Influenza del latino e del greco sull'inglese, Projects for English Language. Università di Catania
mukky11 July 2015

Influenza del latino e del greco sull'inglese, Projects for English Language. Università di Catania

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relazione precisa e dettagliata sulle influenze che le lingue classiche hanno avuto sull'inglese nel corso del tempo e che ancora oggi mantengono
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Introduction-Classical influence in English

English is a mix of different languages. The core of English is divided between

Romance and German languages, in a similar way also his culture is influenced.

It is important to know the origin of words to understand a language.

English is made up of various parts, a basic Anglo-Saxon, with Latin and Greek

influence, and Norman, so English vocabulary is composed by words that come from

German thanks to the Germanic tribes and the Vikings, the Christianization of Britain

in 597 brought England into contact with Latin civilization and made significant

additions to the vocabulary and words that were imported by Norman invasion from


The Classical influence affected also the alphabet, the Old English (500-1100 a.D.)

written in an alphabet called Runic(derived from the Scandinavian languages) was

substituted by Latin alphabet brought from Ireland by Christian missionaries and

remained the writing system of English. The vocabulary of Old English consisted of

a basic Anglo-Saxon terms borrowed from the Scandinavian languages (Danish and

Norwegian) and Latin.

The Norman invasion of 1066 created a society divided in three blocks:

1. bellatores ("those who go to war ," and the aristocracy ) ,

2. oratores ("those who pray ", or the clergy ) ,

3. laboratores ("those who work the earth ").

Each of these groups spoke a different language, giving rise to a situation defined

triglossia, the nobility used French, ecclesiastics wrote in Latin 1 , while among

peasants survived the Germanic Anglo-Saxon English, but the Norman conquest of

1 Latin was a spoken language among ecclesiastics and men of learning, and a certain number of Latin words could well have passed directly into spoken English. Katamba F., English words : structure, history, usage,

second edition, London ; New York : Routledge, 2005, p.46

1066 had strong consequences, the language of Normans became the official means

of communication. When, after two centuries, English regained its dominant position,

it was full of foreign words, almost all of Latin origin.

The fifteenth century brought a revival of Classic languages 2 with the full flowering

of classical studies throughout Europe made by Italian Renaissance. The introduction

of unusual words from Latin became a conscious stylistic device, extensively used by

poets and occasionally by writers of prose.

English was literally flooded with Latin and Greek terms thus opening a new and

unpredictable cultural horizons 3 .In the sixteenth century the period of the Middle

English terminates, now co-existed in English three components: Germanic, Norman-

French and Latin-Greek.

English has an important role: it is well known that, starting from twentieth century,

it was the language that has taken the greatest number of new words from other

language. English, after Italian, is the language that in the course of its history, has

used Latin for the recovery and the coining of new words, as defined by Tullio De

Mauro, “la più latinizzata e neolatinizzata lingua del mondo non neo latino”.

The circulation and acceptance of foreign words and expressions is not a novelty,

always languages come into contact and modify each other and depending on

cultural and economic prestige and influence in some countries, their languages

assume greater or lesser ability to penetrate into other language.

English is currently the language of communication.

Together with Anglicisms, English helped to put into circulation even some

Latinisms, we talk about xenolatinismi to indicate these Latin words formed in

foreign languages.

2 The Revival of Learning had revealed how rich was the store of knowledge and experience preserved from the

civilizations of Greece and Rome. Hughes G., A history of English words, Oxford ; Malden, Mass. : Blackwell, 2000,


3 Latin and Greek were not only the key to the world’s knowledge but the languages in which much highly esteemed

poetry, oratory, and philosophy were to be read. And Latin, had the advantage of universal currency. Beside the

classical languages, the vulgar tongues were immature, unpolished, and limited in resource. Baugh- Cable, A History of

the English language, third edition, London ; New York : Routledge, 1991, c1978, p.58

Latin loan in English

Give a precise idea of loans derived from Latin or caused to mediation romance is

probably impossible. They cover almost all the semantic fields, although, in fact, are

the privileged ones who have to deal with activities and phenomena of culture,

society, religion and civic life. Here are some examples of the loan in relation to the

most significant semantic areas:

Ecclesiastical organization:

1. Abbot "Abate"; from Lat. ecclesiastical abbas, acc. abbatem

2. Altar "Altare"; from lat. altar

3. Cross "Croce"; from lat. crux (gen. CRUC-is).

4. Psalm "Salmo"; old from Lat. Psalmus, spread with the knowledge of the sacred


Terms related to trade

1. Cheap "Economico"; from lat . cauponari < adj. caupo

2. Market "Mercato" ; from lat . mercatus > lat. volg

3. Sack "Sacco " ; from lat . saccus.

4 . Toll " Pedaggio, Tributo " ; from lat . volg . tolōneum ( customs office )

