[Edit to take into account that the source link has been changed, and thus improved, on this submission.]
Apparently this theory's authors have also studied linguistics and multiple languages . So how do you counter their arguments regarding syntax and core vocabulary?
 Here's the Amazon publications list for one of them: http://www.amazon.com/Jan-Terje-Faarlund/e/B001HOTQ08
So far their publication on the contested point in discussion here is the press release submitted here. The field of linguistics has peer-reviewed journals like any other science, and it has authoritative secondary sources (surveys of world languages) and tertiary sources (encyclopedias of linguistics) and a large scholarly community of people who have more specialized knowledge than (apparently) any participant in this thread, including me, who know English, Old English, modern Scandinavian, Old Norse, and German well enough to dig into the data. What's more, historians have been publishing for generations on the general issue of how Britain was settled by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes after written history had already begun in Britain, and how incursions by "Danes" in Britain were responded to by the local populations. This is not a new field.
A new comment, more recently submitted than your reply to my comment, puts the issue well:
Having studied linguistics I'd say the claim is sensationalist rather than sensational. English is a rather wild crossbreed of many European languages, all of which share the same Indo-European roots.
Old English is very closely related to Old Frisian and Low German. Later on English has been heavily influenced by Scandinavian, Romance (mainly French due the Norman invasion in 1066 - Norman French to be specific, which differed quite a bit from Île-de-France French at that time) and Gaelic languages to some extent.
That's very familiar to all of us who have formally studied linguistics of English. What's also dismaying familiar to anyone who has studied linguistics is the attempt of nationalists who are partisans of one language or another to claim a connection between their language and some language that enjoys great prestige (here, English). I have nothing against Norwegian. I speak it (a little), and Norwegian was my late grandmother's native language. I have nothing against German. I speak it (rather more than I speak Norwegian), and it was the native language and sole language of schooling for two of my grandparents. I also acknowledge, as I did in my original comment, that BOTH the North Germanic and West Germanic branches of Germanic languages influenced English. My uncontroversial and non-extraordinary claim here, agreed to by most linguists, is simply that the weight of influence on English is such, and the history of English is such, that English is better characterized as a West Germanic language than as a North Germanic language. The most frequently occurring word in English, which is "the," is one demonstration of that. The word "the" is a West Germanic word.
Historically, German, French and Latin have all been high-prestige languages, and scholars have focused on their relationship to English. There's been plenty of relation to find, no doubt! No one argues for direct lineage w/ Latin, but German roots have always been plausible and palatable.
Norse, though? Some would have found that scandalous. Borrowings--sure, ok. "Influence", of course. But lineage? No, certainly not.
This certainly gives a lot of fuel and authority to back people up to think they know what they're talking about. The truth is, nobody has a damn clue of how everything really went and trying to impress otherwise all degenerates to mere academic speculation.
The only thing of value such a field of study can produce is to connect a single observation or sets of observations that can be refined to something that's pragmatic and useful in actual world where life happens. If the researcher in the article were to be wrong by all academic angles but if what he thinks he has found turns out to have significance in how the English could learn Norwegian more easily or vice versa or how some similarities between English and some other language could be explained with that, then that's something constitutes undisputed value no matter what. If not, it simply doesn't, and any number of generations of academic prestige still doesn't make any difference.
People in science are often so confused about the importance of what's right and wrong, true and false while all they have is theories, and whereas they seem to be far better off whenever they simply follow the if-it-works-then-it-is principle.
If recitation of conventional wisdom as fact were the response to any new theory, we'd know everything is today exactly what we knew to be fact 500 years ago.
That the Earth does not revolve around the sun "is very familiar to all of us who have formally studied the cosmos" -- once upon a time.
But yeah, it's probably one of the best subreddits I subscribe to.
I think that a lot of this does have value to people on this site. If you're going to be involved in the SV community, it's important to stay up-to-date on the "inside baseball".
(Seriously, though: let me just put in a plug for the Language Log (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/) which is full of juicy linguistic discussions. Worth it just for the eggcorns.)
The usual frontpage hits are often so formulaic that the parodies write themselves.
You can strand prepositions (or verb particles, as we'd call them when they're not heads of clauses) in final position in German, contrary to their claim: Er stellt es auf "he sets it up".
Off the top of my head I can name many ways that Scandinavian and English differ syntactically (forgive the jargon: you can Google it). 1) Many Scandinavian languages maintain a form of V2, where tensed main verb appears in 2nd position (defined syntactically); English lost it in the Middle English period. 2) Scandinavian lacks do-support (the presence of a dummy tensed auxiliary in certain contexts: "I don't want it", "Do you know?", etc.) where English has it. 3) Some Scandinavian languages have V-to-T movement (where temporal adverbs occur before verbs); English lost that a long time ago.
