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European Francophonie

The Social, Political and Cultural History of an International Prestige Language

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Edited By Vladislav Rjéoutski, Gesine Argent and Derek Offord

This volume examines the use of French in European language communities outside France from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The phenomenon of French language usage is explored in a wide variety of communities, namely Bohemian, Dutch, medieval English, German (Prussian), Italian, Piedmontese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. Each chapter offers unique insight into the existence of francophonie in a given language community by providing illustrations of language usage and detailed descriptions of various aspects of it. The volume as a whole explores such sociolinguistic matters as bilingualism and multilingualism, the use of French as a lingua franca and prestige language, language choice and code-switching, variations in language usage depending on class or gender, language attitudes and language education. The sociohistorical and sociocultural matters considered include the association of a variety of language with the court, nobility or some other social group; the function of French as a vehicle for the transmission of foreign cultures; and the role of language in the formation of identity of various kinds (national, social and personal).
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3. The French of Medieval England

← 50 | 51 → MARIANNE AILES AND AD PUTTER

Extract

In a twentieth-century volume on Le Français hors de France [French outside France], England does not even figure.1 From a modern perspective this makes sense, but historically England is important for any understanding of the role of French outside France. It was not only the geographical space in which French was first established as a language of written documents and of historical narrative,2 but also a locus where French flourished as one vernacular among others. The French of medieval England is therefore of particular interest from a sociolinguistic perspective.

We shall look first at the rise of French in the centuries immediately following the Norman Conquest of England and consider some of the questions raised by the ascendancy of French. Why did it become a major language in England? Who used it and for what purposes? And what contribution did the French of England make to wider francophone literary culture? We shall then go on to examine what happened to French from the middle of the thirteenth century. In this period English became increasingly used as a written language, while French gradually ceased to be a mother tongue. However, as we hope to show, French continued to be vital as both a spoken and a written language, and so we end by discussing some of the contexts in which it remained the language of choice well into the fifteenth century.

The obvious starting point for any discussion of the use of French in medieval...

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