All languages change over time.  They change because there is no fixed one-to-one correspondence between sound and meaning in human language. But why do certain changes occur and not others (Why did [wh] change to [w] in modern American English and not to another sound?)

        This is a partly unanswerable question.  Some changes in language are clearly motivated by changes in culture or environment. Language is an expression of human activity and of the world around us, and changes in that world bring forth innovations in a language.  Also, contact with other languages may cause a language to change very quickly and radically. At any rate, the language of isolated communities seem to change least.  (Cf. Volga Germans, Russian Old Believers in Oregon, Amish in Pennsylvania, Spanish in New Mexico, Sardinian vs. French.)  English has changed radically over the last 1000 years, perhaps more than any other European language.  Russian has changes less radically. Icelandic is the most conservative of the Germanic languages. And Lithuanian has changed the very least over the last 2000 years. 

History of the English Language


      What type of language was IE? Comparative linguistic studies of the modern languages descended from IE have shown the following: IE had pitch stress, [l, m, n], [rolled r], three types of obstruents [unaspirated p, b, murmured bh], velar and palatoveolar [k,g], as well as labialized [gw, kw], case endings, the dual number, and noun classes that gave rise to genders in later languages.

      Linguists place the period of IE unity as lasting until about 4000 BC. By 3000 IE had broken up into a number of dialects (the kentum/satem split, where the palatovelar [k] and [g] yielded [h, k, g] in the western dialects (Germanic, Latin, Celtic, Greek) and [s, S, z] in the east (Slavic, Baltic (Latvian, Lithuanian), Persian, Armenian, Indo-Aryan). These two groups of dialects are named after the reflexes of the IE word for 100, kentm. kentum, hundred vs satem, sto). Later, a kentum dialect was found in western China, the Tocharian language, which died out by 600AD.

      The Common Germanic period had begun by 2000 BC, when Germanic is thought to have diverged significantly from the other kentum dialects of IE. 

Prot-Germanic and aboriginal influence

      Let's first look at the Germanic period, the pre-English period before the Germanic tribes migrated to the British Isles.  The Germanic tribes were but one offshoot of the Indo-Europeans, thought to have originated somewhere in Eastern Europe or in present day Turkey.  Perhaps as early as 4000 BC, the various tribes who were to become the Germanic peoples began slowly to spread out over northern Europe. 

      The Germanic peoples were not the first to colonize this area.  To the northeast were the Finns, Estonians and related non-IE tribes who still live in northeastern Europe today.  Still other tribes--aborigines who did not survive to the present day-- had been living in the rest of northern Europe for thousands of years before the Germanic invasion.  The Germanic tribes seem to have conquered and gradually absorbed these people, who appear to have spoken a language unrelated to any modern language.  These mysterious northern European aborigines were not Celtic, for the Celts lived further to the south at that time; nor were they Finnic, for the Finns lived further to the east.  Whoever they were is anybody's guess.  At any rate, Germanic borrowed a considerable number of words from these earlier people.  These borrowings--the aboriginal substrate in Germanic-- are all that remains of the original languages of ancient northern Europe.  These aboriginal elements, found only in Germanic languages and not in any other Indo-European tongue, tend to fall into several semantic groups.

a) Toponyms:  Sweden (Sverige), Scandi and Finn are aboriginal terms (the native Finnish name for themselves is Suomi).

b) Words for the natural environment:  when Germans migrated from the interior of Eastern Europe to the Baltic Sea, and encountered there new topographic and natural elements, they often borrowed aboriginal words to describe them: sea (cf. IE mare, swamp or pond which yields marsh), land, strand, mew (*maiwa--a kind of gull), eider, auk, seal, sturgeon, herring.  The Germanic speakers also coined their own words for some of the new concepts: swan was derived from singcrab came from an old Germanic word meaning to scratch; flounder came from the word flat.

