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Prior to the fifth century AD, what we now call the British Isles were inhabited by tribes that spoke Celtic languages. During the fifth century, Germanic tribes (the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) invaded. The invaders spoke related languages, with that of the Angles being called Englisc. The combination of the Celtic language and Englisc is now referred to as Old English. Beowulf was written in Old English. When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, French became the language of the upper classes, while Old English was still used in lower classes. As the two languages mixed and modified each other, Middle English developed, adding many French-based words and pronunciations. Chaucer wrote in Middle English. With the Renaissance and the advent of the printing press, English speakers had increasing contact with languages from other parts of the world. The pattern of incorporating new words and sounds into English continued - and continues to this day.
One definition of the term “borrowing” means “to adopt or take over as one’s own”. In language this means that a word or phrase from one language has been adapted for use by another. Because of invasions, trade, and their proximity to other nations, the British Isles adopted words from the French, Germans, Spanish, Italians, and Chinese. For example: from the French we have borrowed the words antique, restaurant and fiancée. The words cigar, violin, mesa, and mosquito come from the Spanish. The Italians have loaned the words violin, casino, and macaroni. Believe it or not, the Chinese gave the British the word ketchup. Shampoo entered the language from India. Many times these words were added to the language because there were no words in the language for that idea, a new food was introduced to the culture, or they were upper class words and replaced the words used by the common people. Scholars and the clergy were the major source of the written word and brought words from Latin and Greek. When the language was brought to the New World by the colonists, the Native Americans introduced many new ideas to the colonists. From the Native Americans the language borrowed hickory (a hardwood tree), moccasin, squash, teepee and wigwam. You can find the origin of the word from reading the etymology at the beginning or end of each definition in the dictionary. You will find that the majority of words in the English language have been “borrowed”.
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