Anglish

This is kind of a strange project but -- let's face it -- lots of things about linguistics are strange. Tolkien used to invent whole languages more or less for fun. This is a variation of that, except it's aimed at trying to see what Modern English would be like if it were 100% Germanic rather than involving so many Romance loan-words.



It's just for fun, but we were discussing how Germanic English is (mostly, if you measure its Germanic-ness by the frequency with which Germanic-rooted words are used in speech or writing; not very, if you measure by the percentage of all English words that have Germanic roots). So here's a bit of fun.

25 comments:

Gringo said...

Language purity for English is a joke. As the saying goes, the cow is out of the barn- for the last 950 years. This is poking fun at the French. Many French get all bent out of shape when an English word enters their language, which I find ironic given the number of words of French and Latin origin in the English language.

Grim said...

Like I said, it's just for fun. It's kind of a nerdy game, to be sure, but so was inventing Elvish -- and that turned out OK.

E Hines said...

But English is pure. When we incorporate a "borrowed" word, we Anglicise it, and often change its meaning to boot. And when we all started speaking American English, we purified the language to American, too, in spelling and grammar. And occasionally in word meaning.

We, English and Americans, are less uptight about purity, though, than some.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I mean, it's always interesting to me to watch when a hot new loan word stops being italicized. It happens all the time. Is sushi now an American English word? It sure is! You can get sushi less than twenty miles from my house in backcountry rural Georgia. I live among several hundred square miles without a traffic signal, but there's sushi not much further than the closest traffic light.

jaed said...

I find myself grumping over "onlook" for "respect". What's wrong with "look up to"? It expresses the meaning better, and it's already part of English!

In general, perfectly Germanic constructions are available for almost every Romance-influenced word or expression. They're common, too. ("Hardworking" lets you avoid "ithand". "Theme" is fine, with no need for the clunky "underwarp". Etc.)

Tom said...

Good points, jaed.

It would be interesting if they added the inflections English lost due to changes after the Norman invasions back in.

jaed said...

It would... but on the other hand, it would make Anglish harder to understand (for English speakers).

And I think part of my grump, above, was that you could actually construct an Anglish that English speakers would readily understand—indeed, that they might not notice was any different from English. There's no need to make it hard to understand, at all.

OTOH it's also interesting to contemplate how it would sound if the Norman invasion hadn't happened. Two different projects, maybe.

Grim said...

It would be kind of funny to make an Anglish that was perfectly ordinary English, and then speak it for a few years to see if anyone would catch on.

Lars Walker said...

A parallel project has actually achieved the level of alternate language in Norway. They call it "landsmaal," which means "the language of the country," and it was invented by poet Ivar Aasen in the 19th Century, in an attempt to recover "pure" Norwegian after 500 years of Danish influence. They use both languages in the schools.

jaed said...

That's extremely cool, Lars.

Grim, I could have sworn someone had written a book with no Romance words, but I can't find it. (If it wasn't a figment of my imagination.)

Eric Blair said...

I suppose this could be understood as fun, but I find it sinister--reminds right off of the weird attempts to de-Jew Christianity by some Nazis.

If people want to be all German, go speak German but even then, you're going to have know the difference between hochdeutsch and plattdeutsch, not to mention the various dialects.

Lars' example just reinforces the idea that some sort of "pure" English is really a 'blut und volk' sort of thing.

Grim said...

An interest in "purity" linguistic exercises could be indicative of some sort of xenophobia, but it's a thin reed on which to hang a charge like that. It'd be different if other linguistic games (like inventing Elvish or Klingon) weren't just as weird.

Besides, this seems like a natural enough evolution of linguistic study to me. If you've got the kind of mind that is interested in linguistics it's hard not to become interested in the roots of words, and to wonder how it might have been said if a loan-word hadn't been borrowed.

In the absence of other evidence, I'm disinclined to view this as sinister rather than simply a kind of nerdy fun. Nor, really, is even the presence of some national pride evidence of anything illegitimate. Tolkien was certainly proud of being English in a way that embraced being proud of pre-Norman Anglo Saxons, whom he worked into his Riders of Rohan. But he was a very decent man, and the furthest thing from a Nazi.

Tom said...

Of course, if we eliminate non-Germanic words, then chivalry will have to go.

Grim said...

