The Many Origins of the English Language

Stumbled across an amazing interactive chart showing the various influences which affected the development of the English language over time, and felt it was worth sharing.



The picture above is a static capture of the cumulative results; if you want to explore in more detail, have a look at Lexicon Valley. The author, Philip Durin, writes,

The elephant in the room, however, is how Latin and French dominate the picture in just about every period. Even the Anglo-Saxons borrowed from Latin (e.g. fork, street,wine), and ever since the Norman Conquest English has been borrowing hugely from French and Latin—quite often taking the same word partly from each of these languages, especially in the medieval period. Words like government, pay, science, orwar (from French), or action, general, person, and use (French and/or Latin) have become an indispensable part of English. Even among the 1000 most frequently used words in modern English, not far short of 50 percent have come into the language from French or Latin. Numbers do not always tell us everything, though: the total of loanwords from early Scandinavian is relatively low, but the language of the Vikings has left some of the most intimate traces in the vocabulary of English, with words likeleg, skin, sky, and even they, their, and them.

This is an intriguing overview, and now I’m anxious to get a copy of his book, Borrowed Words.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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