c) Words for technologies connected with sea travel: ship, keel, sail, oar

d) Changes in religious motifs: hel, ragnarok.

e) Words for new social practices: wife, bride, groom are also aboriginal.  folk replaces IE manni (Allemagne) (mann became the word for human and man replacing IE vir), thwahan bathhouse> towelhusa replaces domo.  Other borrowings include: risan, rise, hlaupan, leap, lagjiz, leg, handuz, hand, skuldar, shoulder, bainam, bone, seukaz, sick, hairsaz, hoarse, newhiz, near, lik, like, ibnaz, even, kak, a round object, hence cake, the root kr yielded crooked, cripple, creek, etc

      Often an aboriginal word would survive in a negative meaning  knapa  youth, yielded English knave a despicable unimportant person, (German Knabe, boy).  The old IE word were (Latin virile); aboriginal karl became churl; later to be replaced by the Germanic man (from manni--people) (Germanic were survives only in werewolf.)  A few aboriginal terms of rank survived and acquired (or retained) positive connotations:  Earl  (vs. Germanic konningaz), as are knight (knight--servant).

f) Words connected with farming or animal husbandryhafur (oats;  haversack) mare.  Also:  ram, lamb, sheep, kid, bitch, hound, dung (the IE word for dung was associated with the word gwo-- cow, it survived in Spanish as guano and in Irish Gaelic, giving English the word bother). 

During the period of mixing with the north European aborigines, a number of sound changes occurred in Germanic:  IE [p,t, k]--> [f, T, ∑] except after [s], [b, d, g]--> [aspirated p, t, k], [murmured bh, dh, gh, gw]--> [b, d, g].  These changes are called Grimm's law after Jakob Grimm, the 19th century German linguist who discovered them (he and his brother also wrote the Grimmss fairy tales). Grimm figured this out be comparing the Indo-European words in Germanic with those of other branches of IE. He found hundreds of cognates (words in two related languages that derive from the same word in the parent language): father/pater; wheel/koleso; ten/deci; three/ tricorn/ graminus

West Germanic and Latin infuence from the Roman Empire

       After the aboriginal contact, the Germanic tribes speaking one language spread out across northern and Central Europe.  By 500BC three major dialectal divisions had appeared in Germanic:  East (the Goths), North (the Scandinavians), and West (ancestors of the English, Germans and Dutch).  The Germanic languages today show many signs of being closely related:  English:  sing, sang, sung; Dutch: zingen, zong, gezongen;  Swedish: sjunga, sjo:ng, sjungit.

      Due to the influence of the Roman Empire the Western dialect of Germanic which later gave rise to English, Dutch, and German borrowed a large number of Latin words in the first few centuries AD.  This was the first phase of Latin borrowings.  These borrowings tended to fall into certain semantic categories.

a) Words for many Mediterranean foodstuffsoleum, butirum, olive, caseus (cheese/kase-- replacing the Germanic yustas/ost), piper, kitchen from coquina, panna>pan, cuppa>cup, discas>dish, kaula for cabbage (cf. cauliflower, kohlrabi, coleslaw); petrosileum>parsely.

The Germanic tribes also coined some new terms at this time:  ale, beer--grain allowed to sprout into malt and fermented with ground barely. hence:  hallucination.  Tacitus reports that the Germans drank it with abandon.  

b) Timekeeping wordsyarum, mannoth, langtinus (Lent).  Originally, the Germanic peoples had no names for the days of week, so Roman names were translated into Germanic to produce the following calques, or loan translations:  sun-day, lun/moon-day, mars/tiwaz-day, mercury/Odin, Woden-day, Zeus/Thor-day, Venus/Friga-day, Saturnday (no German equivalent to the God Saturn)  Some original Germanic time words were retained:  sumaz, wintraz.

