Is English a German or Scandinavian Language?

S. D. writes: I’m German American. Half my family is Prussian German and the other half is from Munich in the South. I can answer this, sort of.

English is actually from Denmark.

These folks were never from Germany, they were from Saxony and Angles They were Scandinavians.

Normans brought a great deal of Latin words into the English language but they themselves were Norwegians.

Brits have no German in them. They are Scandinavian and Celtic. Their language reflects this.

Wait a minute. English is a West Germanic language. It is in the same branch of Germanic as German. The most closely related language to English is Frisian, which is spoken as probably up to seven separate languages in Northwestern Netherlands and Northwestern and Far Northern Germany.

Scandinavian is North Germanic. All of these languages are straight up from Old Norse.

English is up from Old German, or more properly the Anglo-Frisian branch. Frisian is straight up from Old Saxon, which gives you a clue to what the Anglo-Saxons were speaking.

A man who knows how to speak Old English recently went to Frisia with a TV crew. He stopped and talked to an old farmer who was a Frisian speaker. He could actually communicate with this guy with him speaking Old English and the farmer speaking Frisian (“Modern Saxon”). If you look at Old English, it looks like German. If you hear a tape of someone reading Beowulf, it sounds like someone speaking German. Not only that, but you cannot understand a word.

The British are mostly a Celtic or even a pre-Celtic people. On top of that is layered some German (the Anglo-Saxons), some French (the Normans) and some Danish on the east and north, formerly the Daneland.

I have heard stories about the Normans being Vikings or Norwegians, but I am not sure about that. They were living in France when they invaded. One of my distant ancestors is Eleanor of Acquitaine, Queen of England. She was from the West Central Coast of France.

The Normans brought a lot of French words into English. Actually they spoke Norman, which is a completely separate language from French and is still alive to this day, though it is endangered. But it is related to French. Norman split off from Old French in ~800-1000 CE.

The Scottish and especially the Irish have a lot of Scandinavian blood in them due to a lot of Viking raids in those places. That is why there is all the red and blond hair and green and blue eyes there (red hair and green eyes in Ireland and blond hair and blue eyes in Scotland).

It is true that a lot of Latin borrowings came into English during the Norman period and even afterwards, as Latin was the language of science, technology and government. Some Danish words did go into English from the Daneland. Scots and a lot of the incomprehensible English dialects from northeastern English such as Geordie have heavy Danish influence.

However, there is a little something to your theory. The three tribes in that area that all invaded England were called the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. The Angles and Saxons lived from northeastern Netherlands through Northwestern and Far Northern Germany, but the Jutes actually did inhabit Far Southwest Denmark. They speak a language down there called South Jutish, and I am told that Danes cannot understand it at all. However, I have heard that a Jutish speaker and a Scots speaker from Scotland can actually somewhat communicate along the lines of the Old English speaker and the Frisian farmer!

39 Comments

Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Danish, English, English language, Europe, European, Europeans, French, Frisian, German, Germanic, History, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Irish, Language Families, Linguistics, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Scots, Scottish

39 responses to “Is English a German or Scandinavian Language?

  1. S.D.

    Orkney Island Scots are essentially as Norwegian as Icelanders according to DNA and linguistic studies. Shetlands close runner-up.

    I am not sure that the Irish are more Norse than the Brits of Northeast Scotland.

    The Irish seem to share some link to the Basque and Northern Spain.

    There is no denying that the Vikings were in Ireland but I do not think that language or genetics had the same impact as they had in Northeastern Scotland (Nowhere else in Scotland). Macbeth opened during the period of Norwegian expansion into Scotland.

    I’m stating that the English language and genes did not originate in Munich with Low or High Germans of Central Europe.

    I cannot argue that the seaside borderlands from which the waves of Anglos, Saxons and Jutes originated shared territory in both Germany and Holland as well as Denmark.

    Yes it is debatable to what extent the Normans were French Celts or Scandinavians or some composite of both.

  2. Matt

    The Normans lived in France, but the aristocracy of Normandy was descended from Norsemen who intermarried with the locals. They adopted the French language.

    The original poster is off base in that English, German, and Scandinavian tongues are all what we call Germanic languages, and Saxony is definitely part of Germany.

