England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225

By Robert Bartlett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Cultural Patterns

I. LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES

Spoken Languages

Introduction

Apart from the Hebrew that had limited oral use among the tiny Jewish community, and the Cornish and Welsh spoken in parts of the south-west and along the Welsh borders, there were three main languages used for oral communication in England in the period covered here: English, French, and Latin. Although there is little direct evidence about the use of spoken language, some natural assumptions can be made. There is no doubt about the character of Latin: it was a language that was learned by an educated minority and was spoken in very restricted but prestigious spheres—the Church, law and administration, education. There is, moreover, no question that English was the 'mother tongue'—the first language acquired naturally in infancy—of the vast majority of people in England. The status of spoken French in Norman and Angevin England is a more controversial matter.

The coexistence of a learned language, Latin, and the local vernacular was a common feature of medieval European society. Such dualism can indeed be found elsewhere in the world: in India the sacred language, Sanskrit, existed alongside many languages actually spoken in everyday life by the local populations, and in the Islamic world today the classical Arabic of the Koran is taught as a special skill to those whose native language may be a very colloquial form of Arabic or a non-Arabic tongue. Such a linguistic regime has two fundamental consequences: those who master the learned tongue have access to an international educated community and to the inherited cultural stock of the prestige language, and every local community is divided horizontally between the cultural elite who command that language and the majority who do not. This was precisely the situation in twelfth-century England, where the literate—which meant literate in Latin'—or 'clerks' (clerici) could communicate with fellow clerks in every part of Europe and penetrate the Latin texts of the Bible, the Roman Law, or the classical poets,

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England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Contents xi
  • Plates xiv
  • Figures xv
  • Maps xvi
  • Tables xvii
  • Abbreviations xviii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter I - Political Patterns 4
  • Chapter 2 - England and Beyond 68
  • Chapter 3 - Lordship and Government 121
  • Chapter 4 - The Aristocracy 202
  • Chapter 5 - Warfare 252
  • Chapter 6 - The Rural Foundations 287
  • Chapter 7 - Towns and Trade 331
  • Chapter 8 - The Institutional Church 377
  • Chapter 9 - Religious Life 450
  • Chapter 10 - Cultural Patterns 490
  • Chapter 11 - The Course of Life 543
  • Chapter 12 - Cosmologies 624
  • Chronology of Political Events 701
  • The Sources 703
  • Index of Persons and Places 715
  • Index of Subjects 773
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