The Scandinavian and French Influences on the English Language

Essay by CrackBasementUniversity, Bachelor'sC, November 2014

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The Scandinavian and French Influences on the English Language

The English language is a changing language, and it has always been one. An English speaker from the twelfth-century would not have understood the English from the seventeenth-century, and vice versa. Now, no one would be surprised if you ordered a filet mignon instead of beef filet at a restaurant. And, if you visit the little village Utterby in Lincolnshire, you are visiting a town named by the Vikings. Although these words entered the English language centuries ago, they are still present in the contemporary English. The Scandinavian and French languages had a great influence on the English language, and thanks to both, the English language is the language we know now.

The most extensive influence the Norse language had on English is found in the lexicon. A great deal of the Scandinavian vocabulary was borrowed by the English.

About 400 words among the most common words were borrowed, and in the rural dialects it can get up to 2000 words (qtd. in Gramley 51). An important influence the Scandinavian language had on English is found in place-names and family names. "…[P]lacenames ending in {-by}, {-holm}, {-thorpe} and {-toft}…" (Gramley 52) thank their endings to the Scandinavian languages, just as family names ending in {-son} do (52). It is remarkable how many everyday words, which have an Old Norse source, have entered the English language. The most remarkable of all is the Old Norse influence on the verb to be (Crystal 25). "The replacement of sindon by are is almost certainly the result of Scandinavian influence…" (25). With the English and the Scandinavians living in such close contact for so long, a lot of equivalent words must have existed next to each other. It is almost...