Conquest, Contact, and Convention: Simulating the Norman Invasion’s Impact on Linguistic Usage

Conquest, Contact, and Convention: Simulating the Norman Invasion’s Impact on Linguistic Usage

Jason Quinley (University of Tübingen, Germany) &  Roland Mühlenbernd (University of Tübingen, Germany)

BRIMS: 21st Annual Conference, Amelia Island, FL, March 12-15 (2012)


Here we simulate the impact of the Norman conquest of 1066 on modern communication strategies. The simulations inject a population of ”Normans” into a population of ”Anglo-Saxons” situated on a scale-free network and incorporate signaling games with a best-response learning dynamic. Various trials accounted for the assertion by modern historians that the salient systematic division of prestige seen in words of French versus Germanic origin is no accident but rather results from social conditions. The two main veins of exploration account for social context and social structure (i.e. network topology). They also illuminate that the conventions seen in modern English could have gone the other way without appropriate social conditions. In particular, we draw attention to the broad range of applicability of our results and methods to situations of invasive, stable populations integrated into a larger one.

English shares cognates with many other languages, notably German and French. The Norman conquest of 1066 radically changed both England’s history and its language, infusing new words into the lexicon and creating a divergence in register and context. Con- sider the differentiation between words for animals and meat; e.g. pork (Fr. porc) and swine (Ger. schwein). Historians point to social conditions like the lifestyles of the Anglo-Saxon laborers and the French-speaking Norman nobility as the cause of the divergence. But could the results have been different? And what can game-theoretic models or network-centric approaches offer to understand this?

Click here to read this article from BRIMS

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