Agreed. An example is Japanese and Korean. They have virtually identical syntax, yet they are completely unrelated genetically. Outside of the vocabulary that they both borrowed from Middle Chinese, they have essentially no words in common.
> 3) Some Scandinavian languages have V-to-T movement (where temporal adverbs occur before verbs); English lost that a long time ago.
Is this like "Nu ska jag gå" (in Swedish)? If so, I don't understand that English lost it because "Now I will walk" is a fine translation.
Linguists have hypothesized since at least the 1950s that verbs are introduced into derivations at a position adjacent to their complements: if they occur between subject and temporal adverb, they presumably got their by raising (because syntax is a tree structure and both Scandinavian and English are largely head-initial, "earlier" in the sentence is also higher in the tree) from base position to the tense (T) position above verbs. Hence "V-to-T movement".
If you want to learn which Scandinavian languages have V-to-T and which don't, and you can handle the jargon, check out this paper by Jonathan Bobaljik, a specialist in comparative Germanic syntax and prof at UConn:
You'll find salient features of any of these language roots but that doesn't make English a Romance or Gaelic language for instance, it's just that it has been influenced by those and hence adopted grammatical features.
The main reason for this is that Great Britain before the times of the British Empire was one of the most contested places in Europe.
Finally, some of the claims in this article are somewhat inaccurate. There were no Scandinavians and British people at that time, 'Danes' and 'Anglo-Saxons' would have been the correct terms.
I also have a problem with the claim that Norwegians find it easy to learn English because their languages are so closely related. The same has been said about Dutch not long ago.
For me, the strongest points this new proposal has are the syntactical features that scandinavian and modern english share. Syntactical features i.e. sentence structure being adopted from one language to another is very very rare and when it does occur it happens at a much slower rate. There are a couple week points in the theory though. #1 and the article admits this, Old English is West Germanic. #2 Chaucer's english is vastly different from Old English but I don't think anyone would say its a completely new Language, there are too many similarities, shared vocabularies, etc, this has until now led everyone to believe modern english discends from old english and was mingled up with scandinavian and then norman french.
Also, almost all the syntactical similarities the article shows have to do with the split verb that modern english doesn't have. In german "ich habe gestern lange gearbeitet" is in English literally : "I have yesterday long worked" but translated should be "I worked a long time yesterday" . I think they'd need to give support that the split verb didn't die out, (which is kind of suggested in the texts of chaucer and his predecessors), but rather was something that never existed b/c the "original" language, in this case scandinavian, never had them in the first place.
From what I recall, _The Atoms of Language_ makes the case that English went from SOV to SVO because a style in which very short sentences could be uttered in SVO arose and became popular, and within a fairly short period of time the L1 learners of English were mostly hearing SVO during their early years, so as they matured the head directionality parameter was set contrary to their parents. As I recall the book had some evidence to support this, but I can't speak to the quality of it. I'm also not sure how that would work with the antisymmetry proposal (which nicely explains other phenomena).
As an interesting side note to show just how big of a hack mixed up jumble of everything modern english is, the usage of the verb do, in elliptical sentences and questions such as "do you want some coffee?", is very rare in indo-european languages (only found in celtic langs such as irish) and thought to have been picked up during the time in which saxon speakers and celts were sharing the same island.
The fact that there was so much and such dramatic change happening that either of those possibilities are reasonable suggests to me that we're not going to get a definitive conclusion anytime soon.
Borrowing "fundamental grammatical words and particles" (I'd go with "functional elements") is common too (the French of Prince Edward Island French is a famous example). That English has Scandinavian functional elements is uncontroversial, and previously was taken as evidence for contact, not descent.
Here's what I see as the facts underlying their claim. English went from a OV, V-to-T-to-C (thereby, V2) language to a VO language with no verb raising, in which it is similar to Scandinavian. I don't see how that's inconsistent with contact.
I googled to find the name of it for you and Wikipedia gave me a much better link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_language_regulators
As a primary English speaker, I find it both silly and abhorrent that they even bother but... eh. Whatever.
Not to say that really contradicts the theory, though, as the single word "uphold" is essentially vocabulary, and could easily have been borrowed from a West Germanic language, irrespective of its grammatical implications.
I was highly amused when someone pointed out the Norwegian terms for hospital and vacuum cleaner - støvsuger and sykehus are pretty much exactly how you would say "dust sucker" - "stoor sooker" and "sick house" - "seek hoos". Hardly surprising when you consider that considerable chunks of Scotland were part of Norway for a while (although not the part where I grew up, although there are quite a few battles in the area between Scots and Vikings).
