What if William the Conqueror never existed?

What if William the Conqueror never existed?

William the Conqueror, as he was later known, is famous for invading England in 1066 and setting up a dynasty that has lasted until today. He came from Normandy which was French speaking and so the Normans brought a lot of French to England. 1066 is commonly regarded as the end of the Old English period and the beginning of the Middle English period. French became the dominant language after 1066 and English became merely the language of the peasants. It wasn’t until 1200 that English start reemerging as a written language.

Here is an alternate scenario.

Normandy was founded by Rollo, a Viking from Scandanavia. He was given lands in northern France in exchange for fealty to the French king. The problem at the time was Viking raids. Rollo, by training an army of Normans, was able to fend of the Viking raids and strengthen France’s position. Normandy, due to it being so close to England, was often a refuge for English nobles.

Edward the confessor was king of England from 1042 to 1066. His successor was Harold Godwinson. Harold was the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex and Gytha Thorkelsdottir, sister-in-law of King Cnut the Great. Harold had connections all over England. He served as Earl of Hereford in 1058 and when he became king in 1066, he appointed his son Sweyn as Earl of Herford.

England continued to grow under Harold’s reign. He set up many new defences in the south and the east to fend off Viking attacks. The House of Wessex grew in power over the decades. Meanwhile in Normandy, Rollo’s descendant had continued to build up Normandy. The current Duke of Normandy Robert decided it was best to get along with France and worked to solidify Normandy’s position within the French Kingdom.

Royalty love forging alliances through marriage and Europe’s royal families were full of connections all over the place. In 1206, King Athelstan of Wessex married one of the Duke of Normandy’s daughters. This alliance would cause problems in later decades. King Athelstan never had any sons and after his death Duke Henry pressed his advantage by suggesting that one of his sons take over.

The Witan (Anglo Saxon council) decided that it would be better to keep England in Anglo Saxon hands and gave the Kingship to Egbert, the cousin of King Athelstan. Duke Henry was outraged and went to the King of France for help. King Louis jumped at the chance to get more land. With 6 months, Duke Henry and King Louis launched an invasion into England. It was no easy fight, but the French eventually emerged victorious. King Egbert became the last Anglo Saxon king.

Duke Henry was named King of England and he pledged to always work towards the glory of all French people. All the Anglo Saxon nobility were kicked out and replaced with French nobles. King Henry and King Louis worked together on how best to consolidate their power in England and France. People from Normandy began arriving in England over the next few decades increasing the French influence.

The English language was sidelined and the peasants mocked for speaking English. French was the new language of the country. Relations between England and France continued to develop. A war council was established in 1306 where French people from England and France could best discuss strategies and share resources across the realm. England, with the help of France managed to push further west and north in England, pushing the native English into Wales and Scotland.

By the 1400s, England and France had become so integrated that talk was started about unifying the two countries into a United Kingdom of England and France. This happened a few years later in 1407. The English language had seen a rapid decline since the Anglo Saxon defeat in 1206. Now, less than 10% of people left in England still spoke English, and those that did were bilingual in French. By the 1500s, English was considered extinct in England.

This is merely one scenario. We can’t really know what would have happened. One thing I find fascinating about English history is all the connections between England and France. William the Conqueror attacked England due to a claim he felt he had on the English throne. Even without William the Conqueror, some sort of claim is bound to have been created at some point. Royal marriages connected all sorts of places.

The other thing I wanted to put into this alternate scenario is a small change which I think in our timeline ultimately saved English from the fate it suffered in this alternate scenario. Normandy, while technically under the power of France, never truly was a part of the Kingdom of France. Normandy used its own influence and claims over England, and there was nothing France could do about that.

Eventually France managed to take Normandy over from the Normans, but they never got England. These two things I think in the end saved English. While Normandy controlled England, French influence poured into England and it is during this time period that tons of French words became a part of English.

Just like the death of Gaulish in France, English in England would have eventually been ground down and have disappeared, leaving only loanwords in the new dominant language of the area. This French influence slowed down once Normandy lost to France and that wave of French people coming into England stopped. People in Normandy and people in England had a choice. Stay where they are, or go to the other. They would not be allowed to have land in both Normandy and England.

This made the French in England feel isolated from the French in France and they began marrying English girls and began feeling more English than French. The English girls taught their children English and now the nobles in England started being able to speak English again. Animosities between England and France would remain, some would say, to this day. England invaded France in the 1400s but never held the land for long.

In my alternate scenario, I made one important change. The Normans who founded Normandy decided to throw themselves fully into the French project. Remember, these people were not French. They decided to become French for the promise of land. In our timeline they never full assimilated into the larger French kingdom leading to the split between Normandy and France. In my alternate scenario, I decided to make the Normans much more sympathetic to the French, thus making Normandy a fully integrated part of France.

