English words having their origin in French

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Hocuspocus, Sep 24, 2006.

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  1. Hocuspocus

    Hocuspocus Member

    Ottignies, Belgium
    Français Belgique
    Hi everyone,

    I have to write a homework about Norman Invasion and its consequences. I've good books but I can't find a percentage of contemporary english words having their origin in French in English language. does anybody have a clue?


  2. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    I am not sure of the importance of the Norman Invasion with regards to currently used French words as English is voraciously aquiring new words from all languages.

    I would suggest that you find a good English dictionary and take a straw poll of three or four pages and find the percentage of French origin words. It should take only a few minutes. I think that this will give a reasonably accurate answer for your question.

  3. comsci

    comsci Senior Member

    Taiwan, Vancouver(B.C.) and the Rockies
    Mandarin, Taiwan(Yankees 40 Wang)
    Aren't there too many to mention? :) Connoisseur, chauffeur, boutique, faux pas, gourmet, au gratin, entree, encore, en route ... and many more.
  4. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Have you tried a web search for "French words in English", or something similar? ;)
  5. Hocuspocus

    Hocuspocus Member

    Ottignies, Belgium
    Français Belgique
    Thank you for the dictionnary idea- just had a look but no answer in the Collins Concise dictionnary.
    I already tried a search on the web- no result.
    Indeed, I m not just looking for french words in english language, but any english word coming from french...
    I know that after the roman invasion, 85 percent of Old English vocabulary hadbeen lost because of the Norman Invasion, and has been replaced by french words, wich became english words.
    I wanted to have today's percentage, including those words (I do not know if my explanation is really good - I need to improve my writing)
  6. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think you are going to have a problem with defining what exactly is an English word of French origin. For example, are information and similar English words French-derived?
    In another thread, someone said they were, but I suspect that in a dictionary you are likely to find that such words are considered of Latin origin. That is reasonable, since all European languages, and especially Western European languages, have a lot of common vocabulary derived from Latin or Greek, and it probably won't always be clear whether a particular word was borrowed via French, or straight from Latin...
  7. ChrissyH Member

    S. W. France
    English England
    I think you have your work cut out if you want to find something as precise as a percentage!! Don't forget that although French did replace many Olde English words - some are just used "as well as" - serviette and napkin for example.
    Anyway - Bon courage as we say in English!
  8. Hocuspocus

    Hocuspocus Member

    Ottignies, Belgium
    Français Belgique
    You are right. I know you cant always define wether it has a Latin or French origin. Nevertheless, there must be a way to find the percentage of words considered as having a french origin in the dictionary. I'll keep on searching.
  9. comsci

    comsci Senior Member

    Taiwan, Vancouver(B.C.) and the Rockies
    Mandarin, Taiwan(Yankees 40 Wang)
    And bon voyage. :)
  10. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece
    Are you referrring to

    ("Ivanhoe" by Sir W.Scott)

    or phrases as "je ne sais quoi" etc?

    By the way it says in not-always-to-be-relied-upong wikipedia
    In AskOxford
    it says the same
  11. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil

    and in the rest of the article: a list of words.
  12. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece
    By the way, you have to remember that French is full of Latin words but quite a few come from the language of the Franks ;). Difficult to say whether a word of "Germanic" origins came to English via the Anglo-Saxons or the Franks sometimes :)

    Read this if you want to laugh and a rather silly little humorous piece by the way
  13. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    This dictionary says "1387, "act of informing," from O.Fr. informacion".

    I have some extra questions...
    - While searching around, I found for the word disinformation following explanation "Possibly translation of Russian dezinformatsiya". Let's agree, for the sake of the argument, that it does come from the Russian word, then what is the relationship with French?

    - I also wonder a bit what would be the value of such a number? Let's say 5.234.410 words. Yes and? Or even a percentage (60% is often quoted). K, 60% of what? And how much percent of those 60% are actually used, sometimes used, daily used, and where are they used?

    I think you can in many cases, looking at the OE, the OFr. and the Latin sources. In the case of information, Latin as a direct source would be weird: nom. informatio, acc. informationem. Fr. probably took it from the accusative case (as many/most other nouns), which explains the nasal...
    Also Middle English enfourmen, informen, from Old French enfourmer...


  14. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The same dictionary you quoted has, for example:

    Although further down they trace "presumptuous" back to Old French.
    Inconsistent? Yes. It's bound to be.
  15. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Oh ja, I fully agree (for what it's worth :).
    If you indeed look at presumptious, presumption and presume in that dictionary, then you'll notice some serious shifts in meaning, some of which are to be traced back to (Late) Latin, others to (Old) French. Both languages were used at that time in England, there must have been a lot of cross-language interference, both in England and France at that moment... That surely doesn't make things easier :).


  16. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)

    I checked some sources and found figures between 30 and 65+ percent...
    Here I found some on line information.


  17. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I'm shooting from the hip here, but I have studied and learned French to some degree, and have been studying English all my life, with a special interest in etymology. I've been paying attention, my interest is easily intrigued by anything new, and I'm eager rather than reluctant to change my mind about something. I also think I've been keeping pretty good track.

    So making an informal summary, I feel safe in saying that the English language is at least 35% Germanic in origin (most of it OE, alias Anglo-Saxon) and at least 35% French, most of which is Medieval French as learned by the Normans, who were Danes and learned it as a second language less than a century before the Conquest in 1066.

