The Info List - Anglo-Norman Language

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ANGLO-NORMAN, also known as ANGLO-NORMAN FRENCH, is a variety of the Norman language that was used in England and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere in the British Isles during the Anglo-Norman period.

When William the Conqueror led the Norman conquest of England in 1066, he, his nobles, and many of his followers from Normandy , but also those from northern and western France, spoke a range of langues d\'oïl (northern varieties of Gallo-Romance ). One of these was Old Norman , also known as "Old Northern French". Other followers spoke varieties of the Picard language or western French. This amalgam developed into the unique insular dialect now known as Anglo-Norman French, which was commonly used for literary and eventually administrative purposes from the 12th until the 15th century. It is difficult to know much about what was actually spoken, as what is known about the dialect is restricted to what was written, but it is clear that Anglo-Norman was, to a large extent, the spoken language of the higher social strata in medieval England.

It was spoken in the law courts, schools, and universities and, in due course, in at least some sections of the gentry and the growing bourgeoisie. Private and commercial correspondence was carried out in Anglo-Norman or Anglo-French from the 13th to the 15th century though its spelling forms were often displaced by continental spellings. Social classes other than the nobility became keen to learn French: manuscripts containing materials for instructing non-native speakers still exist, dating mostly from the late 14th century onwards.

Although Anglo-Norman and Anglo-French were eventually eclipsed by modern English , they had been used widely enough to influence English vocabulary permanently. Thus, many original Germanic words, cognates of which can still be found in Nordic , German , and Dutch , have been lost or, as more often occurs, exist alongside synonyms of Anglo-Norman French origin. Grammatically, Anglo-Norman had little lasting impact on English although it is still evident in official and legal terms where the ordinary sequence of noun and adjective is reversed , for example _attorney general_: the spelling is English but the word order (noun then adjective) is French. Other such examples are _heir apparent_, _court martial_, and _body politic_.

The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom still features in French the mottos of both the British Monarch , _ Dieu et mon droit _ ("God and my right") and the Order of the Garter , _Honi soit qui mal y pense _ ("Shamed be he who thinks evil of it").

_Dieu et mon droit_ was first used by Richard I in 1198 and adopted as the royal motto of England in the time of Henry VI . The motto appears below the shield of the Royal Coat of Arms.


* 1 Use and development

* 2 Trilingualism in Medieval England

* 2.1 Language of the king and his court * 2.2 Language of the royal charters and legislation * 2.3 Language of administration and justice * 2.4 Language of the people

* 3 Characteristics * 4 Literature * 5 Influence of Anglo-Norman French on English * 6 Influence of Anglo-Norman in Ireland * 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 References * 10 Bibliography * 11 External links


The literature of the Anglo-Norman period forms the reference point for subsequent literature in the Norman language , especially in the 19th century Norman literary revival and even into the 20th century in the case of André Dupont's _Épopée cotentine_. The languages and literatures of the Channel Islands are sometimes referred to as Anglo-Norman, but that usage, derived from the French _îles anglo-normandes_, is wrong: the Channel Islanders spoke and still speak a variety of Norman, not Anglo-Norman.

Anglo-Norman was never the main administrative language of England: Latin was the major language of record in legal and other official documents for most of the medieval period. However, from the late 12th century to the early 15th century, Anglo-Norman French and Anglo-French were much used in law reports, charters, ordinances, official correspondence, and trade at all levels; they were the language of the King, his court and the upper class. There is evidence, too, that foreign words ( Latin , Greek , Italian , Arabic , Spanish ) often entered English via Anglo-Norman.

The language of later documents adopted some of the changes ongoing in continental French and lost many of its original dialectal characteristics, so _Anglo-French_ remained (in at least some respects and at least at some social levels) part of the dialect continuum of modern French, often with distinctive spellings. Over time, the use of Anglo-French expanded into the fields of law, administration, commerce, and science, in all of which a rich documentary legacy survives, indicative of the vitality and importance of the language.

By the late 15th century, however, what remained of insular French had become heavily anglicised: see Law French . It continued to be known as "Norman French" until the end of the 19th century even though, philologically, there was nothing Norman about it.

