Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.
allied High German language.  Thus the original word for father, which closely resembled the Latin pater, becomes in early English or Anglo-Saxon faeder, and in modern High German vater.  So, again, among the numerals, our two, in early English twa, answers to Latin duo and modern High German zwei; while our three, in old English threo, answers to Latin tres, and modern High German drei.  So far as these permutations are concerned, Sanscrit, Greek, and Latin may be regarded as most nearly resembling the primitive Aryan speech, and with them the Celtic dialects mainly agree.  From these, the English varies one degree, the High German two.  The following table represents the nature of such changes approximately for these three groups of languages:—­

-------+ Greek, Sanscrit, | | | | Latin, Celtic | p. b. f. | t. d. th. | k. g. ch. | -----------------+------------+---------------+-------------
--+ Gothic, English, | | | | Low Dutch | f. p. b. | th. t. d. | ch. k. g. | -----------------+------------+---------------+-------------
--+ | | | | High German | b. f. p. | d. th. t. | g. ch. k. | -----------------+------------+---------------+-------------

In practice, several modifications arise; for example, the law is only true for old High German, and that only approximately, but its general truth may be accepted as governing most individual cases.

Judged by this standard, English forms a dialect of the Low Dutch branch of the Aryan language, together with Frisian, modern Dutch, and the Scandinavian tongues.  Within the group thus restricted its affinities are closest with Frisian and old Dutch, less close with Icelandic and Danish.  While the English still lived on the shores of the Baltic, it is probable that their language was perfectly intelligible to the ancestors of the people who now inhabit Holland, and who then spoke very slightly different local dialects.  In other words, a single Low Dutch speech then apparently prevailed from the mouth of the Elbe to that of the Scheldt, with small local variations; and from this speech the Anglo-Saxon and the modern English have developed in one direction, while the Dutch has developed in another, the Frisian dialect long remaining intermediate between them.  Scandinavian ceased, perhaps, to be intelligible to Englishmen at an earlier date, the old Icelandic being already marked off from Anglo-Saxon by strong peculiarities, while modern Danish differs even more widely from the spoken English of the present day.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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