The English people are of a mixedblood. At the beginning of the fifthcentury Britain was invaded by threetribes from the Northern Europe: theAngles, Saxons and Jutes.
These three tribes landed onthe British coast, drove theBritons west and north andsettled down on the island.
These three three tribesmerged into one people: theEnglish people and the threedialects they spoke naturallygrew into a single language:the English language.
The world has nearly 3,000languages, which can be grouped intoroughly 300 language families on thebasis of similarities in their basicword stock and grammar. The Indo-European is made up of most of thelanguages of Europe, the near East,and India.
A Historical Overview of the English Vocabulary
English can be roughly divided into:Old English,Middle EnglishModern English.
Old English (450---1150)Middle English ( 1150---1500) Early: 1500---1700Modern English (1500---Now) Late :1700--- present
After the Romans, the Germanictribes called angles, Saxons, andJutes came. Soon they tookpermanent control of the land, whichwas to be called England. Theirlanguage, historically known asAnglo-Saxon, dominated and almosttotally blotted out the Celtic.
Celtic made only a small contributionto the English vocabulary with suchwords as crag and bin and some placenames like Avon, Kent, London,Themes. Now people generally referto Anglo-Saxon as old English.
Two events in the Old English Period:in the 6th century:Latin speaking Romanmissionaries came to spread Christianity inBritain. The introduction of Christianityhad a great impact on the Englishvocabulary. It brought many new ideasand customs and also many religiousterms: abbot, candle, altar, amen, apostle.
In the 9th century: the land wasinvaded again by Norwegian andDanish Vikings. They came first toplunder, then to conquer. Finallythey succeeded in placing a Danishking on the throne of England. Withthe invaders, many scandinavianwords came into English.
These new words did not identify newideas and objects. They were everydaywords for which the English had termsand expressions. Many words wereexactly alike, such as father, husband,house, life, man,mother, summer andwinter.Other words were so much alikethat they were used interchangeably.
It is estimated that at least 900 wordsof Scandinavian origin have survivedin modern English, such as skirt,skill, window, leg, grasp, birth,they ,their, them and egg.
Old English has a vocabulary ofabout 50,000 to 60,000 words. It wasa highly inflected language just likemodern German. Therefore, nouns,pronouns, adjectives, verbs andadverbs ahs complex endings orvowel changes, or both.
Middle EnglishOld English began to undergo muchchange when the Normans invadedEngland from France in 1066.TheNorman conquest started a continualflow of French words into English.
The English were defeated, but not killedoff, nor were they driven from theircountry. They were reduced to the statusof an inferior people. Norman Frenchbecame the polite speech.
By the end of the 11th century,almost all of the people whoheld political or social powerand many of those in powerfulchurch positions were ofNorman French origin.
By the end of the 13th century,English gradually came back into theschools, the law courts, andgovernment and regained social statusthanks to Wycliff translation of theBible and the writings of Chaucer.
Between 1250 and 1500 about 9,000words of French origin poured intoEnglish. We can find words relatingto every aspect of human society, e.g.Government, social scales, law,religion, moral matters, militaryaffairs, food ,fashion, etc.
Middle English retained much fewerinflections. Endings of nouns andadjectives marking distinction of number,came and often of gender lost theirdistinctive forms. If we say old Englishwas a language of full endings, MiddleEnglish was one of levelled endings.
Modern English began with the establishment of printing in England. In the early period of ModernEnglish, Europe saw a new upsurge of learning ancient Greek and Roman classics. This is known in history as the Renaissance.
Latin and Greek were recognized as thelanguages of the Western world’s greatliterary heritage and of great scholarship,but translators were rapidly makinggreat literary works available in English.
Translators and scholars borrowedheavily from the Latin vocabulary oftheir source materials during thisperiod and many Latin words becamepart of English vocabulary.
In the mid-seventeenth century,England experienced BourgeoisRevolution followed by theIndustrial Revolution and rose to bea great economic power. With thegrowth of colonization. Britishtentacles began stretching out toevery corner of the globe.
Since the beginning of the lastcentury, esp, after World War II, theworld has seen breathtakingadvances in science and technology.Many new words have been createdto express new ideas, etc. ,yet morewords are created by means ofword-formation.
In modern English, word endingswere mostly lost with just a fewexceptions. English has evolvedfrom a synthetic language to thepresent analytic language.