One notable survival of influence on the political system is the use of certain Anglo-French set phrases in the Parliament of the United Kingdom for some endorsements to bills and the granting of Royal Assent to legislation. These set phrases include:

* _Soit baille aux Communes_ ("Let it be sent to the Commons", on a bill sent by the House of Lords to the House of Commons) * _A ceste Bille (avecque une amendement/avecque des amendemens) les Communes sont assentus_ ("To this Bill (with an amendment/with amendments) the Commons have assented", on a bill passed by the House of Commons and returned to the House of Lords) * _A cette amendement/ces amendemens les Seigneurs sont assentus_ ("To this amendment/these amendments the Lords have assented", on an amended bill returned by the House of Commons to the House of Lords, where the amendments were accepted) * _Ceste Bille est remise aux Communes avecque une Raison/des Raisons_ ("This Bill is returned to the Commons with a reason/with reasons", when the House of Lords disagrees with amendments made by the House of Commons) * _Le Roy/ La Reyne le veult _ ("The King/Queen wills it", Royal Assent for a public bill) * _Le Roy/La Reyne remercie ses bons sujets, accepte leur benevolence et ainsi le veult_ ("The King/Queen thanks his/her good subjects, accepts their bounty, and wills it so", Royal Assent for a supply bill) * _Soit fait comme il est désiré_ ("Let it be done as it is desired", Royal Assent for a private bill) * _Le Roy/La Reyne s'avisera_ ("The King/Queen will consider it", if Royal Assent is withheld)

The exact spelling of these phrases has varied over the years; for example, _s'avisera_ has been spelled as _s'uvisera_ and _s'advisera_, and _Reyne_ as _Raine_.

Among important writers of the Anglo-Norman cultural commonwealth is Marie de France .


Much of the earliest recorded French is in fact Anglo-Norman French. In Northern France , almost nothing was at that time being recorded in the vernacular because Latin was the language of the Church and consequently of education and historiography , and was thus used for the purpose of records. Latin did not disappear in medieval England either: it was used by the Church, the royal government and much local administration, as it had been before 1066, in parallel with Middle English . The early adoption of Anglo-Norman as a written and literary language probably owes something to this history of bilingualism in writing.

Around the same time, as a shift took place in France towards using Parisian French as a language of record in the mid- 13th century , Anglo-Norman French also became a language of record in England though Latin retained its pre-eminence for matters of permanent record (as in written chronicles ). From around this point onwards, considerable variation begins to be apparent in Anglo-French, which ranges from the very local (and most anglicized ) to a level of language which approximates to and is sometimes indistinguishable from varieties of continental French. Thus, typically, local records are rather different from continental French, with diplomatic and international trade documents closest to the emerging continental norm. English remained the vernacular of the common people throughout this period. The resulting virtual trilinguism in spoken and written language was one of medieval Latin, diverse French varieties and Middle English.


From the conquest (1066) until the end of the 14th century , French was the language of the king and his court. During this period, marriages with French princesses reinforced the French status in the royal family. Nevertheless, during the 13th century, intermarriages with English nobility became more frequent. French became progressively a second language among the upper classes. Moreover, with the Hundred Years\' War and the growing spirit of English nationalism, the status of French diminished.

French was the mother tongue of every English king from William the Conqueror until Henry IV (1399–1413). He was the first to take the oath in English, and his son, Henry V (1413–1422), was the first to write in English. By the end of the 15th century , French became the second language of a cultivated elite.


Until the end of the 13th century, Latin was the language of all official written documents, and Norman French was almost exclusively used as a spoken language. Nevertheless, some important documents had their official Norman translation, such as the Magna Carta signed in 1215. The first official document written in Anglo-Norman was a statute promulgated by the king in 1275. Thus, from the 13th century, Anglo-Norman became used in official documents, such as those that were marked by the private seal of the king whereas the documents sealed by the Lord Chancellor were written in Latin until the end of the Middle Ages. English became the language of Parliament and of legislation in the 15th century, half a century after it had become the language of the king and of most of the English nobility.


During the 12th century , development of the administrative and judicial institutions took place. Because the king and the lawyers at the time normally used Norman French, it also became the language of these institutions. From the 12th century until the 15th century, the courts used three languages. Latin was used for writing, Norman French was the main oral language during trials, and English was used in less formal exchanges between the judge, the lawyer, the complainant or the witnesses. The judge gave his sentence orally in Norman, which was then written in Latin. Only in the lowest level of the manorial courts were trials entirely in English.

During the 15th century, English became the main spoken language, but Latin and French continued to be exclusively used in official legal documents until the beginning of the 18th century . Nevertheless, the Norman language used in England changed from the end of the 15th century into Law French . This variety of French was a technical language, with a specific vocabulary, where English words were used to describe everyday experience, and French grammatical rules and morphology gradually declined, with confusion of genders and the adding of _-s_ to form all plurals. Law French was banished from the courts of the common law in 1731, almost three centuries after the king ceased speaking primarily French.


