The role played by the german and scandinavian tribes on english language — страница 2
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our species might be more appropriately named homo loquens than homo sapiens. But although language is clearly essential to humankind and has served to extend control over other parts of creation, it is not easy to specify what exactly makes it distinctive. If, indeed, it is distinctive. After all, other species communicate after a fashion, for they could not otherwise mate, propagate, and cooperate in their colonies. English belongs to the Anglo-Frisian group within the western branch of the Germanic languages, a sub-family of the Indo-European languages. It is related most closely to the Frisian language, to a lesser extent to Netherlandic (Dutch-Flemish) and the Low German (Plattdeutsch) dialects, and more distantly to Modern High German. Its parent, Proto-Indo-European, was spoken around 5,000 years ago by nomads who are thought to have roamed the _outh-east European plains. Three main stages are usually recognized in the history of the development of the English language. Old English, known formerly as Anglo-Saxon, dates from AD 449 to 1066 or 1100. Middle English dates from 1066 or 1100 to 1450 or 1500. Modern English dates from about 1450 or 1500 and is subdivided into Early Modern English, from about 1500 to 1660, and Late Modern English, from about 1660 to the present time. The long-term linguistic effect of the Viking settlements in England was threefold: over a thousand words eventually became part of Standard English; a large number of places in the east and north-east of England have Danish names; and many English personal names are of Scandinavian origin. Words that entered the English language by this route include landing, score, beck, fellow, take, busting, and steersman The vast majority of loan words do not begin to appear in documents until the early twelfth century; these include many modern words which use sk- sounds, such as skirt, sky, and skin; other words appearing in written sources at this time include again, awkward, birth, cake, dregs, fog, freckles, gasp, law, neck, ransack, root, scowl, sister, seat, sly, smile, want, weak, and window. Some of the words that came into use by this route are among the most common in English, such as both, same, get, and give. The system of personal pronouns was affected, with they, them, and their replacing the earlier forms. Old Norse even influenced the verb to be; the replacement of sindon by is almost certainly Scandinavian in origin, as is the third-person-singular ending -s in the present tense of verbs. There are over 1,500 Scandinavian place names in England, mainly in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire (within the former boundaries of the Danelaw): over 600 end in -by, the Scandinavian word for "farm" or "town"—for example Grimsby, Naseby, and Whitby; many others end in -thorpe ("village"), -thwaite ("clearing"), and -toft ("homestead") The distribution of family names showing Scandinavian influence is still, as an analysis of names ending in -son reveals, concentrated in the north and east, corresponding to areas of former Viking settlement. Early medieval records indicate that over 60% of personal names in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire showed Scandinavian influence. The importance of the English language is naturally very great. English is the language not only of England but of the extensive dominions and colonies associated in the British Empire, and it is the language of the United States. Spoken by over 260 million people, it is in the number who speak it the largest of the occidental languages. English-speaking people constitute about one tenth of the world's population. English, however, is not the largest language in the world. The more conservative estimates of the population of China would indicate that Chinese is spoken by about 450 million people. But the numerical ascendancy of English among European languages can be seen by a few comparative figures. Russian, next in size to English, is spoken by about 140 million people;2 Spanish by 135 millions; German by 90 millions; Portuguese by 63 millions; French by 60 millions; Italian by 50 millions. Thus at the present time English has the advantage in numbers over all other western languages. But the importance of a language is not alone a matter of numbers or territory; as we have said, it depends also on the importance of the people who speak it. CHAPTER I The Contact of English with Other Languages The language which has been described in the preceding chapter wasnot merely the product of the dialects brought to England by theJutes, Saxons, and Angles. These formed its basis, the sole basis ofits grammar and the source of by far the largest part of itsvocabulary.