Foreign Influences on Old English
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- The contact of English with other languages.
In the course of the first seven hundred years of its existence in
England it was brought into contact
with three other languages, the languages of the Celts, the Romans, and the
Scandinavians. The nature f these contacts and the changes that were effected
by them will from the subject of the present chapter.
- The Celtic Influences.
Nothing would seem more reasonable then to expect that the conquest of the Celtic population of
the Teutons and the subsequent mixture of the two races should have resulted in
a corresponding mixture of their languages. In the east and southeast, where
the Teutonic conquest was fully accomplished at a fairly early date, it is probable
that there were fewer survivals of a Celtics population than elsewhere.
- Celtics Place-names
However, to seek the evidence for this contact in the English languages investigation yields meager results. Other district, especially in the west and southwest, preserve in their present day names traces of their earlier Celtic designations. The name
itself, although the origin of the word is somewhat uncertain, most likely goes back to a Celtic designation. It is natural that Celtic place-names should be commoner in the west than in the east southwest, but the evidence of these names shows that the Celts impressed themselves upon the Teutonic consciousness at least to the extent of causing the newcomers to adopt many f the local names current in the Celtic speech and to make them a permanent part of their vocabulary.
- Other Celtic Loan-words.
Within this small number it is possible to distinguish two groups: 1. these which the Anglo-Saxon learned through everyday contact with the native and 2. these which were introduced by the Irish missionaries in the north. The Anglo-Saxon found little occasion to adopt Celtic modes of expression and the Celtic influences remains the least of the early influences which affected the English languages.
- Three Latin Influences on old English.
There were thus three distinct occasions on which borrowing from Latin occurred before the end of the Old English period and it will be of interest to consider more in detail the character and extent of these borrowings.
- Chronological criteria.
In order to form an accurate idea of the share which each of these three periods had in extending the resource of the English vocabulary it is first necessary to determine as closely as possible the date at which each of the borrowed words entered the languages. But enough has been said to t indicated the method and to show that the distribution of the Latin words in Old English among the various periods at which borrowing took places rests upon guesses, however shrewd, but upon definite facts and upon fairly reliable phonetics inferences.
- Continental Borrowing.
The first Latin words to find their way into the English language owe their adoption to the early contact between the Romans and the Germanic tribes on the continent. In general, if we are surprised at the number of words acquired from the Romans at the number of words were such as they would be likely to borrow and such as reflect in a very reasonable way the relations that existed between the two peoples.