Though the great mass of ordinary people spoke Middle English, French, because of its prestigious status, spread as a second language, encouraged by its long-standing use in the school system as a medium of instruction through which Latin was taught. In the courts, the members of the jury , who represented the population, had to know French in order to understand the plea of the lawyer. French was used by the merchant middle class as a language of business communication, especially when it traded with the continent, and several churches used French to communicate with lay people. A small but important number of documents survive associated with the Jews of medieval England, some featuring Anglo-Norman written in Hebrew script, typically in the form of glosses to the Hebrew scriptures.


As a langue d\'oïl , Anglo-Norman developed collaterally to the central Gallo-Romance dialects which would eventually become Parisian French in terms of grammar , pronunciation and vocabulary . Before the signature of the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts in 1539 and long afterward in practice, French was not standardised as an official administrative language of the kingdom of France.

Middle English was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman and, later, Anglo-French. W. Rothwell has called Anglo-French 'the missing link ' because many etymological dictionaries seem to ignore the contribution of that language in English and because Anglo-Norman and Anglo-French can explain the transmission of words from French into English and fill the void left by the absence of documentary records of English (in the main) between 1066 and c. 1380.

Anglo-Norman morphology and pronunciation can be deduced from its heritage in English. Mostly, it is done in comparison with continental Central French. English has many doublets as a result of this contrast:

* _warranty - guarantee_ * _warden - guardian_ * _catch - chase_ (see below)

Compare also:

* _wage_ (Anglo-Norman) - _gage_ (French) * _wait_ - _guetter_ (French, Old French _guaitier_) * _war_ (from Anglo-Norman _werre_) - _guerre_ (French) * _wicket_ (Anglo-Norman) - _guichet_ (French, from Norman)

The palatalization of velar consonants before the front vowel produced different results in Norman to the central langue d'oïl dialects that developed into French. English therefore, for example, has _fashion_ from Norman _féchoun_ as opposed to Modern French _façon_ (both developing from Latin _factIo, factIōnem_).

The palatalization of velar consonants before /a/ that affected the development of French did not occur in Norman dialects north of the Joret line . English has therefore inherited words that retain a velar plosive where French has a fricative :


cabbage < caboche = chou

candle < caundèle = chandelle

castle < caste(l) = château

cauldron < caudron = chaudron

causeway < cauchie = chaussée

catch < cachi = chasser

wicket < viquet = guichet

plank < planque = planche

pocket < pouquette = poche

fork < fouorque = fourche

garden < gardin = jardin

cattle < *cate(l) = cheptel (Old French _chetel_)

Other words such as _captain_, _kennel_ and _canvas_ exemplify how Norman retained a /k/ sound from Latin that was not retained in French.

However, Anglo-Norman also acted as a conduit for French words to enter England; for example, _challenge_ clearly displays a form of French origin, rather than the Norman _calenge_.

There were also vowel differences: compare Anglo-Norman _profound_ with Parisian French _profond_, _soun_ 'sound' with son, _round_ with _rond_. The former words were originally pronounced something like 'profoond', 'soond', 'roond' respectively (compare the similarly denasalised vowels of modern Norman), but later developed their modern pronunciation in English.

Since many words established in Anglo-Norman from French via the intermediary of Norman were not subject to the processes of sound change that continued in parts of the continent, English sometimes preserves earlier pronunciations. For example, 'ch' used to be /tʃ/ in Medieval French; Modern French has /ʃ/, but English has preserved the older sound (in words like chamber, chain, chase and exchequer).

Similarly, 'j' had an older /dʒ/ sound, which it still has in English and some dialects of modern Norman, but it has developed into /ʒ/ in Modern French.

The word _veil _ retains the /ei/ (as does modern Norman in _vaile_ and _laîsi_) that in French has been replaced by /wɑː/ _voile_, _loisir_.

The word _mushroom _ preserves a hush sibilant in _mousseron_ not recorded in French orthography, as does _cushion_ for _coussin_. Conversely, the pronunciation of the word _sugar_ resembles Norman _chucre_ even if the spelling is closer to French _sucre_. It is possible that the original sound was an apical sibilant, like the Basque S, which is halfway between a hissing sibilant and a hushing sibilant.

The doublets _catch_ and _chase _, both derived from Low Latin _*captiare_. _Catch_ demonstrate a Norman development while _chase_ is the French equivalent imported with a different meaning.

Distinctions in meaning between Anglo-Norman and French have led to many _faux amis _ (words having similar form but different meanings) in Modern English and Modern French.