Food, cooking, culinary arts

1. Butter “Burro”; from lat . būtyrum

2 . Can "Contenitore per cibo”; from lat . cane

3 . Kitchen "Cucina" ; from lat . coquina

4 . Mint " Menta " ; from lat . mentha

5. Pot " Vaso " ; from lat. Medieval pottus , perhaps variant of POTUS ( calice)

Plants and crops

1. Cherry"Ciliegia"; The lat. Volg. Ceresia derived from lat. Cerasus

2. Pear "Pero"; from lat. pirus> ags. pears.

3. Peach "Pesca"; the lat. volg. persica (the Latins knew the culture of the peach

tree, native to eastern Asia, the Persians)

Architecture and building

1.Pile "Big pile tip"; from lat. pilum

2. Pitch "Cumulo"; from lat. pix.

3. Plaster "Malta"; from lat. Medieval plastrum.

4. Street "Strada"; from lat. volg. Strata

5. Wall. "Muro"; from lat. Vallum

We have observed so far are some examples of loans divided by area or semantic

fields. For brevity we do not examine other areas:

1. justice and administration: court, reign, marry, nation;

2. nobility, social classes: prince, noble, mistress;

3. war,cavalry: honour, defend, battle, army;

4. home, social life : lamp, chair, card, entertain;

5. zodiac signs : scorpio, virgo, cancer, capricornus, aries, pisces, leo, sagittarius;

6. culture, literature, art:figure, medicine, colur, paper.

List of Latin words and phrases in English

Although limited to a few areas, it should be noted that, in English there are a lot of

Latin words and phrases. The most popular are: a posteriori, a priori, ad infinitum,

carpe diem, casus belli, de facto, de jure, et cetera, ex parte, habitat, in medias res,

ipse dixit, lingua franca, memento, non plus ultra, pax, post partum, pro forma, sine

die, sine qua non, sui generis, cum laude, tabula rasa.

Word with Greek’s origin

The Greek language has also contributed to English vocabulary.

Since the living Greek and English languages were not in direct contact until modern

times, borrowings were necessarily indirect, coming either through Latin, or Ancient

Greek texts. Some Greek words were borrowed into Latin and its descendants, the

Romance languages. Their phonetic and orthographic form has sometimes changed

considerably. For instance, place was borrowed both by Old English and by French

from Latin platea, itself borrowed from Greek πλατεία (ὁ δός) 'broad (street)'; the

Italian piazza and Spanish plaza have the same origin, and have been borrowed into

English in parallel. A large group of early borrowings, again transmitted first through

Latin, then through various vernaculars, comes from Christian vocabulary:

1. bishop < ἐ πίσκοπος (epískopos 'overseer');

2. priest < πρεσβύτερος (presbýteros 'elder');

3. church < κυριακόν (kyriakón).

Some words were borrowed in essentially their original meaning, often

transmitted through classical Latin: physics, iambic, eta, necromancy.

But by far the largest Greek contribution to English vocabulary is the huge

number of scientific, medical, and technical neologisms that have been coined,

these terms are coined in all European languages.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, a few learned words and phrases were introduced

using a transliteration of Ancient Greek.

1. anthem and antiphon(ἀ ντίφωνα),

2. frantic and frenetic (φρενετικός),

3. bishop and episcop(al) (ἐ πίσκοπος),

4. blame and blasphemy (βλάσφημος),

5. choir and chorus (χορός),

6. trivet and tripod (τρίπους/τρίποδ-),

7. slander and scandal (σκάνδαλον),

8. oil, olive,oleum, and elaeo- (ἔ λαιον);

9. almond and amygdala (ἀ μυγδάλη);

10. dram and drachma (δραχμή),

11. paper and papyrus (πάπυρος),

12. carat and keratin (κέρας, κέρατ-).

It is possible to recognize words of Greek origin, and give hints to their pronunciation

and inflection.In some cases, a word's spelling clearly shows its Greek origin. If it

includes ph or includes y between consonants, it is very likely Greek.

If it includes rrh, phth, or chth; or starts with hy-, ps-, pn-, or chr-; or the rarer pt-, ct-,

chth-, rh-, x-, sth-, mn-, tm-, gn- or bd-, then it is Greek.

What percentage of English words comes from Classical languages? What is the

percentage of English words derived from other languages?

About 80 percent of the entries in English dictionary are borrowed, mainly from

Latin. Over 60 percent of all English words have Greek or Latin roots. In the

vocabulary of the sciences and technology, the figure rises to over 90 percent.

About 10 percent of the Latin vocabulary has found its way directly into English

without an intermediary (usually French). For a time the whole Latin lexicon became

potentially English and many words were coined on the basis of Latin precedent.

Words of Greek origin have generally entered English in one of three ways:

1) indirectly by way of Latin,

2) borrowed directly from Greek writers,

3) especially in the case of scientific terms, formed in modern times by

combining Greek elements in new ways.

The direct influence of the classical languages began with the Renaissance and has

continued ever since.

Through the study of Greek and Latin roots of English, students not only can

expand their knowledge of vocabulary but also come to understand the ways in

which the history of English language has shaped our perceptions of the world

around us.

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