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Khadija Paruk. English Reasserts Its Status

 

 The Decline in the Use of French

 

However French did have some status since it was now a sociolinguistic marker (Fennel: 2001: 118). French was used by the nobility in order to mark their status but its usage was artificial and English began to be generally used among the nobility (Fennel 2001). Despite this under instructions from Parliament English replaced French as language of law in 1362 although transcriptions still took place in Latin (Baugh Cable 1993). This indicated that French was dying out because people no longer understood French in court (Baugh Cable 1993).  English also became the main medium of communication in schools towards the end of the fourteenth century (Baugh Cable 1993). Henry IV, V, VI used English in their wills (Baugh Cable 1993: 153). Henry V used English to unite the nation after the battle of Agincourt as he wrote and spoke about the victory in English (Bragg 2003). The use of English in more formal domains including institutions and by the nobility increased its prestige and its status as a national language. 

Also French lost prestige because Latin was widely used in the written mode while French was used in the spoken mode in the courts and was used by only a minority and so mainly the nobility (Crystal 2004:128). Latin however was used in formal domains such as the clergy, law, literature and administration (Crystal 2004: 128). French did remain in some formal domains such as that of the court in the spoken mode but it wasn’t as prestigious as Latin. Documents such as the Domesday book were written in Latin (Crystal 2001:128).  French therefore eventually died out causing a diglossic situation (Crystal 2004: 128). Latin remained the language of formal domains while English was used for the informal domains (Crystal 2004: 136). 

Also the renaissance of the twelfth century led to an interest in many subject areas such as that of medicine, theology, philosophy and law (Crystal 2004: 136). As a result many institutions appeared such as that of Oxford and Cambridge university (Crystal 2004). This thirst for knowledge resulted in the translation of texts from other classical languages including Latin into English (Crystal 2004). These translations therefore gave prestige to English as previously it was never used in the written mode especially for education. 

Moreover the renaissance caused attention to once more be diverted to French but only for artificial reasons (Baugh Cable 1993). It was fashionable to know French among the aristocracy as it represented high society and culture (Crystal 2004). However the prestigious French dialect emerging was French of Paris (Parisian French). It was no longer the Anglo-French dialect taught to English students in schools and institutions. The status of Anglo-French therefore lost prestige (Crystal 2004). Chaucer and others poked fun at those who spoke Anglo French “and frensch sche spak ful faire and fetysly/aftur the scole of Stratford ate Bowe/for frensch of Parys was to hir unknowe” (Fennel 2001: 120, Chaucer 2002: 10). French therefore wasn’t as important as it previously had been because the general population mainly spoke English (Baugh Cable 1993). Its status was shallow because those who knew French used it to identify with the nobility not for communication (Baugh Cable 1993).

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ENGLISH REASSERTS ITS STATUS

  Political Background

  Social Background

  Decline in the Use of French

  Rise of English

  References

BEST ESSAYS

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  English Reasserts Its Status

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