Since although a Romance language, Norman contains a significant amount of lexical material from Norse , some of the words introduced into England as part of Anglo-Norman were of Germanic origin. Indeed, sometimes one can identify cognates such as _flock_ (Germanic in English existing prior to the Conquest) and _flloquet_ (Germanic in Norman). The case of the word _mug_ demonstrates that in instances, Anglo-Norman may have reinforced certain Scandinavian elements already present in English. _Mug_ had been introduced into northern English dialects by Viking settlement. The same word had been established in Normandy by the Normans (Norsemen) and was then brought over after the Conquest and established firstly in southern English dialects. It is, therefore, argued that the word _mug_ in English shows some of the complicated Germanic heritage of Anglo-Norman.

Many expressions used in English today have their origin in Anglo-Norman (such as the expression _before-hand_ derives from Anglo-Norman _avaunt-main_), as do many modern words with interesting etymologies. _Mortgage _, for example, literally meant _death-wage_ in Anglo-Norman. _ Curfew _ (fr. _couvre-feu _) meant _cover-fire_, referring to the time in the evening when all fires had to be covered. The word _glamour_ is derived from Anglo-Norman _grammeire_, the same word which gives us modern _grammar_; _glamour_ meant first _book learning_ and then the most glamorous form of book learning, _magic_ or _magic spell_ in Medieval times.

The influence of Anglo-Norman was very asymmetric: very little influence from English was carried over into the continental possessions of the Anglo-Norman kings. Some administrative terms survived in some parts of mainland Normandy: _forlenc_ (from _furrow_, compare _furlong _) in the Cotentin Peninsula and Bessin , and a general use of the word _acre _ for land measurement in Normandy until metrication in the 19th century, but these words are probably linguistic traces of Saxon or Anglo-Scandinavian settlements between the 4th and the 10th centuries in Normandy. Otherwise the direct influence of English in mainland Norman (such as _smogler_ - to smuggle) is from direct contact in later centuries with English, rather than Anglo-Norman.


See also: Anglo-Norman literature

When the Normans invaded England, Anglo-Saxon literature had reached a very high level of development. The important Benedictine monasteries both wrote chronicles and guarded other works in Old English . However, with the arrival of the Norman, Anglo-Saxon literature came to an end and literature written in Britain was in Latin or Anglo-Norman. The Plantagenet kings encouraged this Anglo-Norman literature . Nevertheless, from the beginning of the 14th century, some authors chose to write in English, but it is only during the late 14th century that English literature was at its best, with Geoffrey Chaucer . The authors of that period were influenced by the works of contemporary French writers whose language was prestigious. Chaucer is considered to be the father of the English language and the creator of English as a literary language.


About 28% of English vocabulary comes from French, including Anglo-French (green).

The major Norman-French influence on English can still be seen in today's vocabulary. An enormous number of Norman-French loanwords came into the language, and about three-quarters of them are still used today. Very often, the Norman-French word supplanted the Anglo-Saxon term, or both words would co-exist but with slightly different nuances: for example, _ox_ (describing the animal) and _beef_ (describing the meat). In other cases, the Norman-French word was adopted to signify a new reality, such as _judge_, _castle_, _warranty_.

In general, the Norman-French borrowings concerned the fields of culture, aristocratic life, politics and religion, and war whereas the English words were used to describe everyday experience. When the Normans arrived in England, their copyists wrote English as they heard it, without realising the peculiarities of the relationship between Anglo-Saxon pronunciation and spelling and so the spelling changed. There appeared different regional Modern-English written dialects, the one that the king chose in the 15th century becoming the standard variety.

In some remote areas, agricultural terms used by the rural workers may have been derived from Norman French. An example is the Cumbrian term _sturdy_ for diseased sheep that walk in circles, derived from _etourdi_ meaning giddy.


The Norman invasion of Ireland took place in the late 12th century and led to Anglo-Norman control of much of the island. Norman-speaking administrators arrived to rule over the Angevin Empire 's new territory. Several Norman words became Irish words, including household terms: _garsún_ (from Norman _garçun_, "boy"); _cóta_ (_cote_, "cloak"); hata (_hatte_, "hat"); _gairdín_ (_gardin_, "garden"); and terms relating to justice (Irish _giúistís_, _bardas_ (corporation), _cúirt_ (court)). Place-names in Norman are few, but there is Buttevant (from the motto of the Barry family: _Boutez en Avant_, "Push to the Fore"), the village of Brittas (from the Norman _bretesche_, "boarding, planking") and the element _Pallas_ (Irish _pailís_, from Norman _paleis_, "boundary fence": cf. palisade , The Pale ). Others exist with English or Irish roots, such as Castletownroche , which combines the English _Castletown_ and the Norman _Roche_, meaning rock.