  3. S.D.

    Germanic languages span from the border of Finland with Sweden to the border of Belgium with Holland. Nobody can dispute this and I don’t.

    But I think Saxony and Jutland have a great deal more in common with Denmark than with High German spoken in Munich or Bavaria. That was my point.

    Normans brought a Latin language to Britain but the Celts fled Britain to coastal France before the Vikings established. Genetically, I believe the inhabitants of Normandy were Celts. Today they belong to the Celtic League of Nations.

    • Matt

      With regard to Normandy, you might be thinking of nearby Brittany. The Breton language is actually closely related to Welsh, and the Bretons were Celtic migrants from the British Isles in the early Middle Ages.

  4. S.D.

    Brittany is the most Celtic place in France, true.

    The Celts were actually fleeing the Saxon, Angle and Jute tribes.

    Welsh might be the purest Celts in Britain.

  5. Jason Y

    So are the English basically Celts speaking a Germanic language, or are they a hybird between Celts and Germans?

  6. S.D.

    English are a Celtic-Germanic-Danish-Norman (Norwegian and French) hybrid race with considerable Norwegian blood in Northeastern Scotland and minute amounts of Roman blood in the Welsh.

  7. S.D.

    Island races can become homogeneous over time but are always founded by populations of seafaring races who come from disparate places. One group shows up, then another, then another.

    Invariably the invaders leave a particular impact in one region that is usually nearest their beachhead landing as was the case for the Danes in Northeastern England.

    At any rate Brits are Celtic-Roman-Danish-Norman-Norse-Germanic. Germanic people actually just overwhelmed Celts completely-this was the original illegal invasion-and Celts fled to France and depopulated the island.

    English are most similar in genetics and language as Robert states, to the Dutch and Germans.

    That’s the English, however. Orkney Island Scots speak a Norwegian language and are the descendants of Vikings plain and simple. Norwegian blood is common throughout Scotland and MACBETH was set during their invasions.

    Welsh appear to have more Roman blood as well as Celtic and were nowhere near as overwhelmed by Germanic invaders. The mountains were a formidable barrier.

    Scots have no Norman blood in them. As much as the English despise the French their ruling class were Frenchman for 500 years.

    It is much more complicated than this of course.

    • Jason Y

      The race stuff didn’t mean much back then. Whoever was the most powerful simply came in and took over, also got all the women. Not much concern was given over being pure-bred.

  8. Dave Mowers

    Breton is considered a Celtic language.

    The Romans invaded Germany and drove many tribes into Scandinavia.

    Irish came from North Africa, it is documented in the Roman and Greek histories.

    The Danes were an earlier migration of Scythians. When The Nemedians(Numidians) or “Irish,” arrived in Denmark the inhabitants welcomed them as brothers. Remnants of Phoenician colonies.

    The Danes anciently attested to their lineage as being descended from Nimrod as… ‘the Black God’ (Zernebogus).

    Nimrod is identified with the Roman Mercury who is identified as coming from Germany. The German Mannus(Manus) who founded Germany is the son of Nimrod, Manis Tusu, Asa Manji, Menes. The Germans are said to have migrated from the Middle East as the Getae according to Greek histories.

    Old English has Sumerian root words in it.

    i can list citations.

    • S.D.

      Bretons were Celts that fled Great Britain when the Angles, Jutes and Saxons arrived.

      Scythian people are from the steppes of Southern Siberia and never spoke a language in the Germanic family. Jat Sikhs claim ancestry from them but I do not see how Danish could.

      Celts originated in North Africa? They were widespread across Europe but I have never heard this before. The Irish seem to share the same DNA as the Basque people of Northern Spain.

      If Old English has Sumerian words in it that might be a result of transmission rather genes.

      • Dave Mowers

        Caucasian Scythians invaded Egypt and established the first cities there. It is written in Greek and Roman histories.

        Phoenicians settled in Libya and Egypt and Nimrod invaded Egypt and Libya expanding his kingdom to include both. It is in the Bible and in Greek history as well as Egyptian and Chaldean.

