Loanwords in Early / Modern English (cf. Origins ch. 12)
Changing status and functions of English
-prestige of French relative to English
-all English dialects more or less equally unstatusful
-influx of loanwords esp in certain registers (e.g. medicine, religion)
Early Modern English
-‘Selection of variety of English to serve as a standard’: by the late 14th century it’s clear that a prestige variety of English was emerging
-based in south, specifically London (economic & political reasons rather than linguistic ones)
-mixture: verbal –s (she loves), pronominal they from north
-artificial Chancery language?
English taking over functions of Latin, French, e.g.:
-Henry 5, his secretariat; then the Chancery
If you need an analogy for the status of early modern English, think of Scots English or Jamaican Creole now
-unproblematic for literature
-more problematic for other genres: e.g. the Christian bible
-and in the educational realm
English had to be able to function in these areas
-clear and precise grammar
-precise vocabulary: much of it Latin, now borrowed directly and not just in field of religion
Of all periods in English, EmodE demonstrates the fastest growth in vocabulary
§ objective need to express new ideas (or ideas new to English)
o new discoveries and new inventions
· but of course you can use old words too: robin, switch
o English replacing French and Latin in fields like medicine (uterus, testicle) or law (a mensa et thoro ‘judicial separation’) and various highly specific discourses now handled by English (species: characteristic visible form / appearance of things in e.g. logic, theology, mathematics, zoology...)
§ subjective need to enrich the potential of the vernacular
o do we really need squalid and squalor ‘dry, rough, dirty’ -> ‘dingy or miserable in any way’?
§ “prestige words used by the educated to describe the less fortunate”?!
o people were conscious of lower status of English relative to Latin
§ OED is biased towards C16th rather than 18th texts, but the growth is still real
New functions need new words
§ unusually, in EModE, loanwords most influential
o by C18th it’s back to wordformation
§ from about the 1520s to about 1670, about 40-50% of the loanwords were from Latin (and Greek)
o some technical (e.g. virus)
o some more stylistic (e.g. squalid)
English was relatively receptive to Latin loanwords because it had already received many in ME (directly or via French)
§ sometimes hard to tell: both the French and the English rendered Latin nouns in –atio as –ation
o so, I have to look it up to discover that affirmation was borrowed in the 16th from French
Many words (especially nouns) adopted (i.e. no morphological change) – abbreviation in OED is “a.”
o we even adopt their plurals: media, radii
o inflexional morphemes rarer than derivational ones, though
o and ‘productive’ only with other learned words (e.g. hippopotamus)
Others adapted (removing or altering inflections) = OED “ad.”
o automate an early adaptation (<Fr, C17th) of Lat. automaton
§ conspicuus -> conspicuous
§ veritas -> verity
o ‘learned plural’: if cactus/cacti therefore octopus/octopi?
§ -ate originally the past participle inflexion: creare, creatus ‘was created’
o adjectival use of past participle: “the illuminate doctor”
o verbal use of past participle: e.g. separate, illuminate
§ eventually –ate added to bases that weren’t verbs,
o e.g. paginate (Latin pagina)
§ but there is a med. Latin paginare
o e.g. scientific terms, e.g. chlorinate, dehydrate
§ or back-formed from nouns in –ation (cf. create, creation)
o donate, orate, automate from existing nouns in –ation?
§ however, there are Latin verbs donare and orare
· origins not always certain
Romance and native affixes can compete (c16th-17th exx)
o e.g. frequency and frequentness
o e.g. immaturity and immatureness
o e.g. immediacy and immediateness
o the productivity of native –ness with a Latin base is less exciting than a Latin affix would be with a less learned base
§ e.g. Shakespeare’s discandy in Antony and Cleopatra
And along with new affixes, a new graph or two (or at least <ae> and <oe>, the Latin spelling of Greek <oi>)
o lost in aesteem, aedify; economics
o recessive in mediaeval and encyclopaedia (a test of character!) and perhaps even archaeology; diarrhoea
o still around in amoeba
o more likely to be kept in proper names: Aeneas, Oedipus
Different ways of adapting different words
· venereal, venereal, veneral
· venereous, venerious, venerous
Same word could be borrowed from French (ME, typically), then from Latin (EModE)
· dette, debt (same word etymologically respelled)**
· round, rotund (different words)
· poor, pauper
· aim, esteem, estimate
o sometimes French sound changes really change the form of the word!
