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Language Contact and Vocabulary Enrichment

Scandinavian Elements in Middle English


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 Six: Some final remarks


Chapter Six Some final remarks Throughout this study I have tried to focus on the social character of language as a means of communication and to consider that this social nature is an im- portant factor in language change. However, language change is a very broad phenomenon, and for this reason I have limited its scope here. Such a restric- tion is twofold: first, the time span under analysis has been limited, looking only at Middle English, and assuming a traditional understanding of dates, given that a discussion of the periodisation of the English language is not one of my aims here (Moskowich 2001). Second, I have limited my research to the lexicon. It is clear that my conception of language as expounded in the current work is far removed from that first posited by Chomsky’s (1965) theoretical framework of language, constructed on the notion of an ideal speaker within a homogeneous speech community. On the contrary, my approach attaches great significance to the sociocultural elements in language and, since this study dealt with one particular diachronic development, it also meant that re- course to history was required. When a human being communicates with oth- ers, the communicative act takes place in a specific context, and this context determines both the behaviour of speaker and listener, as well as the nature of the message itself. The uses of language are also constrained by certain socio- historical features. No speaker communicates the same way as another, and even when we refer...

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