The role of the borrowings in the English language

Contents Introduction …... 3 1. Theoretical background .4 1.1 Definiton …..4



1. Theoretical background………………………………………………………….4

1.1 Definiton………………………………………………………………………..4

1.2 History of the English language…………………………………………...…...7

1.3 Loanword periods………………...…………………………………………….8

1.3.1 The Zero period…………………………………...………………………….9

1.3.2 The First period……………………………………………………………..10

1.3.3 The Second period…………………………………………………………..11

1.3.4 The Third period…………………………………………………….………13

1.3.5 The Modern period………………………………………………….………15

1.4 Different kinds of borrowings………………………………………….……..16

1.5 What kinds of words are borrowed?.................................................................17

1.6 How many words are loanwords?.....................................................................19

2. An investigation of the origin of the words in “God save the Queen”…..…….21


List of the literature………………………………………………………………30

Appendix 1……………………………………………………………………….31


People all around the globe with different mother tongues often have the same opinion regarding loanwords in their languages; they mostly do not like them. They wish that their own native words would be used instead and often fear that too much borrowing could lead to their mother tongue eventually dying out. A lot of this fear has been directed on the English language the last decades. Due to its tremendous rise as a global language many English words have entered other languages in all parts of the world. Babysitter and makeup are just two examples of common English words that are used in many other languages around the globe. Today, many countries are trying to reduce the influence that English has on their native tongues. In France, for example, laws are passed that make it illegal to use an English word in official contexts when there are native words that could be used instead [5 P. 23]. However, English is not the only language that has played an important role in “exporting” words to other languages. Latin and French, for example, are two other languages that have had a deep impact on many others throughout history. Most people do not seem to realize that borrowing words from other languages is a very old and common linguistic phenomenon. All languages have some words in their vocabulary that are of foreign origin, and so does the English language. This essay will focus on exactly this subject : the role borrowings in English. The paper will deal with many aspects concerning this topic. The essay will be divided in two major parts: a theoretical and an empirical part. In the theoretical part, essential information will be given on the subject. What languages do loanwords in English come from? When and why were these words borrowed? In the empirical part, the British national anthem, “God Save the Queen”, will be analyzed. How many words in the text originally come from other languages? What other languages do these words come from? What kinds of words are loanwords? “God Save the Queen” was chosen as the object to be examined, because a national anthem usually has the purpose of symbolizing a people and its country. Therefore it is interesting to discover if the words that are used in the song are also native English words.

1. Theoretical background

1.1 Definition

A substantial amount of all English words have been borrowed from other languages. These words are usually called “loanwords”, since they are not native English words. In Merriam-Webster’s Online dictionary the word “loanword” is defined in this way: “a word taken from another language and at least partly naturalized [12]. Naturalized means in this case “to introduce into common use or into the vernacular” [16]. Loanwords are often even more widely known than native words since their “borrowing served a certain purpose, for example to provide a name for a new invention” [12]. An example of such a borrowing is “pizza”. Since the Italians were those who introduced pizzas in England, the English borrowed the word from them [11].

The word “loanword” is in fact a type of loanword itself. The word comes from the German word “lehnwort”, which means precisely loanword. In this case, the meaning of the German words (lehn + wort), the English equivalents are used. This type of borrowing is called a calque . As this example shows us, there are different kinds of borrowings, and they can be divided into subgroups. These subgroups will be discussed later in the essay.

The word “borrow” is often used in literature on loanwords to symbolize that a language uses a word that originally comes from another language. In this paper the term will also be used, even though the word is somewhat misleading. The word “borrow,” indicates that the item borrowed will be returned, and since this obviously is not the case, “borrow” may not be the best metaphor in this particular case.

In order for loanwords to enter a language it is necessary that some people of the “borrowing” language are bilingual. These people have to be able to understand and to some extent speak the “lending” language so that words can be borrowed from that language.

