Linguistics 110, Assignment 2

As a result of contact with Norman French, modern English has doublets like beef (borrowed from French) and cow (inherited from Germanic). It is often claimed that the meaning of these doublets is complementary in the sense that the Germanic word refers to the living animal, whereas the French word refers to the animal's meat. Using the information available in the OED, investigate whether this claim is true for the following Norman French loanwords and their native counterparts. (Hares and rabbits are different species, but we'll count them as equivalent for the purpose of the exercise.)

Loanword Native word
beef cow, ox
brawn boar
rabbit hare
mutton sheep
pork pig, swine
veal calf
venison deer

Include instances of cow flesh and the like (see the end of the entries, where compounds are listed) as instances of the Germanic word referring to the meat.

If the strong claim above can't be maintained, is it possible to defend a weaker claim - namely, that the Norman French loanwords as a class were first used to refer to the meat and only later extended to the living animal?