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Maciamo
31-10-12, 22:16
English is generally classified as Germanic language, despite having less than a third of its vocabulary from Germanic roots.

One of the principal reasons why English is considered a Germanic rather than Romance language is that most of its basic everyday words are Germanic. Let's see if that is true of adjectives. Here is the list of the 25 most common adjectives in English:


good => Germanic
new => PIE (Latin novus, Old English neowe)
first => Germanic
last => Germanic
long => Latin
great => PIE (Latin grandis, West Germanic *grautaz)
little => Germanic but quite rare in other modern Germanic languages
own => Germanic
other => PIE (Latin alter, Proto-Germanic *antharaz)
old => Germanic
right => Germanic
big => unique to English
high => PIE (French haut, Latin altus, Old English heh, Proto-Germanic *haukhaz)
different => Latin
small => Germanic
large => Latin
next => Germanic
early => Germanic but unique to English nowadays
young => Germanic
important => Latin
few => PIE (*pau 'little, few'), but only survived in English and Romance languages (Latin paucus, French peu)
public => Latin
bad => unique to English
same => Germanic but unique to English
able => Latin


Only 10 of the top 25 adjectives are of purely Germanic origin and have cognates in other modern Germanic languages.

This oddity is even more apparent when one looks at the most basic adjectives in English. Lots of them have no cognate in other modern Germanic languages, and the etymology of some is so mysterious that nobody knows where they come from. A few examples:

English adjectives of unclear/unknown origin

- average
- bad
- big
- crazy
- funny
- lazy
- tired

English adjectives of Proto-Indo-European origin but unique to English

- cheap => English coinage
- evil
- healthy
- hollow
- mad => derived from a PIE and Germanic root, but meaning(s) unique to English.
- quick => based on a Proto-Germanic and PIE root, but sense of 'fast' unique to English.
- sad => based on a Proto-Germanic and PIE root for 'satiated'

English adjectives probably based on a Germanic root but unique to English

- blunt => cognates vaguely with Old Norse, but ultimately of unknown origin.
- clever
- dark
- dirty
- empty => found in Old English, but of unknown origin.
- happy
- tall
- scary => derived from Old Norse, but of unknown origin.
- smooth => found in Old English, but of unknown origin.
- steep => probably Germanic, but of unknown origin.
- stingy => English coinage
- straight => derived from Old English but origin unknown
- swift => English coinage
- wicked => English coinage from the Old English noun wicca. Unique to English.


English adjectives with ancient Germanic cognates but no modern ones

- angry => only found in Old English and Gothic
- back => only found in Old English and Old Frisian
- early => only found in Old English or Old Norse
- fair
- flat
- guilty => only found in Old English
- hilly
- ill => vaguely cognates with Old Norse
- naughty => only found in Old English
- shallow => only found in Old English
- together => only found in Old English


English adjectives with a few modern Germanic cognates but of unknown, probably non-Germanic origin

- busy => only related to Old Dutch bezich, Low GerMan besig.
- lean => vaguely related to the East Frisian luf, Dutch dialectal loof.
- narrow => sole cognates in Dutch and Frisian; probably not from Proto-Germanic.


English adjectives of Germanic origin but with a unique sense/usage in English

- clean => distantly related to the West Germanic term for small, but English sense not found elsewhere.
- creepy
- kind => derived from the Germanic word for 'kin'.
- mean => derived from the Old English gemæne (common, public), from the Germanic root *ga-mainiz meaning 'possessed jointly'.
- pretty => of West Germanic origin, but English meaning not found elsewhere.
- ready => derived from the Germanic word for 'arranged'.
- same => derived from the Germanic word for 'together'.
- silly => derived from the Germanic word for 'happy'.
- tiny
- wrong => derived from the Germanic word for 'crooked'.
- ugly => derived fom Old Norse, but unique to English with this meaning.


