Introduction to the Language

Anglo-Norman is a variety of medieval French, just as are all the continental and Mediterranean forms, such as Picard, Champenois, Francien (the nineteenth-century name for the French of the Île de France), etc. There is no modern separate grammar for Anglo-Norman: like most other French varieties it is usually taught with a textbook using SMF (Standardized Medieval French) together with further attention to Anglo-Norman’s particular features. So, for instance, Anglo-Norman shares the conjugation patterns of the SMF verb but often uses variant forms of the inflexional endings (-om -um- oun and -oms, -omes, -ums, -umes for SMF ons), but since it forms its verbs using the same principal parts as other Frenches, remains readily recognisable in spite of its differences from SMF.  So too Anglo-Norman has distinctive orthographic traits (some shared with other Western varieties of French) such as u for SMF o or ou (tut for tour) or k for the [k] sound spelt qu in SMF (ki for qui). Scribes in England sometimes used yogh for z, and y for i. Anglo-Norman is most distinctive in its phonology (for instance the reduction of dipthongs ai and ei to e (faire/fere; ciel cel). Here, a valuable modern resource, Ian Short’s Manual of Anglo-Norman, 2nd edn, ANTS OPS 13 (London: ANTS, 2013), includes a useful concise list of Anglo-Norman’s features, and updates and supplements older studies such as Mildred K. Pope, From Latin to Modern French with especial attention to Anglo-Norman: Phonology and Morphology (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1934, 2nd rev edn, 1952) in its detailed account of the sounds and spellings of Anglo-Norman.

A basic but well thought out and helpful grammar of SMF is E. Einhorn, Old French: A Concise Handbook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971, with repr) this is the book to have if you are working on your own without formal instruction, particularly as it includes useful exercises for its grammar chapter that can be self-checked against the key in the back of the book. Another very useful modern grammar of SMF is W. W. Kibler, Introduction to Old French (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1984 and repr). Kibler includes a couple of examples from Anglo-Norman and Picard as well as SMF texts. A textbook that offers varieties of French and their changes over time is Wendy Ayres Bennett A History of the French Language Through Texts (London and New York: Routledge, 1996). 

Full command of any language is of course a complex business and the work of some years, but a reading knowledge of Anglo-Norman, sufficient to take pleasure from its texts and not to have simply to manouevre round Anglo-Norman when encountering it in the records and codices of medieval English culture can be gained in a relatively short time, in, according to individual circumstances, one or more semesters of formal study. Having modern French is an advantage, but so too is having some Latin and being an English speaker, since these last two have contributed to Anglo-Norman.

Further information: Although pitched to general readers, the introduction on Anglo-Norman in the Anglo-Norman Dictionary site has much useful information to offer (and some entertainment) in its account of Anglo-Norman in the formation of English (Chaucer’s and our present day language, for instance): and the main dictionary site has many articles and texts as well as the dictionary itself.   


