TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE CONTACT OF ENGLISH WITH OTHER LANGUAGES………………..5-7
- THE CELTIC INFLUENCE
- THE APPLICATION OF NATIVE WORDS
THE SCANDINAVIAN INFLUENE: THE VIKING AGE………………..….8-10
- THE SCANDINAVIAN INVASIONS OF ENGLAND
- THE SETTLEMENT OF THE DANES IN ENGLAND
THE AMALGAMATION OF THE TWO RACES..........................................11-13
- THE RELATION OF THE TWO LANGUAGES
- THE TESTS OF BORROWED WORDS
THE SCANDINAVIAN PLACE NAMES…...................................................14-16
- THE EARLIEST BORROWING
- SCANDINAVIAN LOAN-WORDS AND THEIR CHARACTER
CELTIC PLACE –NAMES…………………………….……………...…..…17-19
- CELTIC LOAN-WORDS
- THE RELATION OF BORROWED AND NATIVE WORDS
- SCANDINAVIAN INFLUENCE OUTSIDE THE STANDARD SPEECH
- HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The essence of history is change taking place in time. Anything which endures in time has a history, because in this world of flux anything which endures in time suffers change. But if history is to be meaningful, there must also be continuity. A people, a nation, or a language may change over a long period so greatly as to become something vastly different from what it was at the beginning. But this great change is the accumulation of many small changes. At any stage in its history, the people, nation, or language is fundamentally the same entity that it was in the immediately preceding stage, albeit changed in detail. It has preserved its identity.
The preservation of identity through continuity of change, then, characterizes things which have a history. It is easier to see this in the case of concrete objects, like the Great Pyramid or Keats's Grecian urn. Their continuity is physical; the actual stuff of which they are made has endured through centuries. Their history is primarily what has happened to them and around them; the change they have suffered has chiefly been change of environment, rather than change of their own nature. Indeed, what fascinated Keats about the urn was its placid unchanging ness in the midst of changing generations of men. Its history is entirely what can be called "outer history."
According to the Bible: ’In the beginning was the Word’. By the Talmud: ‘God created the world by a Word, instantaneously, without toil or pains’. But I think whatever more mystical meaning these pieces of scripture might have, they both point to the primacy of language in the way human beings conceive of the world.
I agree with the theory that language figures centrally in our lives. I think we discover our identity as individuals and social beings when we acquire it during childhood. It serves as a means of cognition and communication: it enables us to think for ourselves and to cooperate with people in our community. It provides for present needs and future plans, and at the same time carries with it the impression of things past.
I want note in passing, incidentally, that it is speech that the ogre cannot master. Whether this necessarily implies that language is also beyond his reach is another matter, for language does not depend on speech as the only physical medium for its expression. Auden may not imply such a distinction in these lines, but it is one which, as we shall see presently, it is important to recognize.
It has been suggested that language is so uniquely human, distinguishes us so clearly from ogres and other animals, that our species might be more appropriately named homo loquens than homo sapiens. But although language is clearly essential to humankind and has served to extend control over other parts of creation, it is not easy to specify what exactly makes it distinctive. If, indeed, it is distinctive. After all, other species communicate after a fashion, for they could not otherwise mate, propagate, and cooperate in their colonies.
English belongs to the Anglo-Frisian group within the western branch of the Germanic languages, a sub-family of the Indo-European languages. It is related most closely to the Frisian language, to a lesser extent to Netherlandic (Dutch-Flemish) and the Low German (Plattdeutsch) dialects, and more distantly to Modern High German. Its parent, Proto-Indo-European, was spoken around 5,000 years ago by nomads who are thought to have roamed the _outh-east European plains. Three main stages are usually recognized in the history of the development of the English language. Old English, known formerly as Anglo-Saxon, dates from AD 449 to 1066 or 1100. Middle English dates from 1066 or 1100 to 1450 or 1500. Modern English dates from about 1450 or 1500 and is subdivided into Early Modern English, from about 1500 to 1660, and Late Modern English, from about 1660 to the present time.
The long-term linguistic effect of the Viking settlements in England was threefold: over a thousand words eventually became part of Standard English; a large number of places in the east and north-east of England have Danish names; and many English personal names are of Scandinavian origin. Words that entered the English language by this route include landing, score, beck, fellow, take, busting
, and steersman
The vast majority of loan words do not begin to appear in documents until the early twelfth century; these include many modern words which use sk-
sounds, such as skirt, sky,
; other words appearing in written sources at this time include again, awkward, birth, cake, dregs, fog, freckles, gasp, law, neck, ransack, root, scowl, sister, seat, sly, smile, want, weak
, and window
. Some of the words that came into use by this route are among the most common in English, such as both, same, get
, and give
. The system of personal pronouns was affected, with they, them
, and their
replacing the earlier forms. Old Norse even influenced the verb to be
; the replacement of sindon
almost certainly Scandinavian in origin, as is the third-person-singular ending -s
in the present tense of verbs.
There are over 1,500 Scandinavian place names in England, mainly in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire (within the former boundaries of the Danelaw): over 600 end in -by
, the Scandinavian word for "farm" or "town"—for example Grimsby, Naseby,
; many others end in -thorpe
("clearing"), and -toft
The distribution of family names showing Scandinavian influence is still, as an analysis of names ending in -son
reveals, concentrated in the north and east, corresponding to areas of former Viking settlement. Early medieval records indicate that over 60% of personal names in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire showed Scandinavian influence.
The importance of the English language is naturally very great. English is the language not only of England but of the extensive dominions and colonies associated in the British Empire, and it is the language of the United States. Spoken by over 260 million people, it is in the number who speak it the largest of the occidental languages. English-speaking people constitute about one tenth of the world's population. English, however, is not the largest language in the world. The more conservative estimates of the population of China would indicate that Chinese is spoken by about 450 million people. But the numerical ascendancy of English among European languages can be seen by a few comparative figures. Russian, next in size to English, is spoken by about 140 million people;2 Spanish by 135 millions; German by 90 millions; Portuguese by 63 millions; French by 60 millions; Italian by 50 millions. Thus at the present time English has the advantage in numbers over all other western languages. But the importance of a language is not alone a matter of numbers or territory; as we have said, it depends also on the importance of the people who speak it.
The Contact of English with Other Languages
The language which has been described in the preceding chapter was
not merely the product of the dialects brought to England by the
Jutes, Saxons, and Angles. These formed its basis, the sole basis of
its grammar and the source of by far the largest part of its
vocabulary. But there were other elements which entered into it.
In the course of the first seven hundred years of its existence in
England it was brought into contact with three other languages,
the languages of the Celts, the Romans, and the Scandinavians.
From each of these contacts it shows certain effects, more especially additions to its vocabulary. The nature of these contacts
and the changes that were effected by them will form the subject of the present chapter.
The Celtic Influence.
Nothing would seem more reasonable
than to expect that the conquest of the Celtic population of
Britain by the Teutons and the subsequent mixture of the two
races should have resulted in a corresponding mixture of their
languages; that consequently we should find in the Old English
vocabulary numerous instances of words which the Teutons heard
in the speech of the native population and adopted. For it is
apparent that the Celts were by no means exterminated except in
certain areas, and that in most of England large numbers of them
were gradually absorbed by the new inhabitants. The Anglo-
Saxon Chronicle reports that at Andredesceaster or Pcvensey a
deadly struggle occurred between the native population and the words too miscellaneous to admit of profitable classification, like anchor, coulter, fan
(for winnowing), fever, place
(asphalt), sponge, elephant, phoenix, mancus
(a coin) and some more or less learned or literary words, such as calend, circle, legion, giant, consul,
The words cited in these examples are mostly nouns, but Old English borrowed also a number of verbs and adjectives such as âspendan
(to spend; L. expcndere) bcmutian
(to exchange; L. mütdre),
(to compose; L. dictare), pinion
(to torture; L. poena), pinsian
(to weigh; L. pensare), pyngan
(to prick; L. pungere), scaltian
(to dance; X,. saltdre), temprian
(to temper; L. temperâre),
(to grind; L. tribulâre),
(to turn; L. torndre),
and crisp (L. crispus,
curly). But enough has been said to indicate the extent and variety of the borrowings from Latin in the early days of Christianity in England and to show how quickly the language reflected the broadened horizon which the English people owed to the church.
The Application of Native
The words which Old English borrowed in this period are only a partial indication of the extent to which the introduction of Christianity affected the lives and thoughts of the English people. The English did not always adopt a foreign word to express a new concept. Often an old word was applied to a new thing and by a slight adaptation made to express a new meaning. The Anglo-Saxons, for example, did not borrow the Latin word dens,
since their own word God
was a satisfactory equivalent. Likewise heaven
express conceptions not unknown to Anglo-Saxon paganism and are consequently English words. Patriarch
was rendered literally by heahfasder
(high father), prophet
(wise one), martyr
often by the native word browere
(one who suffers pain), and saint by hdlga
(holy one). While specific members of the church organization such as pope, bishop,
represented individuals for which the English had no equivalent and therefore borrowed the Latin terms, they did not borrow a general word for clergy but vised a native expression 8set
(the spiritual folk). The word Easter
is a Teutonic word taken over from a pagan festival, likewise in the spring, in honor of Eostre, the goddess of dawn. Instead of borrowing the Latin word praedicare
(to preach) the English expressed the idea with words of their own, such as Ixran
(to teach) or bodian
(to bring a message); to pray (L. precâre)
was rendered by biddan
(to ask) and other words of similar meaning, prayer by a word from the same root, gebed.
the English adapted a native word fullian
(to consecrate) while its derivative fulluht
renders the noun baptism.
The latter word enters into numerous compounds, such as julluht-baef)
(baptismal vow), fulluht-nama
(Christian name), fulluht-stow
(baptism time), and others. Even so individual a feature of the Christian faith as the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was expressed by the Teutonic word hûsl
the general word for sacrifice to the gods, was also sometimes applied to the Sacrifice of the Mass. The term Scriptures
found its exact equivalent in the English word gewritit,
was rendered by god-
originally meaning good tidings. Trinity
was translated brines
(three-ness), the idea of God the Creator was expressed by scieppend
(one who shapes or forms), fruma
(creator, founder), or metod
(measurer). Native words like f
(ward, protector), hldford
(lord) are frequent synonyms. Most of them are also applied to Christ,
originally a Greek word and the most usual name for the Second Person of the Trinity, but U
(Savior) is also commonly employed. The Third Person (Spiritus Sanctus) was translated Halig Cast
(Holy Ghost). Latin diabolus
was borrowed as deofol
(devil) but we find feond
(fiend) as a common synonym. Examples might be multiplied. Cross is rod
(gallows), etc.; resurrection is zerist,
(to arise); peccatum
(sin), while other words like mân, firen, leaJıtor,
meaning 'vice', 'crime', 'fault', and the like, are commonly substituted. The Judgment Day is Doomsday.
Many of these words are translations of their Latin equivalents and their vitality is attested by the fact that in a great many cases they have continued in use down to the present day. It is important to recognize that the significance of a foreign influence is not to be measured simply by the foreign word's introduced but is revealed also by the extent to which it stimulates the language to independent creative effort and causes it to make full use of its native resources.
The Scandinavian Influence: The Viking Age.
The end of the Old English period English underwent a third foreign influence, the result of contact with another important language, the Scandinavian. In the course of history it is not unusual to witness the spectacle of a nation or people, through causes too remote or complex for analysis, suddenly emerging from obscurity, playing for a time a conspicuous, often brilliant, part, and then, through causes equally difficult to define, subsiding once more into a relatively minor sphere of activity. Such a phenomenon is presented by the Teutonic inhabitants of the Scandinavian Peninsula and Denmark, one-time neighbors of the Anglo-Saxons and closely related to them in language and blood. For some centuries the Scandinavians had remained quietly in their northern home. But in the eighth century a change, possibly economic, possibly political, occurred in this area and provoked among them a spirit of unrest and adventurous enterprise. They began a series of attacks upon all the lands adjacent to the North Sea and the Baltic. Their activities began in plunder and ended in conquest. The Swedes established a kingdom in Russia; Norwegians colonized parts of the British Isles, the Faroes and Iceland, and from there pushed on to Greenland and the coast of Labrador; the Danes founded the dukedom of Normandy and finally conquered England. The pinnacle of their achievement was reached in the beginning of the eleventh century when Cnut, king of Denmark, obtained the throne of England, conquered Norway, and from his English capital ruled the greater part of the Scandinavian world. The daring sea-rovers to whom these unusual achievements were due are commonly known as Vikings,1
and the period of their activity, extending from the middle of the eighth century to the beginning of the eleventh, is popularly known as the Viking Age. It was to their attacks upon, settle ments in, and ultimate conquest of England that the Scandinavian influence upon Old English was due.
The Scandinavian Invasions of England.
In the Scandinavian attacks upon England three well-marked stages can be distinguished. The first is the period of early raids, beginning according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 787 and continuing with some intermissions until about 850 The raids of this period were simply plundering attacks upon towns and monasteries near the coast. Sacred vessels of gold and silver, jeweled shrines, costly robes, valuables of all kinds, and slaves were carried off. Note-Worthy instances are the sacking of Lindisfarne and Jarrow in 793 and 794. But with the plundering of these two famous monasteries the attacks apparently ceased for forty years, until renewed in 834 along the southern coast and in East Anglia. These early raids were apparently the work of small isolated bands.
The second stage is the work of large armies and is marked by widespread plundering in all parts of the country and by extensive settlements. This new development was inaugurated by the arrival in 1850 of a Danish fleet of 350 ships. Their pirate crews wintered in the isle of Thanet and the following spring captured Canterbury and London and ravaged the surrounding country. Although finally defeated by a West Saxon army they soon renewed their attacks. In 866 a large Danish army plundered East Anglian and in 867 captured York. In 869 the East Anglian king, Edmund, met a cruel death in resisting the invaders. The incident made a deep impression on all England, and the memory of his martyrdom was vividly preserved in English tradition for nearly two centuries. The eastern part of England was now largely in the hands of the Danes, and they began turning their attention to Wessex. The attack upon Wessex began shortly before the accession of King Alfred (871-99). Even the greatness of this greatest of English kings threatened to prove insufficient to withstand the repeated thrusts of the Northmen. After seven years of resistance, in which temporary victories were invariably succeeded by fresh defeats, Alfred was forced to take refuge with a small band of personal followers in the marshes of Somerset. Butin this darkest hour for the fortunes of the English Alfred's courage and persistence triumphed. With a fresh levy of men from Somerset, Wiltshire, and Hampshire, he suddenly attacked the Danish army under Guthrum at Ethandun (now Edington, in Wiltshire). The result was an overwhelming victory for the English and a capitulation by the Danes,_(878J.
The Treaty of Wedmore (near Glastonbury), which was signed by Alfred and Guthrum the same year, marks the culmination of the second stage in the Danish invasions. Wessex was saved. The Danes withdrew from Alfred's territory. But they were not compelled to leave England. The treaty merely defined the line, running roughly from Chester to London, to the east of which the foreigners were henceforth to remain. This territory was to be subject to Danish law and is hence known as the Danelaw. In addition the Danes agreed to accept Christianity, and Guthrum was baptized. This last provision was important. It might secure the better observance of the treaty, and, what was more important, it would help to pave the way for the ultimate fusion of the two groups.
The third stage of the Scandinavian incursions covejrs__the period of political adjustment and assimilation from 878 to 1042. The Treaty of Wedmore did not put an end to Alfred's troubles. Guthrum was inclined to break faith and there were fresh invasions from outside. But the situation slowly began to clear. Under Alfred's son Edward the Elder (900-25) and grandson Athelstan (925-39) the English began a series of counterattacks that put the Danes on the defensive. One of the brilliant victories of the English in this period was Athelstan's triumph in 937 in the battle of Brunanburh, in Northumbria, over a combined force of Danes and Scots, a victory celebrated in one of the finest of Old English poems. By the middle of the century a large part of eastern England, though still strongly Danish in blood and custom, was once more under English rule.
Toward the end of the century, however, when England seemed at last on the point of solving its Danish problem, a new and formidable succession of invasions began. In 991 a fleet of ninety-three ships under Olaf Tryggvason and his associates Suddenly entered the Thames. They were met by Byrhtnoth, the valiant earl of the East Saxons, in a battle celebrated in another famous Old English war poem, The Battle of Maldon.
Here the English, heroic in defeat, lost their leader, and soon the invaders were being bribed by large sums to refrain from plunder. The invasions now began to assume an official character. In 994 Olaf, who shortly became king of Norway, was joined by Svein, king of Denmark, in a new attack on London. The sums necessary to buy off the enemy became greater and greater, rising in 1012 to the amazing figure of £,48,000. In each case the truce thus bought was temporary, and Danish forces were soon again marching over England, murdering and pillaging. Finally Svein determined to make himself king of the country. In 1014, supported by his son Cnut, he crowned a series of victories in different parts of England by driving Ethelred, the English king, into exile and seizing the throne. Upon his sudden death the same year his son succeeded him. Three years of fighting established Cnut's claims to the throne, and for the next twenty-five years England was ruled by Danish kings.
The Settlement of the Danes in England.
The events here rapidly summarized had as an important consequence the settlement of large numbers of Scandinavians in England. However temporary may have been the stay of many of the attacking parties, especially those which in the beginning came simply to plunder, many individuals remained behind when their ships returned home. Often they became permanent settlers in the island. Some indication of their number may be had from the fact that more than 1400 places in England bear Scandinavian names. Most of these are naturally in the north and east of England, the district of the Danelaw, for it was here that the majority of the invaders settled. Most of the new inhabitants were Danes, although there were considerable Norwegian settlements in the northwest, especially in what is now Cumberland and Westmoreland, and in a few of the northern counties. The presence of a large Scandinavian element in the population is indicated not merely by place-names but by peculiarities of manorial organization, local government, legal procedure, and the like. Thus we have to do not merely with large bands of marauders, marching and countermarching across England, carrying hardship and devastation into all parts of the country for upward of two centuries, but with an extensive peaceable settlement by farmers who intermarried with the English, adopted many of their customs, and entered into the everyday life of the community. In the districts where such settlements took place conditions were favorable for an extensive Scandinavian influence on the English language.
The Amalgamation of the Two Races.
The amalgamation of the two races was greatly facilitated by the close kinship that existed between them. The problem of the English was not the assimilation of an alien race representing an alien culture and speaking a wholly foreign tongue. The policy of the English kings in the period when they were re-establishing their control over the Danelaw was to accept as an established fact the mixed population of the district and to devise a modus vivendi
for its component elements. In this effort they were aided by the natural adaptability of the Scandinavian. Generations of contact with foreign communities, into which their many enterprises had brought them, had made the Scandinavians a cosmopolitan people. The impression derived from a study of early English institutions is that in spite of certain native customs which the Danes continued to observe they adapted themselves largely to the ways of English life. That many of them early accepted Christianity is attested by the large number of Scandinavian names found not only among monks and abbots, priests and bishops, but also among those who gave land to monasteries and endowed churches. It would be a great mistake to think of the relation between Anglo-Saxon and Dane, especially in the tenth century, as uniformly hostile. One must distinguish, as we have said, between the predatory bands that continued to traverse the country and the large numbers that were settled peacefully on the land. Alongside the ruins of English towns—Symeon of Durham reports that the city of Carlisle remained uninhabited for two hundred years after its destruction by the Danes—there existed important communities established by the newcomers. They seem to have grouped themselves at first in concentrated centers, parceling out large tracts of land from which the owners had fled, and preferring this form of settlement to too scattered a distribution in a strange land. Among such centers the Five Boroughs—Lincoln, Stamford, Leicester, Derby, and Nottingham —became important foci
of Scandinavian influence. It was but a question of time until these large centers and the multitude of smaller communities where the Northmen gradually settled were absorbed into the general mass of the English population.
The Relation of the Two Languages.
The relation between the two languages in the district settled by the Danes is a matter of inference rather than exact knowledge. Doubtless the situation was similar to that observable in numerous parts of the world today where people speaking different languages arc found living side by side in the same region. While in some places the Scandinavians gave up their language early1
there were certainly communities in which Danish or Norse remained for some time the usual language. Up until the time of the Norman Conquest the Scandinavian language in England was constantly being renewed by the steady stream of trade and conquest. In some parts of Scotland Norse was still spoken as late as the seventeen century. In other districts in which the prevailing speech was English there were doubtless many of the newcomers who continued to speak their own language at least as late as 1100 and a considerable number who were to a greater or lesser degree bilingual. The last-named circumstance is rendered more likely by the frequent intermarriage between the two races and by the similarity between the two tongues. The Anglican dialect resembled the language of the Northman in a number of particulars in which West Saxon showed divergence. The two may even have been mutually intelligible to a limited extent. Con temporary statements on the subject are conflicting, and it is difficult to arrive at a conviction. But wherever the truth lies in this debatable question, there can be no doubt that the basis existed for an extensive interaction of the two languages upon each other, and this conclusion is amply borne out by the large number of Scandinavian elements subsequently found in English.
The Tests of Borrowed Words.
The similarity between Old English and the language of the Scandinavian invaders makes it at times very difficult to decide whether a given word in Modern English is a native or a borrowed word. Many of the commoner words of the two languages were identical, and if we had no Old English literature from the period before the Danish invasions, we should be unable to say that many words were not of Scandinavian origin. In certain cases, however, we have very reliable criteria by which we can recognize a borrowed word. These tests are not such as the layman can generally apply, although occasionally they are sufficiently simple. The most reliable depend upon differences in the development of certain sounds in the North Teutonic and West Teutonic areas. One of the simplest to recognize is the development of the sound sk.
In Old English this was early palatalized tojh
(written sc), except possibly in the combination scr,
whereas in the Scandinavian countries it retained its hard sk
sound. Consequently, while native words like ship, shall, fish
in Modern English, words borrowed from the Scandinavians are generally still pronounced with sk: sky, skin, skill, scrape, scrub, bask, whisk.
The O.E. ycyrlc
has become shirt,
while the corresponding O.N. form skyrla
gives us skirt.
In the same way the retention of the hard pronunciation of k
and g in such words as kid, dike1
get, give, gild, egg,
is an indication of Scandinavian origin. Occasionally, though not very often, the vowel of a word gives clear proof of borrowing. For example, the Teutonic diphthong ai
in Old English (and has become ö in modern English), but became ei
in Old Scandinavian. Thus aye, nay
(beside no from the native word), hale
(cf. the English form (w)lwle),
are borrowed words, and many more examples can be found in Middle English and in the modern dialects. Thus there existed in Middle English the forms geit, gait,
which are from Scandinavian, beside gat,
from the O.E. word. The native word has survived in Modern English goat.
In the same way the Scandinavian word for loathsome
existed in Middle English as leip, laif)
beside Id}), loft.
Such tests as these, based on sound-developments in the two languages are the most reliable means of distinguishing Scandinavian from native words. But occasionally meaning gives a fairly reliable test. Thus our word bloom
(flower) could come equally well from O.E. blorna
or Scandinavian blöm.
But the O.E. word meant an "ingot of iron', whereas the Scandinavian word meant 'flower, bloom'. It happens that the Old English word has survived as a term in metallurgy, but it is the Old Norse word that has come clown in ordinary use. Again, if the initial g in gift
did not betray the Scandinavian origin of this word, we should be justified in suspecting it from the fact that the cognate O.E. word gift
meant the 'price of a wife', and hence in the plural 'marriage,' while the O.N. word had the more general sense of 'gift, present'. The word plow
in Old English meant a measure of land, in Scandinavian the agricultural implement, which in Old English was called a sulh.
When neither the form of a word nor its meaning proves its Scandinavian origin we can never be sure that we have to do with a borrowed word. The fact that an original has not been preserved in Old English is no proof that such an original did not exist. Nevertheless when a word appears in Middle English which cannot be traced to an Old English source but for which an entirely satisfactory original exists in Old Norse, and when that word occurs chiefly in texts written in districts where Danish influence was strong, or when it has survived in dialectal use in these districts today, the probability that we have here a borrowed word is fairly strong. In every case final judgment must rest upon a careful consideration of all the factors involved.
Among the most notable evidences of the extensive Scandinavian settlement in England is the large number of places that bear Scandinavian names. When we find more than six hundred places like Grimsby, Whitby,
with names ending in -by,
nearly all of them in the district occupied by the Danes, we have a striking evidence of the number of Danes who settled in England. For those names all contain the Danish word by,
meaning 'farm' or 'town', a word which is also seen in our word by-law
(town law). Some three hundred names like Althorp, Bishopsthorpe, Gaw-thorj)C, Linthorpe
contain the Scandinavian word thorp
(village). An almost equal number contain the word thwaite
(an isolated piece of land)—Applcthwaite, Braithwaite, Cowpcrthwaite,
About a hundred places bear names ending in toft
(a piece of ground, a messuage)—Brimtoft, Eas-
toft, Langtoft, Loivestoft, Nortoft.
Numerous other Scandinavian elements enter into English place-names, which need not be particularized here. It is apparent that these elements entered intimately in the speech of the people of the Danelaw. It has been remarked above that more than 1400 Scandinavian place-names have been counted in England, and the number will undoubtedly be increased when a more careful survey of the material has been made. These names are not uniformly distributed over the Danelaw. The largest number are found in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. In some districts in these counties as many as 75 per cent of the place-names are of Scandinavian origin. Cumberland and Westmoreland contribute a large number, reflecting the extensive Norse settlements in the northwest, while Norfolk, with a fairly large representation, shows that the Danes were numerous in at least this part of East Anglia. It may be remarked that a similar high percentage of Scandinavian personal names has been found in the medieval records of these districts. Names ending in son, like Stevenson
conform to a characteristic Scan dinavian custom, the equivalent Old English patronymic being -ng, as in Browning.
The Earliest Borrowing
The extent of this influence on English place-nomenclature would lead us to expect a large infiltration of other words into the vocabulary. But we should not expect this infiltration to show itself at once. The early relations of the invaders with the English were too hostile to lead to much natural intercourse, and we must allow time for such words as the Anglo-Saxons learned from their enemies to find their way into literature. The number of Scandinavian words that appear in Old English is consequently small, amounting to only about two score. The largest single group of these is such as would be associated with a sea-roving and predatory people. Words like barda
(beaked ship), cnearr
(small warship), scegfi
(oarlock) and hd-sxta
(rower in a warship), bdtswegen
(chief, ringleader), orrest
(robbery, rapine), and fylcian
(to collect or marshal a force) show in what respects the invaders chiefly impressed the English. A little later we find a number of words relating to the law or characteristic of the social and administrative system of the Danelaw. The word law
itself is of Scandinavian origin, as is the word outlaw.
The word mâl
(action at law), hold
(an administrative district), hüsting
(assembly), and riding
one of the three divisions of Yorkshire) owe their use to the Danes. In addition to these, a number of genuine Old English words seem to be translations of Scandinavian terms: bötlcas
(what cannot be compensated), hdmsocn
(attacking an enemy in his house), lahceap
(payment for re-entry into lost legal rights), landceap
(tax paid when land was bought) are examples of such translations.1
English legal terminology underwent a complete reshaping after the Norman Conquest, and most of these words have been replaced now by terms from the French. But their temporary existence in the language is an evidence of the extent to which Scandinavian customs entered into the life of the districts in which the Danes were numerous.
Scandinavian Loan-words and Their Character
It was after the Danes had begun to settle down peaceably in the island and enter into the ordinary relations of life with the English that Scandinavian words commenced to enter in numbers into the language. If we examine the bulk of these words with a view to dividing them into classes and thus discovering in what domains of thought or experience the Danes contributed especially to English culture and therefore to the English language, we shall not arrive at any significant result. The Danish invasions were not like the introduction of Christianity, bringing the English into contact with a different civilization and introducing them to many things, physical as well as spiritual, that they had not known before. The civilization of the invaders was very much like that of the English themselves, if anything somewhat inferior to it. Consequently the Scandinavian elements that entered the English language are such as would make their way into it through the give and take of everyday life. Their character can best be conveyed by a few examples, arranged simply in alphabetical order. Among nouns that came in are axle-tree, band, bank, birth, boon, booth,
brink, bull, calf
(of leg), crook, dirt, down
(feathers), dregs, egg,
fellow, freckle, gait, gap, girth, guess, hap, keel, kid, leg, link,
loan, mire, race, reindeer, reef
(of sail), rift, root, scab, scales, score, scrap, scat, sister, skill, skin, skirt, sky, slaughter, snare,
stack, steak, swain, thrift, tidings, trust, want, window.
The list has been made somewhat long in order the better to illustrate the varied and yet simple character of the borrowings. Among adjectives we find awkward, flat,
loose, low, meek, muggy, odd, rotten, rugged, scant, seemly, sly, tattered, tight,
There is also a surprising number of common verbs among the borrowings, verbs like to bait, bask, batten, call, cast, clip, cow, crave,
crawl, die, droop, egg (on), flit, gape, gasp, get, give, glitter,
kindle, lift, lug, nag, ransack, raise, rake, rid, rive, scare, scout
an idea), scowl, screech, snub, sprint, take, thrive, thrust.
Lists such newcomers and that not a single Briton was left alive. The evidence of the place-names in this region lends support to the statement. But this was probably an exceptional case. In the east and southeast, where the Teutonic conquest was fully accomplished at a fairly early date, it is probable that there were fewer survivals of. a Celtic population than elsewhere. Large numbers of the defeated fled to the west. Here it is apparent that a considerable Celtic-speaking population survived until fairly late times. Some such situation is suggested by a whole cluster of Celtic place-names in the northeastern corner of Dorsetshire.1
It is altogether likely that many Celts were held as slaves by the conquerors and that many of the Teutons married Celtic women. In parts at least of the island, contact between the two races must have been constant and in some districts intimate for several generations.
When we come, however, to seek the evidence for this contact in the English language investigation yields very meager results. Such evidence as there is survives chiefly in place-names. The kingdom of Kent,
for example, owes its name to the Celtic word Canti
the meaning of which is unknown, while the two ancient Northumbrian kingdoms of Deira
derive their designations from Celtic tribal names. Other districts, especially in the west and southwest, preserve in their present-day names traces of their earlier Celtic designations. Devonshire
contains in the first element the tribal name Dumnonii, Cornwall
means the 'Cornubian Welsh', and Cumberland
is the 'land of the Cymry or Britons'. Moreover, a number of important centers in the Roman period have names in which Celtic elements are embodied. The name London
itself, although the origin of the word is somewhat uncertain, most likely goes back to a Celtic designation. The first syllable of Winchester,
Salisbury, Exeter, Gloucester, Worcester, Lichfield,
and a score of other names of cities is traceable to a Celtic source, while the earlier name of Canterbury (Durovernum)
and the name fork
are originally Celtic. But it is in the names of rivers and hills and places in proximity to these natural features that the greatest number of Celtic names survives. Thus the Thames
is a Celtic river name, and various Celtic words for river or water are preserved in the names Avon, Exe, Esk, Usk, Dover,
Celtic words meaning 'hill' are found in place-names like Barr
(cf. Welsh bar,
'top, summit'), Bredon
(cf. Welsh bre,
TıilF), Bryn Mawr
(cf. Welsh bryn
liill' and mawr
'great'), Creech, Pendle
(cf. Welsh pen
'top'), and others. Certain other Celtic elements occur more or less frequently such as cumb
(a deep valley) in names like Duncombe, Holcombe, Winchcombe; torr
(high rock, peak) in Torr, Torcross, Torhill; pill
a tidal creek) in Pylle,
(badger) in Brockholes, Brockhall,
etc. Besides these purely Celtic elements a few Latin words such as castra,
were used in naming places during the Roman occupation of the island and were passed on by the Celts to the English. These will be discussed later. It is natural that Celtic place-names should be commoner in the west than in the east and southeast, but the evidence of these names shows that the Celts impressed themselves upon the Teutonic consciousness at least to the extent of causing the newcomers to adopt many of the local names current in Celtic speech and to make them a permanent part of their vocabulary.
Outside of place-names, Jiow-ever, the influence of Celtic upon the English language js almost negligible. Not over a score of words in Old English can be traced with reasonable probability to a Celtic source. Within this small number it is possible to distinguish twogroups: (1) those which the Anglo-Saxons learned through everyday contact with the natives, and (2) those which were introduced by the Irish missionaries in the north. The former were transmitted orally and were of popular character; the latter were connected with religious activities and were more or less learned. The popular words include binn
(basket, crib), bratt
(cloak), and brocc
as these suggest better than any explanation the familiar, everyday character of the words which the Scandinavian invasions and subsequent settlement brought into English.
The Relation of Borrowed and Native Words
It will be seen from the words in the above lists that in many cases the new words could have supplied no real need in the English vocabulary. They made their way into English simply as the result of the mixture of the two races. The Scandinavian and the English words were being used side by side, and the survival of one or the other must often have been a matter of chance. Under such circumstances a number of things might happen. Where words in the two languages coincided more or less in form and meaning the modern word stands at the same time for both its English and its Scandinavian ancestors. Examples of such words are burn, cole, drag, fast, gang, murk(y), scrape, Ilick.
Where there were differences of form the English word often survived. Beside such English words as bench, goat, heathen,
yarn, few, grey, loath, leap, flay
corresponding Scandinavian forms are found quite often in Middle English literature and in some cases still exist in dialectal use. We find scrcdc, skcllc, skcrc
with the hard pronunciation of the initial consonant group beside the standard English shred, shell, sheer, wae
the surviving form except in welaway, Mgg
the Old Norse equivalent of O.E, treowe
(true). Again where the same idea was expressed by different words in the two languages it was often, as we should expect, the English word that lived on. We must remember that the area in which the two languages existed for a time side by side was confined to the northern and eastern half of England. Examples are the Scandinavian words attlen
beside English think
(in the sense of purpose, intend), bolnen
f men (O.N. tyna)
beside lose, site
beside sorrow, roke
(fog) beside mist, reike
(3) In other cases the Scandinavian word replaced the native word, often after the two had long remained in use concurrently. Our word awe
from Scandinavian, and its cognate eye (aye)
from Old English are both found in the Ormulum
(c. 1200). In the earlier part of the Middle English period the English word is commoner, but by 1300 the Scandinavian form begins to appear with increasing frequency, and finally replaces the Old English word. The two forms must have been current in the everyday speech of the northeast for several centuries, until finally the pronunciation awe
prevailed. The Old English form is not found after the fourteenth century. The same thing happened with the two words for egg, ey
(English) and egg
(Scandinavian). Caxton complains at the close of the fifteenth century (see the passage quoted below, p. 236) that it was hard even then to know which to use. In the words sister
O.E. swcostor), boon
(O.N. bön, O.E. ben), loan
O.E. ten), weak
the Scandinavian form lived. Often a good Old English word was lost, since it expressed the same idea as the foreign word. Thus the verb take
replaced the O.E. niman;1
superseded the O.E. weorpan,
while it has itself been largely displaced now by throw; cut
took the place of O.E. snîÖan
Old English had several words for anger
including torn, grama,
but the Old Norse word prevailed. In the same way the Scandinavian word bark
replaced O.E. rind, wing
replaced O.E. jehra, sky
took the place of iiprodor
(the latter now being preserved only in the poetical word welkin),
wind-eye) drove out the equally appropriate English word eagjiyrcl
(eye-thirl, i.e., eye-hole; cf. nostril
nose thirl, nose hole). (4) Occasionally both the English and the Scandinavian words were retained with a difference of meaning or use, as in the following pairs (the English word is given first): no—nay, whole
In certain cases a native word which was apparently not in common use was reinforced, if not reintroduced, from the Scandinavian. In this way we must account for such words as till, dale, rim, blend, run,
and the Scotch bairn.
(6) Finally, the English word might be modified, taking on some of the character of the corresponding Scandinavian word. Give
with their hard g are examples, as are scatter
instead of the O.E. Thunresdseg.
Some confusion must have existed in the Danish area between the Scandinavian and the English form of many words, a confusion that is clearly betrayed in the survival of such hybrid forms as shriek
All this merely goes to show that in the Scandinavian influence on the English language we have to do with the intimate mingling of two tongues. The results are just what we should expect when two rather similar languages are spoken for upwards of two centuries in the same area.
If further evidence were needed of the intimate relation that existed between the two languages, it would be found in the fact that the Scandinavian words that made their way into English were not confined to nouns and adjectives and verbs, but extended to pronouns, prepositions, adverbs, and even a part of the verb to be.
Such parts of speech are not often transferred from one language to another. The pronouns they, their,
are Scandinavian. Old English used hie, hicra,
(see above, p. 68). Possibly the Scandinavian words were felt to be less subject to confusion with forms of the singular. Moreover, though these are the most important, they arc not the only Scandinavian pronouns to be found in English. A late Old English inscription contains the Old Norse form hamım
for him. Both
though not primarily pronouns, have pronominal uses and are of Scandinavian origin. The preposition till
was at one time widely used in the sense of to,
besides having its present meaning, and fro,
likewise in common use formerly as the equivalent of from,
survives in the phrase to and fro.
Both words are from the Scandinavian. From the same source comes the modern form of the conjunction though,
the Old Norse equivalent of O.E. heah.
The Scandinavian use of at
as a sign of the infinitive is to be seen in the English ado (at-do)
and was more widely used in this construction in Middle English. The adverbs aloft,
(ever), and seemly,
and the earlier hehen
(hence) and hwepen
(whence) are all derived from the Scandinavian Finally the present plural are
of the verb to be
is a most significant adoption. While we aron
was the Old English form in the north, the West Saxon plural was syndon
(cf. German sind)
and the form are
in Modern English undoubtedly owes its extension to the influence of the Danes. When we remember that in the expression I they are
both the pronoun and the verb are Scandinavian we/ realize once more how intimately the language of the invaders has entered into English.
Influence outside the Standard Speech.
We should miss the full significance of the Scandinavian influence if we failed to recognize the extent to which it is found outside the standard speech. Our older literature and the modern dialects are full of words which are not now in ordinary use. The ballads offer many examples. When the Geste of Robin Hood
and listin, gcntilmen" it has for its first word an Old Norse synonym for listen.
When a little later on the Sheriff of Nottingham says to Little John "Say me nowe, wight
yonge man, what is nowe thy name?" he uses the O.N. vigt
(strong, courageous). In the ballad of Captain Car
the line "Busk
my merry men all" contains two words from the same source meaning pre
The word gar,
meaning to cause
or make one do something,
is of frequent occurrence. Thus, in Chevy Chace
we are told of Douglas' men that "Many a doughete the(y) garde
to dy"—i.e., they made many a doughty man die. In Robin Hood and Guy of
the Virgin Mary is addressed: "Ah, deere Lady! sayd Robin Hoode, Thou art both mother and may!"
in which may
is a Scandinavian form for »note/. Bessie Bell and Mary Gray, in the ballad of that name, "bigget
a bower on yon burn-brae", employing in the process another word of Norse origin, biggen
(to build), a word also used by Burns in To a Mouse:
"Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin! . . . And naething now to big a new ane." In Burns and Scott we find the comparative worse
in the form waur: "A"
the warld kens that they maun either marry or do waur" (Old Mortality),
also an old word (O.N. verre)
more commonly found in the form used by Chaucer in the Boofc of the Duchess:
"Alias! how myghte I fare werre?" Examples could be (brock or badger); a group of words for geographical features which had not played much part in the experience of the Anglo-Saxons in their continental home—crag, luh
(valley), and torr1
(outcropping or projecting rock, peak), the two latter chiefly as elements in place-names; possibly the words dun
(dark colored), and ass
(ultimately from Latin asinus).
Words of the second group, those that came into English through Celtic Christianity, are likewise few in number. In 563 St. Columba hadcome with twelve monks from Ireland to preach to his kinsmen in Britain. On the little island of lona off the west coast of Scotland he established a monastery and made it his headquarters for the remaining thirty-four years of his life. From this center many missionaries went out, founded other religious houses, and did much to spread Christian doctrine and learning. As a result of their activity the words ancor
(a gathering of parchment leaves), cross, chtgge
(diadem), and perhaps stxr
(history) and cur-
(to curse) came into at least partial use in Old English.
It does not appear that many of these Celtic words attained a very permanent place in the English language. Some soon died out and others acquired only local currency. The relation of the two races was not such as to bring about any considerable influence on English life or on English speech. The surviving Celts were a submerged race. Had they, like the Romans, possessed a superior culture, something valuable to give the Teutons, their influence might have been greater. But the Anglo-Saxon found little occasion to adopt Celtic modes of expression and the Celtic influence remains the least of the early influences which affected the English language.
The Vikings that traveled to western and Eastern Europe were essentially from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. They eventually made it into Greenland and North America.
It is believed that Denmark was largely settled by Germanic people from present-day Sweden in the fifth and sixth centuries. Their language became the mother-tongue of present-day Scandinavian languages. By 800, a strong central authority appears to have been established in Jutland and the Danes were beginning to look beyond their own territory for land, trade and plunder.
Norway had been settled over many centuries by Germanic peoples from Denmark and Sweden who had established farming and fishing communities around its coasts and lakes. The mountainous terrain and the fjords formed strong natural boundaries and the communities remained independent of each other, unlike the situation in Denmark which is lowland. By 800, it is known that some 30 petty kingdoms existed in Norway.
The sea was the easiest way of communication between the Norwegian kingdoms and the outside world. It was in the eighth century that ships of war began to be built and sent on raiding expeditions to initiate the Viking Age, but the northern sea rovers were traders, colonizers and explorers as well as plunderers.
Prior to 1000, details of Swedish events are obscure. It is known that there were two tribes in the country during Roman times: the Suiones (Swedes) in the north Svealand; and the Gothones (Goths), in the south (hence called Gothia).
The importance of a language is inevitably associated in the mind of the world with the political role played by the nations using it and their influence in international affairs; with the confidence people feel in their financial position and the certainty with which they will meet their obligations i.e., pay their debts to other nations, meet the interest on their bonds, maintain the gold or other basis of their currency, control their expenditures; with the extent of their business enterprise and the international scope of their commerce; with the conditions of life under which the great mass of their people live; and with the part played by them in art and literature and music, in science and invention, in exploration and discovery in short, with their contribution to the material and spiritual progress of the world. English is the mother tongue of nations whose combined political influence, economic soundness, commercial activity, social well-being, and scientific and cultural contributions to civilization give impressive support to its numerical precedence.
The English speech is one of the significant world languages today in the world, perhaps taking the first place by the number of its speakers. It is a language of Germanic groups of languages, spoken in United Kingdom, USA, Australia, New Zealand, India, and many other parts of the world. Today this language is becoming a dominant means of communication, and it is not surprising that millions of people are more and more paying time and money to learn this language. Thus many people go to the trouble of learning English in order to be able to communicate with the native English speakersor in some cases, with each other.
By family group, English belongs to the Anglo-Frisian group within the western branch of the Germanic languages, a sub-family of the Indo-European languages. It is related most closely to the Frisian language, to a lesser extent to Netherlandic (Dutch-Flemish) and the Low German (Plattdeutsch) dialects, and more distantly to Modern High German. Its parent, Proto-Indo-European, was spoken around 5,000 years ago by nomads who are thought to have roamed the South-east European plains.It is inevitable that a language like English, spoken by so many people scattered from one end of the world to the other, should have many varieties, differing rather widely from one another. The most obvious varieties are regional dialects, some of which go far back in history. Three main stages are usually recognized in the history of the development of the English language.
We are so accustomed to think of English as an inseparable adjunct to the English people that we are likely to forget that it has been the language of England for a comparatively short period in the world's history. Since its introduction into the island about the middle of the fifth century it has had a career extending through only fifteen hundred years. Yet this part of the world had been inhabited by man for thousands of years, 50,000 according to more moderate estimates, 250,000 in the opinion of some. During this long stretch of time, most of it dimly visible through prehistoric mists, the presence of a number of races can be detected; and each of these races had a language. Nowhere does our knowledge of the history of mankind carry us back to a time when man did not have a language. What can be said about the early languages of England? Unfortunately, little enough what we know of the earliest inhabitants of England is derived wholly from the material remains that have been uncovered by archaeological research. The classification of these inhabitants is consequently based upon the types of material culture that characterized them in their successive stages. Before the discovery of metals man was dependent upon stone for the fabrication of such implements and weapons as he possessed. Generally speaking, the Stone Age is thought to have lasted in England until about 2000 b.c., although the English were still using some stone weapons in the battle of Hastings in 1066. Stone, however, gradually gave way to bronze, as bronze was eventually displaced by iron about 500 or 600 B.C. Since the Stone Age was of long duration, it is customary to distinguish between an earlier and a later period, known as the Paleolithic (Old Stone) Age and the Neolithic (New Stone) Age.