    The other 25-30% is from other languages, including a multitude of fabricated concept words and technological terms created out of Latin and Greek roots.

    It's hard to talk numbers, though. There is a whole portmanteau of Latinate words that were coined but never really "put into circulation." And should we count the archaic and obsolete words? I'm living proof that one person's archaism is another's commonplace.

    The most basic words (man, house, land, water) tend to be OE, and they get the heaviest use. More hightone or "nuanced" words tend to be French-- they are used less often, but for people whose vocabulary is overstuffed with these words they might outnumber the Saxonisms.

    Finally, in the past 20 years there's been a huge explosion of new terms, product names for example. Often a word like shuttle (a weaving term) is redefined for use as the name of a certain type of spacecraft (one that goes "back and forth"), but there are innumerable hatchings from the minds of ad-copyists that have made it into the language.

    In my rough statistical breakdown I wasn't really considering those, because it's just too hard to measure how many of them will stand the test of time. And by that same criterion, a lot of good old words will have gone kerflooey.

    As an epilog of sorts, the influence of American Spanish on AE in the next few generations will be incalculable. As during the 11th-14th centuries, two languages might merge into one-- SPAMglish, perhaps. Even if this doesn't happen, the pie chart will have to be redrawn to include a hearty slice of Spanish.

    So my summation of a lifetime of reckoning is now yours, for whate'er it be worth-- it works well enough for me.
  18. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    I think that you could rewrite foxfirebrand's response and do quite well.

  19. stranger in your midst

    stranger in your midst Senior Member

    English / Scotland
    Very interesting subject (sujet vraiment interessant). I think there is a difficulty in distinguishing words of pre-Norman Greco-Roman origin, which are nonetheless very similar to French, on the one hand, and, on the other, words that were directly imported from French into English at the time of or after the Norman invasion. Most dictonaries that I've read say about 50% of the English language is Greco-Roman and/or Norman, but in terms of everyday English, at least spoken English, I would say the propotion of words actually used (as oppsed to those available to use) is much more Germanic. Certainly, French is very accessible to English speakers owing to the vast overlap in vocabulary, and indeed it is much more accessible than German.

    Here's another interesting topic of discussion - of AE and BE, which is more Germanic ?
  20. rsweet

    rsweet Senior Member

    English, North America
    If you have enough time, I recommend The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg. It's thorough, very readable, and full of all the facts. You can skip right to the section that covers the effects of the Norman Conquest on English and then savor the rest of the book when you have more time. I highly recommend it.
  21. konungursvia Banned

    Canada (English)
    I've been teaching French and English for over ten years and here's my figure: including Latin borrowed through French or because of French, as well as Norman French and subsequent borrowings from the Renaissance on, we have about 40 to 50% of our vocabulary coming from this group, as a direct or indirect consequence of the Norman invasion. Such things as "second" replaced "other", "peace" replaced "grith", there are just so so many. In sum: about half of our words are from Anglo-Saxon, 40 % or more from French and Latin, and 5 or 10 % from every other language. What a mixed breed bastard we are!
  22. stranger in your midst

    stranger in your midst Senior Member

    English / Scotland
    But even the word 'other' is a cognate of 'altera' (L.) and 'autre' (F.) as well as 'oder' (G.).
  23. mplsray Senior Member

    That list includes Wisconsin, from an American Indian word by way of French, but doesn't include Illinois, another American Indian word by way of French--and with a French ending, -ois.
  24. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    Napkin is half-French.

    Nappe = tablecloth [French]
    kin = anglo-saxon diminutive ending.

    apron comes from the same French word.
    a napron became an apron

    Other words have disguised French connexions.
    Mushroom comes from the French name for a particular type of edible fungus "mousseron"
  25. equivoque Senior Member

    Queensland, Australia
    Australia - English
    Thank you for that link rsweet. I will put it on my purchase/read list on that recommendation!
  26. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    This is a very interesting topic.

    When I do this topic with my students I get them to consider semantic fields because it seems that everyday words, such as basic grammar words, family, farming, seasons, etc are still essentially Old-English and have a Germanic root.
    The Norman additions tended to be about politics, government and arts.

    I get them to generate lists of words under these headings and use an etymological dictionary to check out the theory. It works quite well and means that students are engaging with the contextual situation within which languages evolve.

    The best on-line etymology (free) that I know of is this one:

    btw as far as statistics: I guess that is always a bit of a mug's game, for reasons outlined already but I'd chime in with foxy and think the idea that 85% of Anglo-Saxon words died out when the Normans came is a gross exaggeration.

    ALSO, if you take any random modern passage and check out the etymology of each word I exepct that you will see that because the words we kept are "building block" words rather than vocabulary we use them proportionately MORE even if there are only a few of them.
  27. Hocuspocus

    Hocuspocus Member

    Ottignies, Belgium
    Français Belgique
    Thank you for all your answers and advices. I alredy have The adventure of English, and it is very good.
  28. stranger in your midst

    stranger in your midst Senior Member

    English / Scotland
    family = famille

    farm = ferme

    seasons = saisons

    are all, however, French.
  29. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    The point of my task is to get students to look things up themselves and then they can see where the general pattern applies and where it is not the case. It is also why my post uses tentative phrasing "tended to be".

