William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, invaded and conquered England and the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 AD.ÃÂ¨ÃÂ© The new overlords spoke a dialect of Old French known as Anglo-Norman. The Normans were also of Germanic stockÃÂ¨ÃÂª and Anglo-Norman was a French dialect that had considerable Germanic influences in addition to the basic Latin roots.
Prior to the Norman Conquest, Latin had been only a minor influence on the English language, mainly through vestiges of the Roman occupation and from the conversion of Britain to Christianity in the seventh century (ecclesiastical terms such as priest, vicar, and mass came into the language this way), but now there was a wholesale infusion of Romance (Anglo-Norman) words.
The influence of the Norman's can be illustrated by looking at two words, beef and cow. Beef, commonly eaten by the aristocracy, derives from the Anglo-Norman, while the Anglo-Saxon commoners, who tended the cattle, retained the Germanic cow.
Many legal terms, such as indict, jury, and verdict have Anglo-Norman roots because the Norman's ran the courts. This split, where words commonly used by the aristocracy have Romantic roots and words frequently used by the Anglo-Saxon commoners have Germanic roots, can be seen in many instances.
Sometimes French words replaced Old English words; crime replaced firen and uncle replaced eam. Other times, French and Old English components combined to form a new word, as the French gentle and the Germanic man formed gentleman. Other times, two different words with roughly the same meaning survive into Modern English. Thus we have the Germanic doom and the French judgment, or wish and desire.
It is useful to compare various versions of a familiar text to see the differences between Old, Middle, and Modern English. Take for instance this Old English (c. 1000) sample:
FÃÂ©ÃÂ¡der ure ÃÂ©ÃÂu...