Language contact and linguistic attitudes in the Later Middle Ages

Tim William Machan

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 and linguistic attitudes in the Later Middle Ages


Thinking and talking about language contact in the abstract, especially in the case of the Middle Ages, offers limited evidence. Although large sociolinguistic generalizations have the potential to influence speakers in individual interactions, such generalizations are produced by specific domains that are often bypassed in conventional histories of the language. For the English later Middle Ages, these domains included the domestic, the social, and the political. Throughout the period, merchants introduced goods and services from across Western Europe, bringing with them, particularly to port cities and major trading centers, their languages. Within the context of late-medieval England’s diglossia, English, Latin, and French all helped maintain stable social institutions and point to little inter-language conflict. Beginning with the Norman Conquest, English politics was likewise a stable multilingual matter, involving Latin, Italian, Dutch, and (especially) French.

Keywords: language contact; Middle Ages; politics; merchants; Latin; English; diglossia; French; Henry V; John Gower; linguistics

Article.  4057 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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