Borrowings enter a vernacular in a very natural way. The process starts off with that bilingual people of a certain language community start using words from another language. These people often choose to use certain foreign words because they feel that these words are more prestigious than their native ones. As time passes, more and more people start using the word and eventually the word has become a part of the vocabulary of the borrowing language. An example of this is how it became popular for the upper class in Germany in the beginning of the 18th century to speak French. Between, 1650 and 1770, France was the leading political and cultural nation in Europe, and the French language was very popular and prestigious during this time. Many wealthy Germans also wanted to be part of the culture and therefore learned French and became bilingual [3 P. 143]. The majority of Germans, who were poor peasants, however, still spoke German, but many French loanwords managed to enter the German vocabulary. Examples are the words “Kostüm”, “Parfüm”, “Promenade” and “Balkon” [3 P. 143]. Often, the original native word exists alongside the borrowed, but many times the native word died out.

Sometimes however, the “borrowing” language does not have a native word with the same meaning as the loanword. When this is the case, certain concepts, ideas or objects of the “lending” language community are new to the people of the “borrowing” language community. So, instead of making up a complete whole new word for the idea or object they simply borrow the word from the people they came in contact with. An example of this is the word “bagel”. The word was adopted from the Yiddish language, since the Jews were those who introduced bagels to the rest of the world [19]. Many other languages, including English, therefore borrowed the word “bagel”.

Another reason for borrowing lexica from other languages is when a language uses words that are not semantically differentiated enough. An example of such a case is how the English used the word “lufu” (love) when they meant “charity” before the 12th century. Since “lufu” also had the meaning as it has today it was at times unclear what a person meant. This resulted in that the English borrowed the word “charity” from French, in order to be able to more specifically distinguish between the two words [2 P. 87].

Most English loanwords have been a part of the English vocabulary for a long time. Many people would not, for example, consider the word, “simple” to be a loanword, since it was borrowed centuries ago. “Simple” entered the English language around 1220 and was adopted from the French language [13]. The word is, however, not originally a French word, but had once been borrowed from Latin [13]. As this example shows us, loanwords can have existed in our vocabulary for a very long time, but still be loanwords. In order for us to be able to distinguish between borrowings and native words, however, we have to understand and know the history of the English language.

1.2 History of the English language

English belongs to the Proto-Indo–European language group. Linguists assume that the Indo-Europeans lived approximately 6000 years ago south of the Caucasus [3 P. 39]. As time went by, these people migrated in various directions, and 2000 years later some of them came to occupy the land around the western parts of the Baltic Sea [3 P. 41]. The language that these people came to speak was Germanic. A few centuries later, approximately around 450 – 600 A.D, three Germanic tribes, the Jutes, Angles and Saxons migrated to the British Isles and the language that they came to speak in their new land was Old English ( for example, sēo sunne (the Sun), se mōna (the Moon) [1]. Since a language always develops and changes, the English that these people spoke was very different from the English we speak today. Most people that have English as their native tongue would find it difficult to understand an Old English text for example.

All in all, we can say that native English words are words that have their origin in Old English or in the Germanic dialects that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes spoke when they lived on the continent.

1.3 Loanword periods

English has borrowed words from virtually all languages on earth. The British came in contact with many different people and languages when the British Empire colonized various parts of the world. Hindi words, like shampoo and pajamas, for example, were adopted into English after the British had colonized India and there had been contact between the natives and British [20]. English has, in this sense, been a very open language, and not been afraid of borrowing material from other languages.

One language had especially a deep impact on English: Latin. Latin has influenced English exceedingly throughout history, and the first period of Latin influence took place around 2000 years ago on the Germanic dialects that would one day develop into English. Christian missionaries coming to Britain in the 6th century and 7th century brought with them Latin religious terms which entered the English language: abbot, altar, apostle, candle, clerk, mass, minister, monk, nun, pope, priest, school, shrive. It is often said that English is, to some extent, as much a Romance language as a Germanic one,n because of the tremendous amount of words that have been borrowed from Latin and French.

The next part of the essay will look at loanword periods in the history of the English language. There are five major Romance loanword periods. These periods are the zero period, the first period, the second period, the third period and the modern period [17].

We will also look at other languages that have helped shape the English vocabulary.

