Friday, March 31, 2006

Do you speak Viking?

I talk a lot in class about how English is not so difficult to learn - it's just a dialect of French with all the same words of Latin origin. So when you visit my site you see lists of words that are exactly the same in both languages. It's a great way to begin - knowing that you already have a big vocabulary gives you the confidence you need to start speaking. The words that are more difficult to learn are of course those of Germanic origin. When there is no linguistic link, it is harder to remember.
During a lesson today I was explaining all this and happened to mention that there are a lot of Viking words in English. My student asked me for some examples, and of course I couldn't think of any right there. Here is a site with all the Viking words:

What you must remember when you are studying English vocabulary is that common everyday words are Viking or Anglo-Saxon - sky, home, husband, egg, and that intellectual or cultural words are Latin or Greek - ameliorate, philosophy, annual, precedent...


Cloudberry said...

English is absolutely not a "dialect of French." English is a fully Germanic language with a Germanic grammatical structure and basic Germanic wordhoard. The fact that there are so many large and technical words of French origin only reflects the alien influence of the Norman Conquest, and is not a reflection of the basic nature of the English language, any more than the large Slavic component in Rumanian means Rumanian is a "Slavic dialect."

L'Anglais n'est point un dialecte français. L'Anglais est entièrement une langue germanique, avec une structure grammaticale germanique et un vocabulaire de base germanique. Le fait qu'il y a tellement de grands mots techniques d'origine française ne reflète que l'influence étrangère de la Conquête Normande; ce ne reflète pas le caractère fondamental de la langue anglaise--comme la présence de tellement de mots slaviques dans la langue roumaine n'indique pas que le roumain est une langue slavique.

Jonathan Lewis said...

Thank you for your comment, cloudberry. I yield to your superior knowledge of linguistics. My statement that English is just a dialect of French is not accurate, as you rightly point out, my intention was to encourage French speakers and show them that they already have a large vocabulary that is ready to use in English.
I do take issue, however, with the rather snotty nature of your message. There really isn't any need for this kind of righteous indignation, as if I have committed some heinous crime of blasphemy. Of course English is a Germanic language. The influence of Norman French is too significant to be dismissed as an "alien influence". Trying to classify languages into "pure" groups is an almost impossible task. Need I remind you that the Franks, after whom the country of France was named, were a GERMANIC people, and spoke a GERMANIC language. Wiliam the Conqueror himself is said to have had Viking ancestry. Even the Romans borrowed a significant number of words form Greek. So do me a favour and get off your high horse. I just want to help people learn. There are plenty of forums where you can discuss grammar and linguistics - I'm sure you could make a great contribution. Your reference to Romanian was interesting, thank you. If you have any more info about this particular branch of the Romance family of languages, feel free to drop me a line

GrumbleGrouch said...

Too many people still think English is descended from Latin, French, or some other related language, because of its Latin-derived academic vocabulary, neglecting to notice its everyday Germanic vocabulary. I suspect that cloudberry's indignation was prompted by the prevalence of this misapprehension, and did not stem from any feeling of superiority to any particular individual.

The Franks were indeed Germanic, but they adopted Vulgar Latin in its entirety, virtually abandoning their Germanic vocabulary while imposing some of their Germanic grammar on their adopted language.

The Normans were later Germanic arrivals in the lands of the Franks, who settled in Normandy, adopted French, created their own dialect of Norman French in the process, and imposed that dialect on Britain. Anglo-Saxon came back but was never the same after that.

We have much to learn from everyone, including everyone's mistakes, mine included. Let's all get off our high horses, please.

The only fact in all this that is relevant to the teaching of English is that you ought not perpetuate the erroneous notion that English is a Romance language. If you'd rather not discuss linguistic history, then don't.

Jonathan Lewis said...

Thank you grumblegrouch for your valuable information. I see you chose well your pseudo.
All I want to do is encourage my learners by telling them that there is a huge amount of vocabulary that they are already aware of. As this vocabulary is from many different sources, not just Norman French, perhaps you are right to advise me not discuss things that are not totally in my field of expertise.

Perhaps I'll come to your blog and comment on your opinions too, that's what blogs are for!

All the best,