For example, "greet" for "cry" is clearly related to the Norwegian gråte or Swedish gråta. Likewise "kirk" for "church" is a lot closer to the Norwegian "kirke". These are the only ones I remember off the top of my head, but I remember there being surprisingly many.
edit: bairn (Scots) vs barn (Norwegian) for child just came to mind.
It is, however, a million kilometers away. The "-ling" suffix here is from Old English, and was used in personal nouns. "Dēorling" is "dear-ling", or one who is dear. In modern English it's often used as a diminutive. (Eg, "duckling", "hireling".)
The "-ling" suffix also exists in other Germanic languages. For example, "Yuengling" is a brewing company in the US. Its name comes from "an Anglicized version of Jüngling, its founder's surname and the German term for 'young man'." (So says Wikipedia.)
The Swedish "älskling" comes from the verb "älska" (to love) and the same suffix. One page describes the suffix as "ordbildningsform som användes i fornsvenskan för att uttrycka litenhet", that is, a "word formation used in Old Swedish to express smallness", in other words: in the diminutive.
So while "darling" and "arlskling" end the same, it's because both language share a similar "-ling" mechanism.
The base word ("dar" and "älsk") have different background. The "dar" is from "dear", and the Swedish cognate for dear is "dry", which means "expensive" in modern Swedish. Consider "the price was too dear for me.")
That's why you shouldn't think of "älskling" and "darling" as being related words. They are as related as "yuengling" and "duckling", which isn't very.
It further clarifies: "Both these suffixes had occasional diminutive force, but this was only slightly evident in O.E. -ling and its equivalents in Germanic languages except Norse, where it commonly was used as a diminutive suffix, especially in words designating the young of animals (e.g. gæslingr "gosling"). Thus it is possible that the diminutive use that developed in Middle English is from Old Norse."
It appears then that "-ling" in Old English meant "person or thing of a specific kind or origin", which it shared with other Germanic languages, and grew to acquire the diminutive use after the Old Norse influence on English.
Does this mean that Scandinavian is a celtic language? :O
Now clearly my grandparents and family from that region all speak English, but it's quite different from the English spoken in SE London where I now live, so my daughters are picking up a cockney/Kentish dialect that's very much more West German.
So I don't think it makes a lot of sense to say that English is more this, or more that. It reduces down to saying that more people in England live in regions influenced by language family X than live in regions influenced by language family Y. But they all are speaking English.
I'm interested in the grammar issues that the OP raised, but wonder how true their assertions about the unlikelihood of change might be.
Even as a kid growing up in Denmark, with all the British/American shows on TV (not dubbed) it was easy to learn a lot just by reading subtitles and following along. I give Saturday morning cartoon re-runs a lot of credit for helping me to learn. I remember sitting on a train with a friend of mine and us both realizing that we both knew a lot of English a year before we were going to start learning it in school.
I've found that most Scandinavians (or at least Danes) have a pretty easy time with English. Because the sentence structures are so similar, you're mostly plugging in English words that you're already familiar with and using the same sentence.
That said, on a deeper level, English is a very different language. That's most likely because it is such a cross between other languages.
Any Danish kid born in the 80's (myself included) more likely than not has fond memories of watching "Bamses Billedbog" at 6pm on the weekends.
Also, plenty of cartoons are dubbed into Danish, so I'm not totally convinced about the economic argument. Denmark is a rich country with plenty of money to spend.
I think it works the other way round, too, though there's an asymmetry in the fact that, whilst most Scandinavian speakers encounter English regularly, the reverse isn't true.
Nonetheless, even though I've never studied any of the Scandinavian languages, nor ever been there, I find it fairly easy to read written Danish or Norwegian. I went to a Christmas market at the local Norwegian church last weekend, and amused myself by reading all the Norwegian signs and inscriptions. With so many cognate words and an almost one-to-one mapping of word order, I could easily guess the odd word that wasn't immediately obvious.
(None of that either supports or refutes the Scandinavian hypothesis, of course. It's just an observation that there are significant common features and vocabulary.)
However, I think you overstate the significance of phonology. Many native English speakers struggle to understand Glaswegians; partly, that's lexical, but mostly, it's phonological. It doesn't mean that it's hard, though, just that the listener is unfamiliar. An American dropped in Glasgow would soon learn to understand the locals, I feel sure.
You say that you've lived in Denmark for two years but still struggle to parse spoken Danish. That seems like slow progress: would it be fair to assume that you spend your time mostly in an English-speaking environment? I ask because I'm trying to work out to what extent Danish pronunciation is hard, and to what extent you just haven't had much exposure.
