English Words and Their Background

By George H. McKnight | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
VARIED SOURCES

Preceding chapters have shown something of the nucleus of Teutonic words that made up the earliest English language. They have shown how this vocabulary expanded under the influence of culture in the period before the Conquest, and how it shrank under disuse in the following period. They have shown how the impoverished language was enriched anew by words representing the products of classical culture, and how it has never ceased to derive words from its kindred Teutonic languages on the Continent. 1

A wider field of influence remains to be considered, for the English language has laid under contribution the speech of almost every people on the globe. No other empire before the British, in the world's history, included within its bounds lands in all the five continents and islands in all the seas. The commerce of no other nation has ever been so wide in its range. British exploration and British commerce have reached every corner of the earth. Besides this, it must be held in mind that the most numerous single branch of the English-speaking peoples, is that occupying the United States of America, and that the English-speaking people of the United States includes in its numbers people from practically every quarter of the globe. Under such circumstances the English language has been brought into contact with practically every other form of speech and has not failed to absorb elements from them all.

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1
The word lists used in this chapter are based generally on those by Skeat, but with corrections and additions.

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