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VIKING INFLUENCE on the English Language!

Hello everyone, welcome to the Langfocus Channel and my name is Paul. Today we’re going to go back in time and talk about an important influence on the English language, the influence of the Vikings and their language Old Norse. It’s almost universally accepted that English is a West Germanic language along with Frisian, Dutch and German and that modern English descended from Anglo-Saxon also known as Old English the language spoken by Germanic tribes that migrated to Great Britain in the fifth century. As I mentioned in my video: is English really a Germanic language? English vocabulary was highly influenced by French after the Norman invasion in the 11th century in the subsequent control of England by the Anglo-Normans. But there’s one more piece of the puzzle English was also highly influenced by Old Norse after Viking invasions and Danish and Norwegian settlements in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries. A large section of England was under Danish Viking control from the year 878 to 954 at its largest around half of England under a regime known as the Danelaw. Both English and Scandinavians lived in the area of the Danelaw and through extensive interaction and intermarriage the culture of the area became heavily Scandinavian influenced and of course there was contact between their languages: Old English and Old Norse. After the English reasserted control over this area, the culture of the area remained heavily Scandinavian influenced and Danish attacks against England continued. There was even a period of 26 years from 1016 to 1042 when the Danes controlled all of England. This period of Viking influence continued until the Norman invasions which began in 1066. The exact linguistic situation of that time period is not known but we know that Old English and Old Norse were closely related. Before the Viking invasions began in the year 793, the Anglo-Saxon tribes had arrived from across the sea between the 5th and 7th centuries. They spoke Ingvaeonic dialect, Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon dialect, and existed in close proximity with speakers of Proto-Norse. Before the Anglo-Saxon migration, these dialects were likely all mutually intelligible, so with only a couple of hundred years between the Anglo-Saxon migration and the Viking invasions their languages were likely still mutually intelligible at least to a limited extent, at the very least there were many similar cognate words. Despite the Germanic connection between Old English and Old Norse we can see that the differences between Old English and Middle English are striking. That English underwent a change and simplification in grammar and that many Old Norse words were adopted into English. Vocabulary. As we know, Norman French had a big impact on Middle English making up around 30% of English vocabulary by the end of the Middle English period, but if we leave French aside and just look at the Germanic vocabulary of English it looks like this: words with cognates in both Old English and Old Norse make up 50% of the words, words found only in Old English make up 36%, and words found only in Old Norse make up 14%. You might be thinking only 14%? That’s not so many Old Norse words! But also notice that 50% of the words had cognates in both languages. This could mean that as Middle English developed, the English and Scandinavians had the tendency to choose words that were common to both languages as this would obviously make communication easier and while 14% may seem like a fairly low number a lot of those words are very basic and common words that’s important because when a language borrows vocabulary from another one it usually borrows words that are more advanced or more literary or words for concepts that couldn’t be expressed in the language before. Borrowing basic words usually requires an intense prolonged period of contact between the two languages. Here are some examples of basic words that entered English from Old Norse. The third-person plural pronouns came from Old Norse. These are the ancestors of “they”, “them” and “their”; words related to animals “reindeer” from Old Norse “hreindyr”; “gosling” from Old Norse “gaeslingr” which was borrowed into Middle English as “gesling”; the word for “egg” from Old Norse “egg”; “wing” from Old Norse “vaengr”, which became Middle English “winge” or “wenge”. Nature and landscape: “bark” from Old Norse “borkr”; “root” from Old Norse “rót”, this was borrowed into Late Old English “rot”; “sky” from Old Norse “sky” and the original meaning was “cloud”. Negative words: “anger” from Old Norse “angr”; “die” from Old Norse “deyja”; which entered Old English as “digan”, which became Middle English “deyen”; “ill” from Old Norse “illr”, which entered Middle English as “ille”; “rotten” from Old Norse “rotinn” which entered Middle English as “roten”; “ugly” from Old Norse “ugga” or “uggligr”, which entered Middle English as “uglike”; words related to the body: “leg” from Old Norse “leggr”; “skin” from Old Norse “skinn”; words for common objects: “bag” from Old Norse “baggi”; “ball” from Old Norse “bollr”; “knife” from Old Norse “knifr” which entered Late Old English as “cnif”. Verbs: the plural present tense of the verb “to be” in other words “are” came from Old Norse “eru”; “call” from Old Norse “kalla”, which entered Middle English as “callen”; “hit” from Old Norse “hitta” which entered Middle English as “hitten”; “take” from Old Norse “taka” which entered Late Old English as “tacan”, which became Middle English “taken”. These are just some examples to give you an idea of the types of