LINGUIST List 24.2950

Fri Jul 19 2013

Review: Historical Linguistics; Lang. Acquisition: Ingham (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 11-Apr-2013
From: Devan Steiner <>
Subject: The Transmission of Anglo-Norman
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

AUTHOR: Richard P. InghamTITLE: The Transmission of Anglo-NormanSUBTITLE: Language history and language acquisitionSERIES TITLE: Language Faculty and Beyond 9PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Devan B. Steiner, Ithaca College

SUMMARYIn “The Transmission of Anglo-Norman: Language history and languageacquisition”, Richard Ingham explores the question “how far is languagelearnable under non-normal conditions that modify input characteristics,learner characteristics, or both?” (p 3). To do this, he examinesAnglo-Norman (A-N), the variety of French spoken in England from the 11th tothe 15th century, a language learned and used as a second language (L2) forthe majority of its existence. Even as an L2, A-N was widely used and, basedon textual evidence, its speakers had a near-native level of competency.During the late 13th century, this advanced level of competency began todecline, ultimately resulting in the loss of A-N. This book is divided into 11chapters, including an introduction and conclusion, and presents the resultsof six studies of A-N phonology and syntax. The aim is to “identify the‘support system’ that permitted [AN’s] extended survival and whose removalcaused its death” (p 4).

Chapter One begins by establishing the major challenge of working withAnglo-Norman, that it continued to be widely used in England long afterceasing to be an L1. During this time, A-N showed systematic developmentsthat differed from those found in continental Old French (OFr). For thisreason, many have suggested that Anglo-Norman should not be studied in its ownright, but Ingham sees this extended L2 period as a reason A-N should bestudied. It provides a case study for what happens to a language when it is apersistent L2, acquired in an educational environment in middle childhood,rather than as an L1 or an L2 acquired in adolescence. To examine A-N in thislight -- as an early acquired L2 -- Ingham interprets the development of A-Nthrough the lens of second language acquisition, which is highly innovative.

Chapter Two establishes a brief sketch of early 13th century A-N grammar.Here, Ingham distinguishes between the characteristics of A-N shared with OldFrench, and those that are idiosyncratic. He also notes which aspects ofearly (L1) A-N are similar to Middle English, and therefore not of interest tothe present study, and those that differ from English. Similar features areto be avoided, as they provide no evidence for possible convergence betweenA-N and Middle English. A-N is then compared to other medieval L2 varietiesof OFr known to have been acquired in adolescence or later, since languagesacquired after this point tend to show evidence of L1 transfer. The data fromthese varieties show that elements not shared with the speaker’s L1 were lostwhile those shared with the L1 were over-extended. This provides a basis forcomparison with Anglo-Norman in the following chapter; features in A-N that donot occur in English should have been lost due to L1 transfer from English, ifit were an instructed L2.

Chapter Three reviews the literature on Anglo-Norman, including the variousviews on the point which A-N went into decline. The main work on A-Ndiscussed is Pope (1934), the foundational work on A-N. Pope considers themid 13th century as the point of no return, as far as A-N is concerned, due tothe growing phonological differences between A-N and continental French.According to Ingham, the main problem with previous work on A-N is the faultyassumption that “once English was most people’s mother-tongue, French couldnot also be a competently acquired language”, which rests on “little to noempirical foundation” (p 27, 28). In addition, this chapter provides asociohistorical foundation for Ingham’s later claims about the beginning ofthe loss of A-N as well as the age of its acquisition.

In Chapter Four, Ingham provides the rationale and design of the studiespresented in the following chapters. The book focuses on phonological andsyntactic variation, as they are potentially the most informative with respectto L1 transfer. Each feature examined was realized differently in MiddleEnglish and Old French, and therefore is a potential source for L1 transferfrom English to AN. Furthermore, there are differences between OFr and A-N inthe evolution of the selected features at various points in their history.Furthermore, Ingham only examines features where English contrast withMedieval French to avoid issues arising from French influence on English.

Chapter Five presents several aspects of Anglo-Norman phonology. The chapterbegins by comparing changes in Old French (OFr) and A-N phonology, anddiscussing the possible influences from English on these changes in AN. Ofthe four vocalic changes examined, only the earliest, the merger of ai/ei,occurs in both A-N and OFr. The remaining vowels examined evolved differentlyin the two languages. The second half of the chapter critiques the argumentput forward in Floquet (2010) against the use of rhyme in phonologicalstudies. Floquet argues that in Modern French, a certain amount ofneutralization involving features such as [palatal] is permitted in rhymedpairs; therefore mismatched rhymes in A-N may be the result of poetic licenserather than phonological change. Ingham tests this methodological critique byexamining mismatched rhymes diachronically. His results do not support a rolefor poetic license. Rhymes involving neutralizable features existing in EarlyMiddle English (EME) do not show any appreciable sign of neutralization, whilethose involving sounds which did not occur in EME show A-N increasingfrequency of neutralization. These contrasting results suggest thatneutralization was only possible when part of a sound change. Overall, thechanges seen in these studies indicate the presence of L1 transfer fromEnglish in Anglo Norman, at least phonologically.