1.3.1 The zero period

Even before English became English, in other words, before the Angles, Jutes and the Saxons moved to the British Isles, the dialects they spoke on the continent came in contact with the Romans and their language, Latin. Even though the Germanic languages and Latin derived from the same source, namely the Indo European language, they had developed in different directions and were back then, as they are today, completely different languages. At this point in history, the Romans were far more technically advanced than the Germanic people [3 P. 55]. They had plenty of words in their vocabulary that the Germanic people did not have, because they had not developed the objects or ideas yet. An example of this is that they only lived in wooden houses and had not discovered the art of building houses out of stone.

When they came in contact with the Romans, though, and learned this new technique, they borrowed the Latin terms [3 P. 55]. Most of these words were quite short and therefore “easily adaptable to the highly inflected Germanic languages” [17].

The words often had to do with cooking, military matters, commerce and trade [17]. Examples of words that were borrowed during this period are “mule”, “chalk” and “linen” [8].

1.3.2 The first period

During the first period, which began in year 43 A.D. and continued until 449 A.D., “Latin was the official language of the administration” in the British Isles [17]. The Anglo-Saxons had not yet migrated to the British Isles and the Celts, the indigenous people of Britain, were living there. The Romans had occupied the country, and their language, Latin, became the official language. Many Latin loanwords entered Celtic languages during this period, and these loanwords were then passed on to the Anglo-Saxons when they moved to Britain. Here are some examples of the loanwords, which entered the language during this period : ambassador, bannock, bard, bracket, breeches, car, career, carry, charge, druid, embassy, piece, vassal.

1.3.3 The second period

During the second period, which took place between 597 A.D. and 1066 A.D., the Romans christianized the Anglo-Saxons. This period can be divided into two parts, the Early and the Benedictine period [17]. During the Early period many words were borrowed from Latin that were related to the Anglo-Saxons new religion, Christianity [17]. Examples of such words are “bishop”, “mass” and “pope” [17]. Words relating to other subjects were also borrowed, like school and plant. During the Benedictine period, many exotic and learned words were borrowed [9].

During this period there was also some borrowing of Celtic words. Celtic name words for places and rivers were frequently borrowed, and today many of the names of towns in England have their origin in the Celtic language. Examples are: London, Cornwall and Thames [19]. However, only a few “normal” Celtic loanwords entered the English language during this time. The explanation for this is most likely that the Anglo-Saxons were the conquerors and the Celts the conquered, and the powerful people only seldom borrow words from the people they have defeated. Additionally, there was not much contact between the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons and the relationship between them was presumably hostile [9].

There was also a profound Scandinavian influence on the English vocabulary during this period. The Vikings occupied the northeastern parts of England and Scotland, later to be called the Danelaw, in the 9th and 10th Century, and therefore many words from their mother tongue, Old Norse, entered the English language. Words, like “dream”, “sky” and the pronoun “they” are examples of words that were borrowed from the Old Norse language [12]. Since Old English and Old Norse were fairly similar languages, it is likely that a colloquial Anglo-Norse arised in the Danelaw area [6 P. 63]. In this colloquial it was easy for many Old Norse words to replace Old English ones. A further example of a word that was once borrowed from Old Norse is “window”. The Scandinavian name was “vindöga”´, but in some Scandinavian languages like Swedish, for example, the word is not used anymore. The Swedes borrowed the word “fönster” from Low German in the 15th century, and this example shows us that other languages, in this case English, may save a word from dying out, because they became loanwords [3 P. 130].

1.3.4 The third period

In year 1066 A.D. the Norman Conquest took place. The Anglo-Saxons were defeated, and since the Normans spoke Norman French, their language became the official language in England [17]. Both in business and in the government Norman French was the language that was used (examples are : attorney, bailiff, chancellor, chattel, country, court, crime,

defendent, evidence, government, jail, judge, jury, larceny, noble,

parliament, plaintiff, plea, prison, revenue, state, tax, verdict) [6 P. 74]. Norman French was a local variant of Old French that was spoken in the area of Normandy in the 10th century. The people that lived in this area and spoke this dialect where originally of North Germanic origin, which lead to that Norman French had a considerable amount of Germanic influence [20].

