On bilingualism in the Danelaw
By Guzmán Mancho-Barés
Some Sundry Wits Gathered Together. I Congreso de Filoloxía Inglesa, edited by S.G. Fernández-Corugedo (A Coruña, 1995)
Introduction: Little can be known about those bilingual speakers of the language varieties related to Old English and Old Norse, who wandered in the Danelaw during the Viking Age, as no direct evidence has come down to us to support this argumentation. Nevertheless, scholars from Bjorkman (1969, firstly published in 1900) to Baugh and Cable (1994) have made use of this term, in providing a sociolinguistic perspective to the Scandinavian and English speechcommunity contact; true enough, only socio-historical and linguistic claims can be raised from written material of that time.
We agree with Haugen, when he writes that “These [bilingual speakers] are . . . the carriers of interlingual contagion, and to them we must look for an understanding of the processes that must have operated in the distant past as well as in the present”. All in all, this claim justifies the extrapolation of the bilingual speakers’ linguistic behaviour from a modem speech-community contact to those which occurred in the past. Moreover, scholars often find it difficult to approach the notion of bilingualism for the lack of a general definition: everything depends on the working discipline. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is an attempt to fit the controversial description of the speech-community contact occurring in the Danelaw between the Scandinavian and English peoples within the lines provided by bilingualism studies, from both the sociolingual and psychological perspectives.