Very good. thanks for giving me a much-needed history lesson ;-)

On Wednesday, January 29, 2014 2:55 PM, R A Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
On 29/01/2014 18:35, Padraic Brown wrote:
> R A Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> [In 13th century England] the king and the nobility
>> used Anglo-Norman; it was used law courts, schools, and
>> universities.  Eventually it became used by some
>> sections of the gentry and the growing bourgeoisie,
>> until it gave way Middle English in the 14th century.
>> Medieval England was trilingual: Medieval Latin was
>> used by the Church and for much official administration
>> (legal documents etc.), Anglo-Norman as indicated
>> above, and English by the peasantry.
> I wonder though exactly how trilingual was the average
> person in England (and in any given social stratum) at
> that time?

That would need doing a bit of social history research to
determine the strata and also, defining 'average'.

All I meant by saying that medieval England was trilingual
was that three different languages were in use.  I certainly
did not wish to imply that all or even many inhabitants were

I think I deal with the peasantry - largely monoglot
English; but they would know things like the Pater Noster in
Latin, and be familiar with commonly occurring phrases from
the Latin liturgy.  In other words a passive comprehension
of a small set of Latin.  How much Anglo-Norman they might
pick up would, I guess, depend on their contact with Norman

> In other words, I would suspect that an educated
> clergyman would be relatively at ease in all three
> languages,

If he was of English stock. for some higher clerics of
continental origin - Latin was the lingua france at that
level. They might know French, but it might not be quite
like that of England   ;)

> and that the growing bourgeoisie would likewise have been
> conversant surely in English and possibly get a pass in
> A-N, but possibly not know much in the way of Latin.

It seems that some, at least, of the growing bourgeoisie
would be reasonably competent in Anglo-Norman - children
might be l1 speakers.  I suspect rising bourgeoisie would
not be so different from rising bourgeoisie generally, i.e.
you distance yourself from your peasant roots.

But then, of course, during the 14th century it would be all 
over to English to ape their betters   ;)

> But, how trilingual were the actual (imported) nobility
> and the natives themselves?

Not at all in the beginning.  Most were monoglot
Anglo-Normans - though probably had a limited passive
understanding of Latin like the peasantry above.  They
relied clerks to do the Latin work for them.

But as they intermarried with English stock, the English
language began to make its way up, so to speak, otherwise
king and nobility would never have got round to speaking
English!  During the 14th century, Anglo-Norman was on the
wane and Middle English was replacing it at all levels of

> How conversant would an average charcoal burner or farmer
> have been in Anglo-Norman?

Not at all,  I imagine.

> How conversant were the nobles in English?

Not at all at first; but they got better as time went on and
seem to  be pretty good at it by the end of the 14th century.

> As I recall, it wasn't until Henry V that English came to
> be reinstated as the language of government.

Henry V (reigned 1413 to  1422) was certainly English
speaking, and so was his court.  But English had been used
earlier than that. AFAIK Edward III is the first monarch
since Saxon times to have used English. He addressed
parliament in English in 1362.  By the end of the century
the court was regularly using English.

"Ein Kopf, der auf seine eigene Kosten denkt,
wird immer Eingriffe in die Sprache thun."
[J.G. Hamann, 1760]
"A mind that thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language".