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date: 26 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

England was a polyglot nation even before the Norman Conquest introduced a significantly large population of French speakers to the Island of Britain. In addition to various dialects of Old English, the progressively standardized literary language of the West Saxons, and the learned Latin of the liturgy and monastery, the island was inhabited by North Germanic and Celtic speakers. After 1066, England, with its two vernaculars and a third learned language in active and multiform use, was a remarkable example of the generally polyglot reality of much of medieval life. This article examines England’s sociolinguistic situation between 1066 and the end of the thirteenth century as well as the consequences of polygot literature. It considers the multilingualism of medieval literature by citing the evidence provided by manuscripts. It also uses the example of translation to underscore the fact that any choice to speak is simultaneously a choice not to speak otherwise.

Keywords: England, Norman Conquest, French, English, Latin, Anglo-Norman, polygot literature, multilingualism, medieval literature, manuscripts, translation

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