    Perhaps you dont understand the concept of a semantic field?
    .. I don't mean just look up these singular words, but generate lists of words to do with these aspect of life.
    e.g. family: mother, father, bother, sister,
    farm: sow, oats, cow
    grammar: and, is, it, the
    domestic: plate,
    art: dress, painting
    admin: castle, archdeacon etc etc etc

    A further extension on this is finding pairs of synonyms which are 1/2 germanic and half french, to highlight the stylistic choices we still make which date back hundreds of years.. where the French TENDS to sound posher than the work-a-day Germanic words!

    home / residence
    queen / royalty
  30. stranger in your midst

    stranger in your midst Senior Member

    English / Scotland
    I certainly take your point, and apoligise if I appeared obtuse (blunt). It is true that English tends to use Germanic words for commonplace, straightforward, tangible, real things, like 'mother', yet adopts their Latinate equivalents for more abstract concepts, like 'maternal', even when there exist Germanic equivalents, like 'motherly'.

    In a sense, I suppose English is perhaps the modern language of modern languages, because it represents such a fusion of different older languages - hence the its immense versatility, yet hence also something of a crisis of identiy for its speakers. For all the French, for example, may fear the onslaught on Anglo-Saxonisms into their language, it is hard to conceive of a thread such as this dedicated to French. On the other hand, a Frenchman may pick up a novel written in that language several hundred years ago and understand it, whereas an Englishman would scarcely recognise a book written in English at the same time.

    The truth of the matter is that so broad, deep and irredeemable has been the impact of other languages on English, that it has undergone a metamorphosis of its very soul, such that it is nowadays impossible to utilise the language in any meaningful way, without having recourse to a vocabulary that owes its origins to a handful of different languages.

    The last sentence, for example, contains 11 Latinate words (perhaps more) and one Greek. I could atempt to purge it of foreign words, in a kind of exercise the inverse to that of Academie Francaise, but I would lose my meaning and render a sentence that appeared less than English (albeit perhaps more Germanic).

    Consequently, perhaps it is time to rethink the traditional classification of the language as Germanic. Maybe Franco-Germanic would be more apposite.
  31. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I have always thought of English as a Germanic and Romance language. How about Frenglish?
  32. stranger in your midst

    stranger in your midst Senior Member

    English / Scotland
    Or perhaps Romangic
  33. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    @ stranger - thank-you for your clarification and extension of the topic.

    These are interesting points, and I would agree with you and foxy that to classify English as Germanic is really only part of the story!
  34. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    The classification of languages, either on typological or on genetic grounds, always leaves a lot of room for discussion, since they don't take into account cultural contact, or in our case, lexical borrowing.
    It can be handy, but such classifications should not be overrated. "English is a Germanic language" is a good starting point, but of course it doesn't explain a lot.
    The genetic classification originated in the circles of historical linguists, and hence the reasons for this or that particular classification are also based upon language-historical grounds, e.g. this article.

    Reclassifying English because it contains a lot of loan words from French/Latin is enormously ad hoc and it cannot be defended, imho.
    Using something as 'Franco-' isn't going to help... Then you have to define 'Franco' -- and this would really be ad hoc.
    Looking at the broader picture, you will find a lot of languages which could be preceeded by 'Franco' (Franco-Lingala (certainly in Kinshasa), Franco-Germanic Dutch (in Brussels)...
    By consequence, then we should start to classify Persian as Arabo-Indo-Iranian, Urdu as Arabo-Perso-Indo-Iranian, ...? You see the prob?
    Language is much much more than just a collection of words, and making a new classification solely based upon the vocabulary doesn't look like a good idea to me.

    You wrote: "perhaps it is time to rethink the traditional classification of the language as Germanic". I only agree with the first part of the sentence: "perhaps it is time to rethink the traditional classification". I mean, what should be rethought, imho, is not the classification of English, but language classification in itself, since it is far too static a way of thinking about languages.


  35. Victorserge0 New Member

    I’m not agree !
    English language is just Germanic by his origin and not a Germanic language like German or Frison.

    English language is a mixture where the French word and Latin words dominate with more 60 % of the vocabulary.

    The Germanic soldiers which served in the Roman army adopted many Latin words before the Ve century : butter, camp, cheese, church, chest, cook, devil, dish, fork, gem, inch, kettle, kitchen, linen, mile, mill, mint (coin), noon, pillow, pin, pound, punt (boat), sack, street, wall, wine …….

    After that , many other were adopted thank to the church : abbot, altar, apostle, bishop, church, clerk, disciple, mass, minister, monk, nun, pope, priest, pear, school, shrive

    English language is completely transformed three century after the normand conquest. About 10 000 were adopted before the XIVe century : very, because, able, travel, foreign, carry, ease, finish, money, to pay, please, to catch, flower, carrot, to cancel, nurse, random, may, july, beef, curfew, war…….) .

    This words are not scientific words but commun word. All day, Englishmen use them.

    But it’s not finish !!!!

    Between the 15e and 17e century about 10 000 à 12 000 Latin words enter in the English language : aberration, allusion, anachronism, democratic, dexterity, enthusiasm, imaginary, juvenile, pernicious, sophisticated. French influence continue : caisson, campaign, cabinet, cabaret, To attest, avenue, averse, artifice, ……

    During the industrial revolution adopt more and more Latin and French words : aberration, allusion, anachronism, democratic, dexterity, enthusiasm, imaginary, juvenile, pernicious, sophisticated … and for French language : à la mode, ambulance, antibiotic, apéritif, archaic, au pair, autoclave …..

