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English is (still) a West Germanic language

  • Kristin Bech (a1) and George Walkden (a2)

Abstract

In their recent book, English: The Language of the Vikings, Joseph Embley Emonds and Jan Terje Faarlund attempt to make the case that from its Middle period onwards, English is a North Germanic language, descended from the Norse varieties spoken in Medieval England, rather than a West Germanic language, as traditionally assumed. In this review article we critique Emonds & Faarlund's proposal, focusing particularly on the syntactic evidence that forms the basis of their argumentation. A closer look at a number of constructions for which the authors suggest a Norse origin reveals that the situation is not as they present it: in many cases, the syntactic properties of Old and Middle English are not given careful enough consideration, and/or the chronology of the developments is not compatible with a Norse origin. Moreover, the authors do not engage with the large body of sound changes that constitute the strongest evidence for a West Germanic origin. We conclude that Emonds & Faarlund fail to make a convincing case either for a North Germanic origin or against a West Germanic origin.

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References

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English is (still) a West Germanic language

  • Kristin Bech (a1) and George Walkden (a2)

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