ENGLISH LANGUAGE





The English language is the tongue now current in England and her colonies

throughout the world and also throughout the greater part of the United

States of America. It sprang from the German tongue spoken by the Teutons,

who came over to Britain after the conquest of that country by the Romans.

These Teutons comprised Angles, Saxons, Jutes and several other tribes

from the northern part of Germany. They spoke different dialects, but

these became blended in the new country, and the composite tongue came to

be known as the Anglo-Saxon which has been the main basis for the language

as at present constituted and is still the prevailing element. Therefore

those who are trying to do away with some of the purely Anglo-Saxon

words, on the ground that they are not refined enough to express their

aesthetic ideas, are undermining main props which are necessary for the

support of some important parts in the edifice of the language.



The Anglo-Saxon element supplies the essential parts of speech, the

article, pronoun of all kinds, the preposition, the auxiliary verbs, the

conjunctions, and the little particles which bind words into sentences and

form the joints, sinews and ligaments of the language. It furnishes the

most indispensable words of the vocabulary. (See Chap. XIII.) Nowhere is

the beauty of Anglo-Saxon better illustrated than in the Lord's Prayer.

Fifty-four words are pure Saxon and the remaining ones could easily be

replaced by Saxon words. The gospel of St. John is another illustration of

the almost exclusive use of Anglo-Saxon words. Shakespeare, at his best, is

Anglo-Saxon. Here is a quotation from the Merchant of Venice, and of the

fifty-five words fifty-two are Anglo-Saxon, the remaining three French:



All that glitters is not gold--

Often have you heard that told;

Many a man his life hath sold,

But my outside to behold.

Guilded tombs do worms infold.

Had you been as wise as bold,

Young in limbs, in judgment old,

Your answer had not been inscrolled--

Fare you well, your suit is cold.



The lines put into the mouth of Hamlet's father in fierce intenseness,

second only to Dante's inscription on the gate of hell, have one hundred

and eight Anglo-Saxon and but fifteen Latin words.



The second constituent element of present English is Latin which comprises

those words derived directly from the old Roman and those which came

indirectly through the French. The former were introduced by the Roman

Christians, who came to England at the close of the sixth century under

Augustine, and relate chiefly to ecclesiastical affairs, such as saint from

sanctus, religion from religio, chalice from calix, mass from

missa, etc. Some of them had origin in Greek, as priest from presbyter,

which in turn was a direct derivative from the Greek presbuteros, also

deacon from the Greek diakonos.



The largest class of Latin words are those which came through the

Norman-French, or Romance. The Normans had adopted, with the Christian

religion, the language, laws and arts of the Romanized Gauls and Romanized

Franks, and after a residence of more than a century in France they

successfully invaded England in 1066 under William the Conqueror and a new

era began. The French Latinisms can be distinguished by the spelling. Thus

Saviour comes from the Latin Salvator through the French Sauveur;

judgment from the Latin judiclum through the French jugement; people,

from the Latin populus, through the French peuple, etc.



For a long time the Saxon and Norman tongues refused to coalesce and were

like two distinct currents flowing in different directions. Norman was

spoken by the lords and barons in their feudal castles, in parliament and

in the courts of justice. Saxon by the people in their rural homes, fields

and workshops. For more than three hundred years the streams flowed apart,

but finally they blended, taking in the Celtic and Danish elements, and as

a result came the present English language with its simple system of

grammatical inflection and its rich vocabulary.



The father of English prose is generally regarded as Wycliffe, who

translated the Bible in 1380, while the paternal laurels in the secular

poetical field are twined around the brows of Chaucer.



Besides the Germanic and Romanic, which constitute the greater part of

the English language, many other tongues have furnished their quota. Of

these the Celtic is perhaps the oldest. The Britons at Caesar's invasion,

were a part of the Celtic family. The Celtic idiom is still spoken in two

dialects, the Welsh in Wales, and the Gaelic in Ireland and the Highlands

of Scotland. The Celtic words in English, are comparatively few; cart,

dock, wire, rail, rug, cradle, babe, grown, griddle, lad, lass, are some

in most common use.



