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Publius Nonius Severus

Norse influence in the English Language

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The simplification and reduction of the Proto-Germanic inflectional system is a trend one sees to a greater or lesser extent in most modern Germanic languages, English and Afrikaans are only the most extreme examples of this reduction. I have read in various sources that I cannot remember of the top of my head that this reduction of inflections was a side effect of strong stress of the first syllable of worlds in Germanic languages, the inflectional suffixes became slurred, thier vowels reduced to schwas, and then often disappeared. The question should not be "why did English loose it's inflections" but instead should be "why has German and Icelandic preserve their inflections.

 

And as one poster said above, English grammar is not simpler or easier then inflectional languages, it's just different, being based on strict word order and lots of helper verbs, prepositions, articles, and other grammatical particles. The English system of verbs and helper verbs is actually very complex, with 3 tenses (past, present, future), 4 aspects (aorist-simple, perfect, progressive, perfect-progressive) and what-not else, and the helper verbs are invariably irregular. Then there are all the Germanic strong verbs like sing-sang-sung and fly-flew-flown that I'm sure drive people who don't speak a Germanic language crazy...

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The question should not be "why did English loose it's inflections" but instead should be "why has German and Icelandic preserve their inflections.

Salve, T.

Actually, modern German has lost many inflections; from en.wikipedia:

 

"Although German is usually cited as an outstanding example of a highly inflected language, the degree of inflection is considerably less than in Old German, or in other old Indo-European languages such as Latin, Ancient Greek, or Sanskrit.

The three genders have collapsed in the plural, which now behaves, grammatically, somewhat as a fourth gender.

With four cases and three genders plus plural there are 16 distinct possible combinations of case and gender/number, but presently there are only six forms of the definite article used for the 16 possibilities.

Inflection for case on the noun itself is required in the singular for strong masculine and neuter nouns in the genitive and sometimes in the dative.

Both of these cases are losing way to substitutes in informal speech.

The dative ending is considered somewhat old-fashioned in many contexts and often dropped, but it is still used in sayings and in formal speech or in written language.

Weak masculine nouns share a common case ending for genitive, dative and accusative in the singular.

Feminines are not declined in the singular.

The plural does have an inflection for the dative.

In total, seven inflectional endings (not counting plural markers) exist in German: -s, -es, -n, -ns, -en, -ens, -e.

 

By the mid 11th century the many different vowels found in unstressed syllables had all been reduced to 'e'. Since these vowels were part of the grammatical endings in the nouns and verbs, their loss led to radical simplification of the inflectional grammar of German".

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The question should not be "why did English loose it's inflections" but instead should be "why has German and Icelandic preserve their inflections.

Salve, T.

Actually, modern German has lost many inflections; from en.wikipedia:

 

Well, the reality is that it's a sliding scale as far as what is considered a 'highly' inflected language and what is not. If one compares German and Rumanian to, say, English and Chinese, the former are quite highly inflected. If you compare these languages to Hindi and, even more so, some of the Bantu languages, they show a definitely collapsed inflection system. I still would consider German to be a well-inflected language because of the number of grammatical categories which have their own inflection sets, but it is clear that inflection has been reduced over the history of the language.

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