Chapters Six through Ten examine various aspects of A-N syntax, morphology andpragmatics: the syntax of quantifiers, gender marking on nouns, verb second,null subjects, attributive adjective-noun order, and discourse particles. Ineach chapter, Ingham helpfully provides the reader with a clear explanation ofwhat changes (or non-changes) are to be expected in A-N in the event of L1transfer from English. Each of the changes seen in A-N mirror those in Frenchrather than those in English until the mid-fourteenth century. Around 1350,there is evidence of systemic syntactic change in A-N, resulting in a grammarthat is no longer native-like. This suggests a shift in the manner ofacquisition at this time.

Given what is known about the effect of age of acquisition on L2 competency,the results of each study, both individually and as a whole, demonstrate twoclear changes in A-N . The first shift in age of acquisition occurred in theearly 13th century. At this point, A-N was no longer an L1, but an L2acquired in a naturalistic setting in middle childhood. The second shiftoccurred in the mid-14th century, when A-N demonstrates an increasingfrequency in non-native-like errors. This suggests that it was no longeracquired during in middle childhood, but rather in adolescence. Inghamconcludes that “A-N lost its status as a spoken language among educatedprofessionals after the Black Death” (p 162). This contrasts with thelongstanding assumption that A-N was an “artificial” language (an L2 acquiredin adolescence and used in limited contexts) after the early 13th century,following the loss of Normandy to the English crown.

EVALUATIONIngham sets out to answer this question: what happens to a language when it islearned in an educational environment in early education, and what must changefor the language to die? He is successful in this pursuit. First, hedemonstrates that acquisition in middle childhood results in near-nativecompetency, including native-like changes over time. Secondly, delaying theage of acquisition to adolescence is sufficient to trigger language death.

In addition to presenting an innovative approach to language contact indiachrony, and contributing to the literature on acquisition and languagechange, Ingham breathes new life into the study of Anglo-Norman. By looking atphonology and syntax separately and comparing them to both English and OldFrench, as well as to what is expected at different ages of acquisition,Ingham is able to reframe our ideas about AN’s importance and longevity.

Throughout, Ingham provides a clear and detailed rationale for themethodologies employed in each study. He creates a clear and compellingnarrative both in the book as a whole and in each chapter. By providingsufficient background information and step-by-step discussion of hismethodologies and results, Ingham leads the reader to reach the appropriateconclusion on their own.

While Ingham’s results are compelling, they do not completely align with thoseof other recent work on Anglo-Norman. For example, in Chapter 8, Inghamexamines the loss of verb-second in Anglo-Norman compared to English and OldFrench: “[if] A-N did experience substantial English influence on the syntaxof V2, it should therefore have shown evidence of favouring V2 with nominalsubjects and not with pronominal ones” (p 106). His results show that A-N didnot show any significant difference in the frequency of V2 with either type ofsubject, leading him to conclude that there was no influence from English onA-N. Steiner (2010), on the other hand, finds that A-N did maintain V2 orderswith nominal subjects longer than pronominal subjects. These results areindicative of imperfect L2 acquisition, when compared to the frequency of V2in English and French. If nothing else, this discrepancy suggests that thereis room for more work on this topic.

The one issue with the book is that the concluding chapter is somewhatunderdeveloped. It would have been beneficial to solidify and explicate thelink between the diachronic results from each study to what is expected givenknown acquisitional outcomes and how it all ties into the socio-historicalcontext for Anglo-Norman. While Ingham treats this to varying extents in eachchapter, it would have been beneficial to have an extended summary of theassumptions and conclusions.

Overall, this book is a significant contribution to research on Anglo-Norman,and a must-read for those working on the impact of contact betweenFrench-English as well as historical contact situations in general. Whilethis is not an introductory book, as it assumes knowledge of variouslinguistic concepts, it provides enough of an overview of A-N, English and OldFrench to be accessible to linguists who do not specialize in these languages.

REFERENCESFloquet, O. (2010). Sur la nasale palatale et les rimes approximatives enAnglo-Normand. In F. Neveu (ed.) Actes IIe Congres mondial de LinguistiqueFrançaise. New Orleans: EDP Sciences. Pp. 1303-1317.

Pope, M. (1934). From Latin to Modern French, with Especial Consideration ofAnglo-Norman: Phonology and Morphology. Manchester: MUP.

Steiner, B.D. (2010). Middle English influence on late Anglo-Norman syntax:The effect of imperfect L2 acquisition. In J.C. Clements, J.F. Siegel, B.D.Steiner & M. Solon (Eds.), IUWPL9: New Perspectives on Language Contact andContact-Induced Change. Bloomington, IN: IULC Publications. Pp. 99-115.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERB. Devan Steiner is a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University and a lecturer ofFrench at Ithaca College. She is currently completing her dissertation,entitled “The Role of Information Structure in the Loss of Verb Second inFrench”. Her work primarily focuses on Medieval and Renaissance French andAnglo-Norman. Her research interests include diachronic syntax, languagecontact, verb second, information structure and prosody.

Page Updated: 19-Jul-2013