The Danish element dates from the piratical invasions of the ninth and

tenth centuries. It includes anger, awe, baffle, bang, bark, bawl,

blunder, boulder, box, club, crash, dairy, dazzle, fellow, gable, gain,

ill, jam, kidnap, kill, kidney, kneel, limber, litter, log, lull, lump,

mast, mistake, nag, nasty, niggard, horse, plough, rug, rump, sale,

scald, shriek, skin, skull, sledge, sleigh, tackle, tangle, tipple,

trust, viking, window, wing, etc.



From the Hebrew we have a large number of proper names from Adam and Eve

down to John and Mary and such words as Messiah, rabbi, hallelujah,

cherub, seraph, hosanna, manna, satan, Sabbath, etc.



Many technical terms and names of branches of learning come from the Greek.

In fact, nearly all the terms of learning and art, from the alphabet to the

highest peaks of metaphysics and theology, come directly from the Greek--

philosophy, logic, anthropology, psychology, aesthetics, grammar,

rhetoric, history, philology, mathematics, arithmetic, astronomy, anatomy,

geography, stenography, physiology, architecture, and hundreds more in

similar domains; the subdivisions and ramifications of theology as

exegesis, hermeneutics, apologetics, polemics, dogmatics, ethics,

homiletics, etc., are all Greek.



The Dutch have given us some modern sea terms, as sloop, schooner, yacht

and also a number of others as boom, bush, boor, brandy, duck, reef,

skate, wagon. The Dutch of Manhattan island gave us boss, the name for

employer or overseer, also cold slaa (cut cabbage and vinegar), and a

number of geographical terms.



Many of our most pleasing euphonic words, especially in the realm of

music, have been given to us directly from the Italian. Of these are

piano, violin, orchestra, canto, allegro, piazza, gazette, umbrella,

gondola, bandit, etc.



Spanish has furnished us with alligator, alpaca, bigot, cannibal, cargo,

filibuster, freebooter, guano, hurricane, mosquito, negro, stampede,

potato, tobacco, tomato, tariff, etc.



From Arabic we have several mathematical, astronomical, medical and

chemical terms as alcohol, alcove, alembic, algebra, alkali, almanac,

assassin, azure, cipher, elixir, harem, hegira, sofa, talisman, zenith

and zero.



Bazaar, dervish, lilac, pagoda, caravan, scarlet, shawl, tartar, tiara

and peach have come to us from the Persian.



Turban, tulip, divan and firman are Turkish.



Drosky, knout, rouble, steppe, ukase are Russian.



The Indians have helped us considerably and the words they have given us

are extremely euphonic as exemplified in the names of many of our rivers

and States, as Mississippi, Missouri, Minnehaha, Susquehanna, Monongahela,

Niagara, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Nebraska, Dakota, etc. In

addition to these proper names we have from the Indians wigwam, squaw,

hammock, tomahawk, canoe, mocassin, hominy, etc.



There are many hybrid words in English, that is, words, springing from two

or more different languages. In fact, English has drawn from all sources,

and it is daily adding to its already large family, and not alone is it

adding to itself, but it is spreading all over the world and promises to

take in the entire human family beneath its folds ere long. It is the

opinion of many that English, in a short time, will become the universal

language. It is now being taught as a branch of the higher education in the

best colleges and universities of Europe and in all commercial cities in

every land throughout the world. In Asia it follows the British sway and

the highways of commerce through the vast empire of East India with its two

hundred and fifty millions of heathen and Mohammedan inhabitants. It is

largely used in the seaports of Japan and China, and the number of natives

of these countries who are learning it is increasing every day. It is

firmly established in South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and in many of

the islands of the Indian and South Seas. It is the language of Australia,

New Zealand, Tasmania, and Christian missionaries are introducing it into

all the islands of Polynesia. It may be said to be the living commercial

language of the North American continent, from Baffin's Bay to the Gulf of

Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and it is spoken largely in

many of the republics of South America. It is not limited by parallels of

latitude, or meridians of longitude. The two great English-speaking

countries, England and the United States, are disseminating it north,

south, east and west over the entire world.





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