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By D. Leith

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LANGUAGES IN CONTACT 19 between English and Scandinavian (as in the relationship between British English and American English today). At any rate, similarity in language, as in custom and social organisation, facilitated the absorption of the newcomers in many parts of England, although some distinctive Scandinavian practices, such as land-measurement, survived in what was formerly the Danelaw. Contact between the languages occurred at the oral level, in those areas where ordinary English people encountered, in face-to-face interaction, their Danish counterparts.

The founding of universities stimulated mobility, both geographical and social, among certain sections of the population; and by the fourteenth century mobility LANGUAGES IN CONTACT 25 had even spread to the land-labourers, who could bargain for wages now that labour was scarce. By that time, the balance of forces was beginning to favour an increasingly articulate, Englishspeaking merchant class. It was this class, with London as its base, that spoke the basis of what came to be called standard English.

We shall then assess how far the process can be understood from a narrowly sociolinguistic point of view, by seeing it in terms of four inter-linked and often overlapping stages. First, we see the selection of the East Midland dialect as the dominant variety; then we discuss the conditions of its acceptance by the powerful and educated classes, and the implications this has for speakers of other dialects. Third, we chart the elaboration of its functions, as this variety was developed in the domains previously associated with French and Latin.

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