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English is NOT a Romance Language
If not a Romance Language, What is English?
I had taken a lot of courses in linguistics during my college career. To set the record straight, linguistics is the study of languages in general. It tries to explain how people learn languages, why some languages value some sounds over others, why sentences are ordered the way they are, and why languages change over time.
Since starting my first linguistic course, I have had numerous arguments with people about English not being a Romance Language (in other words, a language that is related to Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, and Romanian). Being the young Freshman I was, I was unable to argue back. But now I can.
Simply stated, English is a West Germanic language. This means that Modern English is a cousin to German. It is more closely German than Spanish. If that is all you need to know, then you don't need to read any further. But I will explain it. If I use big, linguistic terms, I will explain the terms. Then you can wow and amaze your language geek friends with your knowledge of English!
The History of English
Back in the day, the British Isles were inhabited by the Celts. Slowly, a group of warrior-like people from what is now called Germany began to move into the British Isles. The Germanic people (along with help from Vikings) pushed the Celts to Ireland. Now during this time, they're language was really different from the language we speak today. But it changed quickly. Pronunciation was what changed. The way people spoke vowels and consonants became different, but it was still a long way off from Modern English.
The reason why the language changed so quick is because languages are fluid. They change naturally. Right now, however, due to writing, languages across the world are not changing like they would have years ago. That is not really a problem. The problem arises when someone insists that a word is pronounced only one way. An example would be the word "February". There are two main ways to say this word. 1. Feb-U-ary 2. Fe-BRU-ary. People start to argue about it and those people are called "prescriptive" whereas the people who don't really care about the pronunciation are called "descriptive". But I digress.
Written English became more common place with the invention of the printing press in 1440. However, people faced a problem with this. How do you write the words that are spoken so that everyone can read it? The answer was phonetically (how the word sounds). But, how do you write words phonetically when different people can say the same word in different ways? Well, a book of the words that are said can be made to make more common spellings--a dictionary!
But it took a while to create a dictionary. Think about this; a kindergartener has learned roughly 20,000 words by the time they start school. Good luck with a dictionary. So several writers just wrote down what they heard themselves say. For example: Laugh. We would say that (roughly) as "laf". But believe it or not, those extra silent letters were said, and they were gutteral (voiced from the throat).
So while all these people were speaking their English, missionaries and monks from the pretty much fallen Roman Empire came to the British Isles. They read and wrote Latin and spoke Italian. Thus the beginning of the introduction of what is called the Italic-Latin languages. But it wasn't a really great influence. Instead, the monks just tried to introduce Christianity to the people.
in 1066, the Norman French invaded the British Isles. They took control. Their French language became the "superstratum language", or the language of power and authority. The Old English (or Anglo-Saxon Language) of the common folk became the "substratum language" or the language of no power and authority. It was at this time that the influence of the Latin-based languages became very apparent. English adopted some of the words of the Norman French and began what linguists call a "vowel shift". This means that the vowels in English became higher and more front (when it comes to the placement in the mouth. Try saying the words "alright" and "apple". Two "a" sounds, but the position of your mouth and tongue are different for each. "Apple" is higher and more to the front than "alright".)
Somehow, the English kept speaking English! Usually, a superstratum language will completely wipe-out a substratum language. People will want money and power, so they will speak the language that gives it (because language is a seriously powerful weapon!). But this did not happen. In short, the Norman French fell out of power and English (which is now known as Middle English during this time) became an awesome language again.
But the spellings from Middle and Old English still remain the same because writing keeps a language from changing. Have fun trying to say "though" the way it used to be said!
The Lord's Prayer in Old English
So How Does That Prove English is a West Germanic Language?
You might have looked at the language family tree at the top of the page. If you haven't, check it out. All those languages are related to each other, at least very distantly. But right now you must be thinking something along the lines of "Just because Modern English and German are in the same family tree does not mean that they are more alike that Modern English and French! The amount of words that English borrows from the Latin based languages are greater than German!" Well, that is pretty true. There are a lot of words we got from the Norman French and Italian and Spanish and et cetera. Now here is where it gets a little tricky.
Words are easily adopted into language. Fo shizzle, ain't no thang. We just change the pronunciation to what we English speakers are more comfortable to speak and we make that word and English word. Words and pronunciations are very easily changed. What is harder to change is what is called semantics (the actual order of a sentence).
Understand hard English mixed-words-up--Or, In English, it is hard to understand mixed-up words. All speakers have an instinct about their mother language (or any language they have learned fluently from the time they were a baby to about 10 years of age [you are not fluent if you learned a foreign language at the age of 25. If you want me to explain that, comment me.]) You know when you're speaking with a non-native English speaker, even when that speaker has been in an English speaking country for most of their lives. There are just unwritten rules that you do not break in your language, unless you come across an exception that there is no reason for.
In Latin-Based languages, such as Spanish or French, the semantics are just about the same. For example: El gato verde (Spanish) Le chat vert (French). I said "The green cat". But in Spanish and French, the noun "cat" is said before the adjective "green". There are more complicated sentences that I can give as well, dealing with direct and indirect objects and such, but believe me when I say that the setup is the same, most of the time (languages always have exceptions to the rules).
German is like English. The adjective is said first and then the noun. Sentence order is not just jumbled up! There is a system, even though linguists are still trying to figure that out across all languages. But none-the-less, there is a system of order. And this is why English is a German language.
Now, the chart above just indicate the Romance Languages, Modern English, and the effect the Romance Languages had on Middle English (Because of the Norman French), but all in all, semantics (sentence order) doesn't lie.
If you have any questions or want me to attempt to explain some linguistic issue you noticed, let me know! I'll give it my best shot. Besides, there are a million and one stories of how language is a weapon.