Without the need for the French to invade Normandy, Normandy never gets cut off and the connection between France and England never goes away. The constant influx of French would have spelled death for English in this timeline.

I know a lot of people day dream about what would have happened if William the Conqueror never existed and that English didn’t get so many French words, but history is complicated and we can never really know what would have happened. I wanted to make a scenario where a few small things changed, and the result is totally different than our timeline.

Thanks for reading 🙂

“ge-” in English and German

This post discusses cognates which are words that descend from a common source. Sometimes a word will have a different meaning to one of its cognates. Words often change meaning over time

The prefix “ge-” existed in Old English but the “g” was pronounced like Modern English “y”. This would often evolve into “i” (pronounced like Modern English “ee”) or “a” and then sometimes it just disappeared entirely by the time it got to Modern English. German however pronounces “ge-” with a hard “g” like the “g” in “gift”. This can make cognates harder to spot though so I decided to make a list of English and German cognates where the Old English version had a “ge-” in it. This way you can see how the word changed over time.

enough comes from Middle English ynough, Old English ġenōg cognate with German genug

alike comes from Middle English alike, Old English ġelīċ cognate with German gleich

moot comes from Middle English ȝemot, Old English ġemōt which means “society, assembly, court, council”

mind comes from Middle English ȝemunde, Old English ġemynd which means “memory, remembrance, memorial”

mad comes from Middle English madd, Old English ġemǣdd which means enraged

mean comes from Middle English imene, Old English ġemǣne which means “common, public, general, universal” cognate with
German gemein

sheriff comes from “shire reeve” where reeve comes from Old English ġerēfa

aware comes from Middle English aware, from Old English ġewær cognate with German gewahr

“not”, “niet” and “nicht” in West Germanic languages

niet in Dutch comes from Old Dutch niewiht from reconstructed form *niowiht from nio “never” + wiht “thing, creature”
nicht in German comes from Old High German niowiht, from nio “never” + wiht “being, creature”
not in English comes from Old English nāht short for nāwiht which is ne “not” + āwiht “anything”, which itself comes from
ā “ever” + wiht “thing, creatu

Translation and analysis of “Iđitguovssu” by Máddji

Iđitguovssu – Dawn Light

Iđitguovssus girdilit
Hávski lei go iđistit
Vilges dolggiid geigestit
Várrogasat salastit

Njukča, njuvččažan
Buokčal, ligge varan
Njukča, njuvččažan
Ovdal iđitroađi

Iđitguovssus girdilit
Hávski lei go iđistit
Jaskatvuođain savkalit
Nuorravuođain njávkalit

Riegádahte áibbašeami
Oktovuođa váillaheami

English translation

Iđitguovssus girdilit
You flew in from the dawn

Hávski lei go iđistit
What a wonderful sight when you emerged

Vilges dolggiid geigestit
You flapped out your white feathers

Várrogasat salastit
You carefully gave a short embrace

Njukča, njuvččažan
Swan, my little swan

Buokčal, ligge varan
Dive, heat my blood

Njukča, njuvččažan
Swan, my little swan

Ovdal iđitroađi
Before the red of morning

Jaskatvuođain savkalit
You whispered softly

Nuorravuođain njávkalit
You caressed youthfully

Iđitguovssus girdilit
Hávski lei go iđistit
Jaskatvuođain savkalit
Nuorravuođain njávkalit

Riegádahte áibbašeami
Bring out my yearning

Oktovuođa váillaheami
The longing of the lonely

Detailed analysis

Iđitguovssus girdilit
You flew in from the dawn

iđit – morning
guovssu – dawn
girdilit – fly away, take off

girdilan – I fly
girdilat – You fly
girdila – He/she/it flies

girdilin – I flew
girdilit – You flew
girdilii – He/she/it flies

iđitguovssus – locative form of “iđitguovssu”. Locative means “at, on, in, from a location”

Hávski lei go iđistit
What a wonderful sight when you emerged

hávski – nice, aggreeable
lei – sight, view
go – when, as
iđistit – emerge

iđistan – I emerge
iđistat – You emerge
iđista – He/she/it emerges

iđistin – I emerged
iđistit – You emerged
iđistii – He/she/it emerged

Vilges dolggiid geigestit
You flapped out your white feathers

vilges – white (adj)
vielgadas – white (noun)

dolgi – feather
dolggiid – feather (plural accusative)

geiget – stretch out, line up, hand over

geigen – I stretch out
geiget – You stretch out
geige – He/she/it stretches out

Every time a verb has that kind of -stit suffix, it means that it’s a quick, or short, action.

geigestit – to flap out

geigestan – I flap out
geigestat – You flap out
geigestat – He/she/it flaps out

geigestin – I flapped out
geigestit – You flapped out
geigestii – He/she/it flapped out

