunciation was abandoned, English simplified its complex grammar and the Old English inflections were soon forgotten. In conclusion, the influence of French on the English language was substantial to such an extent that it changed profoundly its character, bringing English closer to the language we know and speak today.