      There were many other borrowings from Latin at this time, especially of words denoting more abstract concepts:  paternal, from Latin pater father.  Latin cognates borrowed into Germanic during the 1st-5th centuries AD led to the creation of many lexical doublets that attest to the divergence of Latin and Germanic from a common ancestor--Indo-European.  A lexical doublet can be defined as two words from a common source which reach a language at different times or through different intermediate languages (a cognate that is actually borrowed into a language).  A good example is the Germanic three and the Latin prefix tri-, which both originate from the ancient IE word for three, thought to have sounded something like treeThree is native Germanic; tri- is a later borrowing from Latin. 

      The reason for the phonetic differences in such lexical doublets is this:  In the history of the development of IE into several daughter languages, several major phonetic changes occurring in Germanic which did not occur in Latin (these are called Grimm's Law).  The effects of these changes can clearly be seen when examining lexical doublets involving Latin borrowings, which do not show the changes, and original Germanic versions of the same historic root, which do show the changes.

a) Indo-European contained the voiceless unaspirated stops [t], [p], [k].  These became fricatives in Germanic but not Latin, thus:  p--f father/paternal,  t--th  three/triple,  k--h  horn/cornucopia,  the original non-aspirated [p, t, k] in Germanic remained only after [s], so both Germanic and Latin words in English contain the consonant clusters [sp, sk, st]:  spill/ spoil,  star/stellar, asteroid, scab/scabies.  All of these pairs are examples of lexical doublets in modern English.   

b) Voiced stops became voiceless aspirated stops in Germanic but not in Latin:  b--p peg/bacillus  d--t  ten/decimalrat/rodent, tooth/dentist,  g--k  corn/grain.  This change once again added [p, t, k] to Germanic, but this time the sounds were aspirated.  This change occured later than the loss of original, unaspirated [p,t,k].

      And so, by way of summary of the pre-English period, we can note the following events:

a.) Movement of the Proto-Germans north out of eastern central Europe after 4000BC, leading to mixing with aborigines of the Baltic and North Sea coast. A great deal of aboriginal influence affected Germanic at this time.  .

b.) The Germanic tribes spread out all through northwestern Europe. by 500BC common Germanic breaks up into three main dialects; English later derived from the West Germanic dialect.

c.) A great deal of contact between West Germanic tribes and the Roman Empire led to many borrowings from Latin.  Since Latin belongs to another branch of IE, these borrowings often formed lexical doublets alongside native Germanic versions of the same IE words.

The migration to Britain and the development of Anglo-Saxon

1. The Celtic conquest and loss of Western and Central Europe.

2. The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Germanic invasions.

      The fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD led to German expansion south and west into territories formerly garrisoned by Roman troops.  Following the invasion of the Huns and the subsequent fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Angles (named for an angle-shaped part of the Danish coast), Saxons, and Jutes (Danish Jutland) migrated westward in great numbers.  Gaul and Brittany were also conquered by Germanic tribes after the fall of Rome.  After 430, Germanic tribes migrated to the British Isles, as well. 

3. Celtic loss of the south and east of Britain.

      Ironically, the first Germanic tribes were invited to Britain by a Celtic king to defend the Romanized part of the island from the non-Romanized tribes of the periphery, primarily the Picts, half Celtic and half aborigine tribe.  Soon, however, the Germanic tribes turned on the Celts and began taking their best lands.  Caught between the new Germanic invaders and their old enemies in the hills, the Romanized Celts gradually lost power.  This is the timeframe of the stories about King Arthur and the Round Table, the last attempt to keep the English at bay.  The initial Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain took nearly 100 years. 

      The remnants of the defeated Celts of the British Isles are the modern Irish and Scots, both of whom speak closely related forms of Gaelic, and the Welsh, who speak a distantly related Celtic language (Welsh is a derogatory English term meaning foreigner the native Celtic term for that people and their language is Cymrag).  The only other Celtic language which survives in Europe is Breton, a relative of Welsh, spoken today in Normandy on the French coast; Cornish and Manx died out a few centuries ago.

