History of Languages and English

History of English and its Relationship to Other Languages

History of Languages and EnglishIn the second half of the 14th. Century, the English language, recently invigorated by the gradual decadence of the French language in the United Kingdom, saw an emergence of various inkhorn terms, incorporated by different scholars and literary writers; perhaps, most notably William Shakespeare. Inkhorn terms were words derived from other languages, particularly from Greek and Latin; the latter being considered by many, at the time, a language of prestige and academia. Many “purist” scholars were outraged by this new trend and, since they deemed it a grave travesty of the original, prestigious English language, of Germanic descent, they rejected this new development with fervor, claiming that the language they took so much pride in should remain pure, unpolluted and chaste.

With the re-establishment of English as the official language, there was a renewed nationalistic feeling among the people of England. In this sense, it is no surprise that many of them wanted to preserve the national culture and identity that had once been vanquished during the Norman Conquest. Furthermore, although some of these scholars admitted that there was indeed a necessity to utilize loan words from other languages in certain contexts, such as in science or in the academic world, they considered that the excessive use of loan words was an act of “mere brauerie”.

Today, most of the Latin loan words that have been incorporated and assimilated into the English language may indeed sound exceptionally familiar to most of us; and thus one might not even be aware of their origins and Latin roots. In fact, many of us might never even guess that only a few hundreds of years ago, these now widely accepted words were considered odd, or even overly pretentious, negligible and were subject to much debate.