The Story Behind the Lexicon

It took me a long time to figure out the best way to present my findings. I really did not want to just throw a number of statistics and linguistic observances on to a board and call it a presentation. To understand Latin’s influence on the English lexicon, I felt it was necessary to understand how Latin exerted this influence, rather than merely to what degree.

As such, I decided that a key part of my presentation should be to show the history of both the Latin and English languages. Without knowing the historical developments behind both languages, I felt it would be incredibly difficult to fully understand the linguistic development of the English language.

These histories boiled down to a few key points of interaction: 1) The prestige and power of Rome ensured that Latin influenced those even outside of its borders. Germanic tribes, interacting with Roman traders, diplomats, armies, etc., began to  adopt many Latin words. When these Germanic tribes migrated to the British Isles, they brought that Latin terminology with them. 2)Rome occupied the British Isles for many years. Naturally, they left behind a number of Latin phrases, particularly in relation to place names. 3) The conversion of the English by Augustine of Canterbury introduced the Roman Church and its use of Latin to the English people. 4) The Normans conquered England in the 11th century, and brought with it their Norman-French–itself a daughter of Latin. 5) The Renaissance, and its resurgence of  classical learning introduced English thought to Latin text.

A brief, brief sketch of the historical interplays between Latin and English, but these points of contact led to a huge amount of exchange between lexicons.