Thousands of words, from all kinds of fields, were borrowed from Norman French into English after the Norman Conquest. Words like: castle, marry, noun, language, glory and poet are all examples of loanwords from this time [20]. Many of the borrowed words came from the field of administration, state, politics, war, law and art [2 P. 53]. This third period continued into the 16th Century, which means that for more than 400 years Norman French influenced English. It is likely that many French words entered the English language, because the upper class that had spoken French continued to use many French words when the country went over to speaking English. Other people then imitated their language, because of their social standing and education, and the result was that thousands of French borrowings were adopted [6 P. 75]. In the middle of the 14th century, a French dialect called Central French or Parisian became the official standard in France and on the British Isles [6 P. 75]. The loanwords that entered during this time are therefore borrowed from this dialect. Many of them do not exist in French anymore.

Some of them have however “survived” in English. Examples of such words are close, feature, fuel and remain [17].

Some 10,000 French words entered the English vocabulary during the Norman occupation. Around 75% of these words are still “alive” and used in English today [14].

Today it is also possible to look at English words and understand how certain aspects of society worked during this time. If we look at the words “beef” and “cow”, for example, it is clear to see that the words are not of the same origin even though their semantic relationship is obvious. The explanation for this is that the word “beef” derives from Norman French, while “cow” is of Germanic origin. Due to the fact that the French people were those who could afford to eat “beef” during this period, since many of them belonged to the aristocracy, they used a word from their language. The people who tended the cattle, however, were mostly the Anglo-Saxons and therefore they used the Germanic word “cow” [20].

Many times, words of Germanic and Romance origin that had the same meaning existed side by side. The Romance word was often more formal and not as emotional as the native word [9]. Today, many of these words are still used. Examples are the synonyms doom and judgment, and odor and scent [9].

In the 14th and 15th Century there was also a considerable amount of Latin influence. Due to translations of Latin literature, and the fact that some people read literature written in Latin, Latin loanwords managed to enter the English language [9]. The writings of Trevisa, Lanfranc, Arderne, and Wyclif are some famous scientific and theological works that were translated during this period [7 P. 8]. Examples of Latin loanwords from this period are “commit”, “create” and “impress”.

1.3.5 The Modern Period

During the Renaissance in the 15th century Latin and Greek became important languages once again. Scholars and intellectuals studied classical texts that were written in Greek and Latin, which eventually led to many loanwords from these languages entering the vocabulary of other European languages, like English. Thousands of words were borrowed during this

period, and many of them had already been borrowed from French some centuries earlier. Now, the “same” word entered the language, only this time from Latin directly [17]. “Perfect” is an example of a word that was borrowed twice. In Middle English the word was “parfit” and had been borrowed from French, but during the Modern Period the word was changed into “perfect”, because the Latin equivalent was “perfectus”, and it was considered better if the word resembled the Latin word [17].

1.4 Different types of borrowings

As mentioned earlier in the essay, there are different types of borrowings. In the empirical part of the essay the words in “God Save the Queen” will not be divided into subgroups, and the word “loanword” will still be used as the overall term. However, most linguists categorize borrowings in this way:

Loanwords are words that keep their meaning and phonetic shape, when they find their way into another language. The word “pizza”, for example, which has its origin in Italian, has the same “shape”, in other words, is pronounced and written in the same way in both English and Italian, which makes it a “real” loanword. It is also important that the word is inflected in the same way. The plural forms therefore also have to be identical in both languages.

A semantic loan is a borrowing where “the meaning of a foreign word is transferred onto an existing native word [9]. An example of a semantic loan is the word “God”. The word is a native English word and existed in Old English as well, but the Christian meaning it has today was borrowed from the Romans and their religion when they came to the British Isles.

A calque or a “loan translation” is a “one-to-one translation of a foreign model” [9]. An example of a calque is the English word “embody”, which has its origin in the Latin equivalent “incorporare”. The word “loanword” is also a calque.

The names of the days of the week are further examples of loan translations. They were borrowed from Latin approximately around 400 A.D. All Germanic people, except the Gothic, used the Germanic equivalents of the Roman gods when they named the days of the week, and the names are therefore from Germanic mythology [6 P. 60].