      It should be mentioned that the Indo-European Celts, the linguistic if not also the racial ancestors of the modern Irish, Scottish and Welsh, had themselves conquered and absorbed an even earlier aboriginal population  of the British isles centuries before the arrival of the Germanic peoples.  No aboriginal, non-IE languages survive in the British Isles.  The Picts of Scotland might have been the last remnants of these peoples, who were pre-Indo European and might be linked with the Basques of northern Spain.  The toponyms Britain, Ireland  are of pre-Celtic, aboriginal origin.  A number of basic English words which came into the language in the 5th century, are of unknown origin and may have also derived from the non-Indo-European aborigines of Britain. These include girl, boy, dog--words which are not Celtic, nor are they found in the languages of the Germanic tribes who remained on the European mainland.  They also could have been neologisms, words invented from scratch with no previous antecedents (like nerd, a word coined in the 1950 by the writer Dr. Seuss.)

4. Establisment of the first English tribal dialects.

      At any rate, the Anglo-Saxons conquered the British Celts and pushed them farther and farther westward in the British Isles.  Interestingly, there were very few Celtic borrowings into Anglo-Saxon at this time. Conquered peoples tend to leave relatively few borrowings unless they bequeath to their conquerors many new items of culture and geography (as did the aborigines in northern Europe or the Native Americans in the United states).  The material world and culture of the Romanized Celts of Britain and the Germanic tribes was rather similar, however.  This is why there are only a handful of Celtic words in modern English that date back to the period of the initial conquest:  town > tun (fortified hill) iron, rix for king (cf. regal, Reich, rex, bishopric), curse, cross (the original Germanic gives us crutch), crag, ass (borrowed earlier by the Celts from the Latin asinus).

5. The early period of Anglo-Saxon

      The isolation of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from mainland Germanic tribes ushered in the Anglo-Saxon period, as the three original Germanic tribes formed one culture and one language which began to diverge from languages of the mainland.

      For unknown reasons, during the 6th century AD, the Anglo-Saxon consonant cluster [sk] changed to [sh]:  skield--shield.  This occurred in all words present in the language at that time, including recent borrowings from Latin:  disk--disk, and ancient aboriginal borrowings:  skip--ship.  All modern English words which exhibit the cluster [sk] came into the language after the 6th century when the sound change had ceased to operate.

      The evolution of Old English during the Anglo-Saxon period was influenced profoundly by two historical and cultural events:

6. The Christianization and the second Latinate borrowing (from Frankish)

      The first of these events was the conversion of Britain to Christianity.  In 587AD the Roman missionary Augustine converts the natives.  This had far reaching cultural implications and brought about the second phase of Latin borrowing and led to considerable enlargement of the Anglo-Saxon lexicon.  Some of the new religious terms were borrowed directly from Latin or Old French:  preost, biscup, nonne, monoc, diafol, engel;  some native Germanic words took on a new, Christian connotation:  synn, hel, God;  Other new religious terms were calques, or lone translations:  par-don > for-give.  Pre-Christian peoples in Britain seem to have had a taboo on the eating of shellfish, the names for which are all borrowed from continental Europe after the Christianization:  musle, oyster, lopyster.    One Christian holidays was even given an old pagan name: Easter.

7. Merger with Old Norse via Viking invasion and settlement.

      The second major vehicle of linguistic change during the Anglo-Saxon period came about as a result of Viking incursions into the British Isles.  Norse Invasions, primarily from Denmark began in the late 700's.  At first, King Alfred repulsed the Danes from the southern half of the country.  By the 8th century, however, the Danish King Canute succeeded in uniting England and Denmark into a single kingdom.  Many Danes and Norwegians settled in England after peace was established and quickly blended with the Anglo Saxons.  The conquering Norse did not look down on the Anglo-Saxons, but rather treated them as brothers and sisters.  Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse were both spoken widely side-by-side between 700 and 900.  As a result Anglo-Saxon underwent considerable assimilation and change as it was mixed with old Norse. The mixing of Norse and Anglo-Saxon, which produced the language known to us as Old English, is a good example of the phenomenon of dialect mixing. 

