the Germanic origin of the English languagewhat are the most important characteristics English language inherited from proto-Germanic?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beside being generally unromantic and gutteral to listen to (as opposed to the smooth beauty of the Romance Latin-based languages of Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian), we did get the general structure of the language.  Subject-Verb-Obj, adjectives before nouns--not after, etc.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
German does follow a similar grammatical structure to English. There are also some words that are similar. For example "ist" in German and "is" in English. There are many German words in the English language, but there are words from every language!
yes-man | Student

thank you so much gyus, your analysis did help a lot.

epollock | Student

One characteristic is the erosion of endings. In this language, stress in words tended to drift to the first syllable. This left the final sounds in words highly unstressed, vulnerable to wearing away. Because of this, Proto-Germanic did not have as many endings on nouns and verbs as many other Indo-European languages had. Lithuanian’s seven cases:Proto-Germanic had just four. This set the scene for how few case marking suffixes English has.

Proto-Germanic split into three branches, and some of the peoples who spoke the western one settled in England. (Their relatives today in the Netherlands speak Frisian and Dutch.) The language they developed, Anglo-Saxon or Old English, was one much like German.

But it did not stay this way. Part of the reason was the massive influx of borrowed words. But English also changed its grammar considerably. Today, English is not only the one Germanic language that has lost all gender marking but also the only Indo-European language of all Europe without it. English is the only Germanic language without inherent reflexives: in German, one hurries oneself, but in English, one simply hurries. English no longer makes any distinction between here and hither, where and whither, and so on. However, all of the other Germanic languages do. There are many other cases like this in English.

English is, in this sense, somewhat simpler than German, Dutch, Swedish, and its other sister languages. English was learned as a second language more than as a first, then passed down in this fashion. Specifically, it was likely in the northern half of England after the Viking invasions at the end of the 8th century that English was streamlined in this way.