Old Language Variety: ANGLO-NORMAN

Indo-European > Italic > Western Romance > Old French > Anglo-Norman

Old French is usually seen as little more than a collection of dialects known as the Langue d’Oïl. These dialects were spread over northern and central France; the variety spoken in Normandy migrated across the Channel to England in 1066, where it became what scholars call Anglo-Norman. Over the next few centuries the French spoken in England would try to compete with the more prestigious form used in Paris, eventually ceasing to be used at all.

The fate of Anglo-Norman (or Insular French) has long been debated. Some believe that the English stopped speaking it out of antagonism with the French (cf. David Crystal), while others believe it did not die out but actually merged with Middle English (cf. William Rothwell). What is certain is that in an age when English was dialectal, Anglo-Norman provided a steady standard in England to rival Latin. Much literature was composed in Anglo-Norman; the best extant copy of the Chanson de Roland is insular.

Anglo-Norman left its mark on English in the form of its large Romance vocabulary and orthography. Most of the earlier French loanwords are Norman in origin; later borrowings show the influence of Central French. In the later Middle Ages Anglo-Norman lost prestige, and was ridiculed by Chaucer as the poor substandard French of 'Stratforde atte Bowe', before succumbing to the continental form.

The main differences between Anglo-Norman and Central and Parisian French were in spelling and pronunciation, though other phonological features single them out. One such is the consonantal shift from W > G, as seen in names such as Walter and Gautier, William and Guillaume. Many modern English words, when compared to their French equivalents, show this difference, such as ‘wasp’ and ‘guespe’, ‘war’ and ‘guerre’. English binaries also show the Norman and Central influence: ‘warden/guardian’, ‘warranty/guarantee’.

examples of anglo-norman

‘Murdre est occisioun de homme desconu, felounosement fete, dunt homme ne peut saver par qi ne par quels. Et volums qe a chescun murdre soit le hundred, ou le murdre serra trové fet, en nostre merci ; et si le fet serra trové en deus hundrez, si soint ambideus amerciez solum la quantité qe serreit un hundred. Et volums qe nul murdre soit ajugee par la ou acun parent al mort peuse estre trové, qi peuse moustrer qe il fust Engleys, et issi presenter de ly Englescherie ; ne, tut soit il alien, par la ou il avera taunt de espace de vie qe il meymes encuse les felouns.’
'Britton': Chap VI: 'De Murdre', c.late 13th C.(Translation to come!)

Requillez genz bel a manger;
Si poez meimes alloser.
Taillez ceo pain que est paré;
Les bisseaus seient pur Deu doné
Du cotel trenchoms les bisseaus;
Du quiller mangoms mieaus.
Frussés ceo pain qi vent de fourn;
Debrusés cel os de venour;
Rumpés la cord qe fet nusaunce;
Enfreinés covenaunt de deceivaunce.
Walter de Bibbesworthe, 'Tretiz', lines 1053-1062, c.late 13th C. (Translation to come).

P’ce q monstre est soventfoitz au Roi, p Prelatz, Ducs, Counts, Barons & tout la cõe, les g’ntz meschiefs q sont advenuz as plusours du realme de ce q les leyes custumes & estatutz du dit realme ne sont pas conuz cõement en mesme le realme, p cause qils sont pledez monstrez & juggez en la lange Franceis, qest trop desconue en dit realme.’
The 1362 Statute of Pleading (guaranteeing the use of English in courts): (Translation: Because it is often shewed to the King by the Prelates, Dukes, Earls, Barons, and all the Commonalty, of the great Mischiefs which have happened to divers of the Realm, because the Laws, Customs and Statutes of this Realm be not commonly [holden and kept] in the same Realm, for that they be pleaded, shewed and judged in the French Tongue, which is much unknown in the said Realm.)

a short anglo-norman bibliography
  • VISING, Johan: Anglo-Norman Language and Literature (Connecticut: 1970; orig. Oxford UP: 1923
  • MENGER, Louis Emil: The Anglo-Norman Dialect (New York: 1904)
  • LEGGE, Dominica: Anglo-Norman as a Spoken Language, in BROWN, R. Allen (ed): Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1979, pp108-117 (Woodbridge: 1980)
  • ROTHWELL, William: The Legacy of Anglo-French – Faux Amis in French and English, in Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 109 (1993) [online edition:]
  • ROTHWELL, William: The Missing Link in English Etymology: Anglo-French, in Medium Ævum vol LX, no.2, (1991)
  • PRICE, Glanville: The Languages of Britain, chap.17 ‘Anglo-Norman’ (Arnold, London: 1984)
  • ROTHWELL, William: Stratforde atte Bowe and Paris, in Modern Language Review LX, pp39-54 (1985)
  • BAILEY, C-J.N. & MAROLDT, K.: The French Lineage of English, in MEISEL, J.M. (ed): Langues en Contact (pp21-53) (Verlag, Tübingen: 1977)

some anglo-norman links

Modern Language: SPANISH

Indo-European > Italic > Western Romance > Spanish

Spanish, in either its Castilian or various Latin American forms, is among the most widely spoken languages on the planet. The mother tongue of over 320 million people worldwide (source:, mostly in Central and South America, it nonetheless still competes locally within Spain with Catalan, Galician and Basque.

