Scandinavian Elements in Middle English
Chapter Two: The social structure
Chapter Two The social structure 1. Social organisation in pre-Norse times The social stratification for later periods of the history of England has been successfully reconstructed, and can provide sociolinguistic information useful to us. Such is the case with Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg’s (2003) work on Tudor and Stuart English, for which several sources were used. However, most of the information about how society was structured in Eng- land before the arrival of the Normans in 1066 is obtained from Domesday Book. Once he conquered England, William the Conqueror commissioned a group of officers to compile information about what kind of prerogatives and obligations his subjects had. This constituted a kind of census in which peo- ple, animals and things were recorded, and in this way the underlying social structure of the country is very well reflected indeed. Domesday Book also contains revealing information on both personal and place-names. Both per- sonal and place-names, as well as those relating to geographical features, help us assess the extent to which the Scandinavian influence is felt in each place. It is important, however, to bear in mind that a Scandinavian personal name does not necessarily imply that its bearer is Danish or of Danish descent at all. Such names could simply have been fashionable among Anglo-Saxons. We know that Scandinavian things (clothes and hair-style) were considered highly fashionable among the Anglo-Saxon natives for a long time (Arbman and Binns 1961), and we must therefore agree with Cameron (1971: 149) when he affirms: “Their...
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