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Highly IrregularWhy Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme—And Other Oddities of the English Language$
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Arika Okrent

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197539408

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197539408.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 02 December 2021

Blame the Barbarians

Blame the Barbarians

(p.39) Blame the Barbarians
(p.iii) Highly Irregular

Arika Okrent

Sean O’Neill

Oxford University Press

This chapter tells the story of how English got to be the weird way it is, which begins with the Germanic languages and the barbarians who spoke them. During the 5th century, an assortment of them poured across the North Sea, from what is today Denmark, the Netherlands, and Northern Germany, and conquered most of England. After about a century of the Germanic tribes taking over and settling in, the Romans returned. This time it was not soldiers but missionaries who arrived. The monks who came to convert the island to Christianity brought their Latin language with them, and they also brought the Latin alphabet. They set about translating religious texts into the language of the people they encountered, a language that by this time had coalesced into something that was Old English. However, there is another group of barbarians to blame: the Vikings. Their language was similar enough to Old English that they could communicate with the Anglo-Saxons without too much difficulty, and over time their own way of speaking mixed into the surrounding language, leaving vocabulary and expressions behind that do not quite fit the rest of the pattern at the old Germanic layer.

Keywords:   English language, Germanic languages, Germanic tribes, Roman missionaries, Latin language, Latin alphabet, Old English, Vikings

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