Language contact in the Scandinavian period

Angelika Lutz

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Language contact in the Scandinavian period

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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Scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most of whom were interested in lexical differences between Old English (OE) and later stages of the language, had made a twofold distinction between “Saxon” (consisting of OE and early Middle English) and “English” (which covers later Middle English and Modern English). This distinction, which can be related to language contact in a straightforward manner, reflects the marked lexical influence of French as a consequence of the Norman conquest and the eventual adoption of the English language by the French-speaking ruling classes. Old English differs from continental Old Saxon in a number of non-trivial ways. Some of these differences are mostly structural ones and can be attributed to the substratal influence of Insular Celtic. Other differences, mainly lexical ones, can be explained by Old Norse influence. This article shows that the lexical influences of Old Norse were essentially similar to the later influences of Old French, namely superstratal. Therefore, the French-dominated later period of English appears to have been preceded by a Scandinavian period.

Keywords: language contact; Scandinavian period; English; Old Norse; Old French; superstratal; Old English; Old Saxon; Insular Celtic

Article.  4060 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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