Origins and Language

Ardis Butterfield

in The Familiar Enemy

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574865
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722127 | DOI:
Origins and Language

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  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)


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This revisits the symbolic importance attached to language and stories of national origin in some of the earliest examples of written ‘English’ and ‘French’ – the former, on Hengist and Horsa, actually written in French and the latter, the so‐called Strasbourg Oaths, in a hybrid mixture of Latin and vernacular. It then considers the linguistic mobility of French in England and on the continent in the thirteenth century. It argues, by means of recent linguistic research, that Anglo‐Norman is a misleading term, and should be replaced by the broader Anglo‐French: once we learn to look at French across both sides of the Channel, in England and in different areas of France, older, rigid models of dialect and linguistic change seem inadequate to describe the ways in which both ‘French’ and ‘Anglo‐French’ fragment under scrutiny into shifting, porous and, most importantly, shared instances of language variation.

Keywords: Hengist; Horsa; Strasbourg Oaths; Anglo‐Norman; Anglo‐French; Latin and vernacular; dialect; language variation

Chapter.  15011 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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