Latin Borrowings in English

A study of the history and process of Borrowing is essentially the study of the development of language. It reveals the point of contact between two people and two ways of living and speaking. The English language was its profundity and reach to a number of sources. Latin is an important source. In fact, the Latin influence is the earliest and the greatest of all the influences on the language. It began with the Christian era and still is continuing. In the earliest phase, the word related to trade, warfare, domestic life and names of plants and fruits found their way into the English language. Words related to domestic life and names of plants and fruits were kettle, kitchen, cook, cup, peplum, pea and butter. The Latin influence survived in the place names such as Lancaster, Gloucester, Winchester, and Worcester.

The introduction of Christian is Britain brought it in close contact with Latin Christianity. It resulted in the familiarity with an astical and the regular words like Church, bishop, alter, angel, monk, Psalm and Temple were introduced into the language. Words connected with domestic life and education were brought into its vocabulary, such words were mate, silk, plaster, school verse, and meter. Nouns, verbs, and adjectives such as offer, spend, stop, crisp and short crept into the English vocabulary.
Latin words continued to spill through middles ages the words came to literature. Latin was also spoken by the Ecclesiastes and men of learning. The words adopted during the Middle English period related to the law, literature, theology, and science were :

  • Words relating to law: conspiracy, custody, legal, minor notary
  • Words relating to theology: incarnate, rosary, script
  • Words relating to literature: allegory, genius, index, prosody 
  • Words relating to science: mechanical, solar, zenith, Zephyr 

During the Renaissance, the zeal for classical learning was responsible for the impact. The Latin words adopted are mainly abstract and scientific and entered into English through the medium of writing. The words nouns were the atmosphere, circus, vacuum, dexterity, adjectives- domestic, vital, habitual, verbs- adapt, benefit, meditate, exist.

The flow of Latin words continued even in the later period and a number of words came into the nature stock.
  • 17th C – premium, equilibrium, specimen, formula, complex
  • 18th C – nucleus, inertia, ultimatum, habitat, deficit
  • 19th C – consciousness, referendum, omnibus.

A curious phenomenon developed the formation of hybrids by adding Latin suffixes stagnation and Latin prefixes to the same dethrone, Pre-Raphaelite, Pro-Russian, reorganize, resubmit appeared.

Latin influences were not confined only to nature vocabulary, it left its impact on sentence- construction and grammar as a whole. During the 17th century and 18th century, Latin grammar was the only grammar taught in schools. The Latin grammar was worthy of study and imitation. Such a great poet as Milton adopted the disciplined syntax of Latin. The introduction of a large number of Latin adjectives as paternal, urban, literary and human eliminated the poverty of adjective in the native stock. Because of the huge influence of Latin words, English earned a vast wealth of synonyms which helped in the expression of the subtle shade of thought. Such Latin verbs as adapt, alienate and assassinate added a new glitter to the language.
But, the pronunciation experienced an adverse effect because of Latin influence. The shifting of stress from the initial syllable is contrary to the spirit of the Germanic family of languages. The stress-shifting has caused irregularity in the pronunciation of English words.

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