The word “calque ” can also stand for a “loan transfer” , which is almost the same as a loan translation, the only difference being that “at least one part is semantically different from the model” [9]. An example of such a calque is the German word “Wolkenkratzer”, which literally means “cloudscraper”. Here “cloud” is used instead of “sky”, while the word “scraper” is correspondingly translated.

A loan creation is another form of borrowing. A loan creation is a rather complicated type of borrowing, since a word or the meaning of word is not actually borrowed. If a new word is created in a language, and there was some sort of influence from other languages, even if only to a small degree, it is called a loan creation [9].

1.5 What kinds of words are borrowed?

Usually, words that refer to exotic ideas, concepts or objects are borrowed. An example of this is how names of animals that do not inherently come from Great Britain are often loanwords in English [12]. The name of the animal is

borrowed from the language that is spoken in the country in which the animal originally comes from or lives in.

When we examine loanwords in different languages we will find that most of these borrowings are nouns. Nouns, and lexical words in general, are borrowed more frequently than grammatical words. The can be explained with the fact that a major reason for borrowing lexica is to extend the referential potential of a language. Since reference is established primarily through nouns, these are the elements borrowed most easily.

1.6 How many words are loanwords?

As this essay has shown, a vast amount of all English words are of foreign origin. Other languages also have loanwords in their vocabulary, but many of them do not have borrowings to the high extent that English does. An explanation for this is the fact that English is “fairly free of phonetic restrictions in its syllable structure” [12].

Words that therefore originally come from other languages, and that are differently structured, can anyhow be easily adopted into English.

Another reason is the fact that there has been relatively little opposition against loanwords in English. In many other European countries there has been a great deal more resistance against adopting and using words from other languages. In Germany, for example, there have been many purist periods throughout history, where language-associations have tried to

reduce the amount of loanwords in German. This type of purism directed against loanwords is called “xenophobic purism” and has not been as successful in Great Britain [12]. There was, however, some active resistance against loanwords in English in the 19th and 20th century. Many English writers thought consciously of using Anglo-Saxon words instead of Romance words when there were two synonyms to choose from [12]. An example of this is how many of them chose to use the word “foreword”, which is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin, instead of “preface”, which is a Romance word.

There are many different studies on borrowings in the English language. Linguists havetried to find out how many borrowings there are in the English language and the corresponding percentages. Most of them come to the conclusion that the majority of English words are of foreign origin, but they do not reach the same numbers and percentages. Below are two different studies, both drawing different conclusions.

Aronstein comes to the conclusion that 55% of all English words are borrowed from Latin and French. 35% are, according to Aronstein, native English words, while 10% are loanwords from other languages [4 P. 64].

In the “Shorter Oxford Dictionary” however, only 22 % of the 80 000 entries are of native Anglo-Saxon origin, and 64% are Romance and Greek loanwords. 4% of the words have been borrowed from other Germanic languages, like Old Norse, Yiddish or High and Low German. 2% were loanwords from non-European languages, and the rest of the words, which accounted to 10%, were words that had derived from proper names or the origin was unknown [2 P. 72].

Many of the words, which were examined in the two studies, are, however, hardly used in daily life. It is therefore important to consider that the percentages that are shown from the two studies do not regard how often a word is used. The most common words in English are namely native English words, while a large quantity of those words that are only seldom used are loanwords. Aronstein, for example, analyzed the words that Shakespeare used in his works and came to the result that 86% of all the words he used were of Germanic origin [2 P. 11].

2.An investigation of the origin of the words in “God save the Queen”

In order to examine the words in “God save the Queen”, an etymological dictionary will be needed. Such a dictionary does not explain what a certain word means, but instead it gives information on what the word meant years ago, where its origin lies and how it came into the language. In this paper we will not focus on the semantic change of the words, and neither will we look at where a word originally comes from and therefore not trace the word back to its ultimate origin. We will only focus on finding out which words are borrowings and which the Online Etymology Dictionary.

I began the analysis by categorizing the words in their respective word classes. Grammarians and linguists are not in agreement on how many word classes there are, and how words are supposed to be classified. Some believe that there are only seven word classes while others suggest as many as 20. For this essay, I have decided to choose a categorization that only has eight word classes in order to simplify the analysis. These eight major word classes are, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, articles, and interjections.

