Fate In The Middle English Language

The word fatal came about in the English language in the Middle English period, circa 1347. Originally the adjectival form of fate, it initially meant “allotted or decreed by fate or destiny; destined, fated” (OED, 2015). Up until the early 16th century, circa 1518, its various definitions continued to revolve around the idea of “destiny”, portraying the largely stagnant semantic change lasting for almost two centuries.
Its initial borrowing likely came as a result of the Norman Conquest of 1066, which placed French and English speakers linguistically in close contact, and subsequently large amounts of words were borrowed from Old French. Due to the French ‘high society’ emerging as a result of the conquest, the Anglo-French diglossia (Bergs, Ungeheuer and Wiegand, 2012) was unconcealed and French was seen as the superior language used in the arts, science, education, and generally the ‘highbrow’ of society. However, around the mid-14th Century, when fatal was first recorded in Chaucer’s Troilus & Criseyde, the blatant use of French in this manner had diminished and these French/Latin borrowed words were incorporated into what was assumed to be the ‘proper’ and ‘formal’ manner of speaking English, a form of ‘latent
…show more content…
Clearly linked to the current meaning of “ruinous” or “deadly”, it is used in noun phrases such as “fatal errors” or “fatal exceptions” to denote a “sudden end to the running of a [computer] program” (Dictionary.com, 2015), as if the program was dying. This more figurative use of the word is a one that is used in the jargon of a very specific set of people, mainly those who are skilled and learned in computer software, and is recorded as early as circa 1997. Therefore, this usage does not signify further semantic change, but rather a modern day application of fatal’s current

Related Documents