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How Fast Do Languages Change? (Linguistics)
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Mick Harper
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There is something bogus here. Everything is too pristine. Too perfect. The provenances too complete. There were even a coupla world records. Sure, neither of us has enough experience of far eastern cultures to trust our noses, but mine was twitching.
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Mick Harper
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An excellent overview of the current state of play in Quora

In 1066, as every British schoolchild knows, the Normans conquered England. But then, after several centuries of Norman/French rule, the place just quietly went back to being English again. How exactly did that happen?

We‘ve been wondering that. Good to hear someone else is.

The English vocabulary consists for a large part of words that were French in origin. Some of them recent adaptations as French has long been a fashionable language, but many of them date back to the Norman conquest. This is quite remarkable if you consider those French immigrants only amounted to around 8000 people among a total population of 1.5 million.

It being so remarkable, someone must have remarked on it.

The elite status of these newcomers can largely account for this fact. Even today, almost a thousand years after the conquest, those with Norman surnames are still over-represented among the wealthy. Typically migrants adopt the language and customs of the local elite, but in the English case its the elite that migrated and the locals who adopted.

Yes, it is typical. Any ideas why it didn't happen this time?

So when did Anglo-Saxon become English and when did the French immigrants learn to speak it?

I wish you wouldn’t keep repeating yourself and get on and tell us.

A clue might be found in official use. The first time the elite sought to reach out to the commoners was in 1258 when the Crown issued an official letters with text in Latin, French and English. That said this was more of a one-off than the start of a new practice.

So not in 1258.

In 1362 when Chaucer was alive the first parliament was opened with a speech in English. This same year the Pleading in English Act 1362 also established that English could be used in court, though English wasn’t established as the written language until the Proceedings in Courts of Justice Act 1730. This may be viewed against the background of the reign of Edward III and Richard II who patronized the English language, possibly as a way to fan national sentiment. Henry IV of England who reigned from 1399 to 1413 was the first English king to speak English as his first language, and his son Henry V was the first king from whom English handwriting survives.

I think that just about covers it. Thanks!
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Mick Harper
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Another convoluted exchange on Facebook which I post here for two reasons (a) it shows something of the current state of play and (b) ended in Hatty being banned which is always worth adding to our Hall of Shame. Surprisingly it was from an old friend of ours, a boating enthusiast from Devon who has contributed to the Megalithic Empire site.

Edwin Deady wrote:
Saw this on another forum and copied it. "What are some surviving Anglo-Saxon words in English today?"
‘What’, ‘are’, ‘some’, ‘Anglo’, ‘Saxon’, ‘words’, ‘in’, ‘English,’ ‘today’. The only word in the question which is from French rather than Anglo-Saxon is ‘surviving’. In Old English the given words were: Hwá earan sum Engla (genitive of Engle ‘Angles’) Seaxena (genitive of Seaxe ‘Saxons’) word in Englisc tōdæġ. And one word in Norman French: survivant

Modom pointed out the dubiousness of this claim

Harriet Vered wrote:
How does anyone know seeing as there are no extant contemporary Anglo-Saxon documents to corroborate the above? According to historians, roughly a thousand A-S charters exist, all produced by monks and many if not most considered spurious. The oldest charter, a "later copy" of a land charter in favour of Reculver Abbey, is dated 679. No-one knows what became of the original charter or when the copy was written.

The archaeological report for an A-S monastery of Reculver could find only Roman (Saxon Shore) and Norman remains, apparently the monastery like the charter is presumed 'lost'. " The Roman levels have produced significant information but there is nothing comparable for the subsidiary buildings of the Anglo-Saxon minster, which may have been located in the lost northern sector" ['Myth, Rulership, Church and Charters', co-edited by Andrew Wareham and Julia Barrow]

and the cat hit the fan...
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Mick Harper
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Edwin Deady wrote:
We cannot know absolutely and obviously writing is an imperfect way of putting sounds on paper.that it is likely that the word some, for example was used then it matters little how it was is and will be spelt. The comparison with Frisian gives us a clue with spellings being very different but the sounds are similar, see cheese or tsiis.

Harriet Vered wrote:
It needs to be pointed out that seven out of nine words in the above sentence have changed in the period 1150 to 1350 [only 'word' and 'in' have not] whereas most if not all, would have been used by Chaucer i.e. 1370 to 2022. Secondly they are not necessarily A/S into English rather than A/S into French, e.g.
'Hwá' is more like Quoi or Que than What
'Engla' is as much like Anglais as Anglo
'Seaxena' is as much Saxon as Saxon
'Englisc' is as much Anglais as English
Thirdly, they have craftily left out the Anglo-Saxon word for surviving. Fourth, whoever chose that sentence would have made sure it suited their argument.

Edwin Deady wrote:
The question was not set by the person who answered it so that charge fails. How can you be confident about changes when you doubt sources. I notice you ignore the Frisian equivalence.

There was some stuff about Frisian and other minor argy-bargy which, to be fair, Hatty started but which I shall omit. Now came the main course

Harriet Vered wrote:
I know nothing of, and said nothing about, Frisian, I was taking what you wrote at face value. Why have you addressed this minor point and ignored the major one. Why do you think ‘English’ changed virtually all its words 1100 – 1400 and changed hardly any of them 1400 – 2000?

