Friday, July 19, 2013

The Effect Of Latin On The English Language: Part 4

So far in our evaluation of the effect of Latin on the English language, we've seen the paltry linguistic influence of the Romans, the invasions of Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, and finally, the Norman Conquest, which had perhaps the most influential effect on Latin's arrival into the English language.

That said, the conquest isn't the end of our tale. We can't ignore the cultural and linguistic influence of the Catholic Church. From the 6th century, the Church was present in England and would stay as the country's prominent religious organisation for about a millennium. Latin had already begun to take root in the then developing English language through its use in churches across the country.

The title page of Newton's Principia.
Although King Henry VIII would later revoke the Pope's power in the Church in England following a spat with the Catholic Church regarding the denial of the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Latin Mass remained prominent in England up until the twentieth century. Due to the Church and the Norman Conquest, most of the polysyllabic words in English are of Latin or Old French origin.

However, it wasn't just religion that allowed Latin to creep its way into the English language. The sciences and the wealth of Roman technology that was introduced across Europe and parts of Africa led to Latin phraseology entering many languages, not just English.

As we have already mentioned in our previous posts about nomenclature, science, from the Latin word scientia meaning "knowledge", is heavily influenced by Latin. Even by the 17th century, scientists would work and publish their findings in Latin, despite, more often than not, being able to converse with one another in English. It's no surprise that Isaac Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was originally published in Latin in 1687, while it would be another 41 years before it would be published in English, in 1728.

So there we have it. We hope you've enjoyed nearly 2000 years of Latin's effect on the English language. It's difficult to keep it all to just four posts, so if you have anything you think we may have missed, tell us about it in the comments below.