1066, the Duke of Normandy, the famous William sailed across the British Channel. He challenged King Harold of England in the struggle for the English throne. After winning the battle of Hastings William was crowned king of England and the Norman Kingdom was established. Norman-French became the language of the English court. At the beginning French was spoken only by the Normans but soon through intermarriage, English men learnt French. Some 10,000 French words were taken into English language during the Middle English period and about 75% of them are still in use. In grammatical use the English suffixes and prefixes were freely added with the French words. e.g. ‘gentle’ borrowed in 1225 is found compounded with an English word ‘gentlewomen’ in 1230.
The English and Norman commoners learnt some each-others language. Result, the English nobility was not an English nobility but an Anglo-French aristocracy. William himself made an effort at the age of forty-three to learn some English to settle disputes between his subjects. William considers destroying the Saxon tongue in order that the English and the French might speak the same language.
We might say that in the period up to 1200 A.D. the Normans did not cultivate English although they were not ignorant of it. By the middle of the thirteenth century English came into general use among the French aristocrats. A large-scale of French words adopted into the English language.
About 1300 A.D. English was once again known by every single British, but French is not fallen into disuse, it still remained in the British church and the court. The English servants serving meat at the dining table to the French upper classes had to conform to them in French. Thus the names of the animals remained English while their meat had French names –
|Animal (English)||Meat (French)|
|Swine / Pig||Pork|
A list of French words borrowing in English is given below –
Since French-speaking Normans took control over the church and the court of London. A largest number of words borrowed by the government, spiritual and ecclesiastical (religious) services. As example – state, royal (roial), exile (exil), rebel, noble, peer, prince, princess, justice, army (armee), navy (navie), enemy (enemi), battle, soldier, spy (verb), combat (verb) and more. French words also borrowed in English art, culture, and fashion as music, poet (poete), prose, romance, pen, paper, grammar, noun, gender, pain, blue, diamond, dance (verb), melody, image, beauty, remedy, poison, joy, poor, nice, etc. Many of the above words are different from modern French in use or pronunciation or spelling.