Just how Anglo Saxon is English?
Anglo Saxon, also called Old English, dominates the language we speak today.
It almost goes without saying that Modern English, what we speak and write today, has absorbed the words of many influences. Latin from the Roman period and Old French from the time of the The Norman Conquest of 1066 AD certainly come to mind.
However, Anglo-Saxon is the linguistic stock from which the simmering derivations in Middle English give us the nourishing language of our current times.
In compiling today’s Oxford English Dictionary, lexicographers had to consider how many Anglo-Saxon words to include. They drew the line at 1,150 AD, excluding obsolete or disused words prior to that time.
It may surprise you to discover that this left more than 7,500 Anglo Saxon words to be included. To put that another way, you and I use Anglo Saxon words in our everyday conversation which tribesmen of the Angles, Saxon and Jutes used between 600 AD and 1,150 AD.
Whether you know it or not, you embody Anglo Saxon culture. You are a living, breathing connection to the ancients. Just speaking English connects you to a continuous written history of 1,400 years.
There are about 171,000 words in Modern English. If 7,500 of them are words actually spoken in ancient times, it is estimated that more than 130,000 of Modern English words are derived from Anglo Saxon. That is, as English evolved from Anglo Saxon to Middle English, Anglo Saxon derivatives proliferated. It’s an amazing impact, even more when you think of the Norman influence from 1,066 AD.
There is much talk about the influence of globalisation in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries on English. And, it’s true that English now has words from origins as geographically dispersed as Arctic Canada, the hot swelter of India and the Australian Outback. These influences are undeniably present and enriching as English has swept and continues to sweep the world.
How amazing then that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, these Anglo Saxons, influenced and continue to influence so much of our daily conversation.
They and their descendants are a remarkable people worth studying.
Don’t you agree?
Here are a clutch of Anglo Saxon words:
Here’s an Anglo Saxon word which did NOT make the Oxford English Dictionary cut. It dates well before 1,150 AD:
For Anglo Saxons, “weder” meant fine weather, a sunny day. So “unweder” was the opposite and meant bad weather, a stormy day.
I wonder whether we derive the expression “under the weather” to mean a bad day or ill from this ancient Anglo Saxon word, even though it isn’t included in today’s dictionary.
Remember. When you speak English, you celebrate, enrich and propagate the culture of the Anglo Saxons.