More here: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=danish+pronuncia...
Danes tolerance for Danish pronunciation is way tighter than Americans for English, so if a sound is just slightly off, we don't understand a word of what you're saying.
It's not that odd. Take threedaymonk's example: English is written almost the same way in New York and in Glasgow, yet an American in Glasgow might have some difficulty understanding people at first. And of course mutual intelligibility between Danish and Swedish will be lower than between New Yorker and Glaswegian.
Written Portuguese and Spanish are also very similar, and while it's possible to keep a "bilingual" conversation with some effort, I (a Portuguese speaker) and my Spanish-speaking friends just use English instead.
Interesting read on Danish infants and their slower rates of language acquisition: http://cphpost.dk/culture/quotdanskquot/danish-languages-irr...
Interesting; are you able to switch between them without the Swedish bleeding into the Danish or vice versa?
Its quite amusing to see two Swedish people that don't understand each other only to drop in to English to ask for directions.
As I understand it, English trickled down from the north of the British Isles. The further north you go in Britain, the more likely you are to hear some of the phonemes you would normally hear on the continent.
From my perspective, being a Yorkshireman, I find it easy to parse and understand the accents (and dialects, even though people say english doesn't have any dialects, which it clearly does) from all over the north of Britain that people below the danish line struggle with, such as thick Yorkshire accents, Geordie and Scottish. For me, that's English. All that stuff below the Danish line is wishy washy french.
Jeg vil gerne have en kop kaffe = i would like a cup of coffee
That's my go to for similarity.
As a matter of fact, people here in NL say regularly that Danish and Dutch are 2 close languages. I'm pretty sure Dutch is not considered a Scandinavian language though.
Etymonline says (of hound): O.E. hund "dog," from P.Gmc. hundas (cf. O.S., O.Fris. hund, O.H.G. hunt, Ger. Hund, O.N. hundr, Goth. hunds), from PIE kuntos, dental enlargement of root kwon- "dog" (see canine). Meaning narrowed 12c. to "dog used for hunting."
Expanding that a bit, it says: Old English hund "dog" from Proto-Germanic hundas (compare to Old Saxon, Old Frisian hung, Old High German hunt, German Hund, Old Norwegian hundr, Gothic funds), from Proto-Indo-European kuntos, dental enlargement of root kwon- "dog" (see canine). Meaning narrowed in the 12th century to "dog used for hunting."
It's actually "dog" which is the strange one out. That site elaborates: O.E. docga, a late, rare word used of a powerful breed of canine. It forced out O.E. hund (the general Germanic and IE word; see canine) by 16c. and subsequently was picked up in many continental languages (cf. Fr. dogue (16c.), Dan. dogge), but the origin remains one of the great mysteries of English etymology.
(It looks like dog was applied to what we now call a mastiff, though I'm not sure.)
Since you know French, it makes sense that you find "dog" to be a normal term - apparently it comes from the English (?!) - while you are less familiar with 'hund' and its variants.
as a native english speaker, my experience in dutch & swedish classes has been that it's pretty much a wash between them for difficulty, so frankly i think this argument goes nowhere. (yes, dutch puts verbs at the end of subclauses. but 'Wegian puts articles at the end of nouns and has a funky medio-passive, so then where are you?)
I am English (from near Anglo-Cornish/Somerset area), have lived in Norway (Bergen where they speak mainly Bokmål) and now live in Stockholm (obviously in Sweden, where they speak Swedish), and live with and understand the differences, plus I have spent some time learning the history of my mother tongue and the history of those countries.
Lets face it the the grammer structure is different, its the first thing an English person has to learn when learning Scandinavian languages. English heavily borrows from other languages. Swedish heavily borrows from French - there was a King who was obsessed with France and everything french, some Norwegian words are from Sweden. English borrows French words heavily for obvious reasons.
Bokmål adopted words from those countries that they traded with and he doesn't even expand into the different languages and dialects that used to be in the Norway that Nynorsk tried to consolidate.
The fact is that these languages have changed and are constantly changing based on trade, fashion, rule and migration and to singly say that English is a Scandinavian Language is at best trying to make a name for yourself and at worst ignorance of history.
And you just lost any and all credibility you may have once had.
You're just wrong.
Really, how unlikely could that be? Why can't English be both North and West Germanic?
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_family "A family is a monogenetic unit; that is, all its members derive from a common ancestor, and all attested descendants of that ancestor are included in the family."
Perhaps a similar thing happened in England. The vocabulary is Germanic, but the syntax is Norse.
