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English is a Germanic language, with a grammar and a core vocabulary inherited from Proto-Germanic. However, a significant portion of the English vocabulary comes from Romance and Latinate sources. A portion of these borrowings come directly from Latin, or through one of the Romance languages, particularly Anglo-Norman and French, but some also from Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; or from other languages (such as Gothic, Frankish or Greek) into Latin and then into English. The influence of Latin in English, therefore, is primarily lexical in nature, being confined mainly to words derived from Latin roots.
The Germanic tribes, who would later give rise to the English language (the Angles, Saxon and Jutes), traded and fought with the Latin speaking Roman Empire. Many words (some originally from Greek) for common objects therefore entered the vocabulary of these Germanic people via Latin even before the tribes reached Britain (what is known as the Continental or Zero Period): anchor, butter, camp, cheese, chest, cook, copper, devil, dish, fork, gem, inch, kitchen, mile, mill, mint (coin), noon, pillow, pound (unit of weight), punt (boat), sack, wall, street , wine.Cognates of virtually all of these English words exist in the other Germanic languages.
Christian missionaries coming to Britain in the 6th century and 7th century brought with them Latin religious terms which entered the English language: abbot, altar, apostle, candle, clerk, mass, minister, monk, nun, pope, priest, school, shrive. Some of these words are ultimately of Greek origin, as much of the technical language of Christianity developed from the Greek of the New Testament and the works of those Fathers of the Church who wrote in Greek.
During this time, the Catholic Church had great influence on the development and expansion of the Old English language. Catholic monks mainly wrote or copied text in Latin, the prevalent Medieval lingua franca of Europe. However, when monks occasionally wrote in the vernacular, Latin words were translated by finding suitable Old English equivalents. Often, a Germanic word was adopted and given a new shade of meaning in the process. Such was the case with Old English gōdspell ("gospel") for Latin Evangelium. Previously, the Old English word simply meant "good news," but its meaning was extended in Old English to fit a religious context. The same occurred for the Old Germanic pagan word blētsian, which meant "to sacrifice, consecrate by shedding blood". It was adapted by Old English scribes and christened to become the word bless. Similarly fullwiht (literally, "full-being") and the verb fullian came to mean "baptism" and "to baptize" respectively, but probably originally referred to some kind of rite of passage.
Whenever a suitable Old English substitute could not be found, a Latin word could be chosen instead, and many Latin words entered the Old English lexicon in this way. Such words include: biscop "bishop" from Latin episcopus, Old English tepid "carpet" from Latin tapetum, and Old English sigel "brooch" from Latin sigillum. Other words came in, even though an adequate Old English term already existed, and this caused enrichment of the Old English vocabulary: culcer and læfel "spoon" from Latin coclearium and labellum beside Old English spōn and hlædel (Modern English ladle); Old English forca from Latin furca "fork" next to Old English gafol; Old English scamol "chair, stool" from Latin scamellum beside native stōl, benc and setl. All told, approximately 600 words were borrowed from Latin during the Old English period.Often, the Latin word was severely restricted in sense, and was not widespread in use among the general populace. Latin words tended to be literary or scholarly terms and were not very common. The majority of them did not survive into the Middle English Period.
The Norman Conquest of 1066 gave England a two-tiered society with an aristocracy which spoke Anglo-Norman and a lower class which spoke English. From 1066 until Henry IV of England ascended the throne in 1399, the royal court of England spoke a Norman language that became progressively Gallicised through contact with French. However, the Norman rulers made no attempt to suppress the English language, apart from not using it at all in their court. In 1204, the Anglo-Normans lost their continental territories in Normandy and became wholly English. By the time Middle English arose as the dominant language in the late 14th century, the Normans (French people) had contributed roughly 10,000 words to English of which 75% remain in use today. Continued use of Latin by the Church and centres of learning brought a steady, though dramatically reduced, influx of new Latin lexical borrowings.
During the English Renaissance, from around 1500–1650, some 10,000 to 12,000 words entered the English lexicon, including the word lexicon. Some examples include aberration, allusion, anachronism, democratic, dexterity, enthusiasm, imaginary, juvenile, pernicious, sophisticated. Many of these words were borrowed directly from Latin, both in its classical and medieval forms. In turn, Late Latin also included borrowings from Greek.
