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Article

The Contact History of English  

Marcelle Cole and Stephen Laker

Contact between Early English and British Celtic, Latin, Norse, and French came about through a myriad of historical, political, and sociocultural developments: invasion, foreign governance, and the spread of Christianity, but also via peaceful coexistence, intermarriage, cultural exchange, and trade. The so-called Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain brought speakers of an emerging insular West Germanic variety, which became known as Englisc, into contact with British Celtic and, to some extent, Latin speakers. The Northumbrian historian Bede painted a vivid picture of 8th-century multilingual Britain as an island comprising “five nations, the English, Britons, Scots, Picts and Latins, each in its own peculiar dialect, cultivating the sublime study of divine truth.” The Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons led to renewed contact with Latin, the lingua franca of Christendom. The Church became an important conduit for Latin-derived lexis related to learning and ecclesiastical ritual and organization, although it was the cultural appeal of Latin in the early modern period that explains the massive lexical contribution of Latin to English. Later periods of foreign rule and migration following Viking settlement, mainly in the 9th and 10th centuries, and the Norman Conquest of 1066 brought English into contact with Norse and Old French, respectively. Lexical borrowing from these languages involved loans reflecting foreign rule but also basic everyday words. Extensive bilingualism and second-language learning most likely promoted the rapid loss of inflection that English underwent during the medieval period. Opinions usually vary, however, on whether contact brought about direct structural transfer or merely reinforced internal developments already in progress. Contact left its mark most noticeably on the lexicon of English; the influx of Latin and French loan vocabulary extensively reshaped the lexicon and, with it, the derivational morphology of English and explains the heavy Romance element in present-day English.

Article

History of the Italian Lexicon  

Paolo D’Achille

The basis of the Italian lexicon is primarily Latin, with substrate features already existing in the languages spoken before the diverse population on the peninsula was Latinized, prior to the gradual conquest by the Romans, and with terms borrowed from Greek. In addition to the lexemes continued directly from Latin, Italian also shows a Germanic superstrate (Gothic, Lombard, Frankish) and an Arabic adstrate; many Germanisms, Arabisms and Hellenisms were borrowed in the Middle Ages. These were almost always in an adapted form, before the vernacular was given any recognition, and today form part of the “core vocabulary.” The Italian lexicon has also been supplemented by new learned Latin borrowings, exogenous lexemes, borrowings from the other languages with which Italian has been in contact, either directly or indirectly, and dialects (linguistic systems which developed independently of Tuscan/Florentine-based Italian). Similarly, there have been endogenous developments, mainly neologisms. As mentioned, the vocabulary of Latin origin can be divided into two categories. The first one includes the “inherited” vocabulary, that is words that Italian (like all other Romance languages and dialects) inherited from Latin directly through continued verbal use. Although their number is relatively limited, they have been attested for the longest period and make up the majority of the “core vocabulary.” The second category includes Latinisms, which entered the language through learned written use, from the earliest stages of the language right up to the early 21st century. As most of these were also adapted in the process, they cannot always be clearly distinguished formally from lexemes inherited through popular use. The influx of such forms is to some extent still ongoing. In some cases, in particular in the modern and contemporary eras, it has occurred via other languages, primarily French and English. Among the exogenous elements, that is borrowings, particularly noteworthy are the Gallicisms, Iberianisms, and Anglicisms, which entered Italian in the modern and contemporary era and were gradually integrated into the Italian lexicon (at least in writing) with adaptation by this stage no longer taking place (it was normal in earlier stages of the language). Calques remain frequent. Another remarkable phenomenon is internal loans or dialecticisms, that is lexemes once restricted to certain dialect areas or regions and that now form part of the common lexicon. Endogenous processes are represented primarily by the creation of neologisms, that is lexemes created within Italian via the normal means of word-formation (principally derivation and compounding). But attention should also be paid to semantic change: many terms already in use have developed new meanings, in some cases additional to the original meanings, and in other cases replacing them.

Article

Diez, Meyer-Lübke, and Co. The Founding of Romance Linguistics  

Marcello Barbato

The study of Romance linguistics was born in the 19th-century German university, and like all linguistics of that era it is historical in nature. With respect to Indo-European and Germanic linguistics, a difference was immediately apparent: Unlike Indo-European and Common Germanic, Latin’s attestation is extensive in duration, as well as rich and varied: Romance linguists can thus make use of reconstruction as well as documentation. Friedrich Diez, author of the first historical grammar and first etymological dictionary on Romance languages, founded Romance linguistics. His studies singlehandedly constructed the foundations of the discipline. His teaching soon spread not only across German-speaking countries, but also into France and Italy. Subsequently, the most significant contributions came from two scholars trained in the Indo-European field: the German linguist Hugo Schuchardt, whose doctoral thesis studied with sharp theoretical awareness the passage from Latin to the Romance languages, and the Italian Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, who showed how the Romance panorama could be extraordinarily enriched by the analysis of nonstandard varieties. The discipline thus developed fully and radiated out. Great issues came to be debated: models of linguistic change (genealogical tree, wave), the possibility of distinguishing dialect groups, the relative weight of phonology, and semantics in lexical reconstruction. New disciplines such as linguistic geography were born, and new instruments like the linguistic atlas were forged. Romance linguistics thus became the avant-garde of general linguistics. Meanwhile, a new synthesis of the discipline had been created by a Swiss scholar, Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke, who published a historical grammar and an etymological dictionary of the Romance languages.