        When Sargon invaded the Levant and Egypt he drove the,”people of the double axes into the sea,” which is written in a stele. The Irish were called Numidians in Libya and were driven out by Rome. Not only is this recorded in Roman history but in Dutch as well as an Iris mythological version which describes them coming from another land.

        I never said Celts originated in North Africa.

        Phoenician settlements, artifacts and coins were discovered in England.

        Chaldean/Babylonian language derives from Sumerian and was the world’s trade language as well as the religious language until Latin came along so for four thousand years or so.

        Everything I said is a historical fact born out by archaeology as written testimony.

    • Stary Wylk

      “i can list citations.”

      Please do.

      • matt

        Dave Mowers: Interesting, but definitely extraordinary claims needing extraordinary evidence.

      • Dave Mowers

        jrbooksonline com/pob/pob_toc html

        archive org/details/mythologyofaryan00coxguoft

        archive org/details/mythologyofaryan02coxg

        splenocyte my-php.net/2013/11/the-magic-arts-in-celtic-britain-book-by-lewis-spence-online/?ckattempt=1

        www truth1 info/pezron htm

        www ldolphin org/PDFs/The_Two_Babylons-Alexander_Hisloppdf

        forumromanum org/literature/justin/english/

        rbedrosian com/Folklore4/Lenormant_Chaldean_Magic pdf

        onlinebooks library upenn edu/webbin/gutbook/author?name=Rawlinson%2C%20George%2C%201812-1902

        I have more in my library I’ll have to pull them all and repost later.

        • “Contrary to the general opinion of historians, he [Waddell] accepts as authentic the chronicle of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and regards as historical the legend of King Brut of Troy having reached Britain with his followers about the year 1103 BC, founded London a few years later, and spread through the land Phoenician culture, religion and art […] His views indeed are so unorthodox that he is no doubt prepared for strong criticism, and even ridicule. King Brut of Troy has long been relegated to the company of old wives’ tales.”[17]

          Crownhart-Vaughan, E. A. P. (1925). “The Phoenician Origin of Britons, Scots, and Anglo-Saxons [Review]”. The Geographical Journal 65 (5): 446–447.

        • http://www.forumromanum.org/literature/justin/english/trans2.html

          “The nation of the Scythians was always regarded as very ancient; though there was long a dispute between them and the Egyptians concerning the antiquity of their respective races; the Egyptians alleging that, “In the beginning of things, when some countries were parched with the excessive heat of the sun, and others frozen with extremity of cold, so that, in their early condition, they were not only unable to produce human beings, but were incapable even of receiving and supporting such as came from other parts (before coverings for the body were found out against heat and cold, or the inconveniences of countries corrected by artificial remedies), Egypt was always so temperate, that neither the cold in winter nor the sun’s heat in summer, incommoded its inhabitants; and its soil so fertile, that no land was ever more productive of food for the use of man; and that, consequently, men must reasonably be considered to have been first produced in that country,1 where they could most easily be nourished.”

          The Scythians, on the other hand, thought that the temperateness of the air was no argument of antiquity; “because Nature, when she first distributed to different countries degrees of heat and cold, immediately produced in them animals fitted to endure the several climates, and generated also numerous sorts of trees and herbs, happily varied according to the condition of the places in which they grew; and that, as the Scythians have a sharper air than the Egyptians, so are their bodies and constitutions in proportion more hardy. But that if the world, which is now distinguished into parts of a different nature, was once uniform throughout; whether a deluge of waters originally kept the earth buried under it; or whether fire, which also produced the world,2 had possession of all the parts of it, the Scythians, under either supposition as to the primordial state of things, had the advantage as to origin. For if fire was at first predominant over all things, and, being gradually extinguished, gave place to the earth, no part of it would be sooner separated from the fire, by the severity of winter cold, than the northern, since even now no part is more frozen with cold; but Egypt and all the east must have been the latest to cool, as being now burnt up with the parching heat of the sun. But if originally all the earth were sunk under water, assuredly the highest parts would be first uncovered when the waters decreased, and the water must have remained longest in the lowest grounds; while the sooner any portion of the earth was dry, the sooner it must have begun to produce animals; but Scythia was so much higher than all other countries, that all the rivers which rise in it run down into the Maeotis, and then into the Pontic and Egyptian seas; whereas Egypt, (which, though it had been fenced by the care and expense of so many princes and generations, and furnished with such strong mounds against the violence of the encroaching waters, and though it had been intersected also by so many canals, the waters being kept out by the one, and retained by the other, was yet uninhabitable, unless the Nile were excluded,3) could not be thought to have been the most anciently peopled;4 being a land, which, whether from the accessions of soil collected by its kings, or those from the Nile, bringing mud with it, must appear to have been the most recently formed of all lands.” The Egyptians being confounded with these arguments, the Scythians were always accounted the more ancient. ”

