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).