      The prolonged contact and mixing with Old Norse had two important effects on the language of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain.

a) The vocabulary was increased and semantically enriched by the creation of many synonyms, as in the case of the following Anglo-Saxon/Old Norse doublets:  rear/raise, carve/cut, craft/skill, hide/skin, from/fro, no/nay.

      Because of these doublets, Anglo-Saxon regained words with [sk]: the Anglo-Saxon word contains [sh], while the new words of Norse origin contain [sk]: skin/shin,  skirt/shirt, shatter/scatter, ship/skipper.  Most words beginning with [sk] in modern English are of 7th or 8th century Norse origin:  scull, cf. skoll. also sky (heaven assumed mainly religious connotations.)   

b) Mixing with Norse sped up the process of the loss of inflectional morphemes in English.  Anglo-Saxon, like modern German or Classical Latin, originally had many endings and inflections.  Norse had an already simplified the system of endings;  its influence seems to have hastened the process of loss in Anglo-Saxon.  By the end of the Old English period (1066AD) the inflectional system of English had changed considerably, becoming much like it is today.  Many Old English plurals were lost and regularized as [es]: stan/stanas, nama/namen, scip/scipu,  sunu/suna.  Only a few remain in modern English: ox/oxen; foot/feet.       

Weak vs. strong verbs-- many strong verbs dropped out or were regularized to help/help-ed  not holp

      Even after the Norse influence, the vocabulary and morpholgy of Old English remained mostly Germanic.  Foreign elements were either fellow Germanic (from Norse), or were rather few and fell into specific lexical categories:  the pre-Christian cultural borrowings from Latin;  Christian religious borrowing from Latin; and a smaller number of ancient borrowings from unknown aboriginal languages.  The main changes in grammar occurred in the period of Anglo-Saxon, but the main changes in vocabulary were to come only after the Norman Invasion.  For this reason the Old English of the time of Beowulf is impossible to read without the help of a dictionary, despite the fact that it is syntactically and grammatically already quite like modern English.  The first lines of the Lord's Prayer provides a good example:  

Fæder ure, Du De eart on heofunum

Si Din nama gehalgod,

Tobecume Din rice

GewurP Din wille

On eorPan swa swa on heofonum

The Norman period (development of Middle English)

      The end of the Anglo-Saxon period was ushered in abruptly with the Norman French invasion under William the Conqueror in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings.  This event signalled a radical change in English and marks the transition from Old English to Middle English (1100-1450).  Middle English is the long period of accomodation between the Germanic language of the Anglo-Saxons (Old English) and the Latin-based language of the Norman French.

      It is interesting to mention here just who these Norman French were.  The original Franks were a Germanic tribe who drove out the Celts and Romans from Gaul; they were small in number and adopted a Latin-based tongue within a few generations of their conquest of Gaul.  (cf. the Turkic speaking Bulgars who quickly adoped Slavic and became the Bulgarians).   In the 10th century, the Normans, another Germanic tribe from the north (their name is a corruption of Northmen) conquered what was left of Charlemagne's Empire and adopted the Latinate language of the Franks, creolizing it a second time and causing north/south dialectal divisions that remain to this day (Cf. Languedeoc in southern France). 

      The Norman French in 1066 differed more strikingly linguistically as well as culturally from the Anglo Saxons than did the Danish conquerors of a few centuries earlier.  Unlike the situation with the Norse invasions, the Normans looked upon the conquered Anglo-Saxons as social inferiors.  French became the language of the upper class; Anglo-Saxon of the lower class. 

