Anglish-Language Thoughts

No, not English. Anglish.

This is something I became aware of quite recently. If you’ve read a few of these posts, you’re probably aware that English is a largely Germanic language, but has been influenced by languages of different origins, particularly French. When we look at the words English speakers use today, we can find an interesting mix of Germanic, Norse, and Romance languages, and the occasional bit of languages from farther afield.

As English is used all around the world, this still happens today, as the occasional word will come from another language in recent times, or be created by non-native speakers to fill a niche (French word).

And that’s fine. Most of us aren’t even aware of this, as the words were already there when we were born, or gradually found their way into daily usage. We don’t need to be aware of where words come from to use them. The same is true of other languages too: it’s just basically how languages work. They don’t exist in isolation.

But of course there are those who’d prefer it didn’t work that way. This is where Anglish comes into it. Anglish isn’t really an officially-recognised language or dialect. It’s basically an attempt at linguistic purism, involving using only words of Anglo-Saxon origin. Begin instead of commence, make instead of create, for example. And in cases where there are no Anglo-Saxon equivalents for Latin-based words, well, they could be made up. Not completely out of the blue, in fairness, but using the conventions of pre-modern versions of English. Like coining words like wordstock to replace vocabulary.

I have to admit, I don’t really understand people wanting to limit English to words of purely Germanic origin. I could understand if an immortal person grew frustrated with the changes over the centuries to the language of their childhood. But why would someone who grew up naturally acquiring modern English want to avoid everyday words they and other English speakers use with ease, just because hundreds of years ago it gradually evolved from a French or Greek word?

There have always been people who wanted to make English purely Germanic, and nowadays this wiki, The Anglish Moot seems to be their online home (want to read about Star Wars in Anglish!?).

I don’t completely disagree with proponents of Anglish. I’m with George Orwell in my dislike of inkhorns. An inkhorn term is a borrowed term from another language (generally French, Greek, or Latin) which is considered unnecessary or pretentious. I never like to use such a term when there’s a common simple word that will do. And even though many established English words began as inkhorns, it’s natural to resist them when they’re being newly introduced to English, as we remain attached to the form of the language we grew up with.

But I don’t understand why anyone now would want to limit themselves to using purely Germanic words, and force themselves to create new words based on ancient linguistic conventions. It’s an interesting linguistic experiment, and as a purely mental exercise I like the idea of coining new terms using Germanic conventions.

I don’t want to assume what people’s motivations are, but I can imagine that people might support Anglish because they don’t like different cultures interacting and influencing each other. But that’s just the way cultures and languages work, so don’t expect me to be changing the site’s title to Anglish-Tung Thoughts any time soon!

6 thoughts on “Anglish-Language Thoughts

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