          This only claims that Scythians were more ancient, not that they invaded Egypt first.

        • Also Dave, I’m somewhat struck with confusion on how you would rate the validity of evidence. You rely on historical data which, I admit, can have validity, DNA studies are typically more accurate as well as being consistent with various literature as well if you look at that link about the Irish and Northern Spain.

          I read my fair share of old literature as well, in other words learning that there were other theories, common and otherwise, that weren’t correct.

          For example, the Kong Mountains.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountains_of_Kong

        • “Admixture results based on the Dodecad Ancestry Project showed, at K=11, that Irish are mostly “Northwest European” (as we’d expect), also partly “Northeast European” and “Basque”, with a small slice of “Sardinian”, and a little bit of “West Asian”. The Irish are very similar to British, which is also shown by their clustering together in two main groups. ”

          http://www.khazaria.com/genetics/irish.html

          “Although Denmark forms a distinguishable cluster from neighboring countries in the PCA plots (compatible with isolation-by-distance), no st[r]ong structure was observed within the country. Similarly, ADMIXTURE revealed high levels of homogeneity in the Danish samples compared to other North European countries. […] Finally, chromosome painting revealed strong genetic influence from neighboring Nordic (Sweden and Norway) and Germanic (Germany and Holland) countries and negligible influence from Finland, France and Portugal.”

          http://www.khazaria.com/genetics/danes.html

  9. S.D.

    I am dubious that Celts originated in North Africa or Germans in the Middle East.

    Bretons (As the word suggests) were migrants from Britain to France during the invasion of Angles, Jutes and Saxons. This much is fact.

    Sumerian culture of Mesopotamia has spread through transmission into most of the Western World.

    • Dave Mowers

      Iranian and German language have the same roots. Bretons migrated to somewhere else…what does that have to do with where they came from?

      They did not suddenly appear in England sprouted from the ground.

      Phoenicians, Canaanites, Moabites, Hittites, Amorites were all Sumerians.

  10. Jm8

    I think Frisian was/is separate from Saxon albeit extremely closely related(both Ingaevonic), hence the term “Anglo-Frisian branch”(“Anglo” for the language of the Angles, but also including Saxon) Anglo-Frisian (as a branch of Western Germanic), I think, is mostly synonymous with Ingaevonic. Saxons and Frisians are/were different tribes going back a while. Frisians are mentioned by the late Romans. The modern version of Saxon is likely the “Platt-Deutch” or Low German dialects of Saxony and nearby. Seemingly some forms of Low german (some significantly more than others) have been influenced by more dominant “mainstream” German over time.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_German
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingvaeonic_languages

    Apparently (at least modern) Jutlandic (from the Jutish homeland at the base of the Danish peninsula, were Northern and Western Germanic now transition) is classified as North Germanic. But (probably) Anglic from Angeln in Germany, and Saxon (the two languages/tribes of the majority of Germanic settlers in Britain) were West Germanic). So, no surprise that English is W. Germanic. Some N. Germanic influence came later also from the Danish Vikings, based mostly in the N. Enlglish Danelaw, but with some of their linguistic influences diffusing over time to other ancestral English/Scots dialects over Britain.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Jutlandic

  11. S.D.

    If a foreigner visits Newcastle or Norwich where the people resemble Princess Diana and are obviously descended from North Sea invaders along the German and Danish coasts and then travels to County Cork where the people tend to look like Colin Farrell or Mel Gibson one thing becomes totally obvious…The Irish are some Basque offshoot that originated in Northern Spain and were “bred out” of the English gene pool by these Germanic Invaders.

