Danish invasions

In his Ecclesiastical History, the Venerable Bede writes about contacts made between the English language and other languages. When looking to define or explain the English language, it helps to consider the implications of these contacts. One implication, for example, is that foreign words, or borrowings, were introduced to the English lexicon.

From written histories, such as Bede’s, we know something of the languages that English came into contact with and how these contacts came about; for example

  • Latin mingled with English by way of Christian missionaries
  • Danish came in via Viking invasion
  • French came in primarily as a reult of the Norman invasion

Although the “Viking raids on Britian” are considered to be the “second big linguistic invasion[1],” we don’t see these words turning up in manuscripts until the Middle English period (Crystal 48).

Viking expansion. [Click image to view a larger version of this map.]

1 Author David Crystal notes in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (CEEL), the “second big linguistic invasion came as a result of the Viking raids on Britain, which began in ad 787 and continued at intervals for some 200 years. Regular settlement began in the mid-9th century, and within a few years the Danes controlled most of eastern England. They were prevented from further gains by their defeat in 878 at Ethandun” (25).

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