      As a result, after the Norman invasion, many Anglo Saxon words narrowed in meaning to describe only the cruder, dirtier aspects of life.  Concepts associated with culture, fine living and abstract learning tended to be described by new Norman words.  Thus, many new doublets appeared in English that were stylistically marked:  cow/beef, calf/veal, swine/pork,  sheep/mutton, deer/venison, sweat/perspire.  Compare Anglo-Saxon work, hard, to Norman French leisure and profit.  (In contrast, Norse/Anglo-Saxon doublets like raise/rear, etc., were stylistically neutral, since both peoples held an equal social position.) 

      Consequently, the Norman invasion initiated a vast borrowing of Latin-based words into English.  Entire vocabularies were borrowed from Norman French: 

1) governmental:  count, heraldry, fine, noble, parliament.

2) military:  battle, ally, alliance, ensign, admiral, navy, aid, gallant, march, enemy, escape, peace, war (cf. guerilla).

3) judicial system: judge, jury, plaintiff, justice, court, suit, defendant, crime, felony, murder, petty/petit, attorney, marriage (Anglo-Saxon wedding), heir.

4) ecclesiastical:  clergy, altar, miracle, preach, pray, sermon, virgin, saint, friar/frere.

5) cuisine:  sauce, boil, filet, soup, pastry, fry, roast, toast.

6) new personal names: John, Mary (Biblical Hebrew and Greek names) and Norman French (Charles, Richard)

      As Anglo-Saxon and the Norman French gradually merged throughout the later Middle Ages and the Normans and Anglo-Saxons became one society, the speakers of English tried to effect some linguistic reconciliation between the older Anglo-Saxon words and the newer Norman French words.  Many modern English phrases and sayings still include a word from Norman French alongside a synonymous Anglo-Saxon:  law and order, lord and master, love and cherish, ways and means. These doublet phrases capture this attempt to please everybody who might need to be pleased.

      The Norman French influence was so extensive that even the grammar of English was affected.  The changes were mainly confined to the borrowing of derivational affixes.  All native prefixes dropped out or became unproductive during this time;  the few that survive today are non-productive: be- in besmirch, or for- in forgive, forstall;  they were replaced by Latin:  ex-, pre, pro, dis, re, anti- inter.  Many Norman French suffixes were borrowed: -or vs. -er;  -tion,  -ment, -ee,  -able as a suffix. 

      Norman French influence on phonology of English was relatively minor.  Initial [v] and [z] were adopted into the language:  very is a Norman word.  Initial [z] is still considered marginal in English. 

      By the late 1300's when Chaucer wrote the Cantebury Tales, more than half of the English vocabulary consisted of Norman French words.  Curiously enough, Norman French borrowings into English haven't changed in pronunciation for 800 years, whereas the French pronunciation changed.  Old Norman French borrowings have [ch]:  Charles, choice, check; more recent French borrowings have [sh]:  champagne, machine. Thus, when new words were borrowed into English from French over the past few hundred years, still more lexical doublets were created:  chief/chef. 

      The period of Middle English came to a close by about 1450, by the time the two languages of Norman and Anglo-Saxon had merged into a single linguistic form.  Actually, what happened was that the more numerous Anglo-Saxon speakers triumphed over the Norman French, who came to adopt English in place of French.  But the English of 1500 contained a tremendous number of Norman French words.

      The Norman French influx of words into English was on an unprecedented scale.  No other European language has a vocabulary as mixed as English. It has been estimated that only 15% of modern English vocabulary date back to the time of Old English.  A Brown University team ran 1 million words from modern English texts on all sorts of topics through a computer.  These texts contained 50,000 different words and over half were borrowed from Norman French.  Listed in order of frequency, however, every one of the 100 most commonly used words was Anglo-Saxon.  Thus, the core of the English vocabulary remained Germanic.  That is why pithy statement usually make exclusive use of words dating back to Anglo-Saxon: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  With this ring I thee wed, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse. . . in sickness and in health. . . Thank God.  Go to hell. Drop dead!   I love you.  Up yours!  .  Only the Anglo-Saxon words possess the strength and depth to best convey such messages.

