Anglo-Latin Bilingualism before 1066: Prospects and Limitations

Anglo-Latin Bilingualism before 1066: Prospects and Limitations

By Olga Timofeeva

Interfaces between Language and Culture in Medieval England: A Festschrift for Matti Kilpiö, edited by Alaric Hall, Olga Timofeeva, Ágnes Kiricsi and Bethany Fox (Brill, 2010)

Introduction: As much as we know about the beginnings of the English language and its indebtedness to medieval Latin culture, little effort has been made to summarize the available data and describe or reassess it in terms of contemporary language contact theory. This may be partly explained by the fact that, studying a language situation that goes as far back as the seventh century AD, with the concomitant lack of statistical data and absence of living native speakers, we are oft en restricted to hypothesizing and generalizing. However, if we approach the old data from the alternative perspective afforded by a younger discipline, we may be able to get new insights into the historical and linguistic facts of the period. This paper is an attempt to sketch an empirical picture of Anglo-Latin bilingualism before the Norman Conquest and to discuss the practical prospects and limitations of the language contact approach.

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