External Influences on English: From its Beginnings to the Renaissance

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From its Germanic roots on the Continent, English has had many influences from other languages. This work documents the main influences on the lexicon and the structure. The earliest contacts were with the Romans, when many words were borrowed by the Germanic tribes from Vulgar Latin. In the British Isles, Roman influence continued but the primary influence, though largely substratal, was from Brythonic Celtic. In the later period the Latin influence became largely literary. Meanwhile, Danes settled northeast England, and the contact situation there was complicated but the major result was a high degree of koineization, reflected in major structural innovations shared with East Norse, primarily Old Jutland Danish. Subsequently, the French dominated southeast England and created a superstrate that resulted in Anglo-French on the one hand and the transfer of thousands of words to English on the other. As these words assimilated to the English lexicon, their affixes became an important part of English word formation, productivity beginning as early as the thirteenth century. The result of all this contact was that English preserved little of its Germanic heritage. Later influences were largely restricted to the lexicon and consisted mainly of learned Greek and latinate roots, many of which became standard English, though frequently of a higher register than native roots of similar import, and facilitated scientific word formation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2012
MoE publication typeC2 Edited work


  • language contacts
  • Early English


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