Ольга Николаевна
Группа:Команда портала

«English vocabulary. Etymological strata in Modern English.»

Россия,Ставропольский край,Петровский район,г. Светлоград


Учитель английского языка

Баранова Анна Васильевна

Ученица 10 класса

Годнева Ольга 

«English vocabulary. Etymological strata in Modern English.»


This work is devoted to the rules of reading in English, faced by all language learners. At present, the period of globalization, English has become one of the world's languages, and we wanted to know why the language which is so easy to learn, and so hard to read.

Relevance of research-history of language ,patterns of development, consideration of the relationship between the history of the English people and English history.

Objective-to study the major phases in the development of the English language as a historical process ,give a brief description of the features of the English languages ,learn to understand the laws of language development that will contribute to the scientific comprehension of modern English .


-Introduction to the specific factual material on the history of phonetics ,grammar and vocabulary of the English language ,which will give a basis for developing the scientific view of language development

-Consideration of the existing connection between the history of the English people  and the history of the language.

                                                    Main part.

Old English vocabulary

The vocabulary of Old English was rather extensive. It is said to have contained about 50 000 words. These words were mainly native words. They could be divided into a number of strata. The oldest stratum was composed of words coming from the Common Indo-European parent tongue. Many of these words were inherited by English together with some other Indo-European languages from the same common source, and we shall find related words in various Indo-European languages. Compare:

Old English

New English



















Another layer, relatively more recent, was words inherited by English and other Germanic languages from the same common Germanic source. You will find them in many languages, but only those belonging to the Germanic group. Compare:

Old English

New English










Celtic borrowings

The Celtic language left very few traces in the English language, because the Germanic conquerors partly exterminated the local population, partly drove them away to the less fertile mountainous parts of the country, where they were not within reach of the invaders. The Celtic-speaking people who remained on the territory occupied by the Germanic tribes were slaves, and even those were not very numerous. Among the few borrowed words we can mention:

down (the downs of Dover), binn (bin - basket, crib, manger).

Some Celtic roots are preserved in geographical names, such as:

kil (church - Kilbrook), ball (house - Ballantrae), esk (water - river Esk)

Middle English vocabulary

An analysis of the vocabulary in the Middle English period shows great instability and constant and rapid change. Many words became obsolete, and if preserved, then only in some dialects; many more appeared in the rapidly developing language to reflect the ever-changing life of the speakers and under the influence of contacts with other nations.

The principal means of enriching vocabulary in Middle English are not internal, but external - borrowings. Two languages in succession enriched the vocabulary of the English language of the time - the Scandinavian language and the French language, the nature of the borrowings and their amount reflecting the conditions of the contacts between the English and these languages.

- Scandinavian borrowings

The Scandinavian invasion and the subsequent settlement of the Scandinavians on the territory of England, the constant contacts and intermixture of the English and the Scandinavians brought about many changes in different spheres of the English language: wordstock, grammar and phonetics. The relative ease of the mutual penetration of the languages was conditioned by the circumstances of the Anglo-Scandinavian contacts. Due to contacts between the Scandinavians and the English-speaking people many words were borrowed from the Scandinavian language, for example:


law, fellow, sky, skirt, skill, skin, egg, anger, awe, bloom, knife, root, bull, cake, husband, leg, wing, guest, loan, race


big, week, wrong, ugly, twin


call, cast, take, happen, scare, hail, want, bask, gape, kindle


they, them, their; and many others.

The conditions and the consequences of various borrowings were different.

Sometimes the English language borrowed a word for which it had no synonym. These words were simply added to the vocabulary. Examples: law, fellow

The English synonym was ousted by the borrowing. Scandinavian taken (to take) and callen (to call) ousted the English synonyms niman and clypian, respectively.

Both the words, the English and the corresponding Scandinavian, are preserved, but they became different in meaning. Compare Modern English native words and Scandinavian borrowings:


Scandinavian borrowing





Sometimes a borrowed word and an English word are etymological doublets, as words originating from the same source in Common Germanic.


