Where did the English language REALLY come from?

In recent decades, the idea that there was never an Anglo-Saxon invasion, or even a migration, has become increasingly popular. Archaeologists like Francis Pryor and Susan Oosthuizen point out that there is zero archaeological evidence to support the idea of an invasion, and in fact all the evidence currently available suggests a great deal of continuity in the lifestyles of the early medieval Britons, and that the English identity emerged organically over centuries of exposure to and trade with other North Sea peoples as Britain shifted away from being on the fringes of a Mediterranean trade network, and ended up center stage of a North Sea trade network. Basically that the Britons became the English because it was more fashionable at the time to do so. Their arguments are very compelling, and even offer fascinating reinterpretations of the written history of the period that suggest that Bede invented the idea of an English people not as an ethnic group, but as a sort of code for “Catholic Britons” as opposed to the “Celtic Christian Britons” who had all the same beliefs (more or less), but didn’t report to the Pope in Rome (which makes it so much more ironic that the English were the ones who would eventually abandon Catholicism and the Irish would uphold it throughout the Protestant Reformation).

What I cannot wrap my head around though is the linguistic side of things. Let’s assume this theory is correct, and that there never was an invasion or mass migration of Germanic peoples to the British Isles in the early medieval period. In that case, how the hell did a new Germanic language spring up on an island that had previously only spoken variations of Latin and Celtic? How or why did these groups of people invent a language that belonged to a totally different language family, wildly unrelated to the languages previously spoken? I can’t think of any other instance in history where that occurred without some sort of coercion or influx of settlers. It would be like if Afrikaans emerged in South Africa without there being any influx of Dutch or British settlers. Or if the Japanese had invented and then adopted a totally new Romance language after meeting Portuguese merchants for the first time. Even Swahili, which is probably the closest analogy, is still a Bantu language, even though it borrows heavily from Arabic.

So IF there was no Anglo Saxon migration, then where did the English language come from and why is it so vastly different from Latin and Celtic?

(For those curious, here is a documentary and a lecture from Pryor and Oosthuizen, respectively):


#English #language

What do you think?

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