Did English start off as a creole language?

Guest   Thu Jul 10, 2008 11:06 am GMT
I've read that English actually retains some grammatical features of an earlier Brythonic language that was spoken in England before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons such as when asking a question: -

Do you want some coffee?

This is supposedly the same contruction as used in Insular Celtic languages. Some influences attributed to the celtic substratum are the lack of possessive dative and the rise fo the present progressive. There is a theory that spoken English developed as a sort of Anglo-Saxon creole and that it emerged in writing after the Normans had removed the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy after 1066. This might go some way to explaining why Middle English had levelled a lot of the inflections present in Old English.

guest   Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:02 pm GMT
I seriously doubt the Celtic substratum of English. Usually, when such exists, the first thing to indicate it are borrowed words--the easiest thing to overfere (transfer) between languages.

English has practically ZERO Celtic words of this period (less than 12, I believe). So there was no Celtic>English influence. The Celts were marginalized and thrung (pushed) to the far reaches of the Island. They had no infleeth (influence)
Guest   Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:16 pm GMT
Damian in Edinburgh   Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:20 pm GMT
I find the Roman period to be of huge interest to me - and I think we in the UK are very lucky to have been invaded by the Romans, subjugated by them from the moment these clever, intensely resourceful guys first set foot on the shore at Pegwell Bay, now part of Kent, in the summer of 54BC. Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered and the foundations were laid for a huge transformation of much of these islands as they were then - well, most of England and Wales and the southern parts of Scotland up as far as what is now called the Antonine Wall, the Scottish equivalent of the much more well known Hadrian's Wall, both heavily fortified lines of defence, the northern boundaries of the whole Roman Empire as it was in those days, and we are even luckier to still have these amazing Roman structures so well preserved after almost 2,000 years, stretched out across the landscape of 21st century Britannia.

A huge number of British places names owe their existence to the Roman influence, and at the same time so does the modern English Language.

There are plenty of Ordnance Survery maps showing Britain as it was at the height of the Roman occupation - all the place names at the time being, of course, in Latin. The Romans set up a settlement on the northern bank of a river they alled Tamesis (now the Thames) and called it Londinium. Another fortress in what is now Kent was called Durovernum, which later became Canterbury, which, once the Anglo Saxons took over a couple of centuries later, became the site of a massive Cathedral once the Christian relgion took hold, and Roman Catholicism became the established Church here, and which also became a shrine for pilgrimage. Not far away from Canterbury, on the coast of the Channel, and what is now a Gateway to England from the Continent, the Romans founded the port of Portus Dubris - now called Dover, which in turn earned so many titles relating to its prime location, the most recent being during WW2 when the area around Dover, and nearby Folkestone (no Roman settlement here) became known as Hellfire Corner, for reasons now well known.

In what is now Essex a huge settlement, and one of the biggest of the Roman towns, was Camulodunum....which in later years became Colchester. Here huge numbers of Roman soldiers (centurions and the like) were stationed, and to this day Colchester is an important military centre for the British Army.....here you will also find the British Army prison!

Many British place names include "chester" in their names - from the Roman "castris" - meaning a military fortress....in addition to Colchester - Manchester, Portchester, Winchester, etc. Closely linked to this are place names ending in "caster" and "cester" - Doncaster (named Danum by the Romans), Cirencester (Corinium), Gloucester (Glevum) , etc.

The Romans built a stettlement in the rolling hills of what later became Somerset and they subsequently found the local water supplies to possess great healing and relaxing qualities, as well as being sweet to the taste, so they built huge centrally heated baths there which are still preserved to this day, among the spendour of the Roman buildings with their glorious columns and architectural delights. They called this little heaven on earth Aqua Sulis, which in turn became the modern city of Bath (aptly named), now a great tourist centre not only because of the amazing Roman architecture and steaming baths, but also because of the Abbey there, the famous Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon, which has shops along its length, and of course, the very strong literary links Bath has - notably with Jane Austen. Many hundreds of years after the Romans left Britannia - in 410AD - the Georgian period (late 18th century early 19th century) saw the development of very graceful architecture, including the unique Royal Crescent and stately squares.

