Listened to Lecture 8: Did the Normans Really Conquer English? from The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition by Seth LererSeth Lerer from The Great Courses

Witness language change in action as English shifts from an inflected to a relatively uninflected language, and as word order takes precedence over case endings and the determiner of meaning. Also, consider how a language builds and forms its vocabulary through building new words out of old ones, or by borrowing them.

cover of The History of the English Language by Seth Lerer

Shift from an inflected language into an uninflected one


Emphasis of archaeolinguistics based on the barely literate. What are they writing so as to capture the daily change of language over time. Linguists look for writing that can be dated and localized.

  • example: Peterborough Chronicle showing changes over time through the years

“word horde” is kenning for mind, so unlocking one’s word horde is to speak one’s mind (example from Beowulf)

Sound changes hl-, hr-, hn-, and fn- level out to l-, r-, n, and sn-

Compression of syllables occurred in such terms as hlaf weard, the guardian or warden of the loaf, which was shortened to become Lord.

“Who is the guardian of the loaf? The hlfaf weard << The hlaweard << the laword << the lord. This is the etymology of the word lord. Lord is the guardian of the lord, the mete-er out of bread in a cereal society.”

metathesis (/mɪˈtæθɪsɪs/; from Greek μετάθεσις, from μετατίθημι “I put in a different order”; Latin: trānspositiō) is the transposition of sounds or syllables in a word or of words in a sentence. Most commonly, it refers to the interchange of two or more contiguous sounds, known as adjacent metathesis[1] or local metathesis:[2]

  • ask / aks in modern English (Southern US)
  • brid / bird
  • axion / ask
  • thork / through
  • The Old English beorht “bright” underwent metathesis to bryht, which became Modern English bright.

The Owl and the Nightingale[edit]

  • early middle-English poem c. 1200 in 2 handwritten manuscripts from 13th c.
  • octosylabic rhymed couplets
  • Old English words held in a francophone container (French style poetic structure)

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

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