I had some great advice from here a short time ago and I’m back again! I’m trying to imagine an ‘English’ language that evolved, not from Old English and Norman French but from Old English and Byzantine Greek.

The basis of this is the semi-legendary story of a 11th century Anglo-Saxon refugees fleeing from the Norman conquest. They journeyed to the Byzantine Empire and many took service in the Varangian guard, but some wanted land of their own to rule over and the Emperor told them of a land 6 days across the sea which was recently owned but lost to barbarians (believed to be the Crimea) which in the legend was settled by them.

If we suspend disbelief in this story what would the most likely differences be between the sort of Modern (French influenced) English we have now and English with a heavy Greek influence?

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    $\begingroup$ You should check out the proposal for a constructed languages stack exchange $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jun 15 '17 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ I can't tell exactly what you want to know (there seem to be multiple questions in here), but even just theorizing on how a language would evolve over hundreds of years seems broad, just like how societal changes over a similar timespan is too broad. Add to this that you are asking several different questions, and I feel this is too broad. Consider trying to narrow it down to a single question with answers that can be judged reasonably objectively on how well they answer the question. $\endgroup$ – user Jun 15 '17 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ Modern English evolved from Middle English which evolved from Old English. The Norman French influence is just an adstratum, a source of lexical borrowings. And Modern English has plenty of words of Greek origin -- axiom, strategy, tactic, architect, parallel, sympathy, physician, plasma, ecstasy, tragedy, comedy, symbol, ... For the sounds of the letters in Old English spelling see Old English alphabet. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 15 '17 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ BTW, you are looking at in from the wrong direction. Greek would have been an adstratum just like French; it's not how English words would adapt to Greek phonetics, it's how Greek words would adapt to English phonetics. In practice, English has thousands of words of Greek origin; they were originally received more or less in Latinized form and from that point onwards they followed English sound changes, just like any other English word. Maybe you are thinking not of English with Greek influence but of Greek with English influence; a real answer would be way too long for this forum. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 15 '17 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ Constructed Languages is now in public beta! $\endgroup$ – jk - Reinstate Monica Apr 16 '18 at 15:06

You are looking for a creolization of the language. If the Greek influence is (relatively) small, you will get English with a lot of Greek vocabulary (this is what historically happened with English + French). If the influence of Greek is bigger, you would get Greek with a strong English substrate. If you however mix the populations "just so", a new Anglo-Greek creole might arise (there are some non-mainstream opinions that middle English is basically a creole itself).

The structure of the language can go either way, but we can look at existing creoles and derive some plausible general features:

  • the language morphology would be lost - it will be a highly analytic language
  • Greek tones will be lost
  • the language will have rather reduced phonetics

Sociolinguistic issues can change the situation, though - if Greek gets the status of a prestigious language for the literate or ruling class, you'll get stratified bilingualism (which can gradually wither) and not a language merger - this is what happened with English and French historically.

In any case, do not expect the language to be mutually intelligible with either pre-merger English or Greek, nor even sounding it like anything close.

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  • $\begingroup$ I really appreciate the replies; I didn't mean my question to be overly broad but upon reflection I can see that i've asked an impossibility; I suppose I was hoping for some overall set of rules; however the answers you've provided have been very useful so you have my sincere thanks. The Crimea was a distant place to the Byzantines for most of their history and, like their Western Roman ancestors, were quite hands off if one paid their taxes and didn't make any trouble for the authorities; therefore I feel that Greek would be a language asociated with power and the church. $\endgroup$ – Trotskisaurus Jun 15 '17 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ ...So i'm really looking at Greek being overlaid over the pre-existing Anglo-Saxon as an 'adstratum' (thanks @AlexP) I hope you don't mind me asking @Radovan Garabik but what did you mean when you mentioned morphology and why would the language have reduced phonetics? $\endgroup$ – Trotskisaurus Jun 15 '17 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Trotskisaurus: Creole languages by def have minimal grammar and very plain phonetics. Some (fringe) hypotheses make Mid English a creole language exactly in order to account for the astonishingly impoverished morpholgy of English. However, I've never ever heard of a creole languages developing as a result of having a tiny foreign-speaking aristocracy. What usually happens (as in Kievan Rus, in Normandy, in England) is that eventually the aristocracy loses its foreign language; this is accelerated when the foreign-speaking aristocracy is all-male -- there is a reason we say "mother" tongue. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 15 '17 at 21:44

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