Well, Edwin, cat got your tongue? Au contraire...
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Mick Harper
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Edwin Deady wrote:
It did not change its words but you do not accept that. What is that you think people spoke before the conquest?

This is interesting because Edwin knows what Hatty believes, he has even agreed with her in the past that 'English' was spoken before the Roman conquest never mind the Norman one. A note of exasperation -- never a good idea -- creeps into Hatty's tone

Harriet Vered wrote:
You listed the words, Edwin, remember! The words changed. My position is that people spoke English before the conquest, your position is that they spoke Anglo-Saxon before the conquest. I believe English, Anglo-Saxon and Frisian are different (though related) languages, you seem to think they are the same language or turned into one another. Or something, it isn't always clear. But you still won't say how Anglo-Saxon turned into English in two hundred years and then stayed the same for six hundred years. It seems inexplicable. Perhaps this is why you are not explaining it? Please, just answer this one question.

Edwin is determined to keep as much of the orthodox position as possible despite his heterodox views. That is why I am recording it here, it is the kind of halfway house that might might be adopted in extremis.

Edwin Deady wrote:
No, I think they spoke English but AS is used indiscriminately for English and it is the way the question put it. We are not in disagreement. I did not say they were AS into English, you did. Check Quora and Facebook and you will see how many times I suggest the English was spoken before the Romans arrived and that there were language commonalities around the North Sea Basin. I admit I am a bit miffed at your accusation.

The accusation is that he is bringing Anglo-Saxon into it all...
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Mick Harper
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Harriet Vered wrote:
Academics use the terms 'Anglo-Saxon' and 'Old English' as meaning the same thing because they believe Anglo-Saxon became English so it follows that English a long time ago was Anglo-Saxon. You seem to believe this too. I don't, partly because there is no evidence, it is just what people believed in the seventeenth century and have carried on believing.

But mostly I don't believe it because it is seemingly impossible for a language to change almost completely in two hundred years and then barely change at all for six hundred years. I don't mind you believing your theory, I don't mind you not being able to explain the near-impossibility, but will you at least concede that it does need explaining?

Edwin Deady wrote:
I do not know and neither do you, AS is only a label. The language spoken before the Conquest was English, AKA as Anglo-Saxon. Alfred and successors promoted a Courtly, Literary, Church form of it, possibly incorporating some from overseas. The bulk of the population did not use this language but obviously there would be some spillover. When Alfred wanted his Thegns literate it might have been that he wanted his Courtly language promulgated.

With the replacement by William et al people simply carried on speaking what they always had and eventually writing it to create Middle English that certainly incorporated some French. Chaucer writes in the late 14th century in English as do others and even the Court understands it as it was written for them.

This is in fact quite a neat dodge, and should be watched carefully. Someone else was watching carefully...
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Mick Harper
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Yen Rickeard wrote:
The 'English' language has changed greatly all the time, as I think you know and understand. From proto Indo-European bases, the Brythonic 'Celtic' to Romanised, to the addition of Norse languages, Angles and Saxons, the Frisians. It has newer words from all over the world. It is still changing. It seems to me that you and Edwin Deady are in violent agreement over most of this. The only difference that I can see, is that the language of Normandy was added to the mix with William the Conqueror, when the written word was more widely used and mis-spelled. I hope, but doubt, that this has smoothed a minor difference.

Harriet Vered wrote:
I do not believe the languages in your list contributed anything to English, apart from loan words. Why would they? Native English-speakers already had words for everything else. Since only a few thousand Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norsemen and Normans ever came to these shores, it is hardly likely that several million English people (or Scottish people for that matter) would suddenly adopt words used by people they might occasionally, if ever, meet in their everyday lives.

Edwin Deady: Apart from loan words!
Harriet Vered: Yes, like yoghurt. Perhaps Mongolian should be added to your list of languages that coalesced to form English.
Yen Rickeard: Honestly you don't know about -by -wick ley lea and leigh?
Harret Vered: Wick, ley, lea, leigh (and -burg and -ton as well for that matter) can be regarded as perfectly ordinary English suffixes.
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Mick Harper
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Yen Rickeard wrote:
I see now that you have defined English as Modern English and so you are only considering changes from 1300. I think you are holding to a narrow view of what English is. Or of the numbers of people. Two million is the very rough population given by many for the late Iron Age.

Harriet Vered wrote:
I did not define English, I specifically said this is not possible. The version we speak today is closest in form to literary English which was formulated in the period after 1300 from one or other of the spoken dialects of English around at that time, and have been spoken in England since time immemorial.

Yen Rickeard wrote:
Ah, it all comes to 4 words. 'different to' and 'evolved from'

Harriet Vered wrote:
It all comes down to who founded the villages of England. If they have Anglo-Saxon names, they date from c 500 AD. If they have English names then they were probably founded when agriculture first made villages possible, more like 5000 BC than 500 AD. Where were all those two million Iron Age Brits living? In isolated settlements as the archaeologists claim, or in today's villages?

Edwin Deady wrote:
I really do not know what point you are trying to make, Harriet. Perhaps you would be happier on that weird epistemological forum but I am tired of it. Regretfully am going to block you.
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