Periodization of the Romance Lexical Borrowings
 
 
The English language was influenced profoundly by Latin and French, mainly in its vocabulary (about 72% of the Modern English words are of Romance origin), and also in its grammar. The lexical borrowings are classified according to well determined phonological and historical criteria into five periods the Zero, First, Second, Third, and Modern. Each period shows distinctive characteristics, concerning both the Latin words adopted and the process of assimilation undergone. Latin words have also been adopted to English through Norman French in the Third Period and through Modern French and Modern Italian in the Modern Period.

The Zero Period

The Zero Period refers to the time before the Anglo-Saxons) invaded Britain. The borrowings reflect the early contacts of the Germanic tribes with Rome on the continent. The loans are short words, easily adaptable to the higly inflected Germanic languages, concerning military matters, cooking, trade, and commerce. Amongst the most important words of the Zero Period, still current in Modern English, are: See for more details.

The First Period

During the Roman domination in Britain (43-449 A.D.) Latin was the official language of the administration. The local Celtic inhabitants (see Celts) would indeed have had to use some Latin, for official and military purposes. The inscriptions prove that the city-dwellers, both the upper classes and artisans, spoke the language, while the farmers would have used it at market; it is to suppose that the Celtic language of Britain adopted a lot of Latin words. Thus, when the Anglo-Saxons conquerred the isle, they adopted a few Latin words from the Celts, the most important being the -chester (-cester or -caster) (from the Latin castra encampment) and -wick (-wich) (from the Latin vicus village) in the place names, as found in:

See for more details.

The Second Period (597-1066)

The Second Period concerns the christianization of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain which followed the St. Augustine's mission of 597. It is divided into two main sub-periods, the Early and the Benedictine.

The Early Second Period includes words taken by the English to describe their new religion (bishop, mass, pope), but also household words (cap, plant) and those relating to education (school). The amount and variety of the borrowings show the extent of Christianity's immediate impact on seventh-century Anglo-Saxon society. In this part of the Second Period, direct translation of Latin terms is characteristic. Thus, the Late Latin trinitas trinity (literally, three-ness) is the Old English þrines, and the Late Latin resurrectio is the Old English aerist, from arisan to arise.

The Benedictine Second Period began in the late 900's (see St. Benedict Biscop) when religious reform was under way in the English monasteries. The words still include religious and learned vocabulary, but are no longer related to everyday life. Antichrist, history, and decline (the grammatical meaning) all date from this period. Many words were not fully assimilated (cathedra, bibliothece, prologus), and most of those that have been passed down to Modern English (cathedral, prologue) were reintroduced in the subsequent periods.

The Third Period (1066-1500)

The Third Period begins in 1066 with the Norman conquest. The Normans brought to England their language, Norman French, which developed in the Middle ages from the Vulgar Latin. For centuries French was used as official language in England and Modern English derived from it a great part of its vocabulary. A brief classification by semantic fields shows the importance of the French lexical elements:

After 1200 the French of England adopted a lot of words from the Central French dialects, especially from Francien, that eventually also passed to English. These words were marked by the palatalized [k] and [g] sounds in front of a, the change of the initial w- in the Germanic words in g(u)-, and a nasalized pronunciation represented by -aun, cf.: Modern English inherited a lot of Norman / Francien pairs: Because of French relationship to Latin, the French words are considered along with those drawn from Latin itself (often more learned, and first found in written language). The dual sources of English vocabulary are well apparent today in word (French / Latin) pairs (often with rather diverged meanings) as: A lot of triple (Norman / Francien / Latin) correspondences may be shown also: Modern English preserved many medieval French words that became obsolete or were forgotten in modern French: During the Third Period Latin words were often introduced without orthographical adaptation, in both prose (Trevisa's translation of De Proprietatibus Rerum) and poetry (Dunbar et al.). The translator of the Myroure of Oure Ladye complained in the early 1400s:
"There ys many wordes in Latyn that we have no propre Englysh accordynge therto."
Almost all of these aureate terms passed into general use only after being reintroduced. Others still current were from Wycliffe's Bible, and gained currency through constant use.

The Modern Period (since 1500)

The Modern Period begins with the development of Renaissance culture in England. The interest in the Classical learning resulted in mass borrowings from Latin vocabulary. Thousands and thousands of Latin words were introduced into English following a well established pattern of minimal orthographic adaptation. There was a pronounced trend to remake the words inherited from medieval French on Latin pattern, cf.

The Latin morphology was effectively adopted: and a lot of new words were produced from both Romance and Germanic roots: The modern Romance languages, especially French, Italian and Spanish, had their large contribution to Modern English vocabulary:



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