basic everyday words which were borrowed from Old Norse. Around a thousand words of Old Norse became part of standard English. But that number is significantly higher if we include some of the northern dialects of English like the Yorkshire dialect. Grammar. In the transition from Old English to Middle English, English went from being a synthetic language with lots of inflection to a highly analytic language which relies on word order and prepositions instead of inflection. Nouns lost their case inflections, nouns used to occur in four different forms: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative, and occasionally in a fifth case the instrumental case, for example in Old English there was this phrase meaning”the heavy stone” with the word for stone being a masculine strong a-stem noun: “se hefiga stan”, “paes hefigan stan-es”, “paem hefigan stan-e” “pone hefigan stan”; and in the plural form meaning “the heavy stones”: “pa hefigan stan-as”, “paera hefigra stan-a” “pa hefigum stan-um”. In Middle English these different forms were mostly lost, for the singular there was just “the heviy stan” and for the genitive form, in other words the possessive, there was “the heviy stanes”, in the plural there was just “the heviy stanes”, with the ending of the nominative and accusative cases becoming the plural “s”, in the noun distinct cases were lost except for the genitive and the different forms of the definite article were all reduced to “pe”, which was a variant of “se” from Old English and unstressed it was pronounced “thə” and all case and number distinctions were lost in the adjectives. Also in Old English the definite article and adjectives were declined differently in the feminine and neuter genders. But all of those gender distinctions were lost. There were various other plural endings for different genders and classes of nouns in Old English. But the plural form from this particular class of nouns became generalized to most nouns. Another plural ending was also common “en” which still lingers on in a few words like “oxen” “brethren “and “children”, though this one: “children” actually combines two plural forms “childer” plus “en”. This is a form of simplification in which a particular irregular form becomes regularized. Another change, many verb inflections were also lost. Old English verbs mainly fit into two groups strong verbs and weak verbs. Strong verbs formed the past tense through a change in a vowel in the verb stem and weak verbs formed the past tense by adding a suffix after the verb stem “-ode” and “-odest” in the singular, and “-odon” in the plural. In Middle English, the past tense endings in weak class two verbs developed into regular past tense endings, which today are just “-ed”. Many strong verbs disappeared and new verbs adopted the weak past tense forms. This is another example of how English became simplified and regularized. In Middle English the use of auxiliary verbs to supplement verb tenses also began. For example, in Old English there was no specific future tense. The future was expressed with the present tense conjugation. But in Middle English “schulen” meaning “shall” and “willen” meaning “will” began to be used as future markers. “he schal loke” meaning “he will look” or “he shall look” and “Silden he us wille” meaning “He will shield us”, in other words “He will protect us”. This was a sign of English becoming a more analytic language as it lost its inflections. The word order of English also became more fixed as English lost its inflections. In Old English “se hefiga stan” would be clearly nominative. Normally the subject of a sentence so you could move that phrase around and it would still be clear that it was the subject but In Middle English “the heviy stan” could be nominative, dative or accusative. So to show it’s the subject it would normally be first followed by a verb and then an object or a compliment, if there was one. So, how did the contact between Old English and Old Norse caused or influenced these changes? A lot of this comes down to speculation, based on small bits of information that we have. Despite the violence of the initial Viking invasions, in the areas under Scandinavian rule it seems clear that the Anglo-Saxons were not driven out or kept separate from the Scandinavians. They lived in close proximity with each other and at least in certain areas and at certain times they were highly integrated. With this context in mind there are several theories about the contact between Old English and Old North. The traditionally held consensus is that Middle English descended directly from Old English without interruption and that outside influence from Old Norse did not change the West Germanic core of the language. In this traditional view Middle English developed with an Old Norse substrate this means that as Scandinavians adopted English changes entered the language through imperfect learning on their part or borrowing from Old Norse on the part of English speakers there’s a minority view that Middle English was a Creole, in other words a new language that arose from contact between Old English and Old Norse with influences from both. Creoles usually arise when communities of people who share no common language come in close contact with each other and they come up with a new language out of necessity. This pidgin language is created by adults. Then, it becomes a native language of the next generation. One typical feature of Creoles is that the vocabulary is mostly derived from the higher prestige language, while its grammar is a drastically simplified version of the lower prestige languages grammar if English is a Creole that means that it cannot be classified