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Is English Romance?

asked 2016-08-17 19:22:19 -0400 gravatar image

This is a history/linguistics question. Many linguists have said that common descent is the factor to determining what language family English belongs to. Take into account the common Latin descent of vocabulary, not just grammar and pronunciation. Of course I know it's mostly Germanic, but why is English not Romance even just a little bit? Thanks.

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answered 2018-05-20 10:21:05 -0400

Gerard Cheshire gravatar image

updated 2018-05-29 07:43:44 -0400

Although English contains some Latin and Romance it evolved separately from the Romance languages. Their linguistic stem was proto-Romance, which came into being in the Mediterranean during the Medieval. It was spoken Latin mixed with various words from other languages of Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. The Mediterranean was a hive of human activity due to trade, slavery, political conquest, royal marriage, migration and exchange of ideas, thus proto-Romance evolved as a lingua franca, so that people from many places were able to communicate with a common tongue. When the Renaissance began, the southern European countries became relatively culturally isolated from one another, so the modern Romance languages each evolved from proto-Romance in different ways.

English has a different linguistic stem, but it has been influenced by Latin, due to the Roman occupation and because Latin remained the scholarly language. English was also influenced by Old French because regions of France used to be part of the Angevin Empire, and French was once also the language of the English royal court and aristocracy. So, it is really all about their respective linguistic stems.

Here are two draft papers that illustrate the proto-Romance stem prior to its evolution into the modern Romance languages: 1. Linguistic Missing Links: 2. Linguistically Dating and Locating:

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Note that the papers mentioned at the end of Gerard's answer are his own work and are not widely accepted analyses.

ksteimel gravatar imageksteimel ( 2018-05-29 10:44:16 -0400 )edit

answered 2016-10-07 10:14:32 -0400

ksteimel gravatar image

As you point out, "common descent is the factor to determining what language family English belongs to.". The Germanic words that exist in English have mostly been in the language and changed with the language throughout its lifetime. There are a few exceptions like modern German borrowings like Schadenfreude, and the demonstratives 'this', 'those' and 'these' which are of borrowings from Norse. However, the English vocabulary of Latin descent was borrowed into the language. Sometimes this occurred as borrowings directly from Latin. There was a period of time when borrowing from Greek and Latin was very prevalent because of the prestige associated with these languages. During the Norman occupation of England, there was also a very high level of borrowing of French words into English. I think this may be the stage that leads you to wonder why English is not considered Romance even a little bit. We have tons of borrowings from this time period. However, we have records of them being borrowed into English from French. They were not part of the language from the start.

Here's my completely non-theoretical way of thinking of it. Borrowing is a bit like modifying a car. If you start out with an Acura and start adding components from other car companies, does it cease to be an Acura? Do you start calling it a Borla because the exhaust component was made by that company?

Conventionally, I believe historical linguists would say that English has a large quantity of Romance vocabulary (and I believe other components of Romance grammar as well). However, English as a whole is still Germanic because the origin of the language is key. I hope this helped!

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Asked: 2016-08-17 19:22:19 -0400

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Last updated: May 29