Modern English

The period of modern English is said to have begun after the merger of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French into a single language. Early Modern English (1450-1600) saw two main sets of changes: 

a) One set of changes was phonological.  It seemed to be spontaneous and internal rather than caused by any external influence.

      There were a few minor changes in the consonantal system: 

      a) the velar fricative [gh] dropped out:  night, light, though, sorrow  know, gnat, knee, gnome (Compare modern German words, where this sound did not disappear: Nacht, Licht, sorge.)  These changes, alas, are not reflected in modern English spelling which reflects pronunciation during the time of Henry VIII (early 1500's).

      The greatest phonological change affected vowels.  The seven long, tense vowels changed their pronunciation. This is called the great vowel shift (See text pp. 326-327 for a good description).  Modern English spelling, despite the efforts of every generation of schoolchildren since Shakespeare, still reflects the pronunciation in early modern English, BEFORE the great vowel shift.  

      b) The second set of changes occurred yet again in vocabulary and were brought on by cultural influences stemming from Continental Europe.  The Renaissance and subsequent interest in science ushered in a period of wholesale borrowing of Greek and Latin terms.  Unlike earlier instances of borrowing, these words were borrowed from moribund languages rather than live ones, and were borrowed through the activity of intellectuals rather than through the mixing of peoples. This was the third phase of Latin borrowings, and it continues through the present day. 

      How did ancient Latin and Greek terms come to be borrowed into English? Although English was then the spoken language of England, most scientific and religious writing was done in a scholarly version of Latin rather than in the English vernacular.  As the Norman-French nobility forgot French and shiften to the mixed English-French that we call middle English, Latin came to replace French as the language of writing. This is yet another example of diglossia, using two forms of speech by the same people in a single society, each of which has its own particular sphere of usage.  The use of Norman French and Anglo-Saxon in the early period of Norman rule in England was another example of diglossia, although at first each group spoke its own language exclusively. 

      Latin words were easily borrowed into spoken English during the late Middle Ages because of their similarity to earlier French borrowings:  example/exemplary,  pensive/ponder,  enormous, item, suicide, etc.     

      Many of the Latin terms which were already in the language--either from the time of West Germanic (the first Latin borrowings), or from the Christianization (the second Latin borrowing), or from Norman French--were revised to match their classical Latin spelling by well-meaning scholars.  This accounts for other idiosyncracies of modern English spelling and morphology:   thus, painture was turned into picturedette began to be spelled as debt, verdit became verdict.  Some Latin and Greek plurals were borrowed:  datum/data;  cactus/cacti, formula/formulae.

      Latin eventually lost out as the medium of intellectual communication. The rise of nationalism led to increased use of native spoken languages rather than Latin.  The appearance of the King James Bible in the early 17th century did much to popularize the use of English over Latin and Greek in writing.  By 1700 English had virtually replaced Latin as the accepted means of written communication.

      The grammatical structure of English has changed comparatively little since the 17th century.  There have been a few minor changes in grammar, as anyone who reads Shakespeare or the King James Version of the Bible can notice.  These include:

      a) some irregular verbs have become regularized:  spake>spoke

      b) 3rd singular present tense verb forms change:  he doest/doth/does.

      c) the old 2nd singular pronoun forms, thou, thee, thy/thine, have been replaced by: you, your.

      d) The Middle English plural was formerly /es/ in all cases.  The vowel dropped out except after sibilants.