English adjectives of Romance origin but with a unique sense/usage in English

- cheerful => Anglo-Fr. chere and Latin cara, both meaning 'face'.
- cute => perhaps derived from the Romance word 'acute', but otherwise unique to English.
- nice => derived many times from Latin nescius ('ignorant'); unique to English.
- proud => derived from the Old French prud (brave, valiant), itself from Latin prode (profitable).


All the above (57 words listed so far) could be considered coinages of English or Old English, or words that have died out in other modern languages. The fact that they are unique to English makes me want to count them separately from true Germanic words.


Examples of adjectives that have obvious equivalent in other modern Germanic languages and can therefore truly be classified in the modern Germanic family include:


bitter
broad
cold
cool
dead
deep
dull
dusty
dry
even
far
fast
fat
fierce
first
free
friendly
full
good
hard
high
hot
hungry
late
last
light
lively
loud
lovely
low
lucky
next
old
open
right
ripe
rotten
sharp
shiny
shy
sick
slow
soft
sour
strong
sweet
thick
thin
thirsty
true
young
warm
weak
well
wet
wild
wise
witty
wonderful


Some single- or double-syllable adjectives may have a Germanic look to them (at least for people not well versed in Latin or Romance languages), but are actually derived from Latin or Old French:


afraid
bland
clear
close
eager
easy
faithful
faint
fancy
fine
foolish
fresh
huge
miser
mute
noisy
nasty
poor
powerful
quaint
quiet
safe
spicy
square
tasty


The vast remainder of common adjectives in English are all from French or Latin.


able
acid
adorable
agreeable
alert
amused
ancient
annoyed
automatic
anxious
arrogant
beautiful
brave
brief
calm
careful
cautious
charming
chemical
colourful
comfortable
common
complete
complex
complicated
concerned
condemned
confused
conscious
cooperative
courageous
cruel
curious
damaged
dangerous
defeated
defiant
delicate
delightful
dependent
depressed
determined
different
difficult
disgusted
distinct
disturbed
doubtful
elated
elegant
embarrassed
enchanting
encouraging
energetic
enthusiastic
envious
excited
expensive
exuberant
false
famous
fantastic
feeble
female
fertile
fixed
fragile
frantic
frequent
future
general
gentle
gigantic
glorious
graceful
greasy
grotesque
hilarious
important
impossible
infamous
innocent
inquisitive
large
long
male
married
massive
material
medical
medium
military
miniature
mixed
modern
necessary
nervous
normal
obedient
obnoxious
opposite
outrageous
panicky
parallel
past
perfect
physical
plain
pleasant
poised
polite
political
possible
present
private
probable
public
rapid
real
repulsive
rich
round
second
secret
separate
serious
silent
simple
sociable
solid
special
splendid
strange
stupid
successful
sudden
terrible
terrific
usual
victorious
violent
vivacious



All in all, I have listed 57 adjectives unique to English, 59 of Germanic origin, and 167 of Romance origin. Out of a total of 283 common adjectives, only 20% have cognates in modern Germanic languages.

sparkey
01-11-12, 00:47
Only 10 of the top 25 adjectives are of purely Germanic origin and have cognates in other modern Germanic languages.

IMHO that standard is too high. I think we should instead focus on words that have apparent Germanic transmission, i.e., they got into English via Germanic speech. Otherwise, you're dismissing words that apparently come from a Germanic source, just because they haven't changed much in the Germanic family or the rest of IE over time.

Then we get:



good => Germanic
new => Germanic (O.E. neowe, A.S. niwe, Proto-Germanic *newjaz)
first => Germanic
last => Germanic
long => Germanic (O.E. lang, Proto-Germanic *langgaz)
great => Germanic (O.E. great, Proto-Western-Germanic *grautaz)
little => Germanic
own => Germanic
other => Germanic (O.E oþer, Proto-Germanic *antharaz)
old => Germanic
right => Germanic
big => Germanic (originated in a Germanic context possibly from Norse bugge)
high => Germanic (O.E. heh, A.S. heah, Proto-Germanic *haukhaz)
different => Latin
small => Germanic
large => Latin
next => Germanic
early => Germanic
young => Germanic
important => Latin
few => Germanic (O.E. feawe, Proto-Germanic *faw-)
public => Latin
bad => Germanic (originated in a Germanic context possibly from O.E. bæddel)
same => Germanic
able => Latin


I get 20/25.

