The argument in favour of calling Middle English a creole comes from the extreme reduction in inflected forms from Old English to Middle English. The system of declension of nouns was radically simplified and analogised. The verb system also lost many old patterns of conjugation. Many strong verbs were reanalyzed as weak verbs. The subjunctive mood became much less distinct. Syntax was also simplified somewhat, with word order patterns becoming more rigid.
These grammatical simplifications resemble those observed in pidgins, creoles, and other contact languages, which arise when speakers of two different languages need to communicate with one another. Such contact languages usually lack the inflections of either parent language, or drastically simplify them.
However, many say that English is probably not a creole because it retains a high number (283) of irregular verbs.
It is certain that English underwent grammatical changes, e.g., the collapse of all cases into genitive and common. However, the reduction of unstressed vowels to schwa due to a fixed stress location contributed to this process, a pattern common to many Germanic languages (although several, such as dialects of Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese, have not undergone the reduction of vowel sounds). The process of case collapse was also already underway in Old English. For example, in strong masculine nouns, the nominative and accusative cases had become identical. Thus, the simplification of noun declension from Old English to Middle English may have had causes unrelated to creolisation.
No one can deny with validity that English had an unusual amount of French and Norman loanwords. However, most of the borrowing happened after 1400, two centuries after the nobility ceased to be French speaking. The most striking Norse borrowing, their pronouns, cannot be attributed to creolisation either. It was more likely a result of ambiguity between hiem and him etc.
Most Romance languages have only two grammatical genders, masculine and feminine. Most Germanic languages have masculine, feminine, and neuter. It has been suggested that since these two gender systems are incompatible, English responded by dropping genders altogether, but this is only conjecture. The loss of agreement between modifiers is perhaps attributable to the reduction to schwa.
The plural form in English originates from a masculine nominative-accusative plural (Old English -as) and is cognate with the Old Saxon plural -os and the Old Norse plural -ar. The French plural descends from oblique formations in Old French and is ultimately of pronominal, not nominal origin so the plural forms in the two languages are not related.
There is at least one change that may be a direct result of French influence: the loss of Thou. Under Norman influence, Thou came to be parallel with Tu. Due to politeness among English speakers, Thou fell into disuse. However, a similar process took place across Western Europe, including Spain and Germany; see T-V distinction.
The combination of a largely French speaking aristocracy and a largely English speaking peasantry gave rise to many pairs of words with a Latinate word in the higher register and a Germanic word in the lower register. For example, the names of barnyard animals tend to be Germanic, from the names the English farmers and herders used:
The names of the animals when they appear on one’s plate, as the aristocracy saw them, are of Latin origin:
Other such doublets include:
During the reign of the Normans, many words related to the ruling classes and the business of government entered English from French. Among these words are:
A few words retain the French construction of noun followed by adjective, in contrast to the typical English construction of adjective plus noun: