Published on March 13, 2014
FOREIGN INFLUENCES ON OLDENGLISH firstname.lastname@example.org 2014
THE EXTENT OF THE INFLUENCE The extent of a foreign influence is seen from the number of words borrowed. The result of Christianizing of Britain: 450 Latin words appear in English writing before the close of the Old English period, exclude derivatives and proper name. The real test of a foreign influence is the degree to which the words that is brought in were assimilated: how completely the words were digested and became indistinguishable from the native word-stock, so that they could enter into compounds and be made into other parts of speech.
The example: planta (noun-Latin) – plant (noun- English). Later, the word is made into a verb by the addition of the infinitive ending –ian: plantian, gemartyrian, sealmian, culpian, fersian. It can also be seen in the use of native formative suffixes such as –dōm, -hād, -ung to make a concrete noun into an abstract: martyrdōm, martyrhād, martyrung The use of foreign word in making compounds is also the evidence of the same thing: church-book, church- door.
THE SCANDINAVIAN INFLUENCE: THE VIKING AGE This is the third foreign influence to Old Eglish. In the eighth century, occurred some changing, possibly economic, possibly political and provoked among them a spirit of unrest and adventurous enterprise. They began a series of attacks upon all the land adjacent to the North Sea and the Baltic. The pinnacle of their achievement was reached the beginning of the eleventh century. They are commonly known as Vikings and this age is popularly known as the Viking Age.
THE SCANDINAVIAN INVASIONS OF ENGLAND The Scandinavian attacks can be divided into three stages. The first is the period of early raids, beginning according to the Anglo-Saxons Chronicle in 787 until about 850. The raids of this period were simply plundering attacks upon towns and monasteries near the coast. The sacking of Lindisfarne and Jarrow in 793 and 794, the attack apparently ceased for 40 years.
The second stage is the work of large armies and is marked by wide-spread plundering in all parts of the country and by extensive settlement. This new development was inaugurated by the arrival in 850 of a Danish fleet of 350 ships. In 869, a large Danish army plundered East Anglia and in 867 captured York. The eastern part of England was now largely in the hands of Danes and they began turning their attention to Wessex. The attack upon Wessex began shortly before the accession of King Albert (871-899).
The third stage covers the period of political adjustment and assimilation from 878 to 1042. One of the brilliant victories of the English in this period was Athelstan’s triumph in 937 in the battle of Brunanburh in Northumbria. In 991 a fleet of ninety-three ships under Olaf Tryggvason entered Thames. In 994, Olaf was joined by Svein, king of Denmark, attacked London. In 1014 Svein determined to make himself king of the country.
THE SETTLEMENT OF THE DANES IN ENGLAND There were 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. The presence of a large Scandinavian element in the population is indicated not merely by place- names but by peculiarities or manorial organization, local government, legal procedure and the like. 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 PEOPLES. The amalgamation of two peoples was greatly facilitated by the close kinship that existed between them. Many of them accepted Christianity. It can be seen from 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. Alongside the ruins of English town, there existed important communities established by the new comers. Among such centers that the Five Boroughs – Lincoln, Stamford, Leicester, Derby, and Nottingham.
THE RELATION OF THE TWO LANGUAGES The relation of the two languages in the district settled by the Danes is a matter of inference rather than exact knowledge. In some places, the Scandinavians gave up their language. In some part of Scotland, Norse was still spoken as late as the 17th century. In other districts, there were many newcomers who continued to speak their own language and then there were a greater number bilingual. The Anglian dialect resembled the language of the Northmen in a number of particulars in which West Saxon showed divergence.
THE TEST OF BORROWED WORDS Many of the commoner words of the two languages were identical. However, many words were not of Scandinavian origin. There are a very reliable criteria by which we can recognize a borrowed word. The most reliable depend upon differences in development of certain sounds in the North Germanic and West Germanic. One of the simple example is the development of sk. In OE it was sh (written sc). Modern English: ship, shall, fish, with sh, Scandinavian have sk: sky, skin, skill, scrape, scrub In the same way, the retention of the hard pronunciation of k and g ins words such as kid, dike, get, give, gild, and egg is an indication of Scandinavian origin.
SCANDINAVIAN PLACE-NAMES More than 600 places bear Scandinavian names, e.g. Grimsby, Whitby, Derby, Rugby, and Thoresby, which end in –by, meaning “farm” or “town” in Danish. About 300 names contain the Scandinavian word thorp, which means “village”. An almost equal number contain the word thwaite, which means “an isolated peace of land”. Examples of the latter include Applethwaite, Braithwaite, Cowperthwaite, Langthwaite, and Satterthwaite. There are also a hundred places bearing names ending in toft, which means “a piece of ground”, e.g. Brimtoft, Eastoft, Langtoft, Lowestoft, and Nortoft. In some districts in the counties of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire about 75 percent of the place-names are of Scandinavian origin. A similarly high percentage of Scandinavian personal names are found, e.g. names ending in –son, like Stevenson, and Johnson, which end in the equivalent of the Old English patronymic –ing as in Browning.
THE EARLIEST BORROWING The number of Scandinavian words that appeared in Old English was small, amounting to only twenty words. The largest group was associated with sea-roving, as in barda (beaked ship), cnearr (small warship), ; (vessel; (fleet), ;mann (pirate), dreng (warrior), bātswegen (boatman), hofding (chief), orrest (battle), rān (robbery, and fylcian (to collect a force). A little later, a number of words relating to the law or the social and administrative system entered into English. Examples include the word law itself, as well as outlaw, wapentake (an administrative district), hūsting (assembly), which all come from the Danish language.