    Many of this word are anglized ! It’s not because a word like like germanic that ‘s a Germanic word. Indeed less of 25 % of the English vocabulary come of a Germanic language (Old Saxon, Norse, Frisian …).

    During the 18e and 19e century the nationalist theory show Englishmen like German by origin and English language a real Germanic language.

    In fact, English empire should justify his domination on Celts people (Irish and Scottish) and cut every links with France the hereditary enemy.

    Today the lasted genetic test and research archeologic show that is a myth.

    Englishmen descend of the Celts and they are no more Angle and Saxon that the French are Francs of Germany.
    It’s why French and English are brother :

    Celts with the name of a German tribe and speak a language where the Latin words dominate
    Unhappily the nationalists theory are still dominant.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2009
  36. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)

    First of all: Welcome to WR and EHL!
    And that's exactly the only and whole point of calling English a "Germanic language"! Nothing more, nothing less. A label such as "Germanic" isn't to be overrated. It just indicates that, in this case, English comes from a variant of (P)IE, and shares/shared a lot of grammatical features, including phonetic, phonological, morphophonological, morphoplogical, syntactic ones, and some basic core vocabulary with a few other languages. The group of languages which share(d) those features (which aren't shared by other branches), are called "Germanic".
    Furthermore, such a label isn't to be seen as exclusive, but as inclusive.

    It's probably been repeated in this subforum a 1000 times, but the lexicon isn't a big deal when talking about genetic classification, and "genetic relationship" is exactly what a label as "Germanic" shouts.

    By the same logic you use, we can call
    - English a Germanic-Italic-Greek-Indo-Iranian-Inuit-Semitic-you name it language (why limiting yourself to the 'Italic/Romance aspect', do I sense some nationalism?;)),
    - Turkish a Turkic-Semitic-Indo-Iranian-Italic-Romance-Germanic language,
    - Persian an Indo-Iraninian-Arabic-Turkic-Italic-Germanic language,
    - the city dialect of Antwerp (which does have a lot more French words than Standard Dutch) a Germanic-Romance dialect...
    And we can go on for a while.

    By the same logic, it would be even absurd to call Proto-Germanic an Indo-European language, since a substantial amount of the Common-Germanic lexicon is highly believed to be of non-IE origin!

    There is no point in (genetically) labeling a language X-Y solely on the basis of the lexicon
    (including lexical influences, loanwords etc.).

    This doesn't really come into play when talking about linguistic-genetic relations.


    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  37. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)

    If one includes every word in the English dictionary it is true that a majority of words will be of a non-Germanic origin for the simple fact that English tends to import words wholesale from other languages. However, if you examine the basic words and constructions used by everyday English speakers, the majority I believe will tend to be Germanic and this is (as far as I know) the point in labelling it a "Germanic language".

    It did, but whether this is solely down to the Normans is up for debate. The process of transformation had already started before 1066, partly due to the influence of the Vikings (particularly the Danes) who had ruled a great portion of the country from the 9th century onwards.
  38. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    I think the point is that it is possible to rewrite most English sentences, however clumsily, using only Saxon (i.e. Germanic) vocabulary, but is impossible even to begin rewriting any sentence entirely in words derived from French or other Romance languages.
  39. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Interestingly, from the experience of writers who have experimented with the idea of writing English texts composed purely of Germanic words, it seems like the common Romance words that are the hardest to replace are "around" and "use", especially the former one.
  40. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    "Around" can be replaced by about, and "use" by handle, work, wield, do with, put forth, or play on, depending on context. Some nuances may be lost, of course, but that can be the case with any synonyms, regardless of their source.
  41. ericmonteux Member

    Secrecy, elegance, flavour, vanity, serenity, glamour, gaiety, jolly, pleasure, easy, clamour, charity, mystery, marvel, savage, felony, fashion, cutlery, fatality, outrageous, ivory, joy, parody, grace, ……..

    It’s enjoyable to heard the English words from old French. Their sound are very sensual.

    Certain words are very curious and really adorable :
    Dandelion (pissenlit), curfew (couvre feu) , to enjoy (from en joie), to endeavour (from en devoir), to surrender (from se rendre), counterpoise (from contre pois) , Mortgage, Cestui que, corduroy (from corde du roy), jeopardy (from jeux parti), counterattack (from contre attaque)……..

    Many common verbs in English language usually use daily have a French origin :

    Advance, attack, plunge, launch, carry, accept, visit, close, destroy, defend, visit, appear, change, claim, invite, punish, attempt, pay, complain, achieve, attend, regard, cancel, decide, cry, spy, reveal, count, explain, oblige, damage, dance, decide, caress, cover, enjoy, enter, remember, try, escape, pinch, suffer, fail, float, found, provide, travel, move, push, press, use, prove, study, turn, record, touch, accuse, abandon, agree, disappear, remain, retain, spell, grieve, garnish, finish, exploit, entertain, engage, describe, save, copy, invest, maintain, conceive, avail, judge , repair, attach, join, purvey, cause, realise, arrive, suppose, count, delay, detain, suspend, develop, desire, adore, demand, reply, encourage, decrease, deceive, cope, ETC……………………

    Many others are less use frequently but are essential by their specialisation in a domain : chant, march, pace, nourish, ………..