as either West Germanic or North Germanic. But one problem with this theory is that true Creoles are usually more grammatically simplified and regularized than Middle English. Creoles usually begin as pidgin languages created by speakers of mutually unintelligible languages, so rather than combining both languages they create a simple new language from scratch and they normally don’t have gender and case in pronouns, singular plural distinction verb inflections for person or tense passive forms and so on, but Middle English retained all of those things Maybe that’s because Old English and Old Norse were so similar to begin with, that they didn’t need to create an entirely new language to communicate. Even if some creolization did take place, if they already shared a lot of common vocabulary but the grammatical inflections caused confusion, maybe they spoke in a dumbed-down or a simplified sort of way with fewer grammatical inflections in order to communicate. That doesn’t really fulfill the criteria of a pidgin but maybe we could call it a semi-pidgin or something like that, and if their children grew up in that household hearing their parents speak a semi-pidgin and they adopted that as their native language then maybe we could call that native language a semi-creole. There is also a controversial new theory that English is actually a North Germanic language. That means that Scandinavians didn’t learn Old English but rather the English learned Old Norse so Middle English is actually based on Old Norse at its core with lots of influence from Old English. So according to this theory English doesn’t descend directly from Old English but rather from Old Norse along with Swedish, Norwegia, Danish, Icelandic and Faroese. The basis of this theory is that the syntax of Middle English and Modern English reflects Old Norse in numerous ways. Here are some examples: in English the verbs come before the object. “I can play the piano” This is similar to the North Germanic word order in Norwegian “Jeg kan spille piano”, in the West Germanic languages Dutch and German the second verb comes at the end, after the object: “Ik kan piano spelen”. “Ich kann Klavier spielen” Old English was similar to Dutch and German in this regard, another difference: preposition stranding This means that prepositions can come at the end of clauses without the noun that usually follows them So in English we have “That issue was talked about” in Norwegian “Den saken ble snakket om”. Preposition stranding is actually very rare among the languages of the world Split infinitives: despite whatever your high school English teacher may have taught you split infinitives are very common and normal in English. Modern North Germanic languages are the same. In English you can say “I promise to not do that again” with “to not do” in Norwegian you can say “Jeg lover a ikke gjore de igjen”. In both languages the negation adverb is placed in the middle of the infinitive splitting it. Not only the negation adverb but other types of adverbs can go there as well. Split infinitives did not occur in Old English and they do not occur in Dutch or German. They did however occur occasionally in Old Norse Those are a few of 14 different syntactic elements that occur in both English and North Germanic languages but not in Old English. How do we know that these features weren’t simply borrowed from Old Norse into Old English? well this theory is based on the understanding that when one language borrows from another it usually doesn’t borrow structures it borrows mainly vocabulary. But I don’t think that’s quite true language structures are sometimes borrowed when there is extensive long term contact between the languages and when there is extensive bilingualism amongst speakers of the borrowing language. Old Norse was not simply the language of the elite, it was spoken by people living side by side with the speakers of Old English. So there was likely intense contact as well as a lot of bilingualism. Therefore, Old English certainly could have borrowed structures from Old Norse and not just vocabulary So I’m not convinced that English is based on Old Norse. In my opinion and I freely admit that I’m speculating here I think that the traditional consensus still stands, but there may also have been some degree of language mixing because of childhood bilingualism. It’s quite clear that Old Norse made a bigger impact further north in the Danish controlled areas. So up there there was likely more language mixing but when Middle English was standardized, the East Midlands dialect was chosen as the basis of the standard. It was sort of the midway point between the northern more Scandinavian influenced dialects and the southern more Anglo dialects this definitely limited the amount of Norse influence, so that Modern English today is more West Germanic than North Germanic. Even if some of those northern dialects tend a little more towards North Germanic. The question of the day to speakers of North Germanic languages and people who have studied them: What kinds of similarities have you noticed between English and your language? and to speakers of other languages: Has your language been influenced by others as a result of language contact? Let’s leave Modern English borrowings aside and think more about historical contact between different language communities. Be sure to follow Langfocus on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and once again thank you to all of my patrons on patreon, especially these patrons right here on the screen. They are my top tier patreon supporters. So very many special thanks to them.And everyone, thank you for watching and have a nice stay.