  • Durkin, Philip, Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). This excellent clear overview shows the astonishing proportions of English lexis that is actually English French. For detailed further work on lexis, the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary are specially valuable.
  • Ingham, R, ed. The Anglo-Norman Language in its Contexts. York: York Medieval Press, 2010. [Especially Ingham’s own two essays]
  • —. The Transmission of Anglo-Norman: Language History and Language Acquisition. Amsterdam: 2012.
  • —. ‘The Maintenance of French in Later Medieval England.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 115/4 (2015b):  623-64
  • —. “Spoken and written register differentiation in pragmatic and semantic functions in two Anglo-Norman corpora.” In J. Gippert & R. Gehrke (eds.): Historical Corpora: Challenges and Perspectives. Proceedings of the conference Historical Corpora 2012. Corpus linguistics and Interdisciplinary perspectives on language (CLIP), Vol. 5. (Tübingen: Narr, 2015b).
  • —. “John Gower, poète anglo-normand.” In Anglo-français : philologie et linguistique, edited by Oreste Floquet/Gabriele Giannini. Paris: Garnier, 2015a.
  • — and Michael Ingham. “‘Pardonetz moi qe jeo de ceo forsvoie’: Gower’s Anglo-Norman Identity.”  Neophilologus 99.4 (2015): 667-84. [Ingham is a linguistics scholar and some of the technicalities in his work are demanding.  But his arguments and their implications are very clearly stated and extremely important: his work displaces the old story of inevitable linguistic decline when cut off from the ‘mother tongue; and explores how a second language actually works]
  • Rothwell, W. R. “The ‘Faus franceis d’Angleterre’: Later Anglo-Norman.” Anglo-Norman Anniversary Essays, ed. Ian Short, 309-326. London: ANTS OP 2, 1993.
  • —. “The Role of French in Thirteenth-Century England.” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 58 (1975-76): 445-66.
  • —. “The Teaching of French in Medieval England.” Modern Language Review 63 (1968): 37-46.
  • —. “The Missing Link in English Etymology: Anglo-French.” Medium Aevum 60 (1991): 173-196. Available online.
  • —. “The Trilingual England of Geoffrey Chaucer.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 16 (1994): 45-67.
  • —. “Arrivals and Departures: the Adoption of French Terminology into Middle English.” English Studies 79 (1998): 144-165.
  • —. “Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice: from Oriental Bazaar to English Cloister in Anglo-French.” MLR 94 (1999): 647-659. Available online[Much of William Rothwell’s important lexicographical work is available online at the Anglo-Norman hub, together with his editions of different versions of Sir Walter Bibbesworth’s Tretiz on teaching spoken French]
  • Trotter, D. A. [Before his tragically early death in August 2015, David Trotter’s leadership of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary gave us a wonderful resource that vitally affects our understanding of English and of French. But he also published voluminously and his articles challenge, illuminate and change our understanding of language. Whether or not you want to work with Anglo-Norman, Trotter’s work is needed to understand English and the linguistic-social-cultural-political histories in which it participates and which it shapes]  A selection of articles:
  • —. “Language Contact and Lexicography: The Case of Anglo-Norman.” The Origins and Development of Emigrant Languages: Proceedings from the Second Rasmus Rask Colloquium, Odense University, November 1994, ed. Hans R.Nielsen and Lene Schøsler, 21-30. Odense: Odense University Press, 1996. [Trenchant and concise account of the status of Anglo-Norman, discussion of appropriate paradigms for Anglo-Norman and for relating it to other languages in Britain and elsewhere]
  • —. “Anglo-French and French French.” Forum for Modern Language Studies, 39 (2003a), 427-438. [Not as eccentric as it looks]
  • —. “Language Labels, Language Change and Lexis.” Medieval Multilingualism: The Francophone World and its Neighbours, ed. Keith Busby and Christoph Kleinhanz, 43-61. Turnhout, Brepols: 2010.
  • —. “(Socio)linguistic Realities of Cross-Channel Communication in the Thirteenth Century.” Thirteenth Century England 13 (2011a): 117-131.
  • —. “Deinz certeins boundes: Where Does Anglo-Norman Begin and End?” Romance Philology 67 (2013): 139-77.


In addition to the AND online:

  • Dictionnaire du Moyen Français (DMF) [A dictionary of continental varieties of French, a useful supplement to AND especially when reading continental texts circulating in England]
  • Godefroy, F. Dictionnaire de l’ancien français et de tous ses dialectes du IXe au XVe siècle, 10 vols. Paris, 1880-1902. [Still useful]
  • The Heidelberg Dictionnaire étymologique de l’ancien française (DEAF) [A splendid resource in progress. Integrates all varieties of French including Anglo-Norman/insular French]
  • Hindley, Alan, Frederick W. Langley and Brian J. Levy. The Old French – English Dictionary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. [The most convenient portable modern dictionary, but bare bones, the price of its portability]
  • Tobler, Adolf, and E. Lommatszsch. Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. Bonn, Basel, Leipzig, 1928-. [Still very valuable especially as the Heidelberg dictionary is not yet complete]
  • Oxford English Dictionary online  [OED is systematically updating its treatment of etymologically French words and is often more useful than the Middle English Dictionary because of its more thorough attention to Anglo-Norman]


For a brief overview, see Fenster, Thelma, “French Language,” in An Encyclopaedia of Medieval France, 370-374. Eited by W.W. Kibler.  New York: Garland, 1995.

  • Einhorn, E. Old French: A Concise Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.
  • Fouché, Pierre. Phonétique historique du français. 3 vols. Paris: Klincksieck, 1952.
  • Kibler, W.W. An Introduction to Old French. New York: MLA, 1984.
  • Lodge, R.A. French: From Dialect to Standard. London: Routledge, 1993.
  • Lusignan, Serge Lusignan.  “Langue française et société du XIIIe au Xve siècle.” Nouvelle histoire de la langue française, 93-143. Edited by Jacques Chaurand. Paris: Seuil, 1999.
  • Pope, M.K. From Latin to Modern French with Especial Consideration of Anglo-Norman. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1934 and repr.
  • Short, Ian. Manual of Anglo-Norman. ANTS OPS 7.  London: ANTS, 2007, 2nd edn 2013.