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Struggle between English and French. Rise of the London dialect. Formation of the National Literary Language

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The language situation in England After the Norman conquest:

1) the feudal upper class, the government, the court - Anglo-Norman, the majority of the population – English;

2) a considerable layer of bilingual population, speaking both languages.

3) development of another process – the rise of a National Language based on the London dialect.

In 1258 Henry III addressed the population of the country in a Proclamation written in English (the London dialect). In 1362under king Edward III Parliament ruled that courts of laws should conduct their business in English. In the same year English was first used in Parliament itself.

The manifestations of social (growth of commerce and industry, development of money circulation) and political changes had a decisive influence on the language situation in England. This created the need for a unified national language.

In the 14th century there were three main groups of dialects in England: Northern, Midland and Southern. London dialect combined Midland and Southern dialects. Towards the end of the 14th century London dialect spread all over the country (due to the growth of its importance as an economic and political capital of England). London dialect became the base of the national English language.


§ What was the language situation in England after the Norman conquest?

§ What was the first symptom of rise of English?

§ When was English first used in Parliament?

§ What changes had a decisive influence on the language situation in England in the 14th century?

§ Why was it so important to have a unified national language?

§ What were the three main groups of dialects in England in the 14th century?

§ Why did a special position among ME dialects belong to the dialect of London?

Spread of London Dialect in the 15th century. The development of the Literary Language.In the 15th century the London dialect gradually spread all over the country, superseding local dialects. Spoken English in various parts of the Britain gradually approached the literary norm, and differences between the norm and popular speech disappeared.

The formation of a national language was greatly influenced by two events which took place in the 15th century:

1.The Wars of Roses (1455-1485) marked the decay of feudalism and the rise of an absolute monarchy. This meant a high degree of political centralization and thus it contributed to a predominance of the national language over local dialects.

2.The Introduction of Printing. Printing was invented in Germany by Johann Gutenberg in 1438 and gradually spread to the other places. The Englishman William Caxton (1422-1491) became acquainted with this art. He published the first English printed book, but it was not in England, it was in Bruges.

Later (in 1476) he founded the first English printing office in London and still later (in 1477) the first book, printed in England, appeared. It was called “The Dicties and Sayings of the Philosopher” (dicta- от латинского dictum (ед. ч.)- изречение).

The spread of printed books influenced the normalization of spelling and grammatical forms.

Existence of a language norm becomes evident in the 16th century. The literary language is understood as a model which must be followed. On the entire territory of the country only literary English is used. All other dialects were reduced to oral languages.

After introduction of printing each vowel letter acquired different sound values depending on its environment.

The period from 1350 to 1400 has been called the Period of Great Individual Writers. The chief name is that of Geoffrey Chaucer.

All written documents of the 15th century can be classified into three types:

· those written in the London literary language

· those written basically in the London literary language but bearing some traces of local dialects

· those written in a more or less pure local dialect



§ What events had a great influence on the formation of a national language?

§ When and where was printing invented?

§ What was the title of the first book printed in England?

§ When did the existence of a language norm become evident?

Changes in the spelling system.During several centuries after the Norman Conquest the business of writing was in the hands of French scribes. They introduced into English some peculiarities of French graphic habits. Traces of French traditions in writing have remained in English to the present day.

First of all we must note some changes in the alphabet. Some letters typical of OE gradually came out of use, and some new ones were introduced:

a)The letter , which was used in OE is gradually replaced by the letter g and y. Thus, the OE ჳōd now appears as gōd, OE ჳēar now appears as yer.

b)The letter æchanged into a, [æ:] into ē.

c)The letter g was introduced to denote the sound [g] (ჳōd) and also the sound [dჳ].At the same time, a new letter was introduced to denote the sound [dჳ]in the words of French origin. This is the letter jas in joy, judge, June.

d) The letter vwas introduced to denote the sound [v], instead of the OE letter u. These two letters were used as variants in Middle English: over - ouer, love – loue, vse – use.

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