    Could you think that to hurt come from “hurter”, to stay from “estai”, to spend from “despendre” , to carry from “carier”, to spell from “espeller”, to cost from “couster”, to try from “trier”, to spy from “espier”, to wait from “guettier”, screen from” escren », to dig from « diger », to allow from “allouer”

    Several thousand of common words from old French are at present unrecognisable in English language :

    War, dress, faith, trip, strait, strain, afraid, foreign, school, candle, cheer, supper, flower, puppet, crook, nurse, parrot, spite, warrant, feeble, jail, nephew, leisure, kitten, chafe , warder, cabbage, murder, country, false, very, car, dean, inquest , proud, proof, beast, toast, dozen, middle, crust, feast, jaunty, display, pocket, wardrobe, vestry, wage, juggle, channel, apart, core, delay, rude, jungle, juice, pen, please, candy, kennel, tuft, crew, cull, reward, coach, creek, usual, cordwainer, tower, van, fence, crayfish, vouch, mess, career, mend, punch, plenty, careen, carpet, vowel, pouch, single, sponge, butcher, cherry, review, kerchief, mansion, people, peer, roastbeaf, store, shop, purchase, power, cartoon, cash, bowels, several etc…………………………………

    Other words remain exactly like in old French but these word have completely disappear from French language : challenge, grief, bargain, alien, fool, noise, casual, size, recreant, close, feature, remain, devise, devoid, etc ………

    English language conserve also some old French injures : bastard, rascal, villain, bugger, fool, coward, rapscallion, . That’s a pity the extinction of this insult : cuillon !

    Some English expression are the translation of old French expression like the famous “ how do you do” .

    Several loan words derives from words in Gallo-Romance dialects of France : to jump come from jumba "to rock, to balance, swing or yumpa "to rock picked up during English occupation in Hundred Years.

    Many people think English language is essentially a Germanic language but if you are a connoisseur in etymology you can see that is a real false idea.
    Indeed, English language is abundant in a plenty of old French word which compound about more 40 % of the basis vocabulary and it’s possible to write a English text with less of 30 % Germanic words. The reverse is almost impossible and particularly for some topics : economy, justice, food, military, science, fashion, law …..
    Old English and old French have fusion in a new language the British english

    English language have adopted several hundred Latin words since the antiquity when the German tribes served Rome in the legion or by trading : anchor, butter, camp, cheese, chest, cook, cuppa, devil, dish, fork, gem, inch, kettle, kitchen, linen, mile, mill, mint (coin), noon, pillow, pin, pound, punt (boat), sack, , soap, street, wall, wheat, wine, etc ………..

    Later the English language continue his latinization by church’s influence : abbot, altar, apostle, bishop, clerk, disciple, pear, martyr, mass, minister, monk, psalm, nun, paper, pope, priest, sickle, shrive. Etc ….

    The Norman conquest change completely the nature of old English language principally with a massive invasion of vocabulary and some changing like plurals of the noun, the pronunciation (specialy the sound ch and sh, the adoption of Latin prefix (de, dis, inter, pro, sub, al, ex, pre, sur..) and suffix (tion, able, ible, ment, ant, ent, er..) , the syntax (adverb + ly), etc ….

    Norman language have in appearance a minor influence with about 1000 words adopted by English language : jacket, money, tailor, war, causeway, cauldron, garden, candle, crown, accustom, butler, eagle, mayor, oil, cater, guards, castle, wicket, plank, mushroom, soldier etc …. Moreover, the difference between old French and the franco-normand are not very important and it’s very difficult to determine if a word come from old French or the franco-Norman.

    Since the middle age up to today English have adopted more 30 000 French words which compose about 29 % of the English vocabulary like Latin which have the same proportion.

    The consequences of these entries :

    - The Old French word replace the Old English word : ‘crime’ displace ‘firen’ et ‘uncle’ displace ‘eam’.

    - the Old French word combine together the two origins in a new word : gentle and man form gentleman or grand and mother give grandmother

    - The twice survive with some nuances : ‘doom’ and ‘judgment’, ‘wish’ and ‘desire’, dive and plunge, walk and march, wedding and marriage, home and house, love and amorous, continue and go on, give up and abandon, weak and feeble, arm and weapon, etc
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2009
  42. ericmonteux Member

    Usually old French’ influences is often under estimate for several reasons and we can be astonish when certain dictionary class more easily Old French words like Latin or unknown origin . It’s really difficult to find serious studies on this subject.
    The main error frequently met is the comparison between modern French with English language. The French language has undergone considerable and more recent changes since the date when the Normans brought it into England.
    Some words that we borrowed have become obsolete in their native country, some consonants have been dropped, and the sound of others has been changed; we retain, for instance, the s that the French have lost in many words like beast and feast, which are bête and fête in Modern French. So, too, the sound of ch has become sh in France; but in our words of early borrowing, like chamber, charity, etc., we keep the old pronunciation. We keep, moreover, in many cases forms peculiar to the Norman dialect, as caitiff, canker, carrion, etc., in which c before a did not become ch, as it did in the Parisian dialect; cark and charge are both from the same Latin word carricare, but one is the Norman and the other the Parisian form of the word. In many cases the g of Norman French was changed to j in the Central dialects, and our word gaol has pre-served its northern spelling, while it is pronounced, and sometimes written, with the j of Parisian French.
    The syntax Norman and Old French have surely altered more English language than we accept nowadays.