      The major change in English during the later period of Modern English, however, has been the continued expansion of the vocabulary from every convenient available source. Some language communities show an aversion to borrowing words; Icelandic and Hebrew, for example, prefer inventing their own new words (potato--> Hebrew tappuah adamah; computer--> tolle).  English has never had such an aversion, although some purists have tried to replace borrowed English words with words made from native roots:  yeasay instead of affirmation; witcraft instead of logic (these were actually proposed in 1573 by one Ralph Lever)  Usually, however, the purists among English speakers have lost out to the borrowers.  On the other hand, when scholarly types tried to borrow Latin and other terms not out of necessity for describing new things and concepts but out of intellectual arrogance and pomp, they were not always successful.  Thus, lubrigal never replaced smooth; furibund never replaced furious.  Such superfluous Latin-based words were ridiculed as inkhorn terms.  Many of them, however, have made it into English to become synonyms to older, more solid English words:  defunct (broken), spurious (false), retrograde (backward).  Usually the old inkhorn terms have a different stylistic connotation than their earlier English synonyms.

      The influence of new lands and new peoples in the colonial era has brought to English many new words.  Enthusiastic pursuit of the sciences has also led to a great increase in vocabulary;  often the new scientific words are coined on the basis of Latin and Greek in much the same way as occurred at the beginning of the scientific age.  The tendency of English to borrow words has never abated since the earliest times. Let's review the main sources of borrowing.

1) North European aboriginal terms into Common Germanic (before 2000BC)

2) Latin terms from the Romans into West Germanic (100BC-400AD)

3) Christianized Latin terms into Anglo Saxon (after 587AD)

4) Old Norse into Anglo Saxon (700-900AD)

5) Norman French into Old English (1066-1300AD)

6) Ancient Latin and Greek into Modern English 1500- through the present)

      Borrowings of words from other IE languages and dialects has produced a rich collection of synonyms in modern English.  The resulting lexical doublets themselves tell a lot about the history of the language:

forgive/pardon    Latin borrowing from the Christianization vs. Norman French borrowing

shirt/skirt                Native Anglo-Saxon word vs. Old Norse borrowing

cow/beef                 Native Anglo-Saxon vs. Norman French borrowing

dish/disk                 Older Latin borrowing vs. later Latin borrowing

chief/chef                Older Norman French borrowing vs. recent borrowing from French

      Modern English, although still classified as a Germanic tongue because of its grammar and basic vocabulary are Germanic, is actaully a mixture that contains words from nearly every major language of the world.  Many of these words we don't even think of as borrowed:  mosquito (Portuguese or Spanish); pajamas (Hindi); bungalo (Bengali); tulip, turban (Turkish); taboo (Tahitian); okay (Chocktaw); So long (Malay). 

      As a result of this propensity to borrow, and due to mixing with Old Norse and Norman French, English has changed more radically over the past 1500 years than any other European Language.  English is the only European language that has become more analytical than synthetic;  there are only eight surviving inflectional morphemes. 

      And English, like every language ever spoken, continues to change. . .

The growth of modern English dialects around the world

Old dialects to new dialects in England proper: influence of the original tribes, Unequal effect of Danes, Unequal effect of the Norman Invasion, Celtic substrate influence, Lack of complete diffusion of the effects of the great vowel shift into north England and the Celtic areas.

        The pronounced dialectal division of English in the British Isles had a profound effect on the formation of overseas English dialects --the so-called colonial dialects.

British Canada- North Britain, Ireland and Scotland had a greater impact

Australia and New Zealand--lower class urban and rural dialects.

Africa/India--Language heavily influenced by native pronunciation patterns.

      English is the most widely spoken language in the world, the closest thing to a lingua franca for the world.   

        Tomorrow we will discuss the formation of American dialects in detail; today we will see how the American picture fits into the rest of the English speaking world:

United States--four great migrations before the American war of independence in 1776,

   a) The Puritans (1629-40) from East Anglia.

   b) The Cavaliers, or Royalists, and their indentured servants (1642-75) from the South and Southwest of England.

   c) The Friends migration from the north midlands of England and Wales to the Delaware valley (1675-1725)

   d) English speakers from North Britain and Northern Ireland into the Appalachian backcountry (1718-1775) The immigration of true Irish and Scottish people came a century later and had relatively little effect on American dialect formation.