England is surrounded by countries which speak Romance languages. France, Spain, Portugal, Italy all speak languages with roots deeply entrenched in the Latin of the days of the Roman occupation. Even the path of an entire network of Roman cobblestoned roads still runs across the entire country which was occupied by the Romans for four hundred years. So the question is: How come England was not influenced by Latin, but adopted a Germanic language instead? Especially considering that the Welsh still speak Brythonic and kept their native language despite continuous invasions from the North and the East!

The Roman Empire collapsed in Western Europe in the early 5th century. Bands of Germanic tribes crossed the frozen Rhine River in Gaul (France) took over the provinces of Rome and in their attempt to resist the invasion, left Britannia (which corresponds more or less to what is today England and Wales) with no defence. The Romano-Britons had to fend for themselves. Thus Britain was attacked by the Jutes, the Angles and the Saxons.

The Germanic invaders imposed their language – a Germanic dialect which later became known as Old English. The original inhabitants of England were pushed to the South west of the Island, to Wales, or migrated to the French province of Brittany. The Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms were later merged into one England. The English language was thus brought to the rest of the British Isles, namely, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Thus, because the foundation of the English language is not Latin, but comes from the Anglo-Frisian sub-group of the West Germanic branch of the Germanic family, and owing to the isolation of the British Isles, the language was allowed to develop freely.

See you next week for more updates on the History of English!