Two leading Professors have rejected the idea that English descends from Anglo-Saxon, and instead claim they have proof that its origin derives from Scandinavia.
Professor of linguistics Jan Terje Faarlund from the University of Oslo and his colleague Professor Joseph Emmonds, from Palacký University in the Czech Republic, believe that English comes from the Northern Germanic language group, just like Norwegian. This breaks with other language researchers and the rest of the world, who believe that English descends directly from Old English.
Professor Faarlund says, 'Modern English is a direct descendant of the language of Scandinavians who settled in the British Isles in the course of many centuries, before the French-speaking Normans conquered the country in 1066.'
He points out that Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is a West Germanic language, which the Angles and Saxons brought with them from northern Germany and southern Jylland when they settled in the British Isles in the fifth century.
The Professor continues, 'Old English and Modern English are two very different languages. Why? We believe it is because Old English quite simply died out while Scandinavian survived, albeit strongly influenced of course by Old English.'
While many native English-speakers struggle to learn Norwegian, Professor Faarlund believes it's no coincidence that Scandinavians, especially Norwegians, learn English relatively easily. He says; 'It's true that many of the English words resemble our own (in Norwegian, for example). But there is more behind it. Even the fundamental structure of the language is amazingly similar to Norwegian. We often avoid mistakes that others (speaking other languages) make in English, because the grammar is much the same.'
The Professors believe the language descends from a time when the British and Scandinavians were fighting for political power in Danelagen, which forms parts of Scotland and England today. Professor Faarlund says; 'One especially important, geographic point in our research is that the East Midlands region, where the spoken language later developed into Modern English, coincides almost exactly with the densely populated, southern part of the Danelaw.
He also points out (to back up his theory) that the language changed a great deal in the period after the Normans arrived, offering that the dismal conditions people lived in resulted in a merger of the two previously separate groups of people - the Old English speakers and the Scandinavian speakers. What is believed to have come out of this was Middle English - the predecessor of Modern English.
'What is particularly interesting is that Old English adopted words for day-to-day things that were already in the language. Usually one borrows words and concepts for new things. In English almost the reverse is true—the day-to-day words are Scandinavian, and there are many of them,' says Professor Faarlund, who has provided a few examples: anger, awe, birth, cake, dirt, egg, fellow, guest and Thursday. It is claimed that Old English already had 90 % of these concepts in its own vocabulary.
The Professor adds a point about English grammar, 'In England, grammatical words and morphemes—in other words the smallest abstract, meaningful linguistic unit—were also adopted from Scandinavian and survive in English to this day.' He adds, 'We can show that wherever English differs syntactically from the other Western Germanic languages—German, Dutch, Frisian—it has the same structure as the Scandinavian languages.'
He concludes with some examples.
In English and Scandinavian the object is placed after the verb, while German and Dutch (and Old English) put the verb at the end:
I have read the book.
Eg har lese boka.
English and Scandinavian can have a preposition at the end of the sentence:
This we have talked about.
Dette har vi snakka om.
The Queen of England's hat.
Dronninga av Englands hatt.
Finally, the Professor concludes, 'All of this is impossible in German or Dutch, and these kinds of structures are very unlikely to change within a language. The only reasonable explanation is that English is in fact a Scandinavian language, and a continuation of the Norwegian-Danish language which was used in England during the Middle Ages.'
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More information: www.uio.no/english/