Várrogasat salastit
You carefully gave a short embrace

várrogas/várrugas – careful
várrogasat – careful (plural nominative attributive)

salastit – quick or short embrace

salastat – You embrace
salsatit – You embraced

Njukča, njuvččažan
Swan, my little swan

njukča – swan
njuvččažan – swan (singular nominative possessive), -žan is the suffix to indicate some kind of endearment

Buokčal, ligge varan
Dive, heat my blood

buokčat – to dive
buovččan – I dive
buovččat – You dive
buokčá – He/she/it dives

buokčal – You dive (imperative)

ligget – to warm up

liggen – I warm up
ligget – You warm up
ligge – He/she/it warms up

ligge – You warm up (imperative)

varra – blood (singular nominative first person)

Njukča, njuvččažan
Swan, my little swan

Ovdal iđitroađi
Before the red of morning

ovdal – before, beforehand, earlier, previously
iđit – morning
roađđi – red
roađi – of red (genitive)

Iđitguovssus girdilit
You flew in from the dawn

Hávski lei go iđistit
What a wonderful sight when you emerged

Jaskatvuođain savkalit
You whispered softly

jaska – quietly
jaskat – quiet

jaskatvuohta – silence
jaskatvuođain – singular comitative, plural comitative, “with silence”

-vuohta turns a verb into a noun
e.g. ráhkisvuohta – love (noun), from ráhkistit – to love

savkalit – to whisper

savakalat – You whisper
savakalit – You whispered

Nuorravuođain njávkalit
You caresed youthfully

nuorravuohta – youth
nuorravuođain – singular comitative, plural comitative, “with youth”

njávkalat – You caress
njávkalit – You caressed

Riegádahte áibbašeami
Bring out my yearning

riegádahttit – to bring out

riegádahtán – I bring out
riegádahtát – You bring out
riegádahttá – He/she/it brings out

riegádahte – You bring out (imperative)

áibbašit – to yearn
áibbašan – I yearn

áibbašeapmi – yearning
áibbašeami – genitive, of yearning

Oktovuođa váillaheami
The longing of the lonely

oktovuohta – loneliness
oktovuođa – genitive, of loneliness

váillahit – to lack, need
váillaheapmi – those who lack, or are in need of something
váillaheami – accusative form

-heapmi turns a verb or adjective into a noun

South African English

South African English

Linguists have given names to the three main pronunciation groups in South African English: Cultivated, General and Broad.

Cultivated South African English speakers have an accent closest to British RP. It is non rhotic and retains the dipthongs of English. In Cape Town this accent is spoken by those descended from British settlers, such as me. My German name “Rolf Weimar” comes from my father. My mother’s family comes from Britain. Her maiden name comes from Scotland, but one of her grandfather’s was Irish.

General South African English speakers are those who have had much more contact and been more influenced by Afrikaans and Xhosa speakers. Their dipthongs have become monophthongised and many of the vowels have changed. Most Common speakers are native English speaker, although some Afrikaans speakers speak with this accent because of growing up in Cape Town and having extensive contact with native English speakers.

Broad South African English speakers are those that either are native Afrikaans or Xhosa speakers, live in an area with a lot of Afrikaans or Xhosa speakers, or have parents that are native Afrikaans and Xhosa speakers. If someone is a second or third language speaker of English, it is most likely they will have this accent.

Non native speakers of English

Afrikaans speakers and people of mixed race heritage (these people called themselves “Coloured” in South Africa) roll their R’s in South African English. This is represented by IPA [r].

Xhosa and other native speakers of African languages round out the complexity of English vowels.

Government [ɡʌvənˌmənt] becomes [gavament] in their accent.

I like bread
Cultivated South African English: [aɪ laɪk bɹɛːd] (sometimes [d] and [t] become tapped [ɾ])
General South African English: [a: la:k bɹɛːd]
Broad South African English: [a: la:k bred]

I live in Cape Town which is the oldest city in South Africa. It is perhaps not surprising then that pronunciations vary a lot in Cape Town. There are three main languages spoken in Cape Town: English, Afrikaans and Xhosa.

Native English speakers are mostly found in southern Cape Town. Afrikaans speakers are concentrated in the north. Cape Town has the largest percentage of native English speakers in the whole country with 67.7% followed by Afrikaans at 22.5% and Xhosa at 2.7%. The city with the next highest percentage of native English speakers is Durban with 49.8% followed by Port Elizabeth with 33.2%

The cynic and the hound

The Cynics were a group who practised a philosophy of living in virtue and in harmony with nature. Their names comes from the fact that the first cynic taught at a place called the Cynosarges which means the “Place of the White Dog”. But “dog” quickly became an insult used by people to criticise their way of life.