Maciamo
01-11-12, 15:00
I couldn't finish writing everything I wanted last night, so I have expanded and reorganised my original post.

MOESAN
01-11-12, 23:28
I couldn't finish writing everything I wanted last night, so I have expanded and reorganised my original post.

interesting
without checking I could say that:
right is not only germanic but shared with latin rect-us + breton reizh surely from latin sources?
for high I see not link with latin alt-us nor french haut << aut (the 'h' is from a frankish influence)
lazy could be link to french loisir (ancient dialects leisir)???
straight maybe strict-us ???
very uncertain: health-y from a brittonic calet ? welsh caled breton kaled : "hard" + "resistant" ???
just bets

Maciamo
02-11-12, 11:14
interesting
without checking I could say that:
right is not only germanic but shared with latin rect-us + breton reizh surely from latin sources?
for high I see not link with latin alt-us nor french haut << aut (the 'h' is from a frankish influence)
lazy could be link to french loisir (ancient dialects leisir)???
straight maybe strict-us ???
very uncertain: health-y from a brittonic calet ? welsh caled breton kaled : "hard" + "resistant" ???
just bets

You are correct for right and high. The others are debatable though.

I will create a separate list for adjectives shared by both Germanic and Romance languages, since English is a hybrid of these two families and could have inherited the word from either or both. I actually think that English did attempt to merge the pronunciations of the Old/Middle English and French/Latin terms whenever these were similar. That would explain why English has an intermediary spelling and pronunciation for many words. For example :

- one : in between the French un and the Dutch een ; 'one' used to be pronounced 'on', just like the Walloon word, which is also a hybrid of Romance and Germanic. It would be interesting to know what the Anglo-French and Norman French dialect word for one is.

MOESAN
02-11-12, 16:14
you are right and I just made some propositions without going farther
for intermediary phonetic forms, I'm not sure... perhaps?

for the word 'one' I don't know: the southern english pronounciation for a lot of germanic words with previous long 'E' /éé/ which gave long /éé/ too in netherlandish, "frisic" and scandinavian , but a lot of diphtongs or new monophtongd in german dialects: /ai/+/äi//èi//èè//ää//öö//oi//wa//aa//ââ/ -
english (southern) has a 'o' 'oa' spelling /oo//ëo//ëw/ pronounciation (approximative, I have no phonetic fonts)
as in 'stone' ('stein') / 'oak' ('eich') / 'broad' ('breit') / 'more' ('mehr') ... when scot english has 'stane', 'ake'/'aik' / 'braid' / 'mare' etc... we can figure out an evolution /éé/>>/èi/>>/ai/>>/aa/>>/oo/ ?
I know 'one' is pronounced /won//wën/ in place of expected /ëon//ëwn/or /oon/ but ?!? no french nor walloon pronounciation has /wo/ in 'un' but only /ö~/ or /o~???/ fémi. /ün//un/
just to bet too

MOESAN
02-11-12, 16:23
for the number of adjectives compared by source, I believe that the most necessary (urgent) are germanic and that maybe the first pure anglo-saxon elite societies had more germanic adjectives but that in future high level language, for precise and specific meanings, the french and latin adjectives took the strong side upon the genuine anglo-saxon ones - almost in every language I know the low level language uses often periphrases or other idiomatic ways to express some uncommon meanings and that high level language tries ti do with the minimum of words andwith the most possible precise words - for more "ground" life meanings, the low level language can express things very quickly and directly, at the contrary - the competition between the two sources of language for english was not a "fair play one", speaking about social classes languages ?