    Many of the Celts simply packed up and moved to France when they invaded.

    Britain being an island was settled by people from places as distant from one another as Denmark and Iberia.

    Scots seem to be an entirely different melting pot of Norwegians and Picts.

  12. S.D.

    Mel Gibson and Pierce Brosnan and Sean Penn are your typical Irish Celts. Stocky, sort of bow-legged, not terribly tall, long hairy eyebrows, deep-set blue eyes and thick brown or black hair. Typical phenotype. Also includes Oasis Gallagher brothers and Colin Farrel.

    Usually English people have longer limbs, are 6 feet tall or over, fair-haired, slender.

    Clearly the Celts have an Iberian origin and the English trace their roots to Holland, Germany and maybe even to Scandinavia.

    At the bottom of Anglo-Irish and Anglo-Welsh tensions are probably these ancient racial divisions.

  13. S.D.

    Let’s look at some famous Irish (Irish-American) Celts: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Pierce Brosnan, Richard Gere and the Gallagher brothers of Oasis.

    Their phenotype is strikingly similar. Always. Stocky and well-knit, usually not very tall (Under 6 feet), long hairy brows, deep-set eye sockets, brown hair, long curvy noses.

    DNA now suggests some ancient similarities between these folks and Basques or Catalans of Northern Spain. Obviously, the Celts of the British Isles originated there.

    Ancient Iberian-Germanic tensions are the results of lingering Anglo-Welsh, Anglo-Irish resentments. One does not have to be a political scientist to detect that.

  14. S.D.

    Phoenicians were from modern-day Lebanon and there is no question that they traded off the tin coast of Southwest England in antiquity.

    That much is fact.

  15. It is surprising how little attention is paid to the influence of the Danelaw on the English language. no one in Old English academia seems to want to touch it. Its a Norwegian article that has claimed English is a Scandinavian language. Anglo-Saxon and the Early post-Norman Conquest English church put the dampers on the Scandinavian influence. Even the story of the Norman Conquest’ reads quite differently in the Norse Saga version to how it comes through the AS Chronicle. AS lost most of its grammar to the Norse of the Danelaw. That’s why English has not the inflection system of Continental Germanic but rather that of Norse. I’m happy to think of English as Norse in grammar and Syntax but mostly Latin-French in vocabulary. About 60+% of English derivers from Latin-French. Personally I question the old story of the Normans being ‘Northmen’. Another AS/Norman manipulation. It was 1000 years ago but the Normands were in what is now France earlier. Records 1000 years ago as now were subject to political manipulation. Why did William go to the Pope for a Blessing for a Crusade? Because he was intent on driving the pagan Vikings out of England and Christianising the place under Norman tutelage. Hence the Harrying of the North. Yorkshire is still far more ‘Norse’ than any other part of England. Listening to people north of Watford speak English and you’re listening to Norse accents speaking English. With Norse words in dialects. If William hadn’t come with mounted archers (from the East) he could never have defeated the Vikings. Much of English history abroad (empire etc.) equates to versions of Viking raiding. Old Norse habits die hard.

    • Jm8

      The Normans had been in France for a few Generations by the time they invaded England and were no longer pure Norse. Many of their mothers and Grand mothers had been locals (meaning—as in most of France—basically, Romanized Gauls, but in Normandy‚—since it was in North West France near the Franks’ lowcountry homeland, probably with some significant Frankish/West Germanic admixture as well. Williams mother, Herleva (a western Germanic name), was probably the daughter of a local tanner.

      I what way does English have N. Germanic inflections (or course I know there are Danish influences, but these . I believe it lost alot of it’s inflections (and more complex grammatical features) due to Norman influence, when the language of high/court culture and governance became French, and in a simplification process somewhat like (some argue) creolization (but not advanced/progressed to the same degree). The grammar of old English is of course closest to other W. Germanic languages. Though there is much Latin and French vocabulary, the basic vocabulary of English (the lexical core, though not the majority of words, as you have said) is West Germanic.

      • Jm8

        Edit: “(of course I know there are Danish influences, including likely grammatical, but these were initially focused in the Danelaw, and spreading, sometimes piecemeal, to other regions over time)…”

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