Along with all the many thousands of still well preserved Roman remains all over Britain - from the ruins of fortresses, villas, towns, walls (as in Chester, York and Chichester, among just a few) are those of the amazing roads the Romans built across the landscape of Britain 2,000 years ago. Mostly dead straight (there was nothing to stop the Romans building the roads, no obstructions in a hitherto undeveloped countryside or stroppy Ancient Britons - original inhabitants- clothed only in woad) many of these roads have become modern highways, following the routes of the Roman originals, and still bearing names linked to the Romans - Fosse Way, Watling Street, Ermine Street, etc.
There is in existence a group of Roman enthusiasts in he UK called the Ermine Street Guard, who parade around in authentic replica Roman army dress:



I don't know about Creole influence on the English Language, but from this side of the ocean the Romans had an ENORMOUS influence not only on us, as present day inhabitants of these islands, but also on our own version of the Language and our modern day place names.

Last year I was pleased to accompany a group of Swedish people on a walking tour along parts of the Roman Antonine Wall, which runs roughly between Edinburgh and Glasgow. They were fascinated as the Romans didn't quite make it to what is now Scandinavia.

Guest   Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:23 pm GMT
The prestige language (Anglo-Saxon) wouldn't necessarily borrow words from language of the conquered people (British Celts), but it could still transfer grammatical features when they learned it.
Guest   Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:27 pm GMT
learned it imperfectly I should have added.
guest   Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:31 pm GMT
<<The prestige language (Anglo-Saxon) wouldn't necessarily borrow words from language of the conquered people (British Celts), but it could still transfer grammatical features when they learned it. >>

This is akin to saying that immigrant Hispanics would be able to successfully transmit their grammatical features to Standard American English when they learned it. Not likely. The majority of American English speakers still retain their knowledge of how to speak the language correctly. In time, the immigrants will eventually catch on. I cannot see this really hapening in the 'political-correctness-non-existent' climate of Anglo-Saxon Britain (where a Celt would be lucky not to be slit with a sword and thrown into a peat bog for not speaking English correctly!)
guest   Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:38 pm GMT
<<A huge number of British places names owe their existence to the Roman influence, and at the same time so does the modern English Language.>>

Damian, aren't we overexaggerating the Roman occupation of our ancestors' former homeland a bit?

*THIS* is akin to the European descendants of today's Americans claiming Native Americans heritage and influence.
The Romans came to Celtic Britain, conquered and raped some of the inhabitants, and then pulled out and left only their roads and baths behind.

Then our ancestors from the North (Picts) and from the Continent (Anglo-Saxons) arrived. We have no connection to those Romans! Please. Wake up.

Everything Roman about us today was adopted later, during the Middle ages.

I know that professors like to stretch this Roman-ness of Britain beyond its limits, and convince us all that we were at one time part of the Roman Empire. NO. *We* weren't. It's ridiculous brainwashing to say the least to attempt by them to fulfill a misguided desire, that's all.
Damian in Edinburgh   Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:59 pm GMT
***Damian, aren't we overexaggerating the Roman occupation of our ancestors' former homeland a bit?***

In short - no! Not one bit. The Romans set the foundations for the development of this country in the centuries that followed, their legacy is incalculable, and what they left behind is priceless, including all the remains I described right across our landscape, still massive tourist attractions. It is all a huge part of our heritage, and much of what we take for granted today is due to the genius of our Roman occupiers 2,000 years ago. Even down to simple central heating systems in their grand villas and palaces, the remnants of which we see dotted all around the British countryside, protected by both the National Trust and both the Scottish and English Heritage societies.

I emphasise again - the Romans had a massive influence on what later became the English Language - at least on much of its foundations. Many more influences over subsequent centuries also played their parts in the emergence of the tongue we all speak today, and it's an on going process. A Language is a living entity...always changing and adapting.

Visiting Rome itself has been one of the highlights of my life so far....standing in the Forum was truly a fantastic experience. The fact that we stayed in a guesthouse, close to the Piazza Farnese, and attached to a convent of an order of nuns founded by St Birgitta, a Swedish nun, of all things, was purely incidental. They had a roof garden in which you could sit under orange trees, in full fruit! With an amazing view over to the great dome of St Peter and the Vatican City.
guest   Thu Jul 10, 2008 3:31 pm GMT
<<It is all a huge part of our heritage, and much of what we take for granted today is due to the genius of our Roman occupiers 2,000 years ago.>>

I suppose.
As long as you realize that these structures represent a culture that was here, and then disappeared (vacated) before the arrival of our ancestors, who later found these structures empty and unoccupied and marveled at them.

