Dating dictionary en language
Likewise it was French, not English, that generally vied with Latin in a wide range of technical and official functions until very near the end of the Middle English period.
We have some substantial literary texts, such as the and a small group of texts in a very similar language apparently from a very similar milieu, we can identify mini-traditions of English writing; but what we do not have are clear, well-established, persistent traditions of writing in English (whether for literary or non-literary purposes) from which any sort of standard written variety could grow.And, crucially, it was in contact with Latin and with French.After the Norman Conquest, the ruling elite in England (in church as well as state) were French speakers.Some Scandinavian borrowings which were doubtless borrowed in either Old English or Middle English are first attested much later; this is especially the case with words preserved only in regional use.Back to top The Latin component in the vocabulary of Old English was small, only amounting to a few per cent of the total of surviving Old English words, and many (but by no means all) of these words were doubtless of very rare occurrence, confined to very occasional use by scholars.We speak of ‘early Scandinavian’ in this context because we are dealing with the antecedent stage of the later Scandinavian languages, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, etc.
(As regards the divisions among the Scandinavian languages, Icelandic and Norwegian are both West Norse languages, while Swedish and Danish are East Norse languages; however, very few of the Scandinavian loanwords in English can be assigned with any confidence to specifically East Norse or West Norse input.) Gradually, over the course of generations, the use of early Scandinavian died out in England, but not without leaving a significant impact on the vocabulary of English.
Before the Conquest, England had been relatively ‘advanced’ in the extent to which the vernacular language, rather than Latin, was used in writing.
After the Conquest, English became pushed out of these functions almost entirely.
Latin predominates in most types of writing in the immediately post-Conquest period.
When, quite soon afterwards, we find a flowering of vernacular writing in a number of different text types and genres, this is in French, not English.
We also continue to find substantial literary works from parts of the country far removed from London, and reflecting very distinct local varieties of English, such as , which emerged from the circle of followers of the reformer John Wyclif.