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Re: Rant on partial understandings (was: Spoken French, coins)

From:Lars Henrik Mathiesen <thorinn@...>
Date:Saturday, December 22, 2001, 22:11
> Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2001 21:41:02 -0500 > From: John Cowan <cowan@...> > > Matthew Kehrt scripsit: > > > I've heard that this is the reason that modern English has no > > cases: the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse ivaders eventually settled > > on a lowest common denominator language that became English as we > > know it. So English is essential a creole and was even before > > 1066. I've heard. > > It's too extreme to call ME a creole. It did undergo substantial > grammatical simplification, though.
One point is that there seems to be an abrupt change from Old English to Middle English (names which are of course just labels affixed by philologists in later years) --- and that this massive loss of inflection and so on seems to have happened in a relatively short span of years from before the Norman conquest to after. The OE language, as attested in surviving texts, was borne by a literate, conservative society associated with the courts of the southern English kingdoms --- it was not an accurate reflection of popular speech in emerging commercial centres like London. This native high culture more or less vanished with the conquest. Middle English, on the other hand, did emerge as a written language in the new seats of government and commerce, driven by utility and not bound by the traditional concepts of proper style. Noone argues that there was massive creolization in Tuscany in the thirteenth century, leading to the sudden appearance of Italian as a language separate from Latin --- we realize that the slow development of Italian during the preceding 1300 years was hidden by a hidebound literary language. The OE/ME situation may not be that different. Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <thorinn@...> (Humour NOT marked)