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Thread: The English are German

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oswiu View Post
    As for the Langobards, they came down into the Mediterranean world, where urbanism had been around for almost millenia, where civilisation in the Mediterranean style had become irrevocably ingrained. The Angles and Saxons came into a Britain devastated by plague, economic collapse, periodic raiding and civil strife, and where urban life for the overwhelming mass of the population had only really been around for a few generations, or 200 years at most.

    A more reasonble explaination.

    For Anglosaxons was very easy impose their specific culture to a collapsed Britonic/roman society of Britain. On the opposite, Germanic Franks and Lombards had to face the deeply developed roman civilization of the continent.......not an easy challenge. Indeed all the territories of Roman empire on the contitnet actually kept their latin language (actual French and italian language still are Latin derived languages).
    Here the paradox : Franks and Lombards although their big number didn't imposed their language to invaded populations, rather started to use the language of their subjugated natives.................

    in few words, was easy to win (culturally) against semi-savage populations of british isles, but almost impossible, against the deeply civilized contintental populations..... Very Difficult to erase an evoluted form of civilization as the roman one.

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    Senior Member stormlord's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    A more reasonble explaination.

    For Anglosaxons was very easy impose their specific culture to a collapsed Britonic/roman society of Britain. On the opposite, Germanic Franks and Lombards had to face the deeply developed roman civilization of the continent.......not an easy challenge. Indeed all the territories of Roman empire on the contitnet actually kept their latin language (actual French and italian language still are Latin derived languages).
    Here the paradox : Franks and Lombards although their big number didn't imposed their language to invaded populations, rather started to use the language of their subjugated natives.................

    in few words, was easy to win (culturally) against semi-savage populations of british isles, but almost impossible, against the deeply civilized contintental populations..... Very Difficult to erase an evoluted form of civilization as the roman one.
    What a shock, being lectured about the superior Roman civilization by an Italian! Whatever next?!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    For Anglosaxons was very easy impose their specific culture to a collapsed Britonic/roman society of Britain.
    We mustn't forget that the Britanni were under attack from all sides, and that they didn't just crumble under one attack from the Saxons - the Picts and the Irish were also penetrating very deep into the province. On top of that, many soldiers (including native troops and commanders like Riothamus) were drawn away to help defend what was left of Romanitas on the Continent.
    On the opposite, Germanic Franks and Lombards had to face the deeply developed roman civilization of the continent.......not an easy challenge. Indeed all the territories of Roman empire on the contitnet actually kept their latin language (actual French and italian language still are Latin derived languages).
    Here the paradox : Franks and Lombards although their big number didn't imposed their language to invaded populations, rather started to use the language of their subjugated natives.................
    Less of a paradox when it is remembered that the Germanics attacking the core of the Imperium were already Christened, and so were more amenable to fitting in with the established order of things in the south.
    in few words, was easy to win (culturally) against semi-savage populations of british isles, but almost impossible, against the deeply civilized contintental populations..... Very Difficult to erase an evoluted form of civilization as the roman one.
    There is some truth in this, but the general reason behind it all is that Britannia was a peripheral province, that was always going to be lost more readily than the central territories of the Mediterranean basin. The further you are from the body of the shoal/herd, the easier it is for the predator to catch you!
    Quote Originally Posted by rivalin View Post
    What a shock, being lectured about the superior Roman civilization by an Italian! Whatever next?!
    Quite.
    Though Hussar forgot to pretend to be a GermanoLombardicised Gaul for a while, and let slip that he's really an Italicised EtruscoPelasgian... :p

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oswiu View Post
    I did say collapse. But how much of the late Imperial agricultural system would have survived? How much relevance would Roman city life have had in the memory of the peasants who were conquered by the Angles? As for the townsfolk themselves, these would have suffered most in the disasters that Bede and Gildas record.
    My point though is that I can't see evidence of a collapse in Britain any more than on the continent.

    City life was certainly alive and well when St. Germanus visited Britain well into the 400s.

    Gildas paints a picture of great deterioration and collapse, however his continental contemporaries also spoke of their lands in much the same way.

    In both cases there is a fair bit of hyperbole, and another factor is that they concentrate (naturally) on the areas which were directly affected by disasters; this can give the impression of total destruction. But the affected areas must have been quite a small part of the whole.

    In my view, the Anglo-Saxons conquered already existing kingdoms and principalities; by and large, things remained intact, but changed hands, and the invaders settled in the kingdoms. Many kingdoms even retained their old names, like Kent, Deira, Bernicia, Elmet and so on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rivalin View Post
    What a shock, being lectured about the superior Roman civilization by an Italian! Whatever next?!

