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Language Contact and Vocabulary Enrichment

Scandinavian Elements in Middle English

Series:

Isabel Moskowich

The Scandinavian presence all over Europe during the so-called Viking Age is well documented and England is not an exception. However, the influence of their language on the development of English has not always been well interpreted. This volume aims at deciphering the reality behind the legend of a raiding heathen nation. By resorting to the evidence provided by language, the book explores and tries to reconstruct the social networks formed by both the English and Scandinavians. Their relations, needs and lives are inextricably intermingled with the hybrid tongue they adapted for communication and which has largely come down to us in what we know as English.

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Chapter One: The historical context

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Chapter One The historical context 1. Some preliminary considerations Many studies looking at the presence of the Scandinavians in England have been biased, sometimes too categorical in their claims, and were based on chronicles. Claims were often made without any detailed evidence to support them, as is the case with Geipel (1971: 57) where he claims that “[t]he Norse language was spoken in various parts of the British Isles for a thousand years and more, of this there can be no doubt”. However, other studies, not neces- sarily within the field of medieval history (Jesch 2001a; Moskowich and Cre- spo 2007), have tried to provide well-grounded information about what the long coexistence of Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians might have implied. One of the historical events of paramount importance is the massive movement of Norse speakers from Northern Europe to the British Isles. This movement is said to have taken place in two distinct phases, known as the First and Second Migration, following Cameron (1969), Lund (1969) and Ly- ons (1977). Dealing with the issues in terms of migration led to divergent opinions. Here we might mention Jesch (2001b) or, before her, Arngart (1947: 73), who noted the large number of Norse female names appearing in twelfth-century Danelaw documents, and commenting on the significance of this: “For they also form a material addition to the evidence, which suggests that something like a genuine migration may have taken place in the ninth century, that, in particular, the armies may have sent for...

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