The history of Romance in the Iberian peninsular dates back to the Roman invasions of the second and first centuries BC. The post-Roman era saw centuries of rule by first the Germanic Visigoths and later the Arabic Moors. Though the Gotths left little lasting trace of their language upon Spanish, bar personal names and a few morphological features, borrowings from arabic were much greater. These largely consisted of nouns, such as those beginning with 'al' such as 'almirante' (admiral) and 'alcohol' (alcohol) (Penny, 2002: 14).

The Christian reconquest of Spain took many centuries to complete, but in that time a Castilian standard began to emerge. Vernacular writing became prominent in the 12th and 13th centuries. The originator of the standard was probably King Alfonso X 'the Learned', though even when spanish was beginning its global expansion there were two competeing Castilian norms, those of Toledo and Seville (Penny, 2002: 21). These varieties have left their mark on the different Spanish forms of Latin America.

Spanish has a rich literary history. The first great epic in Spanish was El Cantar de Mio Cid, or 'El Cid', written down in the 13th C by Per Abad, telling the story of a Reconquistador hero. One of the most famous (and earliest) novels in the world was Cervantes' Don Quixote. More recent greats include Lorca, who was murdered in the Spanish Civil War, though Spanish cinema has gained much admiration in recent years (particularly the works of Bunuel and Almodovar). Spanish influence on English has been fairly diverse, largely relating to contact in the New World. Common words of Spanish origin include armada, tomato, potato, guitar and banana.

examples of spanish

De los sos ojos tan fuertemientre llorandotornava la cabeça e estávalos catando,
vio puertas abiertas e uços sin cañados,alcándaras vazías,
sin pielles e sin mantose sin falcones e sin adtores mudados.
Sospiró mio Çid, ca mucho avié grandes cuidados,
fabló mio Çid bien e tan mesurado,-
Grado a ti, Señor, Padre que estás en alto,
esto me an buelto mios enemigos malos.

El Cantar de Mio Cid ('El Cid'), c.1207 (Translation: He turned and looked upon them, and he wept very sore
As he saw the yawning gateway and the hasps wrenched off the door,
And the pegs whereon no mantle nor coat of vair there hung.
There perched no moulting goshawk, and there no falcon swung.
My lord the Cid sighed deeply such grief was in his heart
And he spake well and wisely: "Oh Thou, in Heaven that art
Our Father and our Master, now I give thanks to Thee.
Of their wickedness my foemen have done this thing to me."
transl: R. Selden Rose/Leonard Bacon)

Ya en este tiempose habia levantado Sancho Panza algo maltratado de los mozos de los frailes, y habia estado atento á la batalla de su señor D. Quijote, y rogaba á Dios en su corazon fuese servido de darle Vitoria, y que en ella ganase alguna ínsula de donde le hiciese gobernador, como se lo habia prometido.

Cervantes: Don Quixote de la Mancha (Part I, chap. X), c.1605 (Translation: 'In the meantime Sancho Panza had got up again after his rough handling by the monk's servants, and had stood watching the battle Don Quixote was fighting, praying to God in his heart to be pleased to grant his master the victory, and that out of it he might gain an isle of which he could be the governor, as he had been promised.' - J.M. Cohen)

Y que yo me la llevé al río
creyendo que era mozuela,
pero tenía marido.
Fue la noche de Santiago
y casi por compromiso.
Se apagaron los faroles
y se encendieron los grillos.
En las últimas esquinas
toqué sus pechos dormidos,
y se me abrieron de pronto
como ramos de jacintos.
Federico Garcia Lorca, 'La casada infiel' ('The Faithless Wife'), c.1927 (Translation: So I took her to the river believing she was a maiden, but she already had a husband. It was on St. James night and almost as if I was obliged to. The lanterns went out and the crickets lighted up. In the farthest street corners I touched her sleeping breasts and they opened to me suddenly like spikes of hyacinth.)

a short spanish bibliography
  • Ralph Penny, A History of the Spanish Language, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: 2002)
  • more to come!

some german links