How and when did Latin influence the English language?

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Latin influenced the English language as Christianity spread. England was a predominantly Catholic nation until Henry VIII, and the Catholic mass was conducted in Latin. Thus, a significant number of Latin-based words are associated with mass and other aspects of ecclesiastical process. Altar, for example, is derived from Latin origins. Moreover, the British legal system also adopted many Latin words.

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Over the centuries, Latin directly and indirectly influenced the development of the English language, primarily by adding words to the English lexicon. Latin was the language of the Catholic Church, and when the Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity beginning in the early seventh century, Old English (the version of English used at the time) began to take on Latin words, especially in the areas of religion and law. Our word angel, for instance, comes from Latin, as do the words monk, bishop, priest, legal, and testimony.

Latin had already influenced English earlier than this, however, by its influence on the developing Germanic languages that eventually led to English. Very early on in the process, ancient Germanic languages borrowed Latin words, especially in the realm of trade, as Germanic peoples carried out business with the Latin-speaking Romans. Our word wine, for instance, comes from Latin and has been passed down to English through centuries of linguistic development.

In 1066, the French-speaking Normans conquered the Anglo-Saxons and brought their Latin-derived language into general use in England, especially in the areas of law, education, and commerce. Over time, English and the Anglo-Norman dialect of Old French combined in many ways to flow into Middle English and eventually our modern English.

The Normans' language had developed long before out of vulgar Latin (the Latin spoken by the common people of many areas of Europe), so while it was not Latin any longer, it was closely related. Therefore, Latin again, this time indirectly, influenced English. This combination of language explains some of the strange features of our modern English. We have the words beef and cow, for instance, as well as pork and pig. The first element in each pair comes from the Norman dialect of French (and ultimately from Latin), while the second element derives from Old English.

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Cultural contact brings words of different origin into a language. This is especially true of English, because it freely assimilates words and terms from other cultures.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Roman conquest of Britain in the early centuries of the first millennium brought Latinate terms into Anglo-Saxon. However, the most profound and lasting infusion of the Latinate comes from William the Conqueror's Norman conquest of Britain in 1066.

William and his troops were French, and they therefore spoke the Latin-derived French language, which they brought with them. As they became the ruling class, it became important for the rest of the English, especially those who wanted to thrive, to learn as much French as they could. Even common people needed to learn some French words if they wanted to survive.

Thus, French amalgamated with Anglo-Saxon to create Middle English, the basis of the language we speak today as modern English. Veal and beef are derived French words, for example, while cow and ox are from the Anglo-Saxon. Likewise, reside derives from Latinate roots, while dwell is Anglo-Saxon. More often than not, though not in the case of veal or beef, Latin-derived words are longer than their Anglo-Saxon cognates.

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Latin influenced the English language as English-speaking people increasingly borrowed or adapted Latin-based words and made them an integral part of the English language. Thus, although English is considered a mostly Germanic-derived language, a significant number of words that are considered English actually have their basis in Latin roots. Even if the word has not come directly from Latin, there are a multitude of English words that come from other Latin-based romance languages, such as French or Italian.

Not surprisingly, the most extensive influence of Latin-based words being adopted into the English language occurred as Christianity spread. This includes words related to functions of the church, such as altar, mass, priest, psalm, temple, and palm, among other words related to ecclesiastical functions. This reflects the fact that until Henry VIII, England was a predominantly Catholic nation guided by the pope in Rome and the official language of the Catholic Church was Latin. In fact, the Catholic mass was conducted in Latin until fairly recently. The word altar, for example, describes a

tablelike construction used in the Christian church in celebrating the Eucharist,

according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, or an elevated place where people used to make sacrifices as part of their process of worship or ritual.

The dictionary notes that the first known use of the word altar precedes the twelfth century and that the word was originally derived from Latin origins, pointing to the Latin word altare or adolēre, which the dictionary defines as a verb meaning “to burn up.”

Given the influence of the Roman culture on the British legal system, there are also many Latin words used in connection with legal processes or concepts, such as bona fide, prima facie, and de facto, for example.

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About 70% of our english words come from Latin. This alone make Latin the most important language to influence English. For example, the word, promise, comes from "pro-mitto," meaning to send before. Here are some more examples: word = verbum; canine = canis; college =collegium. I think you get the picture. Also Latin has influenced our grammar. For example, the distinction between "I" and "me" is based on cases.  I equals nominative case in Latin and me equals dative, ablative and accusative cases. Even little things like the improper use of split infinitives come from Latin, since in Latin infinitives cannot be split. For example, to love is amare (one word) in Latin. So, in short, Latin continues to play a huge role.

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Latin has influenced the English language tremendously.  Most of the influence, however, has been indirect.  The indirect effect of Latin on English came mainly after the Normans invaded England in 1066.  Their language, not suprisingly, influenced English.  Since their language (French) was a Romance language descended from Latin, this gave Latin an indirect influence on English.

Latin also influenced Old English directly because of the Roman Conquest of England.  But this influence was not as great or as lasting as the indirect influence.

In between the end of Roman occupation and the Norman invasion, Latin also influenced English because Latin was the language of the Catholic Church (which was then the only Christian church).

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