Article

History of the Sardinian Lexicon  

Ignazio Putzu

Ever since the fundamental studies carried out by the great German Romanist Max Leopold Wagner (b. 1880–d. 1962), the acknowledged founder of scientific research on Sardinian, the lexicon has been, and still is, one of the most investigated and best-known areas of the Sardinian language. Several substrate components stand out in the Sardinian lexicon around a fundamental layer which has a clear Latin lexical background. The so-called Paleo-Sardinian layer is particularly intriguing. This is a conventional label for the linguistic varieties spoken in the prehistoric and protohistoric ages in Sardinia. Indeed, the relatively large amount of words (toponyms in particular) which can be traced back to this substrate clearly distinguishes the Sardinian lexicon within the panorama of the Romance languages. As for the other Pre-Latin substrata, the Phoenician-Punic presence mainly (although not exclusively) affected southern and western Sardinia, where we find the highest concentration of Phoenician-Punic loanwords. On the other hand, recent studies have shown that the Latinization of Sardinia was more complex than once thought. In particular, the alleged archaic nature of some features of Sardinian has been questioned. Moreover, research carried out in recent decades has underlined the importance of the Greek Byzantine superstrate, which has actually left far more evident lexical traces than previously thought. Finally, from the late Middle Ages onward, the contributions from the early Italian, Catalan, and Spanish superstrates, as well as from modern and contemporary Italian, have substantially reshaped the modern-day profile of the Sardinian lexicon. In these cases too, more recent research has shown a deeper impact of these components on the Sardinian lexicon, especially as regards the influence of Italian.

Article

External Influences in the History of English  

Markku Filppula and Juhani Klemola

Few European languages have in the course of their histories undergone as radical changes as English did in the medieval period. The earliest documented variety of the language, Old English (c. 450 to 1100 ce), was a synthetic language, typologically similar to modern German, with its three genders, relatively free word order, rich case system, and verbal morphology. By the beginning of the Middle English period (c. 1100 to 1500), changes that had begun a few centuries earlier in the Old English period had resulted in a remarkable typological shift from a synthetic language to an analytic language with fixed word order, very few inflections, and a heavy reliance on function words. System-internal pressures had a role to play in these changes, but arguably they were primarily due to intensive contacts with other languages, including Celtic languages, (British) Latin, Scandinavian languages, and a little later, French. As a result, English came to diverge from its Germanic sister languages, losing or reducing such Proto-Germanic features as grammatical gender; most inflections on nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs; verb-second syntax; and certain types of reflexive marking. Among the external influences, long contacts with speakers of especially Brittonic Celtic languages (i.e., Welsh, Cornish, and Cumbrian) can be considered to have been of particular importance. Following the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from around 450 ce onward, there began an intensive and large-scale process of language shift on the part of the indigenous Celtic and British Latin speaking population in Britain. A general wisdom in contact linguistics is that in such circumstances—when the contact is intensive and the shifting population large enough—the acquired language (in this case English) undergoes moderate to heavy restructuring of its grammatical system, leading generally to simplification of its morphosyntax. In the history of English, this process was also greatly reinforced by the Viking invasions, which started in the late 8th century ce, and brought a large Scandinavian-speaking population to Britain. The resulting contacts between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings also contributed to the decrease of complexity of the Old English morphosyntax. In addition, the Scandinavian settlements of the Danelaw area left their permanent mark in place-names and dialect vocabulary in especially the eastern and northern parts of the country. In contrast to syntactic influences, which are typical of conditions of language shift, contacts that are less intensive and involve extensive bilingualism generally lead to lexical borrowing. This was the situation following the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066 ce. It led to an influx of French loanwords into English, most of which have persisted in use up to the present day. It has been estimated that almost one third of the present-day English vocabulary is of French origin. By comparison, there is far less evidence of French influence on “core” English syntax. The earliest loanwords were superimposed by the French-speaking new nobility and pertained to administration, law, military terminology, and religion. Cultural prestige was the prime motivation for the later medieval borrowings.

Article

Romance in Contact with Albanian  

Walter Breu

Albanian has been documented in historical texts only since the 16th century. In contrast, it had been in continuous contact with languages of the Latin phylum since the first encounters of Romans and Proto-Albanians in the 2nd century bce. Given the late documentation of Albanian, the different layers of matter borrowings from Latin and its daughter languages are relevant for the reconstruction of Proto-Albanian phonology and its development through the centuries. Latinisms also play a role in the discussion about the original home of the Albanians. From the very beginning, Latin influence seems to have been all-embracing with respect to the lexical domain, including word formation and lexical calquing. This is true not only for Latin itself but also for later Romance, especially for Italian historical varieties, less so for now extinct Balkan-Romance vernaculars like Dalmatian, and doubtful for Romanian, whose similarities with Albanian had been strongly overestimated in the past. Many Latin-based words in Albanian have the character of indirect Latinisms, as they go back to originally Latin borrowings via Ancient (and Medieval) Greek, and there is also the problem of learned borrowings from Medieval Latin. As for other Romance languages, only French has to be considered as the source of fairly recent borrowings, often hardly distinguishable from Italian ones, due to analogical integration processes. In spite of 19th-century claims in this respect, Latin (and Romance) grammatical influence on Albanian is (next to) zero. In Italo-Albanian varieties that have developed all over southern Italy since the late Middle Ages, based on a succession of immigration waves, Italian influence has been especially strong, not only with respect to the lexical domain but by interfering in some parts of grammar, too.