Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

Foreign language influences in English

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Foreign language influences in English

The core of English descends from Old English, the language brought with the Angles, Saxon and Jutish settlers to what was to be called England in and after the 500s. The bulk of the language in spoken and written texts is from this source. As a statistical rule, around 70% of words in any text are Anglo-Saxon. Moreover, the grammar is largely Anglo-Saxon.

While some new words enter English as slang, most don't. Some words are adopted from other languages; some are mixtures of existing words (portmanteau words), and some are new creations made of roots from dead languages: e.g. thanatopsis. No matter the origin, though, words rarely, if ever, are immediately accepted into the English language. Here is a list of the most common foreign language influences in English, where other languages have influenced or contributed words to English.

  • Celtic words are almost absent, except for dialectal words, such as the Yan Tan Tethera system of counting sheep. However, hypotheses have been made that English syntax was influenced by Celtic languages, such as the system of continuous tenses was a cliché of similar Celtic phrasal structures; this is controversial, as the system has clear native English and other Germanic developments.
  • French legal, military, and political terminology; words for the meat of an animal; noble words; words referring to food — e.g., au gratin. Nearly 30% of English words (in an 80,000 word dictionary) may be of French origin.
  • Latin scientific and technical words, medical terminology, academic and legal terminology. See also: Latin influence in English.
  • Greek words: scientific and medical terminology (for instance -phobias and -ologies), Christian theological terminology.
  • Scandinavian languages such as Old Norse - words such as sky and troll or, more recently, geysir.
  • Norman words: castle, cauldron, kennel, catch, cater are among Norman words introduced into English. The Norman language also introduced (or reinforced) words of Norse origin such as mug.
  • Dutch - There are many ways through which Dutch words have entered the English language: via trade and navigation, such as skipper (from schipper), freebooter (from vrijbuiter), keelhauling (from kielhalen); via painting, such as landscape (from landschap), easel (from ezel), still life (from stilleven); warfare, such as forlorn hope (from verloren hoop), beleaguer (from beleger), to bicker (from bicken); via civil engineering, such as dam, polder, dune (from duin); via the New Netherland settlements in North America, such as cookie (from koekie), boss from baas, Santa Claus (from Sinterklaas); via Dutch/Afrikaans speakers with English speakers in South Africa, such as wildebeest, apartheid, boer; via French words of Dutch/Flemish origin that have subsequently been adopted into English, such as boulevard (from bolwerk), mannequin (from manneken), buoy (from boei). Joseph M. Williams, in Origins of the English Language, estimated that about 1% of English words are of Dutch origin. See also: List of English words of Dutch origin, List of place names of Dutch origin, Dutch linguistic influence on naval terms and List of English words of Afrikaans origin.
  • Spanish - words relating to warfare and tactics, for instance flotilla and guerrilla; or related to science and culture, whether created in Arabic, originated in Amerindian civilizations (Cariban: cannibal, hurricane; Mescalero: apache; Nahuatl: tomato, coyote, chocolate; Quechua: potato; Taíno: tobacco), or Iberian Romance languages (aficionado, albino, alligator, cargo, cigar, embargo, guitar, jade, mesa, paella, platinum, plaza, renegade, rodeo, salsa, savvy, sierra, siesta, tilde, tornado, vanilla etc.). See also: List of English words of Spanish origin.
  • Italian - words relating to some music, piano, fortissimo. Or Italian culture, such as piazza, pizza, gondola, balcony, fascism. The English word umbrella comes from Italian ombrello. See also: List of English words of Italian origin.
  • Indian - words relating to culture, originating from the colonial era. Many of these words are of Persian origin rather than Hindi because Persian was the official language of the Mughal courts. e.g.: pyjamas, bungalow, verandah, jungle, curry, shampoo, khaki.
  • German - German words relating to World War I and World War II found their way into the English language, words such as blitz, Führer and Lebensraum; food terms, such as bratwurst, hamburger and frankfurter; words related to psychology and philosophy, such a gestalt, Übermensch and zeitgeist. From German origin are also: wanderlust, schadenfreude, kaputt, kindergarten, autobahn, rucksack. See also: List of German expressions in English.
  • Hebrew and Yiddish - words used in religious contexts, like Sabbath, kosher, hallelujah, amen, and jubilee or words that have become slang like schmuck, shmooze, nosh, oy vey, and schmutz.
  • Arabic - Trade items such as borax, coffee, cotton, hashish, henna, mohair, muslin, saffron; Islamic religious terms such as jihad and hadith; scientific vocabulary borrowed into Latin in the 12th and 13th centuries (alcohol, alkali, algebra, azimuth, cipher, nadir); plants or plant products originating in Tropical Asia and introduced to medieval Europe through Arabic intermediation (camphor, jasmine, lacquer, lemon, orange, sugar); Middle Eastern cuisine words (couscous, falafel, hummus, kebab, tahini). See also: List of English words of Arabic origin.
  • Counting

    Cardinal numbering in English follows two models, Germanic and Italic. The basic numbers are zero through ten. The numbers eleven through nineteen follow native Germanic style, as do twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, and ninety.

    Standard English, especially in very conservative formal contexts, continued to use native Germanic style as late as World War I for intermediate numbers greater than 20, viz. "one-and-twenty," "five-and-thirty," "seven-and-ninety," and so. But with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the Latin tradition of counting as "twenty-one," "thirty-five," "ninety-seven," etc., which is easier to say and was already common in non-standard regional dialects, gradually replaced the traditional Germanic style to become the dominant style by the end of nineteenth century.


    Foreign language influences in English Wikipedia