Paleolithic Man, the earliest inhabitant of England, entered at a time when this part of the world formed a part of the continent of Europe, when there was no English Channel and when the North Sea was not much more than an enlarged river basin. He was short of stature, averaging about five feet, long-armed and short-legged, with a low forehead and poorly developed chin. He lived in the open, under rock shelters or in later times in caves. He was dependent for food upon the vegetation that grew wild and such animals as he could capture and kill. Fortunately an abundance of fish and game materially lessened the problem of existence. His weapons scarcely extended beyond a primitive sledge or ax, to which he eventually learned to fix a handle. More than one race is likely to be represented in this early stage of culture. The men whose remains are found in the latest Paleolithic strata are distinguished by a high degree of artistic skill. But representations of boar and mastodon on pieces of bone or the walls of caves tell us nothing about the language of their designers. Their language disappeared with the disappearance of the race, or their absorption in the later population. We know nothing about the language, or languages, of Paleolithic Man.
Neolithic Man is likewise a convenient rather than scientific term to designate the races which, from about 5000 b.c., are possessed of a superior kind of stone implement, often polished, and a higher culture generally. The predominant type in this new population appears to have come from the south and from its widespread distribution in the lands bordering on the Mediterranean is known as the Mediterranean race. It was a dark race of slightly larger stature than Paleolithic Man. The people of this higher culture had domesticated the common domestic animals, and developed elementary agriculture. They made crude pottery, did a little weaving, and some lived in crannogs, structures built on pilings driven into swamps and lakes. They buried their dead, covering the more important
Members of society with large mounds or barrows, oval in shape, but they did not have the artistic gifts of late Paleolithic Man. Traces of these people are still found in the population of the British Isles, especially in the dark-haired inhabitants of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. But their language has not survived among these people, and since our hope of learning anything about the language which they spoke rests upon our finding somewhere a remnant of the race still speaking that language, that hope, so far as England is concerned, is dead. In a corner of the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain, however, there survives a small community that is believed by some to represent the last pure remnant of the race. These people are the Basques, and their language shows no affiliation with any other language now known. Allowing for the changes which it has doubtless undergone in the centuries which have brought us to modern times, the Basque language may furnish us with a clue to the language of at least one group among Neolithic Man in England.
The first people in England about whose language we have definite knowledge are the Celts. It used to be assumed that the coming of the Celts to England coincided with the introduction of bronze into the island. But the use of bronze probably preceded the Celts by several centuries. We have already described the Celtic languages in England and called attention to the two divisions of them, the Gaelic or Goidelic branch and the Cymric or Britannic branch. Celtic was the first Indo-European tongue to be spoken in England and is still spoken by a considerable number of people. One other language, Latin, was spoken rather extensively for a period of about four centuries before the coming of English. Latin was introduced when Britain became a province of the Roman Empire. Since this was an event that has left a certain mark upon later history, it will be well to consider it separately.
Toone unfamiliar with Old English it might seem that a language which lacked the large number of words borrowed from Latin and French which now form so important a part of our vocabulary would be somewhat limited in resources, and that while possessing adequate means of expression for the affairs of simple everyday life would find itself embarrassed when it came to making the nice distinctions which a literary language is called upon to express. In other words, an Anglo-Saxon would be like a man today who is learning to speak a foreign language and who can manage in a limited way to convey his meaning without having a sufficient command of the vocabulary to express those subtler shades of thought and feeling, the nuances of meaning, which he is able to suggest in his mother tongue. This, however, is not so. In language, as in other things, necessity is the mother correspondence between the c and h was according to rule, but that between the t and d was not. The d in the English word should have been a voiceless spirant that is in 1875 Verner showed that when the Indo-European accent was not on the vowel immediately preceding, such voiceless spirants became voiced in Germanic. In West Germanic the resulting 8 became a d, and the word hundred is therefore quite regular in its correspondence with centum. The explanation was of importance in accounting for the forms of the preterit tense in many strong verbs. The formulation of this explanation is known as Verner's Law, and it was of great significance as vindicating the claim of regularity for the sound-changes which Grimm's Law had attempted to define.
The English language has undergone such change in the course of time that one cannot read Old English without special study. In fact a page of Old English is likely at first to present a look of greater strangeness than a page of French or Italian because of the employment of certain characters that no longer form a part of our alphabet.
A second feature of Old English which would become quickly apparent to a modern reader is the absence of those words derived from Latin and French which form so large a part of our present vocabulary. Such words make up more than half of the words now in common use. They are so essential to the
Expression of our ideas; seem so familiar and natural to us, that we miss them in the earlier stage of the language. The vocabulary of Old English is almost purely Teutonic. A large part of this vocabulary moreover has disappeared from the language. When the Norman Conquest brought French into England as the language of the higher classes much of the Old English vocabulary appropriate to literature and learning died out and was replaced later by words borrowed from French and Latin. An examination of the words in an Old English dictionary shows that about 85
per cent of them are no longer in use. Those that survive, to be sure, are basic elements of our vocabulary, and by the frequency with which they recur make up a large part of any English sentence. Apart from pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliary verbs, and the like, they express fundamental concepts like mann
(meat, food), gsers
(fowl, bird), god
(fight). But the fact remains that a considerable part of the vocabulary of Old English is unfamiliar to the modern reader.
The third and most fundamental feature that distinguishes Old English from the language of today is its grammar. Inflectional languages fall into two classes: synthetic and analytic.
The language of a past time is known by the quality of its literature. Charters and records yield their secrets to the philologist and contribute their quota of words and inflections to our dictionaries and grammars. But it is in literature that a language displays its full power, its ability toomuch lyric and didactic poetry, and numerous works of a scientific and philosophical character. It is still cultivated as a learned language and formerly held a place in India similar to that occupied by Latin in medieval Europe. At an early date it ceased to be a spoken language.
Alongside of Sanskrit there existed a large number of local dialects in colloquial use, known as Prakrits. A number of these eventually attained literary form, one in particular, Pali, about the middle of the sixth century b.c. becoming the language of Buddhism. From these various colloquial dialects have descended the present languages of India and Pakistan, spoken by some 350 million people. The most important of these are Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, and Mahrati. A form of Hindi with a considerable mixture of Persian and Arabic is known as Hindustani and is widely used for intercommunication throughout northern India. The language of the Gypsies, sometimes called Romany, represents a dialect of northwestern India which from about the fifth century of our era was carried through Persia and into Armenia, and from there has spread through Europe and even into America, wherever, indeed, these nomads in the course of their long history have wandered.
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