    I didn't speak about a superior civilisation. But for sure the roman one was to evoluted to be erased. The proof is in front of you : a nation like France for example, a Central-European nation, kept a Latin derived language although something like an half million of Frank-Germanic invaders.........it's rather strange don't you think ? Generally invaders impose their language, NOT the opposite (except in very rare cases).


    I realize you don't like me very much


    Quote Originally Posted by OSWIU
    There is some truth in this, but the general reason behind it all is that Britannia was a peripheral province, that was always going to be lost more readily than the central territories of the Mediterranean basin. The further you are from the body of the shoal/herd, the easier it is for the predator to catch you!

    Yes, this is a logic reason.

    Less of a paradox when it is remembered that the Germanics attacking the core of the Imperium were already Christened, and so were more amenable to fitting in with the established order of things in the south.
    Christianisation had a strong impact yes, but it's only part of the explaination.


    Well, we can say there are 3 main reasons for the different impact of Germanic invasions in British isles and on the continent.


    1) On the continent the imperial civilisation was more abosorbed (80-85% of assimilation level in France against a 10-15% in british isles.. I'm obviously joking writing such "percentages", Oswiu........but it's to make more clear the things. To suggest an understandable statistic proportion of the phenomenon.........


    2) Germanics who attacked the vital points of Empire were more civilised/christianized than the others, so was easier for them to mix with locals.

    3) where Imperial civilisation was well assimilated....was almost impossible to erase it..........

    Quite.
    Though Hussar forgot to pretend to be a GermanoLombardicised Gaul for a while,
    I never pretended to be "Germanolombardicised Gaul".......i'm simply a Romanized Gaul, with some Lombaridic influence....

    History is History, Oswiu, Although we like it or not. I exposed rather clear facts.


    and let slip that he's really an Italicised EtruscoPelasgian...
    ....says the dark Pict..


    er.....excuse me to correct you, Osw.......but EtruscoPelasigians presence was south from Po Valley (their geographic centre was Tuscany).
    on the opposite I'm from Piedmont personally (my ancestors from the old french Savoy.....)

    You need to study more, Oswiu...........(you're a mod. Your image is important :p)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    I didn't speak about a superior civilisation. But for sure the roman one was to evoluted to be erased. The proof is in front of you : a nation like France for example, a Central-European nation, kept a Latin derived language although something like an half million of Frank-Germanic invaders.........it's rather strange don't you think ? Generally invaders impose their language, NOT the opposite (except in very rare cases).


    I realize you don't like me very much
    It's nothing personal it's just that traditional education in Britain consists of being told that the Victorians and the British Empire were the true successors of Rome and that the ancient English were savages.


    Anyway, I take your point about established civilizations being more resistant to change, but that's only relevant to the upper echelons of a society, the lower strata of people that made up the majority in Britain at the time would have had no need or desire to adopt Germanic culture. I read the following in British Archaelogy;

    Moving on to linguistic evidence, Professor Collis correctly points out that modern French has about 120 Celtic loan-words. However, this figure does not prove what he thinks it does. This is precisely ten times as many as the number of Celtic loan-words in Anglo-Saxon. Nor is there any evidence of substrate influence on the syntax of Anglo-Saxon, which remains a fairly conservative West Germanic tongue when it emerges as a written language several centuries after the invasions.

    Continuing the comparison with Gaul and other mainland late-Roman areas, we know that the Gallo-Romans acquired a pagan, Germanic-speaking aristocracy during the Frankish invasions. Despite this, the native inhabitants neither abandoned Christianity, nor imitated their new landowning class linguistically. Instead it was the Franks who were assimilated. As were the Goths, Burgundians, Lombards, and every other Germanic invader of the Roman Empire except the Anglo-Saxons. Something very different happened in the British Isles.

    After 1066 the Norman French, who were in close contact with their nearby homeland, who totally supplanted the Saxon landowning class, who were accompanied by their households and many lower-status French migrants, and who had the prestige of the premier language of culture in medieval Western Europe behind them, still did not succeed in linguistically assimilating the English peasantry.

    There was a massive influx of French loan-words into English, and ordinary English people adopted many French personal names over the following two centuries, but the language remained English - and absorbed the invaders.

    To suggest that a thin stratum of Anglo-Saxon immigrants, ruling a vastly larger population, without a written language or a state level of organisation, could linguistically assimilate their social inferiors simply makes no sense. It flies in the face of virtually every well-documented case of language succession we have on record.

    In the absence of institutions such as formal state-sponsored schooling, intensity of contact, particularly in childhood, is the crucial factor in determining who assimilates whom. If the invaders were a small stratum of landowners they - and, crucially, their children - would be in intense linguistic contact with the natives (as servants, concubines, nurses, and so forth) while the bulk of the native population would have little contact with their overlords.

