As we move away from the warrior culture and oral tradition of Beowulf and “The Dream of the Rood”, and into the established British culture of the middle ages, we will also look at how English changed form ‘Old’ to ‘Middle.
With the Norman Conquest in 1066AD, French became the language of the royals, the court, and the legal system, while Latin was still the language of the Catholic Church. With the introduction of French, ‘Old English’ began to change, losing the special endings off of adverbs and adjectives, introducing
‘softer’ sounds and the upward inflecting vowel at the end of words. Over 10,000 words were also introduced into English from French during this time, though were distinctions existed French was still preferred. Despite these changes, English was still the language of the ‘common people’.
Once the black plague decimated the population and the working-merchant class grew (1340-1360) – once the British took back over the monarchy from France (1453) – and once the Bible was translated into English by WilliamTyndale (1534), English began to take its place as a language with more power in British culture.