The dawn of the age of scientific discovery in the 17th and 18th centuries created the need for new words to describe newfound knowledge. Many words were borrowed from Latin, while others were coined from Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes, and Latin word elements freely combine with elements from all other languages including native Anglo-Saxon words. Some of the words which entered English at this time are: apparatus, aqueous, carnivorous, component, corpuscle, data, experiment, formula, incubate, machinery, mechanics, molecule, nucleus, organic, ratio, structure, vertebra.
In addition to a large number of historical borrowings and coinages, today Latinate words continue to be coined in English – see classical compounds – particularly in technical contexts. A number of more subtle consequences include: numerous doublets – two or more cognate terms from both a Germanic and Latinate source (or Latinate sources), such as cow/beef; numerous cases of etymologically unrelated terms for closely related concepts, notably Germanic nouns with a Latin adjective, such as bird/avian or hand/manual; complicated etymologies due to indirect borrowings (via Romance) or multiple borrowings; and usage controversies over the perceived complexity of Latinate terms.
As with Germanic/Latinate doublets from the Norman period, the use of Latinate words in the sciences gives us pairs with a native Germanic noun and a Latinate adjective:
Note that this is a common linguistic phenomenon, called a stratum in linguistics – one sees analogous phenomena in Japanese (borrowing from Chinese for scientific vocabulary, and now English), and in Hindi/Urdu (Sanskrit, with many Persian borrowings), among many others.
It is not always easy to tell at what point a word entered English, or in what form. Some words have come into English from Latin more than once, through French or another Romance language at one time and directly from Latin at another. Thus there are pairs like fragile/frail, army/armada, corona/crown, ratio/reason, and rotund/round. The first word in each pair came directly from Latin, while the second entered English from French (or Spanish, in the case of armada). In addition, some words have entered English twice from French, with the result that they have the same source, but different pronunciations reflecting changing pronunciation in French, for example, chief/chef (the former a Middle English borrowing and the latter modern). Multiple borrowings explain other word pairs and groups with similar roots but different meanings and/or pronunciations: canal/channel, poor/pauper, coy/quiet, disc/disk/dish/desk/dais/discus.
David Corson in The Lexical Bar (1985) defended the thesis that academic English, due to its large portion of Greco-Latinate words, explains the difficulties of working class children in the educational system. When exposed at home mainly to colloquial English (the easier, shorter, Anglo-saxon words), the differences with children who have more access to academic words (longer, more difficult, Greco-Latinate) tend not to become less by education but worse, impeding their access to academic or social careers. In various experiments and comparative studies Corson measured fewer differences between 12 year olds than 15 year olds due to their unfamiliarity with Greco-Latinate words in English and the way teachers deal with them. Corsons views were not always represented correctly. In his totally revised Using English Words (1995) the linguistic, historical, psychological and educational aspects have been integrated better.
A loanword is a word adopted from one language and incorporated into another language without translation. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an etymological origin, and calques, which involve translation.
International scientific vocabulary (ISV) comprises scientific and specialized words whose language of origin may or may not be certain, but which are in current use in several modern languages. The name "International Scientific Vocabulary" was first used by Philip Gove in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961). As noted by Crystal, science is an especially productive field for new coinages.
The core of the English language descends from Old English, the language brought with the Angle, Saxon, and Jutish settlers to what was to be called England from the 500s. The bulk of the language in spoken and written texts is from this source. As a statistical rule, around 70 percent of words in any text are Anglo-Saxon. Moreover, the grammar is largely Anglo-Saxon.
English is a West Germanic language that originated from Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain in the mid 5th to 7th centuries AD by Anglo-Saxon settlers. With the end of Roman rule in 410 AD, Latin ceased to be a major influence on the Celtic languages spoken by the majority of the population. People from what is now northwest Germany, west Denmark and the Netherlands settled in the British Isles from the mid-5th century and came to culturally dominate the bulk of southern Great Britain until the 7th century. The Anglo-Saxon language, now called Old English, originated as a group of Anglo-Frisian dialects which were spoken, at least by the settlers, in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It displaced to some extent the Celtic languages that predominated previously. Old English also reflected the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms established in different parts of Britain. The Late West Saxon dialect eventually became dominant. A significant subsequent influence on the shaping of Old English came from contact with the North Germanic languages spoken by the Scandinavian Vikings who conquered and colonized parts of Britain during the 8th and 9th centuries, which led to much lexical borrowing and grammatical simplification. The Anglian dialects had a greater influence on Middle English.
