The Norman Language

What language did the Normans speak?
The Normans spoke a form of French, known as Norman-French, which was an additional barrier between them and the English.
Could the Normans speak the English language?
With the Norman conquest, the language of the Anglo-Saxons became less important.
  • English was only spoken by the common people, and only survived as a written language in a few places.
  • William tried to learn English, but gave it up because he didn't have the time.
  • Archbishop Lanfranc couldn't speak English.
  • As time went on, more Normans learnt to speak both languages, and some Anglo-Saxons - such as Hereward the Wake - could speak French.
What was the official language in Norman England?
Under the Normans, English declined as the spoken language in certain areas, and it almost completely disappeared as a written language. Norman-French and Latin became the official languages.
  • Norman French was the language of the king's court, and was the language used by the upper classes. It was also used for teaching.
  • Over time, Norman-French developed into Anglo-Norman, as some English words were adopted.
  • Under Norman rule, English disappeared from government and the Church. Latin became the language of government and the Church.
  • Latin was also the language used by merchants who travelled overseas, as it was the language that all educated people in Europe spoke.
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