Classification of words:English words may fall into thebasic word stock and non-basicvocabulary by use frequency, intocontent words and functional wordsby notion and into native words andborrowed words by origin.
Basic Word Stock:All national character: Words ofthe basic word stock denote themost common things andphenomena of the world aroundus, which are indispensable to allthe people who speak thelanguage.
Stability:As they denote the commonestthings necessary to life, they arelikely to remain unchanged.Stability, however, is only relative.
Productivity:Words of the basic word stock aremost root words or monosyllabicwords; They can form new wordswith other roots and affixes
Polysemy:Words belonging to the basic wordstock often possess more than onemeaning because most of themhave undergone semantic changesin the course of use and becomepolysemous. 见 21 页
Collocability:Many words of the basic word stockhave strong collocability:见 22 页
A change of heart,after one’s heart,cry one’s heart out,eat one’s heart out,a heart of gold,
at heart,break one’s heart,cross one’s heart,have one’s heart in one’s mouth,heart and hand,
heart and soul,take sth to heart,wear one’s heart upon one’s sleeve,with all one’s heart.
Non-basic word stock:1) usu. Words technical in sense: arthritis cerebritis algebra calculus
2. SlangIt belongs to the sub-standard language:cancer stick: cigarettedish the dirt: gossip or spread rumoursabout othersfeel no pain: be drunkin the soup: in serious troublebring down: disappoint
Native words and BorrowedwordsNative words are words broughtto Britain in the 5th century bythe German tribes: the Angles,the saxons, and the Jutes.
Native words denote the commonestthings in human society, they areused by all people, in all places on alloccasions, and at all times.They arenot stylistically specific.
They are neutral in style:Begin (E)--- commence (French)brotherly(E)--- fraternal (F)answer (E) --- replay (F)fall (E) --- autumn (F)
Borrowed words ( loan words orborrowings)It is estimated that English borrowingsconstitute 80 percent of the modernEnglish vocabulary. 见 25 页
Borrowed words are divided into fourkinds:denizens: they are words borrowedearly in the past and now are wellassimilated into the English language.Change: changier(F)pork: porc(F) 见 25 页
Aliens: they are words which haveretained their original pronounciation andspelling. These words are immediatelyrecognisable as foreign in origin.
Decor: 装饰blitzkrieg 闪电战kowtow 磕头bazaar 集市status quo 现状intermezzo 幕间剧
Translation-loans: translation loansare words and expressions formedfrom the existing material in theEnglish language but modelled onthe patterns taken from anotherlanguage.
mother tongue: lingua materna (L)long time no see(CH)surplus value:mehrwert(G)masterpiece: meisterstuck (G)black humour:humour noir
Semantic loans:Words of this category are notborrowed with reference to theform, but their meanings.Semantic borrowings also refer towords which have acquired a newmeaning under the influence ofother languages.
“Pioneer” once signifying” explorer”only or “ person doing pioneeringwork” has now taken on the newmeaning of “ a member of the YoungPioneer” from Russian
“Fresh” has adopted the meaning of “impertinent, sassy, cheeky” under theinfluence of the German word “ frech”.
The Foreign Elementsin the English vocabulary 见 27 页
The Scandinavian element in EnglishAn interesting feature of the languageis a number of Danish forms existingside by side with the English forms inthe English vocabulary见 28 页
The Scandinavian words into Englishwere not only nouns, adjectives, butalso pronouns, prepositions, adverbs,and verbs.见 29 页
Words from French can be dividedinto two groups:1. French loan words in the middleEnglish period2. French loan words after themiddle English period见 32 页
1. French loan words in the middleEnglish periodconnected with government:government, administration, state,crown, authority, court
connected with religion:religion, theology, prayer, dean,lesson, clerk, devotion
Words connected with LawJustice, judgment, crime, evidence,proof, blame, arrest,
Words connected with army:Army, peace, enemy, arms,captain, defence, soldier, guard,
Words connected with fashion andfoodDress,cloak, collar, button, boots,diamond, beef, pork, mutton, bacon,biscuit, cream, sugar, orange, lemon.
Words connected with arts, literatureArt, painting, learning, beauty,colour, figure, image, tragedy, title,story, pen
2. French loan words after theMiddle English period:The words are connected chieflywith arts, with food and drink, withfashion and with diplomacy.见 33 页
The Latin Element in the English Vocabulary1) The First period of Latin influence: There was no opportunity for direct contact between Latin and Old English in England, so many words came in through Celtic transmission.见 35 页