That's a problem. The Germanic equivalent preserves the relationship with the horse, but not much of the rest of the sense. There's probably a compound word in the German that I don't know that tries to encompass the ethics as well; but it would post-date the Norman invasion, and there's no reason to prefer a loan word from German to a loan word from French.

From the OED for "rider":

Cognate with or formed similarly to Middle Dutch rīder , rīdere , rijder , ryder mounted warrior, coin bearing the picture of a horseman (Dutch rijder , †ryder person who rides a horse or other animal, person who drives a vehicle, (now hist.) mounted warrior, coin bearing the picture of a horseman), Middle Low German rīder , ryder person who rides a horse or other animal, coin bearing the picture of a horseman, Old High German rītāri , (in late sources) rīter knight, mounted warrior, person who rides a horse or other animal (Middle High German rītære , rīter also in sense ‘coin bearing the picture of a horseman’, German Reiter also in sense ‘jockey’), Old Icelandic ríðari , ríðeri knight, mounted warrior, Swedish ridare person who rides a horse or other animal (1587), Old Danish rithere (in the compound landrithere pedlar; Danish rider person who rides a horse or other animal, (chiefly in the compounds grænserider , kystrider , skovrider , literally ‘frontier rider’, ‘coast rider’, ‘forest rider’ respectively) official appointed as overseer of a stretch of land, coast, or forest)

jaed said...

There's something wrong with "knightliness"?

(Granted, "knight" doesn't have the etymological linkage with horses, and the rich strand of taming a horse and winning its trust. But it has so many of the same connotations about behavior and ethics that to call someone a "chivalrous knight" is practically redundant.)

Grim said...

The rich strand you're talking about is, I think, almost the whole thing.

Grim said...

You should probably read this piece before the one just cited, since it is referenced.

MikeD said...

I suppose this could be understood as fun, but I find it sinister--reminds right off of the weird attempts to de-Jew Christianity by some Nazis.


So is the French obsession with linguistic purity a xenophobic "blut und volk" kind of exercise? Or merely clinging to an Imperial past never to come again? Or is it something else? Or is the concern only involved with Germanic languages?

But more to the core topic, I actually find the idea (as Grim says) a "nerdy" exercise for the linguistically minded. I frankly prefer my native tongue to be a mishmash of loan words and cultural references, because that's what America is to me. When people talk of "American culture", I always get a wry grin about it, because "American culture" outside of the core founding principles of freedom, distrust of authority, and love of open spaces is pretty much just a mishmash of whatever cultures we've welcomed to our shores. Or it least, it was before the hyper-segregation of culture that the left has tried to push on us (i.e. you can't express interest or appreciation in things not of your racial cultural makeup, that's "appropriation"). Which likely has much to do with my unabashed rejection of that appropriation nonsense.

jaed said...

Yes, I'm not sure whether anyone is really denouncing the Normans as contaminators of the pure Saxon bloodline.

Grim, the etymology is "knight" may be different, but I'd argue your meanings are inherent in the word as it is used. If you ask any random child what a knight is, the child will tell you that it's a warrior who rides his horse into battle, etymology or no etymology.

Grim said...

I'm sure you're right about the child. It doesn't matter anyway, not really, since there isn't actually a proposal to strip English of non-Anglo Saxon words.

So it's just people like me for who know that "Knight" comes from Cniht which means "boy" or "servant." The mounted warriors would have been said to be Ridda.

Tom said...

Dang Normans! Going around, conquering folks, contaminating the pure Anglo-Saxon language!

No, Frankly speaking, I am fine without grammatical gender and all the inflections the Normans plundered. The mongrel English language is a good one for this nation of mongrels.

Grim said...

"Frankly speaking?" Good gracious.

jaed said...

Heh!

Texan99 said...

It's something I love about English, the ability to drift more into the Latin or more into the Teutonic roots, depending on the mood one is trying to sustain.

It can be fun to puzzle out German scientific nouns, too (as I sometimes do when proofing titles of articles in Gutenberg footnotes), by translating them into Greek or Latin: thus "far-seeing" for tele-vision.

Eric Blair said...

So is the French obsession with linguistic purity a xenophobic "blut und volk" kind of exercise? Or merely clinging to an Imperial past never to come again?

Yeah Mike, it pretty much is.

Or is it something else? Or is the concern only involved with Germanic languages?

Seems to be your concern, not really mine.