I guess that would be a realistic picture of what truly happened.
Similar in most respects to European settlers in the US happening across the long defunct Anasazi ruins...

Damian in Edinburgh   Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:49 pm GMT
You know what - this Forum has become a bit of a farce with so many characters posting under the name of Guest, making it impossible to determine who is who, let alone know where they hang out. Are you too bone idle to post any kind of name in the box above? I don't give a rat's tit what handle you give yourself, whether it's Geraldus Cambrensis, Attila the Hun or King Kong, I don't give a toss, but at least be a wee bit imaginative and identify yourselves somehow or other. All these Guests do my head in!

One of these Guests said this:
***who later found these structures empty and unoccupied and marveled at them***

At least this particular Guest revealed himself/herself as an American by the spelling. I'm puzzled as to why s/he referred to "our" ancestors, though. I repeat for the last time - the Romans brought the first workings of true civilisation to this island they called Britannia, the very foundations on which all future developments were built over later centuries. Much of which later became part and parcel of British society, many hundreds of years later, had its origins in the world of the Romans. Even the British monetary system, many years later - librae, solidii, denarii - pounds, shillings and pence - £. s. d. - was based on the Roman system. It was not until, 1971 that the demands of the technological age brought about the decimalisation of the British currency....a dual system rather than three tier with its impossible complications.

The Romans gave us Latin, out of which many of the words of the developing English Language had their roots.

Further incursions into Britain of a succession of other invaders over the centuries, ending with the Normans in 1066, a very famous date in English history - not least of which it marks the very last time a foreign power has invaded these islands, what Shakespeare in Dickie 2 called a a precious stone fortress surrounded by a silver sea acting as a moat - contributed enormously to eventually make English an immensely rich and highly expressive Language. Further enrichments subsequently came from many of the lands which formed the British Empire while it lasted.
guest   Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:54 am GMT
<<***who later found these structures empty and unoccupied and marveled at them*** >>

LOL, well Damian, little do you know but I had it "marvelled" before I changed it.

I am an American, but your ancestors are my ancestors too. I don't understand why you seem to have difficulty with that. Not all of us are Italian or Hispanic or whatever.

Look, the British people are not descended from the Romans who occupied Britain. Our ancestors largely had not even arrived in the island then, or were on the other side of Hadrian's wall gearing to pounce southward. The picture you paint is the false one they've been handing down to us for generations--those Roman wanna-be's who jump at every opportunity--whether warranted or no--to try and claim association with Rome. It just isn't true. It is soooo stretched that I can see straight through it (albeit with my eyes shut).

Yes, a few things we've managed to immitate from the Roman way of doing things, like currency, etc. but we are not like, say, the Southern French--who are Romanized in truth. We're more like the other peoples of Northern Europe than to them. I know you must be able to see that.

As far as our language is concerned, scarcely a Latin word has come into our language as a result of direct contact with a Roman speaker. 99.99999% of our Latin words came in from blond haired, blue-eyed Englishmen and women who sat by candlelight copying words into books hundreds of years after Latin was a "dead" language. That's not legacy. That's wanna-be.
guest   Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:55 am GMT

By the way, 99% of all posts made by "guest" with a small 'g' are me. I've seen others which are not me, but they are rare :)

I haven't chosen a name yet, well, because you all know my by "guest" :\
guest   Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:12 am GMT
and Damian, all posts so far on this thread signed by "guest" are me :)

I don't know who "Guest" is either, or even if it's more than one person
Damian in Edinburgh   Fri Jul 11, 2008 7:30 am GMT
I never once claimed that we derived our ancesry from the Romans. That would be a ridiculous thing to say - I for one am of Viking stock, so I believe.

What I said in a nutshell was this - the Romans arrived in Britain in 54BC and found it to be a chilly, windswept damp island full of Celtic Britons running around wild covered in blue dye and in a landscape totally undeveloped.

The Romans changed all that by building really effective roads and all their famous fortifications and other edifices and aset the foundations of a civilsed society, and at the same time had a very well organised military.

Modern day Britain developed from all that, so cheers to Julius Caesar and all the later Roman emperors.