Scandinavian borrowing







Sometimes an English word and its Scandinavian doublet were the same in meaning but slightly different phonetically, and the phonetic form of the Scandinavian borrowing is preserved in the English language, having ousted the English counterpart. For example, Modern English to give, to get come from the Scandinavian gefa, geta, which ousted the English ჳiefan and ჳietan, respectively. Similar Modern English words: gift, forget, guild, gate, again.

There may be a shift of meaning. Thus, the word dream originally meant "joy, pleasure"; under the influence of the related Scandinavian word it developed its modern meaning.

- French borrowings

The Norman conquest and the subsequent history of the country left deep traces in the English language, mainly in the form of borrowings in words connected with such spheres of social and political activity where French-speaking Normans had occupied for a long time all places of importance. For example:

- government and legislature:

government, noble, baron, prince, duke, court, justice, judge, crime, prison, condemn, sentence, parliament, etc.

- military life:

army, battle, peace, banner, victory, general, colonel, lieutenant, major, etc.

- religion:

religion, sermon, pray, saint, charity

- city crafts:

painter, tailor, carpenter (but country occupations remained English: shepherd, smith)

- pleasure and entertainment:

music, art, feast, pleasure, leisure, supper, dinner, pork, beef, mutton (but the corresponding names of domestic animals remained English: pig, cow, sheep)

- words of everyday life:

air, place, river, large, age, boil, branch, brush, catch, chain, chair, table, choice, cry, cost

- relationship:

aunt, uncle, nephew, cousin.

The place of the French borrowings within the English language was different:

A word may be borrowed from the French language to denote notions unknown to the English up to the time: government, parliament, general, colonel, etc.

The English synonym is ousted by the French borrowing:









Both the words are preserved, but they are stylistically different:



to begin

to commence

to work

to labour

to leave

to abandon







As we see, the French borrowing is generally more literary or even bookish, the English word - a common one; but sometimes the English word is more literary. Compare:

foe (native, English) - enemy (French borrowing).

Sometimes the English language borrowed many words with the same word-building affix. The meaning of the affix in this case became clear to the English-speaking people. It entered the system of word-building means of the English language, and they began to add it to English words, thus forming word-hybrids. For instance, the suffix -ment entered the language within such words as "government", "parliament", "agreement", but later there appeared such English-French hybrids as fulfillment, amazement.

The suffix -ance/-ence, which was an element of such borrowed words as "innocence", "ignorance", "repentance", now also forms word-hybrids, such as hindrance.

A similar thing: French borrowings "admirable", "tolerable", "reasonable", but also readable, eatable, unbearable.

One of the consequences of the borrowings from French was the appearance of ethymological doublets.

- from the Common Indoeuropean:





- from the Common Germanic:









New English

The language in New English is growing very rapidly, the amount of actually existing words being impossible to estimate. Though some of the words existing in Old English and Middle English are no longer used in New English, the amount of new words exceeds the number of obsolete ones manifold.

Both internal means and external means are used for the purpose of enriching the vocabulary, and the importance of either of them is hard to evaluate.

The principal inner means in New English is the appearance of new words formed by means of conversion. Usually new words are formed by acquiring a new paradigm and function within a sentence. Thus, book (a noun) has the paradigm book - books. Book (a verb) has the paradigm book - books - booked - booking, etc. (The book is on the table - He booked a room.) Similarly:

man (n) - man (v)
stone (n) - stone (v) - stone (adj)
(as in "a stone bench"), etc.

Very many new words appear in New English due to borrowing. It is necessary to say here that the process of borrowing, the sources of loan words, the nature of the new words is different from Middle English and their appearance in the language cannot be understood unless sociolinguistic factors are taken into consideration.

Chronologically speaking, New English borrowings may be subdivided into borrowings of the Early New English period - XV-XVII centuries, the period preceeding the establishment of the literary norm, and loan words which entered the language after the establishment of the literary norm - in the XVIII-XX centuries, the period which is generally alluded to as late New English.

 Etymological strata in Modern English. General characteristics

The English vocabulary of today reflects as no other aspect of the language the many changes in the history of the people and various contacts which the English speakers had with many nations and countries. The long and controversial history of the people is reflected in its vocabulary and especially in the number of loan words in it, different in origin and time of their entering the language and the circumstances under which the acquisition of the foreign element took place.

