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English - a Scandinavian language?

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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 1 of 28
28 November 2012 at 5:00pm | IP Logged 
This may sound like a strange position, but it is not mine. Two professors have compared Old English, Old
Norse, Modern English and Modern Norwegian, and have found that Modern English is built on old Norse,
and not on Old English. Their opinion is that old English simply died out, and that Middle English and later
Modern English was based on the language of the Scandinavian invaders.

Their claim is founded on the fact that English is close to the Scandinavian languages not only in vocabulary,
but also in grammar.

If they are right, no wonder we find Emglish to be so easy !

I have tried to link to the article (which is in Norwegian, and hence should be really easy to understand for
those who speak English - but I am not sure that it works.

I would be really interested in your opinion on the topic though.

English
a Scandinavian language


The reference, so you can find it on your own is this : http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/-Engelsk-er-et-
skandinavisk-sprak-7055551.html

Edited by Solfrid Cristin on 28 November 2012 at 5:02pm

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beano
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 Message 2 of 28
28 November 2012 at 5:17pm | IP Logged 
I know virtually nothing about Norwegian but I actually watched the Hodejeger movie on DVD this week, in Norwegian with English subtitles.

The language sounded closer in structure to English than German (which I also know).
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tarvos
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 Message 3 of 28
28 November 2012 at 5:20pm | IP Logged 
I already noticed this while learning Swedish. Many English words form their participle
without the prefixing of German or Dutch. Future tense is indicated by using shall (it
has moved from there of course, but it is still possible). Du ska(ll) göra det ; You
(Thou) shall do that.

Syntactically, English resembles Swedish much more than Dutch or German. Some very common
verbs are Scandinavian (ta(ke) = take), etc.

However, there are also many things that hint to a kinship with Dutch and German. The
point is, that English has been such a mishmash of influences that it's hard to describe
what it is actually - it is probably something in between all of those things, although
structurally it's still quite Germanic.
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Josquin
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 Message 4 of 28
28 November 2012 at 6:24pm | IP Logged 
As I already wrote in the Scandinavian subforum, I think that it is a very interesting article and that it contains many true facts, but the conclusions that are drawn might be a bit exaggerated. I believe it's certain that Old Norse had a huge influence on Old English, but I don't think that Old English simply "died out" and was "replaced" by Old Norse. There are many elements of Old English that are still alive in Modern English which are not found in Old Norse.

Well, I'm not a specialist in Germanic linguistics, so anyone who knows better may prove me wrong, but that's what I think. As tarvos points out, English is such a melting pot of foreign influences that it may be hard to tell where single phenomena come from. I for my part am quite sure that English is not a Scandinavian language.
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limey75
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 Message 5 of 28
28 November 2012 at 6:47pm | IP Logged 
Josquin wrote:
I for my part am quite sure that English is not a Scandinavian language.



You're correct. English does share many features with Scandinavian, but it also does not have many features that Scandinavian has, such as the post-enclictic article, fossilized old genitive (til sjøs, til skogs), passive s-verbs and so on. Nor does English have inverted word order after certain syntactical features. Then you have the Norwegian garpe-genitiv, which is really different.
Moreover, the sound systems are very different. As an Englishman, I have to learn Scandinavian languages like they were foreign languages. The mainland Scandinavian languages have gone through a similar amount of inflexional levelling that English has, and this is one reason they superficially seem close to English. Mainland Scandinavian, like English, does not contain much grammar.

It's true that the Old English Mercian and Northumbrian dialects may have been close enough to Old Danish to make them mutually intelligble (after all, some of the English originated in Jutland), but that's about as far as it goes. The English spoke West Germanic, not North Germanic, dialects.

Old English never "died out" - it was spoken by most of the population outside of the Danelaw! English very definitely survived the Scandinavian invasions, although it was certainly coloured by them.

I recently read the theory that English wasn't brought over by the Anglo-Saxons at all, but is actually a much older language, with roots going back in England to before Roman times (i.e. the Germanic settlement of England was much earlier than believed). English was supposedly brought over by Germanic-speaking Celts from Belgium. This theory is very interesting and may have some weight to it, especially when one considers things like the antiquity of English place-names and the relative lack of Celtic place-names in England and the general lack of any appreciable Celtic input into even the earliest recorded English.

If you wanna read about the real impact of Scandinavian on English, from Old English times until the present day, and including the English dialects, check out my articles here:

http://germanic.zxq.net/ON-Engloans.html

and

http://germanic.zxq.net/Scandmodengloans.html


Edited by limey75 on 28 November 2012 at 6:50pm

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hrhenry
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 Message 6 of 28
28 November 2012 at 7:12pm | IP Logged 
For those interested, here is the original paper with Emonds' hypothesis from 2010:

http://conference.uaa.utb.cz/TheoriesAndPractice2010.pdf

R.
==
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Iversen
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 Message 7 of 28
28 November 2012 at 9:08pm | IP Logged 
I have spent several hours checking through Old English and Old Norse sources to see whether the Old English word order really was further away from Middle and Modern English than the Old Norse one was, which would be an argument for the claim in the article. But I basically found that both had a fairly free word order, AND that the word order of Old English all in all wasn't so far away from that of later kinds of English that I needed to revised my preconceived opinions as nurtured by generations of dusty old professors who all took for granted that Modern English was the shattered and battered heir to Old English.

Besides I have the feeling that I'm looking at primordeal English when I read the Saxon Chronicle, but not when I read the Saga of the Hamburg bishopry from the Flatøy-book, which is written in Old Norse. The similitudes between Scandinavian and English can probably be explained away (for instance as results of the shared loss of inflection), and they are overshadowed by things like the development of the 'continuous' verbal system and the obligatory use of 'do'.

For the details you have to go to the other thread in the Scandinavian subforum about this theme, namely Engelsk er et skandinavisk språk. It can hardly be more difficult for you to read my Danish there than it was for me to read those texts in Old English without a translation.

(PS: interesting stuff in your articles, limey)

Edited by Iversen on 13 March 2013 at 8:51pm

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s0fist
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 Message 8 of 28
28 November 2012 at 11:06pm | IP Logged 
Here's the link to the article in English:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127094111.ht m


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