Someday people might be singing “God save the King” instead of “God save the Queen” when they sing their national anthem. When the British monarch is male the word “Queen” is namely exchanged for “King”, so that the song corresponds to the monarchal situation.

It is unknown who the composer or author of the national anthem is. There have been plenty of speculations on which they could be, and people such as James Oswald, Dr. Henry Carey and Jean Baptist Lully have all been mentioned as possible candidates [12]. Today, however, approximately 200 years after the song became the national anthem, the composer and author are still unidentified.

“ God Save the Queen” is one of the first songs to be used as a national anthem. In the beginning of the 19th century, when the song became Great Britain’s national anthem, it was uncommon for countries to have national anthems, which they used for nationalistic purposes.

The song was first publicly sung in a theater in 1745 when the band leader decided to play it after hearing that Prince Charles Edward Stuart had defeated the army of King II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh [18]. At this time the song was not the official national anthem, but the audience liked the performance so much, and the song became such a present [18].

Today there is no authorized version of the song, “as the words are a matter of tradition” [18]. Normally, only the first, but sometimes also the second verse of the song are sung, but the national anthem actually does consist of five verses. These have been added to the original first two verses over the years, and are not as famous as the first ones, since they are not sung very often. For this essay, however, all verses will be analyzed, in order to have as many words as possible for the investigation and to make the result as precise and reliable as possible [Appendix 1].

“God Save the Queen” consists of 92 different words. Of the 92 words, 29 belong to the group of nouns. 24 words are verbs and 17 are adjectives. Five words are adverbs, six are prepositions and three are conjunctions. Six pronouns were found and one definite article and one interjection.

The 92 words were then analyzed regarding their origin. The outcome was approximately that what I had expected. 57 words, which accounts to 62% of all investigated words were of Old English origin. 22 words, or 24% of the words were Old French loanwords. 5.4% or five of the 92 words were loanwords from Old Norse, while 2.2% or two words were of Anglo-

French origin. 4.4% of all words or four words had been borrowed from Latin directly, and 1% had been borrowed from Middle German. One When one examines the 57 native English words, one realizes that many of these words are fundamental and basic words in the English vocabulary. Verbs that describe very basic human actions are found in this group. Examples are the verbs “live”, ”send”, “see”, “give” and “sing”. Among these words are also the two auxiliary verbs “may” and “should”. One could draw the conclusion that words like these do not normally get borrowed from other languages, since they account for the most elementary and primary vocabulary that all languages ought to have in order to be labeled as a language. Therefore, the Anglo- Saxons did not borrow these words from the Romans, Normans or the other people they came in contact with, since they already existed in their vocabulary.

Not only verbs, but also nouns and pronouns that describe fundamental objects, people or ideas can be found in the group of the native English words. “Brothers”, “world”, “men” and “arm” are examples of such words. These are words that are so basic that all human languages have them as part of their vocabulary. Obviously, all human beings in the world have families and body parts and need the respective terms.

All pronouns, except for one, that were found among the 92 words were of Old English origin. “Her”, “us”, “thee”, “we” and “she” are all native words, and these words are also typical main words in a language.

All three conjunctions that were found are also of Old English origin. These words are needed in a language to explain relations between sentences, and in order to make the language logical. The fact that these words are native words is not surprising, since Old English also needed conjunctions to make it a structured language.

The six prepositions that were found are also all native English words. These words are also needed in a language in order for it to be logical and complete, since prepositions, just as conjunctions, describe the relationship between words. The Anglo-Saxons did not borrow such words, since they already had them, but also because grammatical words like these normally do not carry any prestige and are therefore not borrowed. Only if a word from another language is more prestigious or has a connotation that the native word lacks, would it be meaningful to borrow a word.

A further distinction with the words that are of Old English origin is that they are fairly short. Most of them only have between three and five letters, while many of the loanwords have more. Native English words often only have one syllable, while many of the other words consist of more. Only seven of the 57 native words had more than one syllable. A reason for this could be that native words have obviously been a part of the language the longest, and have therefore had the most time to be changed and simplified.