Only a handful of Hiberno-Norman-French texts survive, most notably the _chanson de geste _, _ The Song of Dermot and the Earl _ (early 13th century) and the Statutes of Kilkenny (1366).


* Anglo-Norman literature * Anglo-Norman Text Society * Law French * Middle English creole hypothesis


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Aberystwyth: Anglo-Norman Online Hub. * TROTTER, David (1994), ‘L’anglo-français au Pays de Galles: une enquête préliminaire’, Revue de linguistique romane, 58: 461-88. * TROTTER, David (1996), ‘Language contact and lexicography: the case of Anglo Norman’, in NIELSEN/SCHØSLER (1996), 21-39. * TROTTER, David (1997), ‘Mossenhor, fet metre aquesta letra en bon francés: Anglo-French in Gascony’, in GREGORY, Stewart and TROTTER, David (eds), De mot en mot: Essays in honour of William Rothwell, Cardiff, 199-222. * TROTTER, David (1998b), ‘Les néologismes de l’anglo-français et le FEW’, Le Moyen Français 39-41, 577-636. * TROTTER, David (1998c), ‘Some Lexical Gleanings from Anglo-French Gascony’, Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie 114, 53-72. * TROTTER, David (1998d), ‘Translations and loanwords: some Anglo-Norman evidence’, In ELLIS, R., TIXIER, R. and WEITEMEIER, B. (eds), The Medieval Translator 6: Proceedings of the International Conference of Göttingen (22–25 July 1996), Louvain-la-Neuve, 20-39. * TROTTER, David (2000a), Multilingualism in Later Medieval Britain: Proceedings of the 1997 Aberystwyth Colloquium, Cambridge. * TROTTER, David (2000b), ‘L’avenir de la lexicographie anglo-normande: vers une refonte de l’Anglo-Norman Dictionary?’, Revue de linguistique romane, 64 (2000), 391-407. * TROTTER, David (2000c), ‘Anglo-Norman’, in Glanville PRICE (ed.), Languages of the British Isles (Oxford: Blackwell), 197-206. * TROTTER, David (2003a), L’Anglo-normand: variété insulaire, ou variété isolée?, Médiévales, 45, 43-54. * TROTTER, David (2003b), ‘The Anglo-French lexis of the Ancrene Wisse: a re-evaluation’, in A Companion to ‘Ancrene Wisse’, ed. Yoko WADA (Cambridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2003), 83-101 * TROTTER, David (2003c), ‘Langues en contact en Gascogne médiévale’, in Actas del XXIII Congreso Internacional de Lingüística y Filología Románica, Salamanca, 2001, III. Tübingen. * TROTTER, David (2003d), ‘Not as eccentric as it looks: Anglo-Norman and French French’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 39, 427-438. * TROTTER, David (2003e), ‘Oceano vox: you never know where a ship comes from. On multilingualism and language-mixing in medieval Britain’, in Kurt BRAUNMÜLLER & Gisella FERRARESI (eds.), Aspects of Multilingualism in European Language History (Amsterdam: John Benjamins), 18-33. * TROTTER, David (2006a) ‘Language Contact, Multilingualism, and the Evidence Problem’, in: SCHAEFER, U. (ed.), The Beginnings of Standardization: Language and Culture in Fourteenth-Century England (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2006), 73–90. * TROTTER, David (2006b) ‘Si le français n’y peut aller: Villers Cotterêts and mixed language documents from the Pyrenees’, in: COWLING, D.J. (ed.), Conceptions of Europe in Renaissance France: a Festschrift for Keith Cameron (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006), 77–97. * TROTTER, David (2008), L’Anglo-normand en France: les traces documentaires, Académie des Inscriptions ">, and includes:

* The Revised Anglo-Norman Dictionary (A-N), with the entries from the first edition, for O-Z freely available online.

* The Anglo-Norman Text Society publishes a wide range of works written in Anglo-Norman * The Anglo-Norman Correspondence Corpus at Birmingham City University * "Psalterium (Psalter of Queen Isabella of England)". _World Digital Library _ (in Anglo-Norman). CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link )

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Norman language


* Auregnais ( Alderney ) * Guernésiais/Dgèrnésiais ( Guernsey ) * Jèrriais ( Jersey ) * Sercquiais/Sèrtchais ( Sark )


* Augeron (Pays d\'Auge ) * Cauchois ( Pays de Caux ) * Cotentinais (Cotentin )


* Anglo-Norman * Jersey Legal French (highly influenced by Jèrriais) * Law French * Old Norman


* List of Norman language writers * Jèrriais literature * Anglo-Norman literature


* GND : 4002048-4 * BNF : cb119556671 (data)

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