Latin influence on the English Language
The Latin influence on the English language is perhaps the greatest of all influences which have enriched the English vocabulary and helped to make it a varied and heterogeneous one. In fact, the impact of Latin was not only on the English language but on every sphere of vocabulary, style, and syntax of the language. The influence of Latin on English is found operative, not in any particular period–it began about the beginning of the Christian era and reached the summit during and after the Renaissance.
The three chief stages during which the Latin influence was decisive are
(1) Pre-Christian days,
(2) After the conversion of the English people to Christianity, and
(3) After the revival of learning in the 16 century.
(I)Pre-Christian days: Long before the settlement of the English people in Britain, their Teutonic forefathers had some contact and communication with higher Roman civilization and adopted some Latin words for their own interest and benefit. These words include: wine (L. vinum), cup (L. calicem), camp (L. castra), mile (L. mil), pea (L. pisum), pepper (L. pipor), etc.
(II) Latin influence after the conversion to Christianity: The greatest classical influence of Latin upon Old English was occasioned by the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon people to Christianity in 597 A.D. The English people borrowed readily a large number of Latin words, connected with their new faith. We may group these Latin words in the following manner:
(a) Words relating to church: church (O.E. cirice), minister (L. monesteriumn), Pope (L. papa), archbishop (L. erecbishop), monk (L. monachus), nun (L.nunna), abbot (L. abbas), and so on.
Some other words relating to Christianity are: angel (L. angelus), altar (L. altare), mass (L. missa), relic (L. reliquae), canon (L. canna), candle (L.candela), etc.
(b) Words relating to domestic life and household affair: cap (L. cappa), chest (L. cista), sock (L. socius), silk (L. sericum), cabbage (L. caulis), etc.
(c) Words relating to education and learning: school (L. schola), master (L. magister), verse (L. versus), script (L. Scriptum), gloss (L. glossa), and so on.
(III)Latin influence after the revival of learning in the 16 century: Although the classical elements had continuous penetration into the English language, the most important phase of the classical linguistic influence was during the Renaissance during the 16 century. In regard to vocabulary, the impact of Latin was truly enormous and this was found operative in a number of ways:
(a) A number of Latin words had their access to the English language through French. Such as: grave. gravity, consolation, solid, position, infidel, infernal, and so on.
(b) Some French loans were remodeled under the Latin influence in close resemblance to their Latin originals. For example, ‘Perfet’ and ‘parfet’ were normal English forms (from French perfait’ and ‘parfait) but subsequently ‘c’ was introduced from Latin ‘perfectus’ to coin the English word ‘perfect’.
Again, ‘d’ was added from Latin to ‘avis’ and ‘aventure’, which became ‘advise’ and ‘adventure’ respectively.
‘H’ was introduced to ‘umble’, ‘onour’, ‘abit’, ‘ospital’ to make them ‘humble, ‘honour’, ‘habit and ‘hospital’ respectively.
‘U’ was introduced from Latin to ‘langage’ to make it ‘language’.
(c) A good many Latin words were subsumed into English in regard to some common affairs of life, such as eventual, eventuality, immoral, primal, pragmatical, fragmentary, fixation, climatic, and so on.
(d) The Renaissance bought about a scientific culture in England chiefly from Italy, and consequently, a number of Latin words came as the nomenclatures of modern science. For example-botany, telegram, orthopedic, suicide, vacuum, pendulum, radius, relativity, inertia, focus, etc.
(e) Some very technical non-scientific Latin terms, as given below, entered the English language-vegetarian, sociology, facsimile, and so on.
But this is not all. The English style of speaking and writing, as it is today, is found greatly enriched by the influence of Latin in a number of ways:
(I)A large number of Latin adjectives were introduced against native nouns, such as:
English (nouns) Latin(adjectives)
There were also framed some Latinized adjectives of English proper names, such as
This is, no doubt, a contribution both to variety and to vigor in the use of the language.
(II) Latin synonyms exist largely in the English vocabulary and this was done particularly at a scholastic level to enrich the vocabulary and to endow the English style with variety. Some examples of such synonyms are:
birthday natal day
eyeball ocular globe
(III) In some cases, the English and Latin synonyms do not exactly convey the same sense, although the latter was adopted for the purpose of expressing the subtle shades of similar thoughts. Some such examples are
(IV) A large number of hybrids were formed by Latin with English words in two different ways:
A) A large number of Latin prefixes formed new words with English–
ex–ex-king, ex-headmaster ,
co–co-worker, co-extensive ,
B) Some Latin suffixes were used with English words to form new ones
As late as the 17th century, and even into the 18, Latin grammar was the only grammar taught in schools, and the only grammar found worthy of study and imitation. The highly disciplined syntax which Milton employed was an adaptation of the Latin syntax. After all, Latin grammar has a much-disciplined syntax, and this is found scrupulously followed by eminent English authors. Thus, Latin is found to have enriched not merely English vocabulary but also English style and syntax.
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