Foreign language influences in English
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While many words enter English as slang, not all do. Some words are adopted from other languages; some are mixtures of existing words (portmanteau words), and some are new creations made of roots from dead languages: e.g. thanatopsis. No matter the origin, though, words rarely, if ever, are immediately accepted into the English language. Here is a list of the most common foreign language influences in English, where other languages have influenced or contributed words to English.
- Celtic words are almost absent, except for dialectal words, such as the Yan Tan Tethera system of counting sheep. However, English syntax was influenced by Celtic languages, starting from the Middle English; for example, the system of continuous tenses (absent in other Germanic languages) was a cliché of similar Celtic phrasal structures.
- French legal, military, and political terminology; words for the meat of an animal; noble words; words referring to food — e.g., au gratin. Nearly 30% of English words (in an 80,000 word dictionary) may be of French origin.
- Latin scientific and technical words, medical terminology, academic and legal terminology. See also: Latin influence in English.
- Greek words: scientific and medical terminology (for instance -phobias and -ologies), Christian theological terminology.
- Scandinavian languages such as Old Norse - words such as sky and troll or, more recently, geysir.
- Norman words: castle, cauldron, kennel, catch, cater are among Norman words introduced into English. The Norman language also introduced (or reinforced) words of Norse origin such as mug.
- Dutch - There are many ways through which Dutch words have entered the English language: via trade and navigation, such as skipper (from schipper), freebooter (from vrijbuiter), keelhauling (from kielhalen); via painting, such as landscape (from landschap), easel (from ezel), still life (from stilleven); warfare, such as forlorn hope (from verloren hoop), beleaguer (from beleger), to bicker (from bicken); via civil engineering, such as dam, polder, dune (from duin); via the New Netherland settlements in North America, such as cookie (from koekie), boss from baas, Santa Claus (from Sinterklaas); via Dutch/Afrikaans speakers with English speakers in South Africa, such as wildebeest, apartheid, boer; via French words of Dutch/Flemish origin that have subsequently been adopted into English, such as boulevard (from bolwerk), mannequin (from manneken), buoy (from boei). Joseph M. Williams, in Origins of the English Language, estimated that about 1% of English words are of Dutch origin. See also: List of English words of Dutch origin, List of place names of Dutch origin, Dutch linguistic influence on naval terms and List of English words of Afrikaans origin.
- Spanish - words relating to warfare and tactics, for instance flotilla and guerrilla; or related to science and culture, whether created in Arabic, originated in Amerindian civilizations (Cariban: cannibal, hurricane; Mescalero: apache; Nahuatl: tomato, coyote, chocolate; Quechua: potato; Taíno: tobacco), or Iberian Romance languages (aficionado, albino, alligator, cargo, cigar, embargo, guitar, jade, mesa, paella, platinum, plaza, renegade, rodeo, salsa, savvy, sierra, siesta, tilde, tornado, vanilla etc.). See also: List of English words of Spanish origin.
- Italian - words relating to some music, piano, fortissimo. Or Italian culture, such as piazza, pizza, gondola, balcony, fascism. The English word umbrella comes from Italian ombrello.
- Indian - words relating to culture, originating from the colonial era. Many of these words are of Persian origin rather than Hindi because Persian was the official language of the Mughal courts. e.g.: pyjamas, bungalow, verandah, jungle, curry, shampoo, khaki.
- German - words relating to World War I and World War II, such as blitz, Führer and Lebensraum; food terms, such as bratwurst, hamburger and frankfurter; words related to psychology and philosophy, such a gestalt, Übermensch and zeitgeist. From German origin are also: wanderlust, schadenfreude, kaputt, kindergarten, autobahn, rucksack. See also: List of German expressions in English.
- Hebrew and Yiddish - words used in religious contexts, like Sabbath, kosher, hallelujah, amen, and jubilee or words that have become slang like schmuck, shmooze, nosh, oy vey, and schmutz.
- Arabic - Trade items such as borax, coffee, cotton, hashish, henna, mohair, muslin, saffron; Islamic religious terms such as jihad and hadith; scientific vocabulary borrowed into Latin in the 12th and 13th centuries (alcohol, alkali, algebra, azimuth, cipher, nadir); plants or plant products originating in Tropical Asia and introduced to medieval Europe through Arabic intermediation (camphor, jasmine, lacquer, lemon, orange, sugar); Middle Eastern cusine words (couscous, falafel, hummus, kebab, tahini). See also: List of English words of Arabic origin.
Counting in English is based on two different methods. The numbers from 13-19 follow the Germanic way of counting, while numbers from 20 on follow the French way of counting (with some simplifications). In Germanic languages, the numbers are read in a mixed way. So for 14 the German word is vierzehn which literally means four-ten (English: fourteen). However, in the 18th century the Germanic way of counting was still used as can be found e.g. in Sing a Song of Sixpence. Nowadays, numbers of 20 and higher follow the French way, except 21, 31, 41, 51, 61, 71 and 70-99. E.g. French: vingt-quatre, English: twenty-four. However, numbers ending with one do not follow the French way. Numbers ending with one in French are bound with "et", e.g. French vingt-et-un literally means twenty-and-one. Numbers between 70 and 99 are built by multiplication and addition (French: quatre-vingt-dix-neuf literally means four-twenty-ten-nine (4*20 + 19)(compare: "Fourscore and seven years ago", or "threescore and ten").). Although the terms septante (70), octante (80) and nonante (90) are officially recognized by the Académie française, they remain rarely used by most French speakers, except in Belgium (and its former African colonies), Switzerland, parts of French-speaking Canada (Acadian French), Jèrriais, and some parts of France. However, octante (80) is now rare in Belgium where it has been supplanted by quatre-vingt and in Switzerland where it has been supplanted by huitante.
- Pyles, T. & J. Algeo (1993). The Origins and Development of the English Language. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers.
- Mathematical Words: Origins and Sources (John Aldrich, University of Southampton) The contribution of French, Latin, Greek and German are surveyed.