In addition to the above words, there are a number of Old English words that are translations of Scandinavian terms, e.g. bōtlēas (what cannot be compensated), hāmsōcn (attacking an enemy in his house), and landcēap ( tax paid when land was bought) and other loan- translations. Such legal terminology were replaced by French terms after the Norman Conquest.
SCANDINAVIAN LOAN-WORDS AND THEIR CHARACTER After the Danes had begun to enter into ordinary relations with the English, Scandinavian words began to enter in number into English. These words show the varied and yet simple character of the borrowings. And they made their way into English through the give–and–take of everyday life. Among nouns were band, birth, booth, bull, calf (of leg), egg, fellow, gait, gap, guess, kid, leg, link, loan, race, root, scales, score, seat, sister, skin, skirt, sky, steak, tidings, trust, want, and window, among many others. Among adjectives we find awkward, flat, ill, loose, low, meek, odd, rotten, scant, seemly, sly, tight, and weak.
A surprising number of common verbs is among the borrowings, like to bait, call, cast, clip, crave, crawl, die, gape, gasp, get, give, glitter, kindle, lift, nag, raise, rid, scare, screech, take, thrive, and thrust. Lists like the above show the familiar, everyday character of the words that the Scandinavian invasions and subsequent settlement brought into the English language.
THE RELATION OF BORROWED AND NATIVE WORDS The Scandinavian and the English words were being used side by side. 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. The examples are burn, cole, drag, fast, gang, murk(y), scrape, thick. Where there were differences of form, the English word often survived. The examples are ON of trigg equivalent of OE trēowe (true).
In other cases the Scandinavian word replaced the native word, often after the two had long remained in use concurrently. For example the word egg, it was ey (English) and egg (Scandinavian). Occasionally both English and the Scandinavian words were retained with the difference meaning and use, as the following pairs: no-nay, whole-hale, rear-raise, from-fro, craft-skill, hide-skin, sick-ill. In certain cases, a native word which was apparently not in common use, was reinforced, if not reintroduced, from the Scandinavian. The English word might be modified, taking on some of the character of corresponding Scandinavian word.
FORM WORDS The consequence of the intimate relation between the Scandinavian languages and English was that the Scandinavian words borrowed by English were not confined to nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Such words extended to pronouns, prepositions, adverbs, and even a part of the verb to be, which are not often transferred from one language to another.
The pronouns they, their, and them are Scandinavian, replacing the Old English pronouns hīe, hiera, and hīe, which were confusing because of their similarity to the singular forms hit (it), his, and hit. The words both and same, which have pronominal uses, are of Scandinavian origin, too. The prepositions till and fro (from) are Scandinavian; the latter survives in the phrase to and fro. Form Scandinavian comes the modern form of the conjunction though. The Scandinavian use of at as a sign of the infinitive still survives in the English word ado (at-do), and the sign was more widely used in Middle English.
The adverbs aloft, athwart, aye (ever), seemly, and the earlier; all have their origin in the Scandinavian. The present plural are of the verb to be is a very important adoption, which replaced we aron, the form used in the north, and syndon, the form used in West Saxon. The form are in Modern English owes its extension to the Danes. In the expression they are both the pronoun and the verb are Scandinavian, which is an indication of the intimate relation between the language of the invaders and the English language.
SCANDINAVIAN INFLUENCE OUTSIDE THE STANDARD SPEECH There are some words such as: Lythe – listen; vigt – strong, courageous; busk, bowne – prepare; gar – to cause or make one do something; may – maid.
EFFECT ON GRAMMAR AND SYNTAX The Scandinavian influence not only affected the vocabulary but also extended to morphology and syntax. Although inflections are rarely transferred from one language to another, a certain number of inflectional suffices in the Northumbrian dialect are attributed to Scandinavian influence. Among these inflections are the –s of the third person singular, present indicative of verbs, and the participial ending -and (bindand), which is now replaced by –ing. The words scant, want, and athwart retain in the final t the neuter adjective ending of Old Norse.
Although syntax, the way words are put together to form phrases and clauses, is something in which languages less often affect each other, we find traces of Scandinavian syntactic influence. The famous linguist Otto Jespersen, a Dane himself, cites as examples the omission of the relative pronoun in relative clauses, which was rare in Old English. He also mentions the retention or omission of the conjunction that, which he claims are in conformity with Danish usage.
Among the examples of Scandinavian syntactic influence we also find the rules for the use of shall and will in Middle English. These rules were the same as in Scandinavian. Another example is the tendency to place a strong stress on a preposition, as in the sentence “He has someone to work for”. Since similar structures are not found in the other Germanic languages, but are shared by Scandinavian and English, we may assume an influence to have occurred.
PERIOD AND EXTENT OF THE INFLUENCE The number of words borrowed from Scandinavian in Standard English is about 900. These words designate common everyday things and fundamental concepts. The number of words could be doubled if we added the words in which a Scandinavian origin is probable, or in which the influence of Scandinavian forms is seen.
In addition to these Standard English words, there are thousands of Scandinavian words that are still a part of the everyday speech of people in the north and east of England. The period during which the Danish element was making its way into the English vocabulary was the tenth and eleventh centuries, the period of the fusion of the two peoples. In view of its extent and the intimate way in which the borrowed elements were incorporated, the Scandinavian influence is one of the most important foreign influences that have contributed to the English language
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