    It’s the same case for Celtics influence on English language. The vulgarise theory is Celtics language have none influence on English language because Celtics population were exterminated and chased by the angles et Saxons tribes before the V century. This period is call Dark Age with few proof and that allow to invent anything. Today the resents researches show it’s not true and a myth.
    Consequently, The majority of English people (except the East Anglia) are more Anglo-Celt than Anglo-Saxon because the big majority of the Briton population remain in England after the invasion by Germanics tribes. Moreover the progression of old English have been very slow, the Davon and the England’s north spoke always Celt dialects when the Norman were arrive in 1066. Some research from scholars indicate a influence by Brythonic language on the structure of the future old English language ( see links below ) like the Gaulois language influence more the future Old French on the pronunciation and syntax than the vocabulary .

    English language is a Germanic language by his origin. But it’s globally a mixture language Latin and Germanic and never a Germanic language strictly like Sweden or Dutch. My opinion is the Germanic origin is too exaggerate for less linguistic reasons (the reality show the reverse) and more politics reasons. In fact since the 18e century, the Anglo-Saxon nationalism privilege these Germanic origins and fight the other like a default. At this period, the British empire must justified his domination against Ireland and Scotland and present the French like the hereditary enemy. It’s why this two major roots of the English language and culture are voluntary diminished for the profit his Germanic roots. In the middle of the XX century some Anglo-Saxon writers had proposed to purify English of Latin word like the nazi did with German language. For that, they created a very ugly language the Anglish . It’s a great joy that this monstrous project failed.

    One idea is regularly vulgarise : English is written with a high percentage of words come from Latin language and speak with a majority of Germanic words. This idea is not false and not true for some reasons. This proportion is really variable in function of the subject and the level of education . For example the verb of reflection have often a Latin origin and the verb of action a Germanic origin: To launch a campaign and to throw a stone. Feed for the cattle and nourishment (dietetic and spiritual means ). A young kid speak certainly a English with more Germanic words than a journalist ! But why the English spoke by a young child will be better than the English spoke by a journalist ?

    You can see below two texts chosen by chance on the web : one on the reform of orthography and one on how to fish

    “Several attempts were formerly made in England to rectify the orthography of the language. But I apprehend their schemes failed to success, rather on account of their intrinsic difficulties, than on account of any necessary impracticability of a reform. It was proposed, in most of these schemes, not merely to throw out superfluous and silent letters, but to introduce a number of new characters. Any attempt on such a plan must undoubtedly prove unsuccessful. It is not to be expected that an orthography, perfectly regular and simple, such as would be formed by a "Synod of Grammarians on principles of science," will ever be substituted for that confused mode of spelling which is now established. But it is apprehended that great improvements may be made, and an orthography almost regular, or such as shall obviate most of the present difficulties which occur in learning our language, may be introduced and established with little trouble and opposition »

    More 70 % of the words have a Latin origin.

    « Bait fishing is one of the easiest ways to catch fish. The approaches to catching fish are many--fly fishing, spinner fishing, jig fishing, trolling, and snagging to name a few—bait fishing is a good method for the beginning fisherman or fisherwoman. Bait fishing offers both simplicity and effectiveness for anglers. It is simple in that one only has to bait up a hook and throw the line in the water, and it is effective because the presence of live bait is a temptation that hardly any fish can resist! »

    About 40 % of the words have a Latin origin.

    Even in the favourable subject for words with a Germanic origin the English language contain a plenty of words with a Latin origin

    Take two cases which should be very favourable for the words with a Germanic origin :

    The family
    Latin origin : uncle, aunt, cousin, nephew, parent, family, descendant, marriage, mummy, conjugal, divorce, relative, niece, polygamy genealogy

    Germanic origin : brother, mother, dad, daughter, wedding, sister, son , father, elderly
    Mixt : Grandfather, grandmother

    Surprise ! the majority of the word have a Latin origin

    Latin origin : agriculture, poultry, pullet, capon, cock , mule, rabbit, manger, stable, farm, grange, peasant, soil, vegetable, vine , mutton , beef, veal, ruminant, bovine, potatoes, rice, cattle, tractor, fruit, grasp, arable, cultivation, plantation, fertilizer, pesticide, cereals, agronomy, irrigation, silo, Bale, tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, cotton, tobacco, coffee, plant, horticulture, culture, intensification, melon, pear, peach, sugar, mule, cultivate, fertilize, pasture, prairie, manure, rotation, compost, pest, oil, carrot, mushrooms, onions , to inseminate, to bray, cooperative, farm machinery…..

    Germanic origin : cow, ox, calf, ewe, lamb, kid, flock, pig, hen, horse, mare, bull, donkey, duck, chicken, goose, egg, harvest, crop, barley, wheat, sheep, goat, field, plough, breeding, meat, milk, beans, meadow, grassland, seed, yield, hay ass, lay egg, herd, apple, raspberry, strawberry, to neighs, to grunts, to cackle, land, livestock, cowboy, orchard , mower , ….

    Surprise again, the words with a Latin origin dominate largely in a subject where the words with a Germanic origin should be completely dominant.
    If I take a subject like the war or the trade it may about 70 % of the vocabulary come from old French or Latin.

