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Hildegard Tristram (what a great name) has argued that the apparent
abruptness results from a sociolinguistic shift. The structural changes
were underway in OE, but masked by a conservative literary dialect.
Post-1066, lower-class innovative varieties became the new norm.
It's not all that different from the Romance languages, is it?
(Except that in England the abandonment of the old literary standard
and the emergence of a new one can be tied to a specific historical
People kept writing in their best approximation of Classical Latin,
pretending that this was the same language as the increasingly
divergent spoken vernacular. Eventually this fiction became untenable
and when the dam broke, the Romance languages popped up nearly out
of nowhere. Much of their development has to be inferred and pieced
together from subtle clues.
For the development of French, everybody refers to the same three
* Reichenau Glosses (8th century)
* Oaths of Strasbourg (842)
* Sequence of Saint Eulalia (~880)
Then in the 11th century people suddenly started writing a lot in
Christian "naddy" Weisgerber ***@mips.inka.de