100 Replies to “VIKING INFLUENCE on the English Language!”

  • wow this was so mindblown,this video rewrote my brain, im swedish and.. wow, i always thought scandinavian languages came from germanic , but wow here here here its all in plain sight

  • Sad that Duke William won in 1066. It have been better for the english language if the anglosaxons or the viking norsemen have won in 1066.

  • As a Scandinavian I think the most striking similarity between modern Danish/Swedish/Norwegian and English is that it seems that most English words you would know in the year 1000 derives from Norse. Not only words describing animals, nature, body parts etc. but also the words describing the everyday life at the end of the Viking age. Colors, tools, weekdays etc.

  • Fascinating video. I'd also like to refer to this link here: – there was some DNA tracing done on (us) Yorkshire folk and the influence from Scandinavia is there to see.

  • "Weather"(eng) vs "Ветер"(rus). "Weather"(eng)="Погода"(rus), "Wind"(eng)=''Ветер"(rus)!

  • Good one! I am a Scot. I speak Danish, Swedish (and Norwegian) as well as German and a few romance languages. Learning (first) Swedish the similarities between modern English and Swedish are not only very evident, having lived in Northern England there are local words you come across common to both languages. As an anecdote, one of the main streets in Manchester is Deansgate. Nothing to do with a dean (from a church) nor a gate. It was from "Danes Gata" (or in Danish today "gade" = street) means "Street of the Dane" I believe this is where you had to go to visit the ruling Dane of the area to pay your taxes.

  • Sometimes I here people from north England speak and think they are Dutch or northeuropean so have to listen hard. Aye I do

  • Turkish had been in an influence by persian language for a long time. For example "nizam" means statue, system in turkish and persian meaning is same.

  • I am not convinced of the Danish being 'Old Norse'. The Norwegian Vikings did not settle for the most part, unlike the Danes. However, the Danish Vikings came from what is now Jutland. 400 years earlier the Saxon Jutes also came from Jutland and must have been the ancestors of the Danes. Therefore there must have been a certain commonality between Danish Viking and Old English thus allowing a certain level of communication between the two.

    Today if you go to Friesland in Holland and speak Old English the Frisians will probably understand a lot of what you say.

  • Im Indonesian and im starting to think that our Bahasa Indonesia were derived from Various sources,its a Melayu Language being influenced by Some Javanese,Sumatran and East parts of Indonesia with a minor mixing of Pidgin-Dutch and English vocab.,our language were so diverse in Overall!❤

  • Hi Paul. I don't know if you will read this. It is quite some time ago you made this video. I am very interested in languages my self, but must admit, I have no degree in linguistics.
    Now, that said. Your question, has your language been affected by other languages.
    Well, danish is nothing like old Norse, so I guess, that states it self that it has. But one thing I noticed, is that Danes pronounce numbers by taking the latter number first. So 76 is pronounced by saying six-seventy. Basically. Which is a German thing. Neither sweden, Norway or England does this and I believe it is because Denmark is, well, right next to it. Personally, i think it's a dumb number system and often when i read a number, because i speak English daily, I actually have trouble pronouncing it, because I need to see the whole number first, since I can't say it as I read it, if that makes sense.

  • Hello, I love languages and I love it to find out similarities and differences. Thanks for this lesson.
    Sometimes it was a bit fast.
    Don't mind my Grammar :S.
    Greetings from Germany. 🙂

  • 14% of the vocabulary was from ON. Do we know what the OE words would have been? Would be nice to see a comparison of what was discarded.

  • Of course the languages has fused in an culmination of civilizing areas and trades. Aswell has England been under the influence of related tribes even though enemies. The part of history i lack and can't find information about is when the Romans finally lost their grasp of England due to the Gothic tribes aka Germanic tribes. We do know that Germanic tribe cut the Romans shory already year 9 and at the battle of Teutoburger. Whatever happened afterwards seems to have a black hole in history until what you say that they migrated across to England hundreds of years later, replacing the Romans. That black hole is likely cause of that Romans had no influence on the northwards parameetres over that period, since they was actually the ones documenting history, not always room clean, demonizing on occation but the only real records comes from them. Is there history to find here?

  • Awesome vid. I am a native Swedish speaker who also speak English, Icelandic/Old Norse and I can read Old English and speak it but there are to many "we- " and "ge- " that I don't get, but I'm able to pronounce.

  • As a Kabylian "berber", my own language which is from berber origin has been very highly influenced by arabic, becoz of a very long contacte between the two since the 7th century to this day.
    A very big chunk of our vocabulary is borrowed from arabic, with a hight part of it being "basic words". But grammatical structures havent been borrowed, and the core language is still from berber origin mainly, or totaly.
    The overall is quite similar to this subject about english and norse (or english and norman) which I viewed many times.
    It's very interesting for me to see how you study the phenomenon, since I try myself to understand how modern Kabyle came to be the language we know today with its multiple basic worlds imported from arabic (and from french also).

