Archive for history

Monday, April 13th, 2020

The Day the Vikings Came: Old Norse and its Impact on the English Language

Ashley Sharp

Photo by PxHere: Viking wood carving.

The Viking presence within England had a great impact on the English language from the year 800 to the year 1100. This impact can be seen on the lexicon and the loss of inflection. English has had a great number of lexical borrowings from other languages such as French and Latin but often overlooked is the impact of Old Norse on the language. Old Norse has arguably had one of the greatest impacts on English. Being a Germanic language, Old Norse is very similar to Old English. ON is a North Germanic language whereas OE is a West Germanic language that are both within the Proto-Germanic family (Liu D.20). Although many words of both languages are seemingly identical to one another, the inflection and pronunciation of the language differed slightly (Gramley 51). It is most likely that speakers from both would have roughly understood one another.

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Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Why is English Germanic and not a Romance Language?

Miguel Dela Pena

Sundberg, Minna. “The Indo-European & Uralic Language Families.” The Guardian, Guardian News & Media, 23 Jan. 2015,

I was told even before this class, but also in an educational setting, that most of the English lexicon has Latin roots, and a few previous classes have discussed how Latin was a high-status language and was used in grammar schools in England, so I was confused why English is considered a Germanic language when Latin is not. After a bit of searching, I found that a good number of people are, too. The following are just some reasons for the classification of English:

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Monday, March 23rd, 2020

An Analysis of the Changing Meanings of “Gothic” and “Goth” Throughout History


The word “Gothic” has both a complex history and a variety of meanings. Originally related to a variety of ancient Germanic tribes, the word slowly became a synonym for “barbaric” as time went on. During the early modern period, the term then became retroactively applied to architecture popularized in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as such architecture was considered “barbaric” by critics. However, through the revival of Gothic architecture in the mid-eighteenth century, as well as through the creation of new “Gothic” forms of media, the term shifted into a more positive connotation, and developed to represent a variety of artistic signifiers, as opposed to any notion of barbarianism.

A depiction of a Gothic warrior from the third century (Nguyen).

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Friday, March 13th, 2020

Gaelic Loanwords in Early Modern English

Mae McDonald

Dunquaire Castle near Kinvarra in the County of Galway. Image: (c) Tammy McDonald.

With Ireland and Scotland close to parts of England, loanwords from Gaelic were bound to enter the English language in some way. Loanwords began to really pop up around the 14th century and slowly increased until the 20th century where there was a large drop. Focusing on the 16th century, there is a commonality in the types of loanwords. A large chunk of the most used words that came from Gaelic in this time period were words that described landscape features or had to do with agriculture. I didn’t go into a specific dialect of Gaelic, in order to keep it open to both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Most of the words I’m planning on looking at are under the Goidelic branch of Celtic. Because of this, there are only a few words that have about a medium frequency and must have been universal throughout the Gaelic dialects.

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Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Historical Dating through a Pseudo Manuscript

Dale Couet

*Please note that both the manuscript and the following narrative are fictitious and exist for aestical purposes.

Couet, Dale. “Pseudo-Script”

Þe lord scheweth his face to vs alle
in þy endeles mercy þou heere our calle
þauȝ þe shadowe of deeth couerethe me
I will synge as fyr groweth on my tree
by grace I feare not knoweynge þat sone I
wil be but dust for in þy memorie
I shall liue in þy holy book deuyne
al þauȝ lyes tempte me my life is not myne
euery brethe I breethe is a ȝifte from þee
wiche wil þen be token whanne þou doth see.
for þe schort tyme on erthe is but a crumme
when sette on þe lif þat is sone to come.

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Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

The Germanic Stratum Hypothesis

Jordan Clifford

“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.” – James Nicoll

English has always been held to weirdly high standards; it’s the lingua franca in many countries around the world (usually because of colonial tendencies) and because of this it’s considered by a few to be a “pure” language. But as the quote above says, English isn’t even being close to being pure; through the centuries it has borrowed languages from dozens upon dozens of languages from around the world. Even proto-Germanic isn’t pure in any sense of the word, and there is quite a bit of evidence towards the existence of a stratum language that influenced early proto-Germanic.

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Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Old English Is Older than Old English That is Old New English

Jamie Maclean

Image: Facebook

“Hey what classes are you taking this year?”

“A course in Old English.”

“You mean like Shakespeare?”

“No, from way before that.”

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Monday, February 12th, 2018

The Influence of Flemish Trade on the English Language

Jake Decker

While both originating from the language family of Proto-Germanic, Dutch and English have evolved in close proximity to one another for hundreds of years. A surprising amount of loan words exist in the English language originating from Dutch but most of this lexical change happened during the period of Middle-English.

The County of Flanders. Image: (cc) Wikimedia Commons.

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Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The Rise of Middle English – with a little help from the French

April Anderson

Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the English language underwent a drastic change. It was at this time that the shift from Old English to Middle English began to occur. The Middle English period saw many new linguistic phenomena take hold around 1150, and continue to shape this new form of English until about 1500 (OED s.v. Middle English, n, sense A). However, there is evidence that the catalyst for these changes began in the years between 1066 and 1200 (Baugh and Cable 98), leading to phonological and lexical changes in the English language.

Figure 1. Bayeux Tapestry – Scene 57: the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

After King Harold was killed during the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (see fig. 1), much of the English nobility was replaced by the Normans. This was because a majority of King Harold’s nobles had either been killed in battle or perceived as traitors, leaving many positions of authority available for the taking (Baugh and Cable 101). These positions were inevitably filled by the Norman nobility because they remained noblemen under the new king, William. Because they gradually took over these positions of power, the Normans gained more control in areas of legislation. Despite the presence of the French in these new governments, many of the new nobility did not live in England (Liu C.39). Due to their absence, many of the English-speaking citizens would not learn French right away.

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