The word “cynic” in English comes from the Ancient Greek word κυνικός (kunikós) which means “dog-like”. κῠ́ων (kúōn) is the Ancient Greek word for “dog” and is actually cognate with the English word “hound”. So “cynic” and “hound” are actually related 🙂

Learn Northern Sami with Steve the vagabond Part 3

viehkat – to run
Mun viegan – I run
Don viegat – You (s) run
Son viehká – He/she runs
Moai vihke – We (two) run
Doai viehkabeahtti – You (two) run
Soai viehkaba – They (two) run
Mii viehkat – We run
Dii viehkabehtet – You (plural) run
Sii vihket – They run

čiehkat – to hide
Mun čiegan – I hide
Don čiegat – You (s) hide
Son čiehká – He/she hides
Moai čihke – We (two) hide
Doai čiehkabeahtti – You (two) hide
Soai čiehkaba – They (two) hide
Mii čiehkat – We hide
Dii čiehkabehtet – You (plural) hide
Sii čihket – They hide

váldit – to take
Mun válddán – I take
Don válddát – You (s) take
Son váldá – He/she takes
Moai válde – We (two) take
Doai váldibeahtti – You (two) take
Soai váldiba – They (two) take
Mii váldit – We take
Dii váldibehtet – You (plural) take
Sii váldet – They take

rundit – to work, toil
Mun runddán – I work
Don runddát – You (s) work
Son rundá – He/she works
Moai runde – We (two) work
Doai rundibeahtti – You (two) work
Soai rundiba – They (two) work
Mii rundit – We work
Dii rundibehtet – You (plural) work
Sii rundet – They work

Get complete lessons for Northern Sami at Steve the vagabond on Patreon

Learn Northern Sami with Steve the vagabond Part 2

The letter as used in Northern Sami followed by the IPA
letter for that sound. After this is an English description
of the sound.
A a – /ɑ/ “au” in British English “laugh”
Á á – /a/ “ah”
B b – /b/ “b” in “bed”
C c – /ts/ “ts” in “cats”
Č č – /tʃ/ “ch” in “check”
D d – /d/ “d” in “dog”
Đ đ – /ð/ “th” in “this”
E e – /e/ “e” in “weigh”
F f – /f/ “f” in “fish”
G g – /g/ “g” in “good”
H h – /h/ “h” in “hot”
I i – /i/ “e” in “me”, /j/ after a vowel, “y” in “yes”
J j – /j/ “y” in “yes”
K k – /k/ “c” in “cat”
L l – /l/ “l” in “lake”
M m – /m/ “m” in “man”
N n – /n/ “n” in “nut”
Ŋ ŋ – /ŋ/ “ng” in “sing”
O o – /o/ “o” in “or”
P p – /p/ “p” in “pet”
S s – /s/ “s” in “sit”
Š š – /ʃ/ “sh” in “ship”
T t – /t/ “t” in “tall”
Ŧ ŧ – /θ/ “th” in “thatch”
U u – /u/ “o” in “do”
V v – /v/ “v” in “van”
Z z – /dz/ “ds” in “raids”
Ž ž – /dʒ/ “j” in “joy”

The following are called dipthongs because they contain two vowel sounds pronounced in the same time as a single vowel sound
ie – /ie/ “ee” followed by “eh”
oa – /oɑ/ “oh” followed by “au” in British English “laugh”
uo – /uo/ “oo” followed by the “o” in “or”
When the letter “h” comes between a vowel and consonant, it does not represent the sound /h/ (as in “hat”) but rather represent a very breathy sound, like someone just breathing out and not completing the “h” sound. In IPA this is represented as /ʰ/, for instance in eahket /æʰket/

Get complete lessons for Northern Sami at Steve the vagabond on Patreon

Learn Northern Sami with Steve the vagabond Part 1

Phrases in Northern Sami
The IPA transcription appears after the phrase

Buorre iđit /buorːe iðit/ – Good morning
Buorre eahket /buorːe æʰːket/ – Good evening
Bures /bures/ – Hello
Mo dat manná? /mo dɑt mɑnːa/ – How are you?
Dat manná bures, giitu /dɑt mɑnːa bures giːtu/ – Fine, thank you
Mii du namma lea? /miː du nɑmːɑ læ/ – What is your name?
Mu namma lea ___ /mu nɑmːɑ læ/ – My name is ___
Juo /juə/ – Yes
A-a /ɑʔɑ/, Ii /iː/ – No
Mun in huma davvisámegiela /mun in humɑ dɑvːisaːmegielɑ/ – I can’t speak Northern Sami
Mun in ádde /mun in adːə/ – I don’t understand
Hupmago oktage dáppe eaŋgalsgiela? /hupmɑgo oktɑge dapːe æŋgɑlsgielɑ/ – Is there someone here who speaks English?
Gos don leat eret? /gos don læt eret/ – Where are you from?
Mun lean ___ eret /mun læn eret/ – I am from ___

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Come live on the silly side of life