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All About English

Over lunch, Bob and I disagreed on several aspects of the English language and its origins.

According to Bob, English

  1. has fewer irregular verbs than ‘typical’ languages (and is generally more regular)
  2. is predominantly influenced by Latin and Greek

I disagree with both of those notions (English is more irregular and predominantly influenced by its Germanic roots) and am recording the disagreement here before we each run off to Wikipedia to find out the real story.

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2 responses to All About English

Bob January 7, 2008

I didn’t say typical languages — I said latin languages.
I did however previously hold that it was predominantly influenced by Latin and Greek. More enlightened, I no longer hold that belief. I have added strength to my belief that my middle school education was not as good as I would have liked.

Kevin January 7, 2008

On 1), if it’s just latin itself, the latin verbs are very regular apart from the usual weird ones (to go, to be, to have and the like). If it’s romance languages in general…French has a lot less irregular verbs than English. Can’t speak for Spanish, Portuguese, Italian or Romanian. Any readers speak any of those languages?

On 2), Bob and I found a quote in Wikipedia that lets us both be right:

“Though more than half of the words in English either come from the French language or have a French cognate, most of the common words used are still of Germanic origin.”

This was cool:

“English words of more than two syllables are likely to come from French, often with modified terminations. For example, the French words for syllable, modified, terminations and example are syllabe, modifié, terminaisons and exemple.”

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