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Old December 31st, 2009, 01:30 AM   #1
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Anglo Saxon invasions and language


Iíve just finished reading Peter Heatherís book ďEmpires and barbarians : migration, development and the birth of EuropeĒ. Iím not by any means a historian, nor knowledgeable about this period (First millennium Europe) but his arguments seem convincing. In particular he argued for an invasion of what is now England resulting in an Anglo-Saxon dominated area where invaders and natives lived together in a ratio of about 1 to 10.
What I would like to discuss is, what mechanism could have produced a situation where 100% spoke a dialect of the invaders language? And with virtually no loan words from native languages (whatever they were?) There seem to have been no schools, so all language would have been learnt at the home hearth, presumably from the mother. And with many competing kingdoms, no one ruler could have brought this about by force - and why would they try?

As far as I am aware, at the Norman Conquest, when admittedly the incoming elite was much smaller, we have no record of even a single Anglo Saxon peasant speaking Norman French as native Ė even after hundreds of years.
So, how could it all have happened - on a day by day, generation by generation basis?
Also, when should we be able to assume the process was complete? Surely Domesday would have mentioned if there were pre-Anglo-Saxon speakers? And Bede was only about 200 years after his area was presumably conquered. Are there any indications there?
I have been lying awake at night trying to think it through, but without success.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 03:31 AM   #2

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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


The Norman (including subsequent Angevins an estimated 100,000 French crossed) and Viking migrations were probably both larger than the Anglo-Saxon one.

With a Norman invasion the language pretty much did change to French. However both the Danish and French invasions were of a unified country with civil service and a new king simply became head of state leaving the government in place, Cnut famously even became Anglified.

The Anglo-Saxons would not have been evenly distributed, this 1/10 you quote would not have been the same across the country. In East Anglia it would have been much higher and places such as the Black Country Anglo-Saxons non-existant.

Recent archaeological finds on the east coast have suggested two things. The Romano-British towns that existed before the Anglo-Saxons continued on after the invasion and new towns were built while towns west in the were abandoned and decayed. A lot of the bodies in graves in the new east coast towns are Romano-Brits.

This suggests the Romano-British inhabitants of the east weren't displaced by the Anglo-Saxon migrants. And more revolutionarily the Romano-Brits voluntarily migrated from the west to the east to go and live with the Anglo-Saxons.

This latter point possibly explains the language shift. The Anglo-Saxons arrived in small numbers, integrated themselves amongst the local inhabitants of the old towns and undoubtably did something successfully. Most likely brought prosperity. New towns were built, people in the decaying west upped and moved to where the work was, the new Anglo-Saxon towns, however would have had to learn the language to work there.

The British in India is an excellent example of a small number of people arriving in another country, building a few new prosperous cities and the masses flooding there and chaniging their language to do so.



There are of course three slightly more radical theories, all previously discussed on this forum. They are; England has always spoken English since the first hunter-gatherers arrived, the Anglo-Saxons arrived several hundred years before the Roman invasion and the language was brought by migrants in Roman times.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 03:43 AM   #3
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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


The adoption of Spanish and Portuguese by the natives of what is today Latin America from just some hundreds of conquerors would be another illustrative example.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 04:09 AM   #4

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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


Toltec, when you say Norman invasion being bigger than the Saxon one, are you talking about prior to 1066? A peaceful migration perhaps? Just want to make sure that I am one the same page.

One should sepperate armed invasions from migrations here. The genetics would not care which way they arrived in England, only that they did.
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Old January 6th, 2010, 11:58 PM   #5
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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toltec View Post
With a Norman invasion the language pretty much did change to French.

The British in India is an excellent example of a small number of people arriving in another country, building a few new prosperous cities and the masses flooding there and chaniging their language to do so.
But in either case did the language of the common people change? The majority.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sylla1 View Post
The adoption of Spanish and Portuguese by the natives of what is today Latin America from just some hundreds of conquerors would be another illustrative example.
As I understand it, most of the pure blood natives still speak their original languages as native, though they might also speak Spanish.

I can understand native peoples learning the conqueror's language to communicate with them, but when do we ever see a definite example of the common people adopting the new language and losing their own.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 03:28 PM   #6

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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


I think another reason for the Anglo-Saxon success was that there was a lack of identification in Britain. They were neither Romans nor Celts. The Romans left the country in 410 and left the province alone. There were wars between the British warlords, Picts, Scoti and Attascoti raided and later greater parts, perhaps even of the higher classes left Britannia and went to Brittany. The Anglo-saxon conquest brought after some times a stabilisation.
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Old January 27th, 2010, 11:29 PM   #7

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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


Its a great question and one I've wondered about. Apparently recent genetic analysis has established that the English gene pool is very predominantly that of pre-norman, pre-saxon times which slightly belies previous anglo-saxon centric national myths of the English peoples origins as well as some of the celtic fringes notions. We must be descended from ancient Albionians!
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Old January 27th, 2010, 11:44 PM   #8

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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


There are 70% R1b, 20% R1a and 8% I in Y-DNA. I am sorry i don't have the mtDNA. We can say now R1b is of western origin and not Germanic or Celtic, but it is not as easy. It is 70% R1b in France as well and in Germany 45%, in the Netherlands 77%, 37% in Norway and 53 in Danmark. Perhaps it gets clearer if you go to subgroups of Y-DNA.
We had a pre-Indoeuropean stock there. Since peraps 1000 BC there came Indo-european groups of uncertain descendance. Real Celts came late, perhaps after 400. and they came in different waves. The last one was the Belgish one in the last two centuries BC.
So we had different groups in Britannia before the Anglo-Saxon conquest, Western groups of perhaps different origins (unknown grade of Celtification), Indo-European groups (q-Celts) and Celtic Groups (p-Celts), which I would divide into Gaulic and Belgic groups. Then the Romans came and romanized a part of the people. So how strong was the common feeling of Britons?
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Old January 28th, 2010, 05:06 AM   #9

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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


Well I was hoping that someone who knew what they were talking about would rise to this challenge and indeed you have - thanks! From a ignorant and superficial reading of your gene data it looks like the R1b proportions in England and France are the same suggesting these two peoples come from very similar roots. The old notions of it being Gauls in France and Angles & Saxons in England seem to be wide of the mark when considering where the majority of both peoples ancestors originated from, or am a misconstruing what you've reported?
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Old January 28th, 2010, 05:35 AM   #10
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Re: Anglo Saxon invasions and language


So, Gauls and Angles and Saxons are historically consanguineous. Why should that surprise?
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