Bristol Centre for Linguistics talk on the history of English AND language contact

by Richard Coates

You are invited to our Bristol Centre for Linguistics seminar, Wednesday 5 February 2014, room 3E24, 1300-1400

Richard Ingham (Birmingham City University): The role of Anglo-Norman in the history of English: shift-induced contact influence?

[This talk is highly relevant to level 3 students on ‘the Cultural History of the English Language’ and ‘Language Contact and Bilingualism’, as well as level 1 and 2 students who want to study these subjects in more detail]


The influence of French is acknowledged as of major significance for the history of English, but the means by which this process was accomplished is less clearly understood. Since much of it took place in the period when Anglo-Norman was in use, it cannot be seen as foreign borrowing (Trotter 2003).  In mainstream discussions of language contact, the case of French influence on English, if seen as shift induced interference, is generally considered anomalous because the supposedly shifting population enjoyed high status compared with the target language population (Thomason and Kaufman 1988). In this talk I consider alternative perspectives on how contact influence took place, rejecting the notion that it was shift-induced, and preferring instead an approach via bilingual borrowing. For this to have been the case, Anglo-Norman must have remained a living and naturally acquired spoken language in England for longer after the Norman Conquest than is often supposed (cf. Pope 1934, Townend 2006). Linguistic evidence for this perspective is presented and discussed.




Ingham, R. (2011). ‘Grammar change in Anglo-Norman and continental French: the replacement of non-assertive indefinite nul by aucun.’ Diachronica, 28, 4, 441-467.

Ingham, R. (2012). The transmission of Anglo-Norman: Language History and Language Acquisition. The Language Faculty and Beyond, research monograph series no. 9, John Benjamins,    

Amsterdam & New York.

Ingham, R. (2013). ‘Language-mixing in medieval Latin documents: vernacular articles and nouns’. In  J. Jefferson & A. Putter (eds.) Multilingualism in medieval Britain 1100-1500 Sources

and Analysis, Turnhout: Brepols.

Pope, M. (1934). From Latin to modern French, with especial consideration of Anglo-Norman: phonology and morphology. Manchester: MUP.

Thomason, S. & T. Kaufman (1988). Language contact, Creolisation and genetic linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Townend, M. (2006). Contacts and conflicts: Latin Norse and French. In L. Mugglestone (ed.), The Oxford History of English. OUP, 61-85.

Trotter, D (2003) . Not as eccentric as it looks: Anglo-French and French French.Forum for modern language studies 39:427-438.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s