Germanic Influences on the Old-English Language (and Modern-English Influences on Dutch)

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After the Romans had left England and the country was at risk of being overthrown by small native tribes, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes came from Europe’s mainland to restore peace and to gain land for themselves (Jansen). By travelling across the sea towards the British isles, they brought their culture and their language along with them, which they forcefully imposed on the native inhabitants of England (Freeborn 12). The Germanic influence of these European tribes strongly showed through in the Old-English language and caused a linguistic revolution as a first step into turning English into the partially Germanic language it is nowadays.
One of the Germanic features seen in Old-English is the relatively loosely determined word order, as compared to Modern English (Crystal 20). This was possible because of the system of inflections in Old-English, that made it clear whether a word had to be understood as a nominative, genitive, dative, or accusative, and whether it was singular or plural (Freeborn 23). In modern-day English, the nominative typically is the first noun of a sentence, while that was not necessary in an Old-English text. After all, the inflection of the word would show that it was the subject. Even though word order in modern German is not nearly as free as this system, the German language still uses inflections to clarify subjects, genitives, direct objects and indirect objects. In Dutch, this used to be the case, although inflections still show through in phrases such as “des maandags” (‘s maandags) or “ter plekke”.
A second Germanic feature as seen in Old-English is the use of prefixes to indicate that a verb was a present or past perfect (Crystal 22). The word “geleornode” is an example of this. In Modern English...

... middle of paper ... with them in order to create an entire new tongue. Even though a great deal of their work has vanished, as the inflections have disappeared, the prefixes in verbs are gone and the compound words no longer look like one, the power of the Germanic words still holds strong. These people came from the European mainland to change everything about the British isles, yet their home back in Europe benefitted in later times from their influences on the Old-English language.

Works Cited

Crystal, David. "Old English." Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. 2nd ed. United Kingdom: Cambridge UP, 2003. 20-22. Print.
Freeborn, Dennis. From Old English to Standard English: A Course Book in Language Variation across Time. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992. 2-23. Web.
Jansen, Hans. “Old English.” University of Groningen. Academy Building, Groningen. 4 Feb. 2014. Lecture.
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