Many of the words that were examined were loanwords from Old French. 24% of all words were borrowed from this language. It is important to remember that most of these words are originally of Latin origin. More than 90% of all Old French words came from Vulgar Latin [12]. These French loanwords are verbs,

adjectives and nouns. Not one single preposition, conjunction, pronoun, definite article or interjection was borrowed from French. This confirms, once again, the statement put forward in the theoretical part; grammatical words or function words are normally not borrowed.

All verbs that were found in this group are weak verbs. “Save” and “fix” are two such examples. The strong verbs in English are almost always of proto Germanic origin, and are therefore native words. When one examines German, English and Swedish strong verbs, for example, it is possible to see that they all derive from the same source, due to their resemblance.

Many of the adjectives that are of Old French origin have the ending “ous”, as in the words “gracious”, “victorious” and “glorious”. Here we can easily identify that these words are of Romance origin, since the suffix “ous” is originally from Latin [10].

Almost all of the 92 words that are connected to the fields of politics are French loanwords. Such examples are the words “reign”, “enemies”, “nations”, “defend”, “prince” and the word “politics” itself. Only the word “queen” is a native Anglo-Saxon word. All these “political” French loanwords were borrowed in the 13th and 14th Century, when Norman

French was the administrative language on the British Isles. These words show us that French was the language that was spoken in the field of politics.

One remarkable thing is that the name “Britain” is also a loanword from Old French. It was borrowed in the end of the 13th century, in a time when many French loanwords were adopted. Most of the Old French borrowings entered the English language in the 13th and 14th century, which makes them loanwords from the third Romance period. Only the words “politics” and “assassins” are from the Modern Period, and it is unknown when the word “gracious” was adopted.

These words show us that English borrowed an enormous amount of words from French during this period, and that the words come from all different aspects of society. “Voice”, “tricks” and “pour” are three more examples of words that were borrowed during this period.

English has a large amount of lexica, in comparison to many other languages. This can be explained with the fact that English has borrowed a great deal of words from other languages and simultaneously kept the native vocabulary. This is a major reason why English has so many synonyms that only have small differences in connotation.

Only two words were found that had once been borrowed directly from Norman French or Anglo French; “confound” and “extend”. This was rather surprising, considering the vast amount of borrowings there is in English from this French dialect. One possible explanation for this is the classification system used in etymological works. The Etymology dictionary most likely states that a word is an Old French borrowing when a word is identical in Norman French and Old French. Only when a word is distinctively Norman French does the dictionary label it as such Lockwood [6 P. 79], for example, uses the term Old French when the dialects Norman French and Central French are “not tangibly distinguished”.

Altogether, the French loanwords made up 26.2%, which means that slightly more than one out of four words were of French origin. This is a rather large percentage, in comparison to how many French loanwords were found in Shakespeare’s works. This could be explained with the fact that “God Save the Queen” is a political anthem, and therefore many of the words are in one way or the other connected to politics. As we saw in the theoretical part, politics is one of those fields, in which a great deal of words were borrowed during the third Roman period, so this has probably played a role in the outcome of the analysis.

Five words were found that were borrowed from Old Norse. “Happy”, “them”, “gifts”, “laws” and “their” all have their origin in the North Germanic language. The fact that the pronoun “them” managed to enter the English language shows us the profound influence that Old Norse must have had on English. It is unusual that pronouns and grammatical words are borrowed, and only when the “lending” language community was powerful and there was much contact between the groups could this be possible. The fact that Old Norse and Old English were fairly similar languages is also a reason for the large amount of borrowings from Old Norse [2 P. 18]. The languages, most likely, mixed into each other and this made it easier to borrow loanwords. The five words that were borrowed from Old Norse entered the English language approximately 200 to 400 years after the first Scandinavian settlements in Great Britain in the 10th century. This gives us a picture of how long time it may take before words are adopted from one language to another. Of the five native Old Norse words, two are adjectives, two are nouns and one is a pronoun.

The word “law” also revels to us in what fields the Scandinavians were powerful. In year 878 A.D., the Danish legal system was introduced in the northern parts of the country, and consequently some legal terminology was borrowed [2 P.17]. The word “law” is one example.

