9.The Grammar ofMiddle English and Rise of a Written Standard

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1. Explain and discuss the creolization scenario of ME. What are the arguments for and against it?

creolization: a process in which a pidgin evolves to become a native language, or creole. (Pidgins, which are functionally limited, grammatically reduced, typically short-lived, and not fully real languages, differ from creoles in the fact that they are not a native language of any community, but, if children begin to learn pidgin as their mother tongue, it becomes more complex and becomes a creole.)

this theory: explains the changes in grammar (which include the loss of most noun inflections for example) and lexicon during the ME period are a result of creolization. This theory proposes Middle English as a kind of a hybrid language – a creole of French and English (a combination Germanic phonology and syntax + lexicon affected by French). The two arguments and reasonings for the theory are the simplification of grammar, which resulted from interference between French and English inflections and secondly, the extensive borrowing of vocabulary from French

The theory hasn’t been very widely accepted, all of the arguments against it basically say that the influence of French was definitely extensive, but not extensive enough for the situation to be called creolization, but rather intensive language contact.

• Firstly, French wasn’t used very extensively in England – the aristocracy spoke French, but the rest of the people, around 90% of the population spoke English

• Secondly, the theory is largely rooted in the vocabulary borrowing from French – there is certainly an enormous influence of French on Middle English vocabulary, but vocabulary itself cannot be considered a main criterion for the creolization of a language

• Also, French actually had little influence on English phonology -> there were no phonemes borrowed from French (not even ž)

• The impact of French was limited to lexical borrowings, derivational affixes (able), the phonemicization of certain allophonic pairs (initial f/v)


• Even though it cannot be really a convincing argument for the creolization theory, the impact of French on English vocabulary really is extensive. Out of some of the most common words, less than half (or around a quarter in larger samples) are of Germanic origin.

• And what is also important is that the influence of French increases with the more common vocabulary (and the influence of other non-Germanic languages actually decreases)

• So, to conclude, what perhaps gives rise to such theories of creolization is the fact that there is this much impact on the English vocabulary, therefore the situation isn’t any ordinary borrowing between languages – it is a combined cultural appeal and forced linguistic contact from the conquering power.