    I could continue on several topic et the result will be always the same with a domination of word with a Latin origin.

    Consequently, English language is a perfect mixed language with connexions between Germanic and Latin language ! It ‘s why each of us can see in this language what he want to perceive. The debate where English is a Germanic language or a Latin language is a false debate where we could turn round a long time . In comparison with a house, what is the most important ? The wall or the Equipment and the furniture ! A empty house is unliveable and furniture without house is not better ! By the richness of this enormous vocabulary, English language is a international language ! Could you imagine Dutch or Sweden become an international language ???

    And finally a language is only the expression of a culture and the manner to think of a society ! English culture descend certainly from anglo-norman and Celtic culture and very few from the Angles and Saxons. Apart from some Anglo-Saxon’s myths the old english’s culture was erase like a hard disk by four century where the Norman dominate England.
    The English institution are a real jewel of the french middle age.

    English Language and English culture are rich because it’s a marvellous mixture of his three origins : Celt, Anglo-Saxon and Norse, Franco-Normand.

    Honni soit mal y pense for those think the reverse sacre bleu !

    Sir John Saintclair
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2009
  43. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    One doesn't need to be a "connoisseur of etymology" to know that English is a Germanic language. See this thread.



    Further replies can be found in this thread: English, a Germanic language?
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2009
  44. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    I really have the impression that you're erecting straw men here. Can you give me the name of linguists who do deny or minimalise the lexical influence of Old French (and Latin and other Romance languages). I mean established linguists, not crackpot authors.

    It's not because you don't seem to find them that it is to be generalised. Try a library. Any library.

    Examples, please. Arguments, please. Solid ones.

    Yet another straw man.
    But anyway, can you give us examples of Celtic influence upon English, both lexical and grammatical?

    Are we talking about the very same period in which Samuel Johnson published his seminal "A Dictionary of the English language"?? I'll include a link, so you can search for "French" yourself.

    Periods of language purification happen in every country, in every language. I know even some official instances (often called academies) which have the official task to "purify" the language, or to keep it "pure". I am sure that you, as a French speaker, know at least one of them too.

    In Dutch we call this "kicking in an open door".

    Not if you stick to the historical linguistic meaning of "Germanic", as pointed out several times in previous posts. It does if you use "Germanic" in some sort of ideosyncratic way so it can mean anything you'd like it to mean.
    That's not an argument. The fact that a language becomes "an international language" has more to do with economics (and hence history, politics, etc.) than with the internal structure and make up of that language.
    Or do you mean to say that English has become an international language because of the influence of French?
    Is it?
    This is an incredibly reductionist view.
    If you talk about English culture, there is a lot lot more than the things you have listed (Judeo-Greek and Arabic thinkers, and hey, even Christianity come to my mind). As for the language, you seem to omit a few other languages which had a tremendous (lexical) influence upon English: Latin and Greek, to name only two.
    I start to have the impression that your motivation to write half this book has little to do with linguistics proper.

  45. ericmonteux Member

    I thank you sincerely for your response

    1. Periods of language purification happen in every country, in every language. I know even some official instances (often called academies) which have the official task to "purify" the language, or to keep it "pure". I am sure that you, as a French speaker, know at least one of them too.

    French academy have never purify French language to keep French pure of foreign influence. During the eighteen and nineteen century several thousand of English word were entered in French language (budget, yacht, ..). No one is eliminate at present. But it ‘s right after the second world word French academy attempt to limit the invasion of English word in French language.
    I believe there were a great difference between to eliminate for nationalist reason several words from a language by racism and to limit a massive coming of word which seem threaten the existence of a language.
    When I travel in Nederland and see the advertising in English I think that Dutch need also of a academy to protect Dutch.
    I’m not against entry of English word in French because it’ s generally a “retour à l’envoyeur”

    2. That's not an argument. The fact that a language becomes "an international language" has more to do with economics (and hence history, politics, etc.) than with the internal structure and make up of that language.
    Or do you mean to say that English has become an international language because of the influence of French?
    I’m agree that English empire and USA power strengthen the place of English in the world like first international language. Nevertheless the influence of French, latin and greek on English reinforce this position.
    English have connexion with Germanic and roman language. It’s a language which look like passe partout and it’s certainly easier for this sort of language to become international than hindi or Chinese language for example.
    English after the French perpetuate the domination of Latin and Greek. English use like scientific or economic language is essentially compound by word with latin and greek origin.

    I like to play the provocative agent and launch some “pavé dans la mare” .Under my provocations there were some truth I think. I see you are a specialist. Me I ‘m a simple amateur and I hope to have some responses of your level.

    3.Yet another straw man.
    But anyway, can you give us examples of Celtic influence upon English, both lexical and grammatical

    . The official history of England is Englishmen descend from angle and Saxon plus some Viking blood. Britons were exterminate and the survivors chased. This point is important because this is a myth . Some recent evidence show the reverse :
    (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/fr/584960/posts and http://www.answers.com/topic/english-people-1 and http://www.islandguide.co.uk/history/nations2.htm).