The word “gift” which is also an Old Norse borrowing and therefore also of Germanic origin exists beside its synonym “present” in the English vocabulary today. This word, on the other hand, is of Romance origin, and was borrowed from Old French around 1225 A.D. This is one example of two synonyms in English that have both been borrowed, and that do not

have a native equivalent.

Four Latin loanwords were found among the 92 examined words. “Frustrate”, “cause”, “family”, and “latent”. All the Latin words that were found were adopted between the 13th century and the 15th century. These words were borrowed during a period when the English adopted a considerable amount of Latin words. People were reading a lot of literature in Latin, and a reason for this could be that William Caxton had recently brought the book printing to England, which made the books a lot cheaper and more available to more people.

A further reason is that the Renaissance and the interest in classical texts had just begun in Europe.


The results confirm that English is a very open language with regards to its acceptance to adopt foreign words into its vocabulary. There has been little resistance against loanwords in Great Britain in comparison to many other European countries. In Great Britain, purist groups, whose ultimate goal is to make a language free of foreign influences, were never as successful as in Germany for example [19]. As a consequence, the English have borrowed words from all kinds of people that they have come in contact with over the years. The Romance languages have had the longest and deepest impact on the English language and both Latin and French have played a major role in “lending” words to English.

The people that spoke these Romance languages were not only powerful people abroad, but many of them also lived in the British Isles. There was, in other words, direct contact between the English and the people from whom they borrowed lexica, and this direct contact, which was also of long duration, resulted in this vast borrowing. Great Britain’s history is hence a major reason why a large amount of English words are of foreign origin.

The words in “God Save the Queen” proved not to be any different than the words in general in the English vocabulary. Many of them had once been borrowed from other languages, but the majority was native English words. The results coincide with the percentages shown in the theoretical part of the essay. There we could see that linguists come to the conclusion that the majority of words in a dictionary are of foreign origin. When the most commonly used words are analyzed, however, we saw that most of them were native English words. The words in “God Save the Queen” are all fairly common words, and therefore the majority was of Anglo-Saxon origin.

This paper has showed that linguistic borrowing is an old way of acquiring new vocabulary, and not a new phenomenon of our globalized world. People of different cultures have always interacted with each other, and there has always been an exchange of lexica due to this interaction. Loanwords enrich a language, since the vocabulary gets larger and each word therefore acquires a more specific and subtle meaning and this should be kept in mind before one simply criticizes and dismisses borrowings.

List of the literature

1. Apologising in British English; M. Deutschmann, Sweden, Umeå University: 2003 - 262 p.

2. Der englische Wortschatz

Grundlagen der Anglistik und Amerikanistik; M. Scheler, Germany: 2000 - 177 p.

3. Deutsche Sprache; Gestern und Heute; A. Stedje, UTB, Wilhelm Fink: 2001 - 224 p.

4. Englische Wortkunde; P. Aronstein, Leipzig: 1998 - 130 p.

5. English as a Global Language; D. Crystal, Cambridge University Press: 1997 - 229 p.

6. Languages of the British Isles past and present; W. B. Lockwood, London: 1999 - 262 p.

7. Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology; C. T. Onions, Oxford University Press: 2004 - 1042 p.










18. www.royal.govHYPERLINK ""/uk



Appendix 1

God Save the Queen

God save our gracious Queen,

Long live our noble Queen,

God save the Queen!

Send her victorious,

Happy and Glorious,

Long to reign over us;

God save the Queen!

O Lord our God arise,

Scatter her enemies

And make them fall;

Confound their politics,

Frustrate their knavish tricks,

On Thee our hopes we fix,

Oh, save us all!

Thy choicest gifts in store

On her be pleased to pour;

Long may she reign;

May she defend our laws,

And ever give us cause

To sing with heart and voice,

God save the Queen!

Not in this land alone,

But be God's mercies known,

From shore to shore!

Lord make the nations see,

That men should brothers be,

And form one family,

The wide world over

From every latent foe,

From the assassins blow,

God save the Queen!

O'er her thine arm extend,

For Britain's sake defend,

Our mother, prince, and friend,

God save the Queen!