By David Crystal
Last updated 2011-02-17
Ever turbulent, the relationship between England and France hits a new low with the onset of the Hundred Years War. England’s French estates are lost, severing the umbilical tie with the Continent, and a sense of English national identity emerges.
The influence of French, now the language of the enemy, declines until it is spoken only at court, by the aristocracy and by the well-educated clergy. Children of the nobility, who formerly spoke English as a second language, begin to adopt it as their mother tongue.
Despite being edged out, French has already had an immense impact, with 10,000 of its words entering the language during the 14th century. Hundreds of Old English words disappear into obscurity, but many others survive alongside their French and Latin equivalent, each endowed with a slightly different meaning: for example, 'ask' (Old English), 'question' (French), 'interrogate' (Latin).
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