  • Presumably lots of the common three letter words in English are Old Norse : log, big, beg, bog, peg, fog. These sorts of words.

  • (Swedish speaker) Interesting video! This link became apparent to me a while back when I realised that "window" is very similar to the old swedish word "vindöga" (ON: vindauga) meaning "wind-eye". I'm also learning Icelandic and learn lots of words very similar to the Old norse that way. 🙂

  • I'm neapolitan. Neaples has been invaded from several people, so many words of this language are borrowed from Greek during Magna Grecia (purtuallo, portokàlos, the orange; pazzià, paizo, kidding; pere, pur, fire), from Latin during Roman Empire (cajola, caveola, cage; cerasa, cerasum, cherry; pastenaca, pastinaca, carrot), from Arab for trade during middle age (arassusìa, arah sit, hoping it will never happen, I can't translate this one better than this; guallera, wadara, ernia, we actually use it to say…well…balls), from Catalan during Aragonese reign (muccaturo, mocador, handkerchief; ammuina, amoinar, in Catalan is a verb, while in neapolitan it means mess), from old French during Angiò reign (lengua, lengua, language, it is actually provenzal; raggia, rage, rage), from ancient germanic, don't know why, maybe from vikings (trincà, trinkan, to drink), from Spanish during Borbone reign (ninno/nenna, niño/nena, boy/girl; gappo, guapo, bully; cu mmico, con migo, with me, actually this form doesn't exist in italian, but only in Spanish and neapolitan), from French during Napoleon invasion (tirabbusciò, tire-bouchon, corkscrew; cazetta, chausette, socks; canzo, chance, litteraly chance, but in neapolitan it means time), from English during the American occupation in the second world war (sciuscià, shoe-shine; tecchete, take it; nippulo, nipple; sechenenza, second-hand) and obviously from italian, since 1861. Every word used as example doesn't exist in italian.

  • This is very helpful, helps me think… View point controversy, pattern what disturbs in stiff "modern" science, is not modern at all, present knowledge. Unethical to make claims what has no base on reality only some theory what has been made 100 years ago, and knowledge/awareness his much higher, bigger so theory has to also develop. Similar thing that growing from child to adult and old and then die, theory is completed, we cant get any more information. (dont kill baby, in philosophy theories are 1000 and 1000 year old, highly developed, some dead.) When you get peek from other reality in history stick it like here and develop idea, so it seem to be more real than previous though. Too many deny other realities than what authority is offering.


     Not so long way from Norway to England I bet good wind takes you fast to Scotland then wait right wind and go back. Certain times of year. Tehy must have lived side by side, only fishing requires that. I can give similar examples from finno ugrian languages, where wandering, trade and hunting, fishing especially has made them live same area, so that they move for summer and go back home for winter. People from north and carelia, east has meet at south and west Finland, and then maritime tribes from Baltic sea. Some products like cheese and dried fish what has been currency made them talk to each other.Must be some pattern what words are similar. Here is quite clear that pronouncing is key not synthetic written expression, it has developed speech more far diverse so that people dont understand each other, like in Finland after Christian schools.They truly forced peole to talk like is written, nightmarish thing, that speaking was banned from some who ever had read anything …. most cruel people old Christians, those Scandinavians 🙂 People in power, the man, didnt have to listen because of common man's dialect, what meant forever silence to some, only priest talked aloud.

  • I live in the East Midlands and am learning Norwegian and it's been really interesting to note similarities between the languages. It's also given me insight into some of the place names around where I live, particularly those with the -by ending as by = city in Norwegian and bygd = village.

    Other words like også = also, despite the difference in spelling the pronunciation was surprisingly similar. Gården = the farm, but I see how in English the meaning could morph into garden

    There's also a fair amount of slang around my part that certainly shares it's root with North Germanic languages – some older folk will say 'bairn' for children which is similar to the Norwegian word barn (of the same meaning). Fear in Norwegian is frykt and if we are scared in Lincolnshire we might say we are 'frit'.

    There's many more similarities and differences obviously and I'm not pretending I know enough about language to know all the shared roots that could have diverged into these two languages but it's been fun to realise how much we share

  • A classic example that gets brought up in Swedish schools is that the days of the week are borrowed and still relate to old Norse gods.

