October 7, 2021
English is a language that is heavily influenced by other languages. Its biggest influences have been French, Latin, Greek, and German. Furthermore, the English language is widespread in many countries across the entire world, acting as a lingua franca of business, travel, and communication. This widespread status in many countries has brought influence from the native languages in those nations, adding to the words used by English speakers.
It will take far too long to list every single word taken from another language when 80% of English words are loaned from other languages, so I am going to list a handful from several languages instead.
Now, why has English absorbed these words and many others into itself? The English language was originally a type of old German, sharing similarities with old high german words. However, invasions by other peoples speaking different languages such as Norse and Old Norman French affected the speakers of this language. When Old Norman French came into England with William the Conqueror in 1066, it became the official language of the elite, laws, and courts.
The Catholic Church brought Latin, the language of which educated people and mass, which made it essential for the religious commoners to know. These influences made English people effectively tri-lingual, and over the years they began to merge the languages together. Over the years, more French and words of European nature entered the English language due to how close they are geographically and due to constant contact through both political ties and warfare.
The British empire is another factor as to a large number of loan words from other languages around the world. At one point, the British held a quarter of the world’s entire landmass as their territory.
This means that a lot of languages used by the people who lived in different parts of the empire influenced the language of British soldiers, merchants, and settlers. This was due to the practicality of communicating between the groups, and when the empire dissipated and soldiers and other people came back to Britain, they brought these foreign expressions with them, which were eventually passed into the local language and thus became a part of modern English as we speak it now.
American English is influenced differently in its choice of loanwords than British English, which makes sense due to the geographic distance between the two and therefore the access each has to other languages. Early American settlers borrowed words from Native Americans to describe fauna and flora they didn’t know.
Furthermore, American English draws more from Spanish and modern French than British English does because of America’s close contact with Spanish-speaking nations such as Mexico and the large Chicanx population in the US. The American army was heavily influenced by their French allies during the Revolutionary War and by the Enlightenment, which became the core of the American nation with ideals such as free speech.
To conclude, English is a language made up of other languages as it has been influenced throughout its development. Like all languages, when English encounters something new, it looks to other foreign languages to fill the gap.
Liam is the digital marketing apprentice working for Lingua Fonica. He speaks English fluently and has studied English language for his A-Level qualification, providing him with knowledge surrounding the formation of words and the origins of the English language.