Re: Is English a creole? (was: Indo-European Studies)

James Walker (
Wed, 9 Aug 1995 15:43:21 GMT

In <>, (Glynis Baguley) writes:
>OK, but just one point: Edward the Confessor was half-Norman. I don't
>know about the other half. And hadn't Harold Godwinson (who sounds as
>likely to have been Anglo-Saxon as Danish) just got back from battling
>with the Danes (or some other Scandinavians) when he encountered

The fact that some nobility were of mixed ancestry seems irrelevant to
me, since it would hardly have affected the development of English. In
fact, I would think it would have had more of an impact on the development
of French in England. Godwinson was fighting two invasions at once,
both of which were headed by men who claimed they had a legitimate
right to the English throne. Don't forget that the Normans themselves,
though geographically French, were in fact of Scandinavian descent.

>I don't have trouble with the idea that the class divisions were
>pretty rigid, just with the idea that all the Normans were toffs and
>all the English plebs. If that *is* how it was, then there must have
>been contact as the Norman nobles employed English people to perform
>menial tasks. If it isn't, then the Normans retained their own
>servants and so forth, and there wasn't that rigidly stratified class
>division. The idea that the Normans were all of a high class but had
>no contact with the English oiks doesn't work.

I'm sure it wasn't 100% plebs/toffs, but my original point, based on my
reading of the sources I've quoted (but which you seem reluctant to
look at), is that the social situation and numbers were such that there
were no conditions for language mixture to take place. My understanding
is that nobles who hired Anglo-Saxons to work for them would have either
required them to speak functional French *or* would have learned enough
English to order them around, but that would hardly have an effect on the
development of English, which was taking place *outside* of institutional
Norman England. That is, I don't see how this situation would have led
to any kind of language mixture, apart from the importation of vocabulary
in certain social spheres: high cuisine, law, education - which is in fact the
case. The Anglo-Saxon/Scandinavian situation from (roughly) the 9th
century to the 11th seems much more amenable to the creation of a
lingua franca/pidgin/creole/what-have-you.

Please at least look at the sources I quoted before telling me that it
"doesn't work".

James Walker, Toronto Information Development, IBM Canada
Alternate address:
"You can have anything in this world provided you genuinely
don't want it." -- George Orwell
Disclaimer: The above views are mine, not those of IBM.