Scandinavian Influences on the English Language
Department of Humanities, Mid-Sweden University, English C, Linguistics, January (2004)
English is a Germanic language, as are German, Dutch and the Scandinavian languages. Those who know one or the other can easily see the relationship to English, but English is certainly the one that has broken away the most from the others. A closer look shows how deeply it has been influenced and affected by other languages. The British Isles have been the home of Romans, Picts, Celts, Angles, Saxons and Jutes, Frenchmen, and the subject of this essay,
Scandinavians, or Vikings. The Age of the Vikings, starting around year 750 AD, had an important role in the making of modern Europe. Building ships was something the Vikings were especially good at, and they had excellent skills as sailors and navigators, which took them not only all over Europe but also as far as Constantinople and North America. However, it is their interest in Britain that will be focused upon here. The Scandinavian colonisation of the British Isles had a considerable effect on the English language and vocabulary, as well as culture. There are many hundreds of Scandinavian place-names that can still be found in the British Isles, and endings such as -by, -ness, and -thorp, are some typical Scandinavian place-name elements. The Vikings also had a major influence on the English language itself, judging by the amount of words that were borrowed and the fact that they are part of everyday vocabulary even today.