  • Scandinavians (Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, Icelanders, etc.) are much more likely to be fluent in English than Germans or Dutch. That should say something.

  • Thank you so much for making this video and explaining in simple to understand terms. History is very complicated but I came out of this with a much greater understanding.

  • In Scotland the word Barn for child is the same as the Norwegian Barn and also Kirk for church is Kirke in Norwegian although the pronounciation is a bit different.

  • 1in 100th word in middle English are words we still use and would recognize in middle German 1 in 3 words are still used which funny because there's like 9 deferent middle German language used at the same time

  • Excellent video, very well explained and in such clear English. I did not think, I would watch the whole thing. However, I watched the entire thing. Thank you.

  • Regarding structure. I have noticed a tendency that – primarily – the younger generation in Denmark is adopting structure from the english language. I recon it is due to the internet. So I guess that the next decade or so, will tell us more about whether only vocabulary or also structure will migrate.

  • When I flew to Sweden the day after graduation from Georgia Tech to start a job, just across the Oresund from Denmark, I quickly learned that many Swedish words were very close to the Old English word in Webster's Dictionary. If you had compared Old English to Gamla Svenska, rather than Gamla Norska, you would have seen more similarities. There is a reason. The Angles originally lived in southeastern Sweden. So did the Picts. I also noticed that the Swedish grammar was much closer to English than the Dutch grammar was. Six hundred and sixty six seamen in Swedish is Sex Hundra och Sexti Sex Sjomen.

  • Maybe this is relevant for the topic i question. The danish dialects in the western parts of Jutland (i.e. only a short voyage away from England) have only one gender, utrus, and the articel is always before the substantiv. That is contrary to standard danish and other dialects. Example: western dialect: "æ hous, æ dør" — danish: "huset, døren" — meaning: "the house, the door". Etc. etc. Could this be a relict from the time when there was vivid contact over the North Sea?

  • 16:20 In other words, the location of English/England is the same as it's origin, it is somewhere in between Scandinavian/Scandinavia and Germanic/Germany.

  • When i where a sailor, we overheard a nothan Scot and Jutlandian fishermen in deep conversation, both speaking Scotish and Danish respectively with vary heavy accents. They understood eachother perfectly over the radio. It was facinating to listen too thies two fishermen.
    On a related note, the English numbers are also of Danish origin. En to tre fire fem seks syv otte ni ti. One two three four five six seven eight nine ten. – Vary simelar still 🙂

    And then ofcouse the names of days are all from the Norse gods besides lørdag/saturday. Lørdag being "washing day". But the brits didnt like to take baths once a week, so they kept the roman day for that.

  • There is a village in west Yorkshire called Stainland meaning stoney land this must be from ON, also the word "Grub" for food, I have heared of "Grubenhut" a small building that is pretty much a roofed cellar used to store food.

  • I feel the influence of viking speech is very obvious regarding the speech of the North East of England especially Danish. For example the word for home pronounced 'yam' or 'yem' in that area is very similar to the Danish hjem. These Danish words are used to such good effect that it becomes a dialect rather than an accent. As a native English speaker when I first went to live there the speech was mainly incomprehensible.

  • This video is wrong on a lot of things. it should be viking influence on the scottish language, because it was scottish vikings that influenced the english language. Example : Hus in norwegian. hoos in scottish. house in english. or Ku in norwegian, coo in scottish. cow in english. brun in norwegian. broon in scottish, brown in english. there is hundreds of these examples. millions of people in scotland speak proper norwegian everyday, they just don't know it. to be true about the english language, it is essentially stolen words from all around the world, from a lot of colonies.

  • I'm from near Newcastle upon Tyne and one phrase that has always amazed me from this area is “It’s late, I’m gannin yem.” meaning I am going home.

  • As a Dutchman I noticed the following: English core vocabulary and pronunciation is definitely more West-Germanic. The closest you will get is with Frisian (spoken in North-Western Holland). This indicates to me that the core of English is West-Germanic. But when I started to learn Danish and Norwegian I immediately noticed that the word order/grammar of English is much more similar to Scandinavian languages. It seems to me that there must have been a point in time where old Norse and old English kinda merged together, where the West-Germanic core vocabulary was kept, but especially the grammar adapted to the more simple grammar that Old Norse used, so the two groups could communicate in an effective manner.

  • Very interesting video! 'hitta' in Old Norse means find in modern swedish. 'hit' on the other hand is borrowed from English and commonly used in modern swedish as describing a popular, well-known song.