Mainland Scandinavian languages have also simplified somewhat, but in the time since native Norse speakers had a direct influence on English. The Danes that occupied northern Great Britain spoke something that looks and sounds a lot more like Icelandic or Faroese than modern Danish, Swedish or Norwegian. To suggest that the simplification of grammar in mainland Scandinavia after the Norman invasion of Britain is the reason for English's current structure is to posit a sort of quantum entanglement between languages.
Correlation is not causation. I still hear mostly English (highly dialectical English, but English of England nonetheless) when I listen to recordings of modern Frisian. I hear something merely related to English when I listen to Scandinavian languages.
 Based on the fact that almost all Estonian youth (16 - 26 years old) can speak English properly.
In this link, the author highlights that Old English uses the Dutch/German approach to sentence structure. (Although, a “Ich lese das Buch” / 'I read the book' / »Jeg læser bogen« structure is also possible in German.)
But Middle English is actually mostly heavily influenced by French (1066 and all that), and surprise surprise, French also uses a SVO (subject verb object) structure, « je lis le livre ».
Maybe he should have used better examples.
Edit: German grammar.
I just don't believe that 'X population is generally good at speaking Y language' means that 'X's mother tongue is related to Y' is a sound argument.
What this linguist is saying is that modern English is more Scandinavian than Old English. But Old English was never spoken throughout the island, back then many British inhabitants spoke Norse! So I am not surprised that over time, they standardized on a language halfway between Old English and Norse.
Middle English developed around 1100. Take a look at this map of languages circa 900:
Linguists, like biologists, draw a distinction between "descent" and "convergent evolution" (with "lateral gene transfer" being like what linguists call "contact-induced change").
[edited to add wiki link]
We do share a lot of the same rules for word order as English. There are, however, notable exceptions.
For instance, if the sentence starts with another word than the subject, then we swap subject and verb.
If we ask a question, then we start with the verb. Of course, this is done with 'to do' in English, and there's a nice, archaic sound to it if one simply place the verb first ("Went you to the store?").
In the sagas it is written that at some point earlier in history, the vikings and the inhabitants of Great Britain (the island) understood each other.
With all the wars, conquests and migrations done by people of a similar language, it is hardly strange that one cannot pinpoint exactly what English is. At the time, one may summarize the situation that the Norwegians and Danes were organized(1), as well as the Normans, whereas the inhabitants of Great Britain were less so. The language of power, the courts and records will disproportionately influence the common language.
1) Organized in the sense that they had picked up how to maintain power from the remnants of the Roman empire. Vikings used, among other things, to serve as the imperial guard of Constantinople.
edit: removed an asterisk that caused formatting changes
For example, while enumerating the similarities between the Scandinavian languages and English, it fails to enumerate differences (e.g. Scandinavian languages have suffixed articles while English, Old English and German have articles before words).
It gives us some examples, but fails to give a large picture (e.g. what is the share of Norse words in the N most frequent words).
Obviously I'm have no knowledge of linguistics, but maybe there's something to this theory.
Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is a West Germanic language,
which the Angles and Saxons brought with them from
Northern Germany and Southern Jylland when they settled
in the British Isles in the fifth century.
A certain piece of academic information isn't useless just because you can't think of a use for it, so I'd say yes, you're wrong.
It still is as far as I can tell. Try adding/subtracting it - it makes no difference. Multiplying it just gets you back the same useless number no matter what. Dividing by zero? Don't even go there!
Zero represents the state of "nothingness" - the universe before anything exists. The blank slate, tabula rasa, etc. The empty page before you write anything it.
Zero is a very deep concept and it is far from useless. See the book "Zero: history of a dangerous number".
I'd think it's actually a valid point though, if the question is put in the form: Does zero (or its reciprocal) have any existence beyond being a useful theoretical construct? Can the physical world actually reach zero, or only asymptotically approach it?
Is the universe infinitely big? Can infinitely small things exist? Can a thing be said not to exist (ie. we have zero of it), or is there always a miniscule probability of it spontaneously appearing due to quantum effects? Is a vacuum really empty? If we have zero, how do we measure it in the face of quantum uncertainty? And so on...
Five minutes ago, I had zero apples in my hand. At this exact moment, I have no way of knowing how many apples are in my hand due to signal delay and processing time.
Numbers as we know them are only useful for describing the past, but at that task they can work perfectly.
Granted that the probability is negligibly small for uncertainty causing two measuring devices (such as my brain and yours) to return different answers for how many apples were in your hand five minutes ago, but is it truly zero?
Also granted that in practical terms it's not worth arguing over, and I don't propose that such possibilities should be taken into account in everyday life.
If, in reality, there were zero apples in my hand, I could say that I was holding one apple, but then I would be wrong.