A lecture by Professor Paul Russell; organised by the Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion
The degree and nature of language contact in medieval Wales between speakers of Welsh and English (or Anglo-Norman or indeed Flemish) tend to be calculated in terms of numbers and types of loanwords as the most visible evidence for contact; these can then be calibrated against other narrative sources for contact. Work on bilingualism and multilingualism in the medieval Britain has made considerable strides over the last few years, though largely (and with only a few exceptions, such as the contributions by Helen Fulton) it has been concerned with English and French.
More generally again in recent years modern linguistic theories of language contact have been profitably been applied to the ancient and medieval worlds. All of this work might allow us to think in different ways about the linguistic situation in medieval Wales. For example, what linguistic situations (if any) can be inferred from the use of particular loanwords? Or conversely, given particular documented situations in which the Welsh and the English had to communicate with one another, such as the Dunsaetan Agreement, how do we suppose they did it? Did it matter where one was located in Wales? Again, how much weight should be put on claims of linguistic competence in different historical contexts?
This paper considers a number of different scenarios from medieval Wales in the light of recent work on language contact.