Contemporary English is a unique mixture of Germanic & Romanic elements. This mixing has resulted in the international character of the vocabulary. In the comparison with other languages English possesses great richness of vocabulary.
All languages are mixtures to a greater or lesser extent, but the present day English vocabulary is unique in this respect.
A brief look on various historical strata of the English vocabulary:
1) Through cultural contacts with Romans partly already on the continent and all through the influence of Christianity a very early stratum of Latin-Greek words entered the language.
Their origin is no longer felt by the normal speaker today in such word: pound, mint, mustard, school, dish, chin, cleric, cheese, devil, pepper, street, gospel, and bishop.
The same can be said about some Scandinavian words (from about the 10th century) that today belong to the central core of the vocabulary.
It means that their frequency is very high.
They, their, them, sky, skin, skill, skirt, ill, dies, take...
They partly supersede the number of OE words
- heofon – heaven (sky)
- Niman – take
- Steorfan – die
A more radical change & profound influence on the English vocabulary occurred on 1066 (Norman Conquest). Until the 15th cent., a great number of French words were adopted. They belong to the areas of court, church, law, and state.
Virtue, religion, parliament, justice, noble, beauty, preach, honour...
The influx of the words was the strongest up to the 15th cent., but continued up to the 17th cent.
Many French borrowings retained their original pronunciation & stress
- Champagne, ballet, machine, garage...
- Separate, attitude, constitute, introduce...
Adjectives in English – arrogant, important, patient
Sometimes with their derivatives:
- Demonstrative – demonstration
- Separate – separation
17-18 cc. due to the establishing of cultural, trade relations many words were borrowed from Italian, Spanish, Dutch, French.
Italian: libretto, violin, opera
Spanish: hurricane, tomato, tobacco
Dutch: yacht, dog, landscape
French: bouquet, buffet
From the point of view of their etymology formal words are normally of classical Romanic origin, informal – Anglo-Saxon.
Nowadays many Americanisms become familiar due to the increase of transatlantic travel & the influence of broadcast media.
Even in London (Heathrow airport) “baggage” instead of “luggage”
The present day English vocabulary is from being homogeneous.
Borrowing – 1) (process) resorting to the word-stock of other languages for words to express new concepts, to further differentiate the existing concepts and to name new objects, etc.; 2) (result) a loan word, borrowed word – a word taken over from another language and modified in phonemic shape, spelling, paradigm or meaning according to the standards of the English language. – See Assimilation, Source of borrowing, Origin of borrowing. The following types of borrowings can be distinguished:
- - loan words proper – words borrowed from another language and assimilated to this or that extent;
- - loan translation – 1) (process) borrowing by means of literally translating words (usu. one part after another) or word combinations, by modelling words after foreign patterns; 2) (result) translation loans (calques) – words and expressions formed from the material already existing in the English language but according to patterns taken from another language by way of literal word-for-word or morpheme-for-morpheme translation: e.g. chain smoker::Germ Kettenraucher; goes without saying::Fr. va sans dire; summit conference:: Germ. Gipfel Konferenz, Fr. conférence au sommet;
- - semantic borrowings/loans – the term is used to denote the development in an English word of a new meaning due to the influence of a related word in another language (e.g. policy).
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