So large is the number of foreign words in English that it might at first be supposed that the vocabulary has lost its Germanic nature. However, the functional role of the native element: the notions expressed by native words, their regularity and frequency of occurrence, lack of restrictions to their use in written and oral speech of different functional styles, proves that the Germanic element still holds a fundamental place, and the English vocabulary should be called Germanic.

 Foreign element in Modern English (borrowings)

As we know, borrowed words comprise more than half the vocabulary of the language. These borrowings entered the language from many sources, forming consequently various ethymological strata. The principal ones here are as follows:

the Latin element

the Scandinavian element

the French element.

Latin element

The first Latin words entered the language of the forefathers of the English nation before they came to Britain. It happened during a direct intercourse and trade relations with the peoples of the Roman empire. They mainly denote names of household items and products: apple, pear, plum, cheese, pepper, dish, kettle, etc.

Already on the Isles from the Romanized Celts they borrowed such words as street, wall, mill, tile, port, caster (camp - in such words as Lancaster, Winchester).

Latin words such as altar, bishop, candle, church, devil, martyr, monk, nun, pope, psalm, etc. were borrowed after the introduction of the Christian religion (7th century), which is reflected in their meaning. We mentioned these words as Latin borrowings in the sense that they entered English from Latin, but many of them were Greek borrowings into Latin, such as bishop, church, devil and many others.

Another major group of Latin borrowings entered English with the revival of learning (15th - 16th centuries) as at that time Latin language was understood by scientists all over the world and it was considered the common name-language for science. These words were mainly borrowed through books, by people who knew Latin well and tried to preserve the Latin form of the word as much as possible. Hence such words as:

antenna - antennae, index - indices, datum - data, stratum - strata, phenomenon - phenomena, axi s - axes, formula - formulae, etc.

Very many of them have suffixes which clearly mark them as Latin borrowings of the time:

- verbs ending in -ate, -ute: aggravate, prosecute

- adjectives ending in -ant, -ent, -ior, al: reluctant, evident, superior, cordial.

Scandinavian element

Chronologically words of Scandinavian origin entered the language in the period between the 8th and the 10th centuries due to the Scandinavian invasions and settlement of Scandinavians on the British Isles. It is generally thought that the amount of words borrowed from this source was about 500, though some linguists surmise that the number could have been even greater, but due to the similarity of the languages and scarcity of written records of the time it is not always possible to say whether the word is a borrowed one or native, inherited from the same Common Germanic source.

Such words may be mentioned here, as: they, then, their, husband, fellow, knife, law, leg, wing, give, get, forgive, forget, take, call, ugly, wrong.

As we said, words of Scandinavian origin penetrated into the English language so deeply that their determination is by no means easy. However, there are some phonetic/spelling features of the words which in many cases make this attribution authentic enough. These are as follows:

- words with the sk/sc combination in the spelling, as:

sky, skin, skill, scare, score, scald, busk, bask

- words with the sound [g] or [k] before front vowels [i], [e] [ei], in the spelling i, e, ue, ai, a (open syllable) or at the end of the word:

give, get, forgive, forget, again, gate, game, keg, kid, kilt, egg, drag, dregs, flag, hug, leg, log, rig.

There are also personal names of the same origin, ending in -son:

Jefferson, Johnson

or place names ending in -ly, -thorp, -toft (originally meaning "village", "hamlet"):

Whitly, Althorp, Lowestoft.

 French element

The French element in the English vocabulary is a large and important one. Words of this origin entered the language in the Middle and New English periods.

Among Middle English borrowings we generally mention earlier borrowings, their source being Norman French - the dialect of William the Conqueror and his followers. They entered the language in the period beginning with the time of Edward the Confessor and continued up to the loss of Normandy in 1204.

Later Middle English borrowings have as their source Parisian French. The time of these borrowings may be estimated as end of the 13th century and up to 1500. These words are generally fully assimilated in English and felt as its integral part: government, parliament, justice, peace, prison, court, crime, later Middle English borrowings  also became more colloquial words: air, river, mountain, branch, cage, calm, cost, table, chair. The amount of these Middle English borrowings is as estimated as much as 3,500.