  • by brain is getting a seizure from this. why is it that modern english we all speak today is so fucked up compared to the more simple old english?

  • This was a very instructive video since I was always so amazed how on earth an odd language like English could ever come to existence. Which would be an irrelevant question were it not for the fact that it became the lingua franca for almost everyone on earth. You mention that it is depending on a specific mix of prolonged living together, cultural and societal aspects of the mix etcetera. Of course! And the result is somewhat unpredictable and it’s almost ‘may the best one win’ per grammar or per word or verb. At the end you asked about other language influences besides English (thanks). I am Dutch and apart from the obvious shared roots with German the biggest language influence was from French. We have a lot of originally French words resulting from that language spoken by our ‘upper class’ for centuries. Even when the Netherlands was part of the French empire only for a good decade (1795-1810) its cultural influence was immense. Actually more on Dutch than on Flemish, which has more Germanic replacements of French words. Quite a few words landed in Dutch from Hebrew/ Jiddisch especially in the Amsterdam slang and strangely enough very few from German. If we do pick words from German they remain intact and clearly recognized as such, examples are ‘überhaupt’ or ‘Ausdauer’ or ‘wir schaffen das’. Many local ‘semi creole’ languages exist in our cities with Surinam and Arab words but that will be the same in every big city worldwide. For the rest I’d say Dutch has been relatively uninfluenced except for… the educated class is now to a great extent bilingual with English. You can predict the result in 100 years.

  • I'm a native speaker of Spanish, English is my second language and French is my third. However, I now live in the US and have been speaking English more than Spanish. When I talk to my mum or friends back home, they say I have a funny accent and not only do I have a funny accent in Spanish, but I've noticed I've been using a lot of English words in my Spanish daily talk, especially false cognates or just words Spanish monolinguals would never use. On the other hand, my English has become more sophisticated sounding because of the so many French and Spanish cognates I keep using. I once used "demonstrate" and "antiquated" instead of "show" and "old-school", and people just couldn't help but give me a funny look.
    Thank you for your videos.

  • What about the normans? Even though they spoke some kind of french, the normans originally came from the north, most likely vikings from the Scandinavian country’s – did their languish also content words from old norse, which went into english through them?

  • Yorkshire born and bred as I am, I occasionally use words that still confuse my spouse after over 20 years of marriage, as he is from Sussex. Laiking for playing for instance, although he understood when I suggested someone had no gorm, but not when I said the wind was wuthering. Some of these words I have never seen written down. I had to look up how to spell laiking. Although Barnsley library does hold copies of local dialect poems amongst other written forms of dialect they were not readily available I only saw them on a school trip as they were kept in a part of the library only open to scholars and researchers. I'm not sure how to spell pluvering but that's when smoke twists back and forth and to bray someone is to beat them. Again words I have had to translate to my husband. Black bright (pronounced 'breet') means dirty, usually covered in dirt everywhere. Goff up or goffing, to spit up flem or puke something out. For some folk goffing meant something/somewhere has a nasty smell. Blathered, yet another meaning to the word locally was to be hot and sweaty, usually but not solely from hard work. These words appear now and then in conversations and my husband looks blankly at me and tells me that I just made them up on the spot.

  • Great video! You should take a look at the medieval platt-deutch / low German. It is really close to old Danish and has been most influential on the Scandinavian languages, and is way more intelligible from a Swedish perspective than High German.

    My hypothesis is that the Norse influence on the English language was large but synthesised as Middle English in the 13-14th centuries was also an amalgam with the language of the Hansa legion, just as Swedish is.

  • Though not in response to something in this video, I don't know where else to ask this question, and hope someone has an answer for me. My father, born in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. very commonly spoke a phrase that I have come to learn is considered archaic. Instead of saying "I'd rather" he would say "I'd as lief". Most of his family came from the West Midlands (I think) about three generations before him. He could never tell me where he learned that phrase, so must have come from his childhood. Has anyone heard this phrase before? How about its origins? Thanks

  • 1) In a spectacular part of Iceland the red arrow on the helpful roadside map said:__ "Du art her"
    "You are here" — I thought — and I was.
    2) My language, Malti, followed a similar course with Arabic and Sicilian.
    3) Well done Paul.

  • We really need something different Paul. Your videos are just splende and as a linguistic so useful. Let’s move on and have videos on Native American languages, koine Greek, ancient Hebrew,Samarian etc, etc.

