Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

English is almost nothing but loan words.

This is a serious exaggeration.

English does have a lot of loan words, but they are comparatively less frequently used than non-loan words. The overwhelming majority of the most commonly used core vocabulary is descended straight from Old English.

In fairness, there are some major counterexamples: “they”, “use”, and “people” are loan words in the core vocabulary.

Edit: oh youou were talking about proper literarry borrowings. still though ...

"does" or at least do-support comes from celtic.

"have" is pretty close ot "avoir", and b/v (viz Ger "haben" is not a common sound correspondance.

"a" is not a word, it's a particle so short so that saying it descended is almost non-sensical. The proper form would be "an" (and even french "un" agrees).

"of", again a meaningless particle. There went so much wrong with prepositions, too, since PIE, they got turned up-side down, literally.

"non" rings of French, not German.

"to be" mostly changed since Germanic, and not straight forward either.

"than", nope, not original.

word has a fine root, most I'll take, core is not core vocabulary, the developed seemingly independently, but analogue to other Germanic languages, this, that are OK but close to Fr. ce, ca anyway, is is still pretty close to Latin est, Germanic or not ...

You were saying?

Wasn't it said that English isn't a language, but a bunch of midget dialects in an overcoat who trap nice languages in alleys, beat them, and rifle their pockets for loose grammar?

Actually the presence of non-Anglo-Saxon vocabulary in English is not because of English “stealing” anything, but because England was colonized and ruled by non-English-speaking people for centuries.

I.e. saying English stole from French is a bit like saying Hindi, Irish, or Navajo stole from English. Gets the power relations completely backwards.

That applies to basically French and Norse loan words from the Middle English period. It doesn’t apply to the large number of Latin and Greek loanwords or anything more recent.

Well, Latin was the lingua franca in Europe for a very, very long time. So it's a bit like how languages all over the world now have English loanwords. Still not because of English "stealing" anything.

You could make a case for the validity of this quip for more recent loanwords, but there are relatively few of those compared to French, Norse, and Latin.

I think about 30% of the words in an English text are loan words, and I would guess that's quite a high proportion compared to other modern European languages, but not particularly amazing.

The definition of loan word is a bit vague, of course, and the origin of some words is uncertain, and the proportion of loan words will depend a bit on the topic and the style of writing.

(There are 72 words in the previous two paragraphs, if you expand "30%" and "that's". So about 22 of them should be loan words? Seems plausible ...)

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact