mrh-slos asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 month ago

Is it correct that at the time of the Battle of Hastings, the Anglo-Saxon language was nothing like modern English...?

and was more akin to German, but the Norman's language was recognisably French and would be understandable to modern French speakers in France today?

5 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago
    Favourite answer

    Certainly English as spoken in 1066 would need translating for me to be able to understand it.  I did learn German at school, so with that background and my native knowledge of English, I can see where sentences in English of that time are coming from when I compare them with a 'translation'.  There were also three additional letters in use in the English alphabet of that time.

    In a way it is surprising that the Normans spoke French as their normal language, since they came from Scandinavia about 200 years previously and took over that part of France.  Indeed the name 'Normandy' derives from 'North Men'.

    I have not seen much French even of later medieval times, but it is almost slowly readable to one who studied French at school.

    Note that the Norman invasion of England was really a big family bust-up.  There were several conflicting claims for the throne of England, due to remarriage and other factors in previous generations.  William had a good claim, along with Harold and a couple of others.

    Don't forget that, across most of Europe, and England and Ireland, etc, the Church used Latin at that time, and that Latin was a common language in Europe for educated people, at least for written communication, for several hundred years after 1066.

  • 1 month ago

    No, not really. Modern Standard German is a High German language, expanding from Alpine regions northward long after medieval times. The Saxon language was an early form of Low German, a language that meanwhile has almost completely been replaced by today's Standard German.

  • 1 month ago

    The language spoken in England in 1066 was Old English, not Anglo Saxon. It was based on Saxon with a lot of Celtic and Danish influences and Latin from the church. The Norman French of the invaders was very different from modern French but it was the combination of Norman French with Old English that produced Middle English, the language of Chaucer and Malory. Middle English changed to early Modern English in the 16th century and Shakespeare, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries wrote early Modern, which is why his writings are so easily understood today.

    Old English is unintelligible to modern English speakers. Middle English is more easily understood but it takes work to do so.

  • 1 month ago

    Mostly correct, yes. Your point?

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  • 1 month ago

    Sort of, but not quite.

    Anglo-Saxon was definitely a Germanic language, and was more similar to modern German than not.

    But Norman would only have been mutually-intelligible with modern French *as written.*  Because the Normans intentionally adopted French writing when they moved from Scandinavia to what became Normandy.

    But when spoken, Norman and Anglo-Saxon would have sounded very similar.  And not much like French at all.

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