Is English a Germanic Language?

Is English a Germanic Language?

Just like people, languages have families too. They belong to same groups and have shared roots. 

 

As for English, it belongs to the Germanic language family. However, today, many wouldn’t say that English is a Germanic language. Some would even say that it belongs to Romance languages. 

So, to prove it, we are going to talk about Germanic languages, and, more importantly, we're going to discover whether English belongs to this language tree and why.

History of Languages

Languages are like one huge family. 

One, big, part of today’s languages comes from the Indo-European language family, which is divided into several subfamilies as Germanic, Slavic, or Romance language family.

aWhen saying Germanic languages, we mean all languages that evolved from Proto-Germanic language, their ancestor.

Around the 5th century, an ancient Proto-Germanic started to split into three main branches: Northern, Western, and Eastern.

North Germanic languages are familiar as Scandinavian languages. This language tree includes Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, and Faroese. All these languages are descendants of Old Norse, spoken by the Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. Even today, these languages have a lot in common.

 

Afrikaans, Dutch, English, German, Luxembourgish, Yiddish, and Frisian languages belong to the West Germanic languages. 

 

The Eastern Germanic language branch, unfortunately, doesn’t exist due to its languages’ extinction. The most popular East Germanic language, and the last to extinct, was Gothic.

 

Does English Belong to Romance Languages?

The reason why English seems similar to the Romance language family, especially French, is that this language family influenced English over many centuries. 

The greatest influence is in vocabulary.

That power can be searched centuries and centuries ago, back in 1066, when influence started and continued after the Hundred Year’s War.

Today, in English vocabulary we can find around 30% of the French words used in English.

And yes, thousands of words, almost 30% come from Latin, as well. 

 

How Is English a Germanic Language?

Even though many would disagree that English belongs to the Germanic language family, it actually does.

To determine whether a language belongs to a specific language family, it is not enough to say that it is similar (or not) to the other languages. 

The linguists’ job is to determine the language family tree. They use many factors among others: pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary conclude their mutual ancestor.

So, according to many studies, and linguists’ conclusion, we can say that English belongs to the Germanic language family, the West Germanic branch.

Reasons That English Is Germanic

So, the big mystery is solved. 

But what does all that mean?

It means that English is similar to German, Dutch, or Afrikaans, because they come from the same Germanic branch. 

They share the same core in grammar, for example, or vocabulary.

Who would say that these languages are like siblings, right? 

It seems like they have more differences than similarities.

However, descendants of Proto-Germanic are more similar to English than it seems at first sight.

Let's take a look at the phrases like ‘Good morning,’ which is in ‘Guten Morgen’ in German, ‘Godmorgen’ in Danish, ‘Goedemorgen’ in Dutch, or ‘God morgon’ in Swedish.

Phrases are not the same, but the similarity is apparent.

Now, let’s take a glance at similarities in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

 

Grammar

Let’s take grammar as one of the examples. English grammar is entirely Germanic.

Despite the similarity between French and English, regular plural noun formation in -s has its origins from the Germanic branch.

Pronouns and adjectives in its structure are Germanic, too.

Vocabulary

As for the vocabulary, all the core words in English have Germanic origins. It means all the pronouns, conjunctions, verbs, determiners, numbers, common adjectives are Germanic. Perhaps not all the West Germanic origin because some of them are North but still Germanic.

Also, approximately 28% of German words in English are used in everyday conversations.

 

Pronunciation

Even though, at first sight, it doesn’t seem, the best evidence that English belongs to the Germanic family is the pronunciation.

 

Compared to the Romance language family, for example, French, English is pronounced further back in the mouth.

Furthermore, in all West Germanic branches, rhythm is formed to give equal length between stressed syllables. In Romance languages, on the other hand, the equal length is formed to each syllable.

 

English as a Leader

With more than 2 billion, of which 300 million are native speakers, English proudly takes the first place in the world by the number of speakers and one of the most spoken languages in the world.

One more language from this family stands out, too. It is German, which, with around 95 million speakers, holds the number one language spoken in the European Union.

 

Benefits of English Language Learning

Besides the well-known benefits of learning a language, in general, there is one more benefit in the English language learning many forget to mention. 

Knowing English can help you learn other languages from the Germanic family faster and more easily.

Just take a look at the vocabulary, or, even better, grammar. 

As we mentioned, core grammar is very similar in every of the Germanic families; conjunctions, determinations, too. 

Final Thoughts

English is a fascinating and adaptive language. This fact is supported by so many English-speaking countries worldwide.

And even though it has been influenced by the Romance language family, French at first, it belongs to one of the most spoken language families in the world.

The Germanic language family is very proud of its member for being the most spoken language.

It shows how one language can survive, remain what it has always been, and even become number one in the world.

Is English a Germanic language?

Yes, English belongs to the Germanic family group along with German.

Is English language a Germanic or Romance language?

English is a Germanic language. It borrows some words from Romance languages.

What percentage of English is Germanic?

26%

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