  • All europian languages are formed fom RUSSIAN. The RUSSIAN language is the PRA-LANGUAGE of the mankind. Wether you aknowledge this or not.

  • I am a Dutch-German bilingual from birth, and I've had similar friends (bilingual from birth in german-dutch) with whom I spoke a heavy mix of both languages in terms of vocab, syntax, Grammer and sometimes pronunciation.

    So the language mixing theories are very realistic in my opinion.

  • Grim is a very interesting word; in Danish it means ugly, however in Norwegian and Norse it means armed. My grandmother used this word as: Ikke vær stygg/grim mot noen. Not to mention the name Grim; meaning armed or bestykket in regular Norwegian.

  • As a dane, I have noticed that in both Danish and English, politicians are know by their observed caracteristics.
    So that a Danish politician is called "et røvhul" and an English politician "an asshole", essentially the same meaningl
    Yes there are sertenly many similarities !

  • Just want to clarify in case anyone gets confused that the simplification of English grammar and case system in the Middle English period was not primarily a result of Scandinavian influence but rather Norman French influence

  • my ancestors came across the North Sea in longboats. It annoys me to think that people still believe Vikings had horns in their hats

  • Thanks for an interesting presentation (again). I am Danish speaking, and to the question on other words that are shared between the nordic and english, I will point to the words of a boat, and that might be due to the vikings influence, like mast, bom, sail, starboard, ancher, stern, keel, etc etc 🙂 BR Jan

  • When Paul mentioned the possibility of borrowing structures to another language, I thought about the actual (ab)use of the verb 'ser' (to be) in Bogotan Spanish.

    Most of the people in Bogota, Colombia are used to say "tengo es que bañar al perro" (I have is to wash the dog), or "usted coge es el bus que va para el norte" (you take is the bus that goes northwards). I think that this use of 'to be' might come from French. In fact, as far as I know, when formerly French held more prestige and influence as a language for educated people, the use of 'to be' a-la-française could have been adapted in Bogotan Spanish. If I'm not wrong, you can say in French " ce que je dois faire est baigner le chien" ( pardon my French, I don't really know too much 😛 ). Then, it could have been borrowed as '(lo que) tengo (que hacer) es que bañar al perro'.

    Therefore, maybe grammar structures can be borrowed and change the core of a language. The same could have occurred from Old Norse to Old/Middle English.

  • The Normans were basically French-speaking vikings. They hadn't been integrated into French society for very long by the time that they invaded England. The Norman invasion happened because of the existing viking influence in England. Once they had taken the English monarchy once there were going to be claims on the throne based on that. That's what William the Conqueror was basing his claim on. So yes, French vocabulary entered the English language through the Norman invasion, but it was essentially still vikings.

  • Very interesting video, I was wondering what do "exclusives" words in english come from, I mean, I didn't know the origin of some words like sky, to take etc and this video has answered to my questions

  • Great video, as always!

    I learned Icelandic over the last years and icelandic (which is really close to old norse) pronounces words that have a double LL sound a bit different. "kalla" turnes to something like "kadla". That was most probably also the case during the old norse times. English seems to have lost this feature over the time.

  • When you show the map of the Danelaw, you forget to include the Hebrides, Orkeney and parts of Scotland and Ireland. Middle GB wasn't the only place invaded, you know.
    Jorvik was perhaps the most famous "capital" but Norwegian vikings also had permanent holdings on all the surrounding islands and parts of the mainland already by this time.
    The Danelaw is a result of a united Scandinavian viking front, albeit the specific origin area predominantly Danish "tribes".

    Also the incursions went as far as to today's Cornwall, but I can understand it in practice can be hard to draw extensive relevant maps.

  • I don't think there's any grammatical influence of other languages into Portuguese, but a lot of vocabulary was borrowed from Arabic, usually for things the Portuguese knew through Arabs, such as food (sugar, carrot, lemon, etc.), technology (watchtower, bottle, watermill, etc.), Islamic vocabulary (mosque, Quran, caliph, etc.). Sometimes there were less explainable borrowings (hopefully, hog, tailor, etc.), but these are relatively rare.

    Curiously, though, French had its print on European Portuguese phonology, and some more European-influenced dialects from Brazil such as that of Rio and Florianópolis followed partially.

  • English is definitely closer to Scandinavian languages than the traditional Germanic ones we lump it with. The biggest give away is the fact the grammar is almost identical.

    Ie. You can translate Swedish word for word and either get an English sentence that makes sense or is damn close. Do that with German and it is a little more confusing.

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