English is a Scandinavian language?

TRUDGILL Peter peter.trudgill at UNIFR.CH
Fri Nov 30 10:02:55 UTC 2012

I've just completed a handbook chapter on contact-events in the history of English where I evaluate the comparative role of Brittonic, British Latin, Old Norse, and Anglo-Norman in effecting simplification and. complexification in Old English. The Emonds-Faarlund thesis is discussed.

If anybody would like to see a pre-publication pdf, please send me an individual email.

Peter Trudgill  FBA
Prof. of Sociolinguistics, Agder Univ., N;
Prof. Emeritus of Eng. Linguistics, Fribourg Univ, CH;
Adjunct Prof., CRLD, La Trobe Univ., Aus.
Hon. Prof. of Sociolinguistics, UEA, Norwich, UK.

Latest book: Sociolinguistic typology: social determinants of linguistic complexity. OUP. 2011.

On 30 Nov 2012, at 09:51, Martin Kümmel wrote:


Dear colleague,

I agree that the Scandinavian element might have been underestimated and deserves more attention, especially in syntax, since the similarities between English and modern North Germanic are indeed numerous (though one should not forget that Icelandic differs I many respects from both). However, it is simply wrong to state that Old English "died out".
In fact, Scandinavian influence on syntax would be even more interesting if English was not Scandinavian. Contrary to what is said in the article, at least some syntactic structures are rather prone to contact-induced changes, while other parts of the grammar seem to be more resistent. I think that ME looks like a rather typical case of the effects of imperfect learning of (Old) English by Scandinavian and French speakers.

Martin Kümmel

Martin Joachim Kümmel
Sprachwissenschaftliches Seminar
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
79085 Freiburg

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: Hewitt, Stephen [mailto:s.hewitt at unesco.org]
Gesendet: Freitag, 30. November 2012 10:30
Betreff: RE: English is a Scandinavian language?

While the article is somewhat extreme (English, from Middle English on is descended from Scandinavian rather than the West Germanic Old English), the basic point about syntax needs to be taken seriously. Middle English was strongly V2. On the other hand, the Old English heritage cannot be dismissed out of hand. I have always thought that Middle English was heavily creolized between Old English, Scandinavian and Old French; the Scandinavian element, apart from the obvious lexical contribution, has been excessively minimized. This short newpaper article serves as a healthy corrective by encouraging historical linguists to take greater account of the Scandinavian syntactic contribution. One would hope to see Terje Faarlund write more extensively about this in academic fora.

Steve Hewitt

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-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] On Behalf Of Martin Kümmel
Sent: 30 November 2012 09:56
Subject: AW: English is a Scandinavian language?

Dear colleague,

I'm not sure whether that topic should be discussed on LINGTYP.
I have seen that posted on facebook several times. The reaction of historical linguistis (including my own) was very critical, to say the least. The approach as given in these media articles obviously has no clear definition of language relationship and does not discuss most crucial points, e.g., the fact that the larger part of the English basic vocabulary and grammatical elements must be derived from OE and not from Scandinavian, or the very interesting syntactic difference that (mainland) Scandinavian is
V2 while English isn't.
However, we should wait for a proper scientific publication.


Martin Kümmel

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG]
Gesendet: Freitag, 30. November 2012 09:18
Betreff: English is a Scandinavian language?

Dear colleagues,

I would like to ask you if anyone has heard of this, and if there have been any reactions:



Giorgio F. Arcodia

Dr. Giorgio Francesco Arcodia
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