alternative English with German superstrate

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Otto Kretschmer
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alternative English with German superstrate

Post by Otto Kretschmer »

The Holy Roman Empire invades England and replaces Normans as the ruling power for 200-300 years.

What could ENglish influenced by continental West Germanic languages rather than French look like?
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k1234567890y
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Re: alternative English with German superstrate

Post by k1234567890y »

Probably a greater tendency to use native words, and a tendency to calque words from German.

Grammatically I personally don't think it would be much different, maybe some native derivational affixes(not inflections) would be more productive as they look similar to the cognates in German(i.e. the be- prefix), as I personally feel the grammatical influence of English is mainly from Norse languages and (persumbly) Celtic languages; also, linguistically spealing, superstrate influences are mostly lexical, maybe with some add-ons of derivational affixes, and as Norman French was probably a superstrate of English, it is likely that if German replaced the status of Norman French, its influence would also be mainly lexical.

Recently I tried to make a North Germanic conlang, so I read something about Swedish and noticed that some if not many morphological syntactic rules are similar to that of English.

There are claims that the reduction of nominal cases in English is due to French influence, but I personally don't think it is the case, as case is a part of inflections and is more likely to be from substrate influences, and there's a theory that the reduction of nominal cases in English is actually due to Celtic influence(Celtic languages are persumbly substrates of English, and they have a reduced system of nominal cases); besides, the reduction of unstressed vowels is nearly universal in West Germanic languages, which affects the case endings on nouns, so the loss of nominal cases could also be explained as an internal development of English.
I prefer to not be referred to with masculine pronouns and nouns such as “he/him/his”.
Salmoneus
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Re: alternative English with German superstrate

Post by Salmoneus »

You know, there's actually a thread specifically for posting quick questions in.



Obviously a key counterquestion here would be when this invasion happened. I think k123 interpreted you (as I initially did) as saying that there was a German invasion instead of ('replacing') the Norman one, which would pose some interesting questions. But now I think you mean there was a Norman invasion and THEN a German one. That's much less interesting - by then, everything would have been fixed on its course.

I assume you're probably suggesting that Henry FitzEmpress' father was Henry V, rather than Geoffrey V. This would put the German invasion only a century after the Norman invasion, but I think that might already be too late.

The big things we might blame on the Norman invasions:
- erosion of inflexion endings (particularly on nouns)
- introduction of another layer of Latin borrowings
- introduction of an immediate layer of Norman-French borrowings
- the emplacement of a legal register of Norman-French from which specialised vocabulary would gradually leach into the vernacular over the centuries
- increased ties to France, culminating in the Plantagenet Empire, leading to more French borrowings over the centuries

What would happen in a scenario like the Henry V one?

Regarding the great erosion: this is probably the result of two things: phonological erosion due to strong initial stress (loss of many unstressed high vowels, merger of remaining unstressed vowels as schwa, merger of final -m with -n, loss of unstressed final -n outside of a root, and loss of final schwa); and paradigm levelling due to influx of second-language speakers. High vowel loss happened in the OE period, and merger of unstressed vowels probably occured in late OE, or very early ME (in spelling it's ME, but the sounds were probably already merged for some time before scribes gave up writing them as distinct). Final nasal merger happened in late OE. Loss of final -n was ME, but I don't see why it's inherently a result of French. The final step, the loss of final schwa, happened late in ME, after open syllable lengthening - but I don't think a lack of French people would have saved it (the equivalent change in French itself is far more recent, so not to blame). And to the extent that there was confusion due to new speakers - first lots of Norse speakers, then lots of French speakers, and also the levelling to some extent of the different forms of OE - the injection of another wave of non-speakers (Germans) would not have helped matters!

Since the loss of final -n was a bit irregular, and German has a lot of -n endings, it's conceivable that a few more of these -n endings might have survived with more German influence. But since case would be almost entirely lost anyway, I think this just means there might have been a few more surviving -en plurals (horsen, ladyen, etc). Maybe in a really wild universe the -en dative plural might be generalised to the singular... but given the rise of prepositions I doubt it. If so, probably only in certain idiomatic constructions - eg, maybe "I gave it to the lady", but "I gave ladyen it", or maybe the specific phrase "the housen door". But this is probably fanciful.

On the second point: a later German invasion wouldn't undo that layer of Latin borrowings; since Latin was also the literary language in Germany, it would only have reinforced them.

On the third point: a later German invasion wouldn't undo the immediate layer of Norman-French borrowings either (so words like 'pork', 'beef' and so on would probably still be around).

On the fourth: I don't know whether a German king would have replaced the legal language. I'm guessing not? The Normans transitioned the country into Roman-derived law; the same change wouldn't have had to happen again. And the Empire was decentralised - it would be many centuries before a central high court was created, and even then it had little actual role. So I suspect the court language in England would have remained Anglo-Norman, just as it remained Dutch, French or Italian in other parts of the Empire.

On the fifth: it's true that a more German-oriented country would have been less culturally influenced by French. But probably not by that much. French was the dominant cultural language of western europe, and would have remained the closest country to England and its dominant trading partner. And would a change of nominal ruler really have made much long-term difference at all? The Empire was decentralised and most of its rulers were very weak (particular at that early period). Even if England didn't immediately break away, it would have been by far the most independent of the kingdoms and duchies - more so than Bohemia - simply due to its size and distance and cultural differences.

[the way to maximise imperial influence is probably to go in reverse: have England dominate the Empire. Large peripheral kingdoms played an outsize role, and perhaps the Salian Dynasty, headquartered in England, might have played a similar role to the Hapsburgs (in Austria) or the Hohenzollerns (in Brandenburg), at least for a while (it wouldn't have been sustainable, just as the Plantagenets couldn't hold on to France and the Spanish Hapsburgs couldn't hold onto Austria). This would have kept England more culturally connected to the Empire for a while]

On that note: such a connection would have introduced more German loanwords. But probably not that many? The Empire was decentralised, even by the standards of historical states, so there would be little reason for language-replacement. And Latin was the lingua franca. Dutch and German vocabulary are parallel to a great extent, but that's mostly not because of later German borrowing, it's due to Dutch calquing of German semantic drift in its infancy. English, having already been separated from the continent, would largely not have been able to follow, having already lost (or drifted) most of these words. And while a few centuries of German contact would have introduced a few more calques in English, there would still have been more than half a millennium of later drift to obscure them.

What I do think you might find is more Dutch. It's often overlooked that English has a huge amount of borrowing from Middle Dutch, due to the north sea shipping trade. It's possible that with a more Imperial England, and less contact with France, even more trade might have gone through Dutch, rather than French, ports, and hence some of the French words in English might instead have been Dutch. But I wouldn't overstate this.
Otto Kretschmer
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Re: alternative English with German superstrate

Post by Otto Kretschmer »

Your answer is definitely not quick. The question therefore does not fit there :)

A German invasion replacing the Norman one would be much more interesting.
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