English and Its Historical Development, Part 15

(Danelaw territory and English territory)

Although King Alfred saved England, he could not expel the Danes who occupied an area known as Danelaw in A.D. 874-920

Although King Alfred is credited with saving England, he could not expel the Danes from an area of Britain known as the Danelaw.

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A great part of England absorbed lasting and indelible traces of Scandinavian culture

As a consequence of three centuries of Viking aggressions, a great part of England absorbed lasting and indelible traces of Scandinavian culture.

The Vikings left their imprint on the island in many ways: in government, legal procedures, language, and even arithmetic.

They transmitted to the English with whom they dwelt, among other things, their duodecimal system (counting in twelves instead of tens); therefore, establishing to this day the marketing unit of a dozen, the measuring formula of 12 inches to a foot, the monetary equation of 12 pence to a shilling, and the legal entity of a jury of "12 good men and true".

English and Scandinavian languages intertwined as their users turned from enemies into neighbors

During the two centuries between the advent of the Viking sea rovers and the landing of William the Conqueror, the English and Scandinavian languages thus intertwined as their users turned from enemies into neighbors, intermarried, and dwelt side by side in peace.

The heritage of the Scandinavian conquest survives today in many words of the English language and most especially in place names.

Scandinavian settlements gave England over 1400 place names plus many family (personal) names. Personal names reveal the degree of intermingling and intermarriage between the sea rovers and the native population.

Today all the multitudes of familiar English and American patronymic ending in son; such as Jackson, Robertson, Thompson, Stevenson, Johnson, etc. clearly manifest their Scandinavian origin.

The language of England was a blend of West Germanic and Scandinavian; plus, a respectable amount of Latin-Greek borrowings, about half of them of a religious nature. Educated men communicated in both English and Latin.

Analysis of the many "loan words" in English from this period refer mostly to objects and acts of ordinary, everyday existence

Even without any historical records, the resulting homely, commonplace words suggests that the relationship between the two people became a close and democratic one and that they met and eventually conversed as social coequals and not as conquered and conquerors or as aristocracy and common people.

In our modern times, no one can write in English about religious, intellectual, or philosophical subjects without employing the vast heritage of Latin and Greek words; nor can anyone discuss the arts, the social world, or the domains of high fashion and haute cuisine without using the rich legacy from the French language.

The quintessential things of human existence requires words which the Scandinavians introduced into the Anglo-Saxon vernacular more than a thousand years ago.

Ancient and highly useful imported words into English, all made in Denmark and Norway, include the following:

    Nouns: axle, band, bank, birth, boon, booth, brink, bull, calf (of leg), crook, dirt, down (feathers), dregs, egg, fellow, freckle, gait, gap, gate, girth, guess, hap, haven, keel, kid, knife, leg, link, loan, mire, race, rift, reindeer, reef (of sail), root, scab, scales, score, scrap, seat, sister, skill, skin, skirt, skull, sky, slaughter, snare, stack, steak, swain, thrift, tidings, trust, want, window, wing.
  • Adjectives: aloft, athwart, awkward, flat, happy, ill, loose, low, meek, muggy, odd, rotten, rugged, scant, seemly, sly, tattered, tight, ugly, weak, wrong.

  • Verbs: bait, bask, batten, call, cast, clasp, clip, cow, crave, crawl, dangle, dazzle, die, droop, drown, egg (on), flit, gape, gasp, get, give, glitter, guess, happen, hit, kindle, lift, lug, nag, rake, ransack, raise, rake, rid, rive, scare, scout (an idea), scowl, scream, screech, skulk, snub, sprint, take, thrive, thrust.

  • "Form words": at, both, less, lesser, rather, same, though, till, until, together, worse, hence, thence, whence; and the verb "are"; such as, "They are" is said to be pure Scandinavian.

Such lists show the everyday character of the words which the Scandinavian invasions and subsequent settlements brought into English.

Proceed to Part 16, Danish influence.

INDEX or Table of Contents, English and its historical development.

References: sources of information.