    Why it’s important ? Because the Briton have influence on the dialect of old English in particular in the north and the west of England . For example the Cumbrian dialect :
    Like I’m not a specialist I’m unable to explain you the influence of Briton on English. Nevertheless if the subject interest you this book “The Celtic Roots of English” (http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=7490) and “English and Celtic in Contact” (http://www.joensuu.fi/fld/ecc/index.html) treate of this subject .
    There were few word with a gauloise origin in French language but the gaulois have had a great influence on the pronunciation and the structure of vulgar Latin. Why the same thing didn’t repeated in England.
    Some others links on the subject :






  46. ericmonteux Member

    The Franco-Normand influence is global and compound Latin and Greek words. Before the conquest of 1066, few Latin word enter in English and mainly thank to the church.
    It’s right English borrow loan words every where but the great majority more 95 % of the vocabulary come from old English, old French, Latin (and it’s often difficult to separate the two) and Greek. Other influence are minor.
    I’ve any names of linguist, only crackpot authors like the guy of this link : http://www.geocities.com/bajparry/Anglish.html and many others I’ve meet on internet when I navigate.
    But I’ve remarked the tendency of this dictionary : http://dictionary.reference.com/ to class more frequently a word in latin or unknow origin instead of French origin than the etymology dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com/) when you work with several thousand of word.
    But I can accept that is the fruit of my imagination

    Exactly the same expression in French : défoncer une porte ouverte

    In fact since the 18e century, the Anglo-Saxon nationalism privilege these Germanic origins and fight the other like a default. At this period, the British empire must justified his domination against Ireland and Scotland and present the French like the hereditary enemy. It’s why this two major roots of the English language and culture are voluntary diminished for the profit his Germanic roots.

    Yes , and you do you have studied a little this period with the extermination of the French prisoners on the pontoon during the napoleon’ war or the deportation of French Acadian to the new England or still the segregation against French speakers (white niggers) in Canada up to the second world war It’s curiously since this period that began in France the Anglo mania, the love from everything come from England and inversely finish the love from French culture which dominated England up to the 16’s century.
    It’s why the relation between French and English are very special with a mix of hate and love and difficult to understand for a foreigner.

    I recognise to be very extremist by provocation but my profound motivation is linguistic.
    Indeed since six month I work by love of English language and old England on a project which are the complete opposite of these which work on the Anglish a Germanic English. My project is the Anglois. An English where the Latin , Greek and old French word are privileged with a basis of a maximum of 4 000 words with a Germanic origin.
    The goal is not nationalist like the Anglish’s partisans but :
    - Give the ability to an Englishmen with good knowledge with his tongue to built a text understandable for a Frenchman
    - Create a new method for a Frenchman to learn English
    - Show that English and French can be neighbouring and almost sister.

    I’ ve began to write a dictionary. I’ve now 500 pages and I think to have more five years of hard work when I’ve the time. I hope to find a day a right linguist to help me.

    So you should find me certainly completely crazy ! No ?

    Kinds regard

    Somes interesting links :

    Old english : http://www.heorot.dk/beo-intro-rede.html

    Roman language : http://www.orbilat.com/Influences_of_Romance/English/RIFL-English-Periodization.html#The_Zero_Period

    Franco-normand : http://www.anglo-norman.net/
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2009
  47. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    Melvyn Bragg, who broadcast his findings on the BBC, which may or may not still be retrievable from the BBC sound archives, was surprised to find the high percentage of Germanic words used in written and even more in spoken English. Even legal vocabulary had about 60% Germanic words and casual conversation usually over 90%, though he conceded that this was in part due to the little words one has to keep repeating to construct sentences. He mentioned a computer programme that could take a written or spoken text and analyse it automatically it into Germanic, French and (I think) Latin derivatives; There is a WRF thread on a discussion on this matter in which I participated but I have only been able tolocate one on "Is English a Germanic Language?" which is tangential to the question in this thread, and might possibly be of some use: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=20623&highlight=germanic+words+in+english
    I wish you the best of luck (which is an entirely Germanic sentence).
  48. ericmonteux Member

    May be the last sentence , the high no !
    So you said : about 60% Germanic words and casual conversation usually over 90%,
    Generaly , the study give this composition : 70 % of Latin , Old French and Greek and 25 % of Germanic word
    But it's right you've have more Germanic word in the casual conservation. The variation is very higher in fonction of a the subject and the level of the conversation. For an abstract idea you have more often latin words and inversely for an action more Germanic words
    For example :
    To launch a campaign
    To throw a stone
    Now I’ve found any serious and neutral studies who can prove that the casual conversation is compound by a majority of Germanic words. If you know one give me it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2009
  49. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Can you give an example of this? Imports of Latin words happened during the entire history of English and through different routes. The mere presence of an Old French cognate of an English word doesn't prove that the former is the origin of the latter.
  50. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    As I understand it, Latin has influenced English at five different times.

    1. The earliest are a few Latin words that were taken into Celtic during the Roman settlement of Britain and which were subsequently adopted from Celtic into OE.

    2. Latin words were adopted into the western Germanic languages and were thus already "installed" in them by the time they came to England.

    3. Church Latin was used alongside OE from the early 7th century and started to influence it.

    4. A large amount of Romance vocabulary was introduced by the Normans.

    5. From the late medieval period Latin academic and scientific terms were espoused or coined, and settled on English tongues to a geater or lesser extent as ordinary language.

    I don't know whether any exercise has been carried out to identify precisely, and thence to enumerate, the product of each source, but I suspect that the first three and the fifth together are larger than the fourth. Therefore French cannot have all or even half the credit for latinising English.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2009
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