French borrowings of the New English period entered the language beginning with the 17th century - the time of the Restoration of monarchy in Britain, which began with the accession to the throne of Charles II, who had long lived in exile at the French court: aggressor, apartment, brunette, campaign, caprice, caress, console, coquette, cravat, billet-doux, carte blanche, etc:

Later also such words appeared in the language as: garage, magazine, policy, machine.

The phonetics of French borrowings always helps us to prove their origin. These phonetic features are at least two: stress and special sound/letter features. Concerning the first (stress), words which do not have stress on the first syllable unless the first syllable is a prefix are almost always French borrowings of the New English period. Words containing the sounds [ʃ] spelled not sh, [ʤ] - not dg, [ʧ] - not ch and practically all words with the sound [ჳ] are sure to be of French origin:

aviation, social, Asia, soldier, jury, literature, pleasure, treasure.

Spelling in English is one of the most difficult to study among the Indo-European. Reflecting the relatively faithful to spoken English Renaissance, it does not correspond to modern speech of Britons, Americans, Australians and other speakers. A large number of words in written form includes a letter, not pronouncing on reading, and, conversely, many of the sounds uttered no graphical equivalents. The so-called "rules of reading," such a high percentage of limited exemptions that make little practical sense. The student has to study the writing or reading each new word, and therefore accepted in dictionaries to indicate pronunciation of each word. The famous linguist Max Muller called the English spelling of "national disaster"

Spelling in English is one of the most difficult to study among the Indo-European. Reflecting the relatively faithful to spoken English Renaissance, it does not correspond to modern speech of Britons, Americans, Australians and other speakers. A large number of words in written form includes a letter, not pronouncing on reading, and, conversely, many of the sounds uttered no graphical equivalents. The so-called "rules of reading," such a high percentage of limited exemptions that make little practical sense. The student has to study the writing or reading each new word, and therefore accepted in dictionaries to indicate pronunciation of each word. The famous linguist Max Muller called the English spelling of "national disaster"

                                     List of literature .

1. Graham C. Jass Chants: Phythms of American English as a Second Language. – N.Y. : Oxford University Press, 1978. – 280 p.

2. Веренинова Ж.Б. Обучение английскому произношению с опорой на специфику фонетических баз изучаемого и родного языков. // Иностранные языки в школе. – 1994. - № 5, С. 9 – 14.

3. Gimson A.C. An Pronunciation of English. – London, 1980. – 289 p.

4. Торсуев Г.П. Фонетика английского языка. – М.: ИЛИЯ, 1950. – 310 с.

5. Трахтеров А.Л. Практический курс фонетики английского языка. – М.: Высшая школа, 1976. – 421 с.

6. Васильев В.А. Фонетика английского языка. – М.: Высшая школа, 1980. –

7.Краснова И.Е., Марченко А.Н. Школьный словообразовательный минимум: каким ему быть? // ИЯШ. 1981. №2.

8.Кричевская К.С. К вопросу о содержании лексических правил в обучении ИЯ // ИЯШ. 1998. №4.

9.Кувшинов В.И. О работе с лексикой на уроках английского языка // ИЯШ. 1995. №5.

10.Кузовлев В.П., Лапа Ч.М. Книга для учителя к учебнику 10-11 кл.  общеобр. учреждений. – М.: Просв. 2002.

11.Курндорф Б.Ф. Методика преподавания АЯ в ср. шк. – М.: Учпедгиз. 1958.

12.Левковская К.А.  Теория слова, причины ее построения и аспекты изучения лексического материала – М.: Высшая школа.1962.

13.Мачхелян Г.Г. Современную английскую лексику – в учебный процесс! // ИЯШ. 1999. №2.

14.Медведева О.И. Из опыта работы над лексикой в 10 классе // ИЯШ 1976. №6 (с)

15.Рогова Г.В. Цели и задачи обучения ИЯ // ИЯШ. 1974. №4.

16.Семахина Т.В. О некоторых приемах работы на уроке // ИЯШ. 1992. №2.

17.Скалкин В.Л., Варежкина Н.В. К вопросу функциональной единицы лексико – фразеологического минимума // ИЯШ. 1991. №5

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