    Numbers count in these matters. For an adult to learn a new language is usually difficult; for him or her to learn it without bringing substantial vocabulary and syntax across the linguistic barrier is virtually impossible.

    How could vast peasant populations have the necessary degree of contact with far less numerous Anglo-Saxon invaders? Did they crowd into the lord's hall to take lessons after ploughing? Drill each other on the declension of nouns as they swung their sickles in the cornfields? Go over the myths of Woden and Thunor on the long winter evenings in order to fall in with the tastes of the aristocracy?


    Would you learn a new language to satisfy a group of rulers that you would probably never even meet? While it would make sense that upper class town dwellers would adopt Anglo Saxon customs and language to get ahead, I've never heard a rational argument as to why the rest of the population would.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rivalin View Post
    Would you learn a new language to satisfy a group of rulers that you would probably never even meet? While it would make sense that upper class town dwellers would adopt Anglo Saxon customs and language to get ahead, I've never heard a rational argument as to why the rest of the population would.
    Things trickle downwards, in my opinion. People always want to move upwards, so eventually everyone learns this as their first language. Wouldn't the rulers want that their people can speak the same language?
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    The point of the argument over language is why did English become the native tongue, if the English were just 1/10 to 1/6 of the population? The Franks in Gaul adapted the Gallo-Latin language of their newly conquered subjects. THe same with the Visigoths in Spain or the Lombards in Italy. Outside of Britain the language trickled up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Freydis View Post
    Things trickle downwards, in my opinion. People always want to move upwards, so eventually everyone learns this as their first language. Wouldn't the rulers want that their people can speak the same language?
    What you're saying makes sense to a modern person, but you'd see it more clearly if you put yourself in the position of people at that time. If you were a ruler you wouldn't care that peasants that you never came into contact with spoke your language, all you want is people who do what they're told and pay their taxes etc, and in any case most elites like keeping their language to themselves (eg medieaval clergy). As for peasants, "getting ahead"- your average peasant never left the village he was born in, knew his place in the world and accepted it. How would learning English help a peasant get ahead? would he impress the local lord when he went to the weekly cocktail party at the lord's hall?

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    Moving on to linguistic evidence, Professor Collis correctly points out that modern French has about 120 Celtic loan-words. However, this figure does not prove what he thinks it does. This is precisely ten times as many as the number of Celtic loan-words in Anglo-Saxon.
    This fails to take certain factors into account. The number of Celtic loanwords in Old English is not likely to be very high until the Celts started speaking the language among themselves, in their own communities. (I'll add too that one shouldn't be comparing modern French with Old English, given that both languages have accumulated lots of Celtic words which are not derived from the Celtic languages originally spoken in what is now England and France.)

    So I'm inclined to see this as evidence that Celtic did not die out nearly as quickly as is often thought.

    The other factor is that written forms of languages in societies like this tended to remain very conservative; Old English had a written form by around 700 A.D.; if Celts were still using their own language among themselves at this time, and only used English when speaking to Anglo-Saxons, then there would be few Celtic loanwords to enter the now written Old English. If it remained conservative for the next three and a half centuries, it may well have departed increasingly from the spoken form, which in turn probably accumulated much more Celtic influence then is evident from the written form.

    But with the Norman Conquest, Middle English emerged, quite radically different from written Old English, yet not very French influenced, at least initially. It may well be a much closer reflection of what the spoken language prior to the conquest was like.

    At any rate, it has many more Brythonic words than Old English, and there is possibly considerably more Brythonic influence in the structure of Middle and Modern English than there was in Old English.

    Another thing I've noticed with early Middle English is an apparently aspirated "L", like there is in Welsh.

    If the invaders were a small stratum of landowners
    If they were greatly outnumbered by the conquered population, that doesn't mean they had to be a stratum of landowners.

    In my opinion, all classes of society with the exception of the unfree, were represented among the migrant Anglo-Saxons.

    They were like clans or small village/hamlet communities, with their chief. Some chiefs, perhaps particularly the higher ranking chiefs (of larger clans, or of a few smaller ones) would have taken estates, with their unfree serf inhabitants, from the British chiefs (resulting in these chiefs becoming poorer and somewhat lower ranking). But these Anglo-Saxons chiefs lived among their own people, not among their British serfs.

    The point of the argument over language is why did English become the native tongue, if the English were just 1/10 to 1/6 of the population?
    Here's my hypothesis as to why that happened anyway:

    http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=932&page=2

    Post no. 15

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