英語史では中世における英語の復権と関連して，たいてい黒死病のことが触れられる．しかし，簡単に言及されるにとどまり，突っ込んだ説明のないものも多い．そのなかで，一般向けの英語史読本を著わした Gooden (67--68) は，黒死病に対して1節を割くほどの関心を示している．読み物としておもしろいので引用しておこう．なお，引用の第2段落の1部は，Black Death の語源と関連して「#2990. Black Death」 ([2017-07-04-1]) でも取りあげた．
The Black Death had a devastating effect on the British Isles, as on the rest of Europe. The population of England was cut by anything between a third and a half. Probably originating in Asia, the plague arrived in a Dorset port in the West country in 1348, rapidly spreading to Bristol and then to Gloucester, Oxford and London. If a rate of progress were to be allotted to the plague, it was advancing at about one-and-a-half miles a day. The major population centres, linked by trading routes, were the most obviously vulnerable but the epidemic had reached even the remotest areas of western Ireland by the end of the next decade. Symptoms such as swellings (the lumps or buboes that characterize bubonic plague), fever and delirium were almost invariably followed within a few days by death. Ignorance of its cause heightened panic and public fatalism, as well as hampering effectual preventive measures. Although the epidemic petered out in the short term, the disease did not go away, recurring in localized attacks and then major outbreaks during the 17th century which particularly affected London. One of them disrupted the preparations for the coronation of James I in 1603; the last major epidemic killed 70,000 Londoners in 1665.
The term 'Black Death' came into use after the Middle Ages. It was so called either because of the black lumps or because in the Latin phrase atra mors, which means 'terrible death', atra can also carry the sense of 'black'. To the unfortunate victims, it was the plague, or, more often, the pestilence. So Geoffrey Chaucer calls it in The Pardoner's Tale, where he makes it synonymous with death. The words survive in modern English even if with a much diminished force in colloquial use: 'He's a pest.' 'Stop plaguing us!' Curiously, although pest in the sense of 'nuisance' has its roots in pestilence, the word pester comes from a quite different source, the Old French empêtrer ('entangle', 'get in the way of').
The impact of the pestilence on English society was profound. Quite apart from the psychological effects, there were practical consequences. Labour shortages meant a rise in wages and more fluid social structure in which the old feudal bonds began to break down. Geographical mobility would also have helped in dissolving regional distinctions and dialect differences.
黒死病による人口減少により，生き残った労働者の賃金が上がり，彼らの社会的地位が上昇するとともに彼らの母語である英語の社会的地位も上昇した，というのが黒死病の英語史上のインパクトと言われる．しかし，引用の最後にあるように，人々が社会的にも地理的にも流動化したという点にも注目すべきである．これにより，人々がますます混交し，とりわけロンドンのような都会では諸方言が水平化してゆく契機となった (cf. dialect levelling) ．黒死病は，確かに英語の行く末に間接的な影響を与えたといえるだろう．
・ Gooden, Philip. The Story of English: How the English Language Conquered the World. London: Quercus, 2009.
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