Page images

moreland and Cumberland. Those who remained in the parts which were under English rule were made slaves. Their Keltic language was spoken only amongst themselves. Henceforth the language of the country was English.

6. Anglo-Saxon. We often come across the word Anglo-Saxon. Does it mean

(1) Angles and Saxons, as these tribes were the principal settlers in Britain? Or does it mean

(2) Saxons of England, as distinguished from Saxons of North Germany?

To this question no decided answer can be given, nor is it a matter of much importance to settle the point one way or the other. When Saxons and Angles were united in England against a common enemy, they called themselves 'Englishmen.' If the use of the word leads people to think that the 'Anglo-Saxons' were of a different race from ourselves, it will be well to drop the term. If on the other hand it is understood that the so-called Anglo-Saxons were our forefathers, there is some convenience in keeping the word Anglo-Saxon to denote a stage in the history of the English language.

7. Roman missionaries. Our English forefathers were heathen. We preserve relics of their worship in the names of the days of the week. Roman missionaries were sent to this country in the year A.D. 597 to teach them Christianity. Latin became again one of the tongues of Britain, the language of its worship and of its literature. Trade brought in other words from a Latin source.

8. The Northmen. During two and a half centuries, from about A. D. 800 to 1050, England was exposed to frequent inroads of the Danes, or Northmen, inhabitants of Scandinavia and not merely of Denmark. These Northmen, from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, were a Teutonic race, so they were akin to the English whom they harassed; but we place them in a group apart from High or Low Germans and call this group the Scandinavian.

9. The Norman Conquest. The Normans, who established themselves in our country in A.D. 1066, were originally, like the Danes, Northmen or Scandinavians.

But they had been settled on French soil for about 150 years and had acquired a French dialect, the French of northern France, called the langue d'oil. The word oïl, the same word as oui, signifies yes. The langue d'oïl was the dialect in which people said oil for yes, as distinguished from the langue d'oc in which they said oc. This French language was in the main a form of Latin, containing, however, a certain amount of Keltic, for the Gauls were a Keltic race, though they adopted the speech of their Roman conquerors. So the French influence upon our English tongue is really a Latin influence in disguise.

10. The Revival of Learning. The sixteenth century is the time of the Revival of Classical Learning, or of the Renaissance as it is sometimes called. The capture of Constantinople by the Turks in A.D. 1453 had caused the flight of the cultured Greeks who lived there, and they sought refuge in the cities of Italy. To Florence flocked eager students out of many lands to acquire from these learned exiles a knowledge of ancient literature. Curiosity respecting Greek and Roman antiquities spread widely, and Greek and Latin writers were zealously read. The consequence was that an enormous number of new words, borrowed directly from the Latin, passed into our English vocabulary. Hundreds of words were introduced and dropped, as there was no need of them: hundreds more remained. Very different was the way in which words of Latin origin came in at this time from the way in which they came in under the influence of the Norman Conquest. At the Revival of Learning the words were borrowed by scholars from books. Under the Norman kings they were introduced by the daily speech of foreigners who had taken our England and made it their own.

11. Other incidents in our history deserve mention in an account of the influence of political events on the formation of our speech. Thus, in the reign of Mary, Spanish

influence was strong; in the reign of Charles II., French influence was strong; under William III., Dutch influence was strong. And we may therefore expect to find Spanish and French and Dutch words, which secured a footing in our language at these times. But such words are few.

12. We will close this chapter with a short summary of the chief historical events which have affected the formation of our English speech as it exists to-day, and in the next chapter we shall say something about the character of the words which we owe to these events.

I. The original inhabitants of this country were Britons, a Keltic race, speaking a language like Welsh. They were subjugated by the Romans, who remained here from A.D. 43 to 410. They were then subjugated by the Jutes, Saxons, and Angles, tribes belonging to the Low German branch of the Teutonic stock. These English people came from the district north of the mouth of the Elbe at different times between A.D. 450 and 550, and their descendants have stayed in this country ever since.

2. A.D. 600 to 1000. The Christian missions introduced some words of Latin origin, and the growth of trade brought in others.

3. A.D. 800 to 1050. The Danes made frequent incursions, and from 1017 to 1042 Danish kings ruled in England. By 'Danes' are meant not only people of Denmark, but people of Norway and Sweden also. Like the English they were a Teutonic race, but we call theirs the Scandinavian branch.

4. A.D. 1066 to 1400. The Normans were also originally Scandinavians, but they had adopted the language of France during their occupation of that country for 150 years before they conquered England; and for 150 years after their conquest of England,—until the death of John and the final severance of England from Normandy,―great efforts

were made to extend the use of the French language in this country. The French language is in the main a form. of Latin, though the Gauls were a Keltic race.

5. The Revival of Letters, or of Classical Learning, or the Renaissance, affected our language from the time of Henry VII. to the end of Charles I.'s reign, i.e. during the 16th and the first half of the 17th century.




13. In the previous chapter we mentioned the leading events in the history of our country which have exercised an influence upon the formation of our language as it exists to-day. In this chapter we shall answer the question,What sorts of words do we owe to these events in our history?

14. I. Keltic words in English. The Keltic words in our ordinary English speech are few. When we bear in mind that in some parts of our island the British inhabitants were nearly exterminated by their English conquerors and that British civilization was practically destroyed, we are not surprised to find that the influence upon our English speech of the intercourse between Britons and Englishmen was very slight. Keltic names of places indeed are numerous. Avon is a Keltic word for 'river,' and there are many Avons in England. Aber, as in Aberdeen, Aberystwith, Berwick (i.e. Aberwick), meaning 'the mouth of a river'; Pen or Ben, a mountain,' as in Penzance, Ben Nevis; Llan, 'a sacred enclosure,' as in Llandaff, Lampeter; Caer or Car, 'a castle,' as in Caermarthen, Carlisle,—all of these are of Keltic origin, and there are others besides, but geographical names have no claim to be reckoned as a part of our ordinary vocabulary. Several words which were formerly supposed to have passed from Keltic into English are now known to have


« PreviousContinue »