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The English and the NormansEthnic Hostility, Assimilation, and Identity 1066-c.1220$
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Hugh M. Thomas

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199251230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199251230.001.0001

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Language, Literature, and Ethnic Identity

Language, Literature, and Ethnic Identity

(p.377) Chapter 23 Language, Literature, and Ethnic Identity
The English and the Normans


Oxford University Press

For many 19th- and 20th-century theorists and activists, language was crucial to nationalism. Scholars suggest that the linguistic effects of the Norman conquest constituted an important though temporary blow to English identity, and that survival of English was important for survival of Englishness. This chapter argues that whatever connection there was between the English language and English identity, it was fairly weak. The discernible influence of Old English literature after the middle of the 12th century is also negligible. However, it contends that bilingualism was also very important in facilitating the process of cultural assimilation. In particular, England fairly quickly developed into a bilingual society, at least in towns, the aristocracy, and perhaps among the middling sort.

Keywords:   English language, ethnic identity, nationalism, English, Old English literature, England, bilingualism

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