You could borrow different parts of the same Latin verb: the infinitive and the past participle were quite different (cf English buy and bought or write and written)
§ For Latin aestimare ‘to appraise monetary value’, ‘to weigh moral worth’
§ aestimare (infinitive) -> esteem
§ aestimatus (past participle) -> estimate
Other examples of variation between infinitive and past participle
§ convincere, convictum -> convince, convict
§ currere, cursum -> current, currency; precursor, cursory
o Notice that if both forms have survived, they’ve differentiated semantically
§ aim is from Old French esmer (from Latin aestimare!)
o aim had entered ME with all the Latin meanings in the 1300s
§ ‘esteem’: “Thou eymest the son of man”
§ ‘estimate’, ‘calculate’: “no mon mi3t ayme þe noumber
§ but what survived was the (also 14th) meaning that had narrowed via ‘calculate’ to mean “to calculate one’s course with a view to arriving at a point”, “to calculate the direction of anything about to be launched”
Examples of now obsolete forms
§ from Chaucer
§ from the infinitive: calcule, confeder, dissimule, encorpore
§ from the past participle: determinate, exaltate, preparate
o Romance borrowings in ME paved way for EModE
§ from Milton
o “what is dark in me illumine”
§ had been in the language since the 14th; illuminate is later
§ many exx in the OED? (or MED)
o OED marks ‘non-naturalized words’ with “||”
§ is it glossed? (e.g 1646 Insects that have antennæ, or long hornes to feele out their way, as Butter-flies and Locusts.)
§ is it italicized? antennae
§ does its form become anglicized (spelling, grammar)?
o e.g. aesteem -> esteem, heros -> hero, antennae -> antennas
§ does it move from specialist texts to more general ones?
o insect antennae, electronic antennas?
§ or get used figuratively?
o bad 19th poem: 1855 HOLMES Poems 214 Go to yon tower, where busy science plies Her vast antennæ, feeling thro' the skies.
…but some technical terms are always going to stay technical
§ Thomas Wilson’s Art of Rhetoric (1553) complains that “some seke so farre for outlandishe English, that they forget altogether their mothers langage”
o epitomizes such people with a man from Lincolnshire (=boonies) writing to a man in the Lord Chancellor’s service begging a favour
o and epitomizes their language with
§ words like fatigate, revolute
§ words like invigilate, contemplate, verbosity
§ in Ben Jonson’s play The Poetaster a character is purged (literally) of his latinate words
Hor. A bason, a bason, quickly; our physic works. Faint not, man
Cris. O --- retrograde – reciprocal – incubus ...
..Hor: ... inflate, turgidous, and ventosity are come up.
Tib. O terrible windy words. ...
Copiousness, stylistic versatility
o Erasmus, De copia (1512): “Your letter hath delighted me very much”, “Thy letter hath affected me with a singular pleasure,” “I am affected with an incredible pleasure by thy Letter,” &c
o in PDE: loanwords have “been an important factor in the stylistic versatility of the modern language” (Crystal 124)
o rise, mount, ascend
o ask, question, interrogate
o Are “the later [borrowed] forms more formal, careful, bookish, or polite”?
Effects in PDE of learned medical terms (handout: The language of doctor and patient)
§ considerable social gulf between those who know the technical terms and those who don’t
o micturate vs do a number one
o Canadian Oxford Dictionary has a long definition for womb, but defines uterus as ‘the womb’
§ lack of morphological transparency within semantic fields
o coronary thrombosis = heart attack
§ technical terms more ‘clinical’? (when would a layperson use uterus vs womb?)
§ native terms more ‘emotional’?
o womb: “the organ in the body of a woman or female mammal in which offspring are carried, protected, and nourished before birth; the uterus”
§ native terms more ‘rude’: balls, etc.
§ but words from either layer can be used euphemistically if they’re not semantically transparent
o learned terms: costive, alopecia, menopause
o idiomatic native expressions: do a number, the change of life
**More than you want to know: Latinate respelling in EModE of French loanwords in ME
If a Latin word had been borrowed via French in ME, in EmodE sometimes it was etymologically respelled
o e.g. Latin adventura (future participle ‘that which is about to happen’) -> (OF ->) ME aventure -> (Lat->) adventure
o e.g. Latin perfectum -> (OF->) ME parfit -> (Lat-> EmodE perfect
o e.g. Latin debitum -> (OF->) ME dette -> (Lat->) EModE debt
o might not affect pronunciation
Sometimes ‘etymological’ spelling is wrong!
o Latin scindere ‘to cut’ assumed to be the ancestor of
o scythe (no: OE síð)
o scissors (no: ME < Ofr cisoirs, related to chisel)
o PDE island is from OE ea-land, which became ME i-land and thus got wrongly associated with French ile (from Latin insula). Once isle got an etymological and silent <s> so did island...
o aisle (OFr ele < Latin ala ‘wing’) also got associated with isle and acquired an unetymological <s> (thanks, AZ)