The following are lists of words in the English language that are known as "loanwords" or "borrowings," which are derived from other languages.
Esperanto etymology, including vocabulary and grammatical forms, derives primarily from the Romance languages, with lesser contributions from Germanic. The language occupies a middle ground between "naturalistic" constructed languages such as Interlingua, which borrow words en masse from their source languages with little internal derivation, and a priori conlangs such as Solresol, in which the words have no historical connection to other languages. In Esperanto, root words are borrowed and retain much of the form of their source language, whether the phonetic form (eks- from international ex-,vualo from French voile) or orthographic form (teamo and boato from English team and boat,soifo from French soif). However, each root can then form dozens of derivations which may bear little resemblance to equivalent words in the source languages, such as registaro (government), which is derived from the Latinate root reg but has a morphology closer to German or Russian.
Etymology is the study of the history of words. By extension, the phrase "the etymology of [some words]" means the origin of the particular word. For place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.
The Greek language has contributed to the English vocabulary in five main ways:
Linguistic purism in English is the preference for using words of native origin rather than foreign-derived ones. "Native" can mean "Anglo-Saxon" or it can be widened to include all Germanic words. Linguistic purism in English primarily focuses on words of Latinate and Greek origin, due to their prominence in the English language and the belief that they may be difficult to understand. In its mildest form, it merely means using existing native words instead of foreign-derived ones. In a less mild form, it also involves coining new words from Germanic roots. In a more extreme form, it also involves reviving native words which are no longer widely used. The resulting language is sometimes called Anglish, or Roots English. The mild form is often advocated as part of Plain English, but the more extreme form has been and is still a fringe movement; the latter can also be undertaken as a form of constrained writing.
In etymology, two or more words in the same language are called doublets or etymological twins or twinlings when they have different phonological forms but the same etymological root. Often, but not always, the words entered the language through different routes. Given that the kinship between words that have the same root and the same meaning is fairly obvious, the term is mostly used to characterize pairs of words that have diverged at least somewhat in meaning. For example, English pyre and fire are doublets with merely associated meanings despite both descending ultimately from the same Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word *péh₂ur.
Classical compounds and neoclassical compounds are compound words composed from combining forms derived from classical Latin or ancient Greek roots. New Latin comprises many such words and is a substantial component of the technical and scientific lexicon of English and other languages, including international scientific vocabulary. For example, bio- combines with -graphy to form biography.
An inkhorn term is a loanword borrowed into English, which is deemed to be unnecessary or overly pretentious.
The lexis of Bulgarian, a South Slavic language, consists of native words, as well as borrowings from Russian, French, and to a lesser extent English, Greek, Ottoman Turkish, Arabic and other languages.
Reborrowing is the process where a word travels from one language to another and then back to the originating language in a different form or with a different meaning. This path is indicated by A→B→A, where A is the originating language, and can take many forms. A reborrowed word is sometimes called a Rückwanderer.
Words can be included in Interlingua in either of two ways: through regular derivation using roots and affixes or by establishing their eligibility as international words. The second of these methods is explained below.
The re-latinization of Romanian is a term attributed to a process in the history of the Romanian language during which it has strengthened its Romance features in the 18th and 19th century. In the course of this process, Romanians adopted a Latin-based alphabet to replace Cyrillic script and massively made lexical borrowings, overwhelmimg from French but also Latin and Italian, in order to acquire the lexical tools necessary for modernization. This process created neologisms, synonyms or made old some Slavic and other loanwords obsolete, strengthening some Romance syntactic features of Romanian. Re-latinization is part of the modernization period of the Romanian language, which led to the unification of the literary language based on the Wallachian idiom and the elaboration of the first academic normative works. Recent linguistic research emphasize that the use of this term is inappropriate when referring only to the enriching of the vocabulary of the Romanian language.