The sister of English

No, not Paul English or Todd English —  I mean the sister of English, as in the English language.

Languages, like people, have family trees. If you’re French, you might be able to trace your family tree back to an ancient Roman general. Your intermediate ancestors — his descendants — spoke Late Latin, Proto-Romance, Old French, Middle French, and so forth, as we proceed through the centuries. That ancient Roman had three brothers, two of whom went to (what’s now) Spain and Romania, and the third stayed nearby in Italy, so their versions of Latin eventually turned into their descendants’ Spanish, Romanian, and Italian (to oversimplify enormously, since we also got Catalan, Veneziano, and so forth, even limiting ourselves to modern Spain and Italy). Anyone who has studied two or more Romance languages can immediately detect familial relationships there, most especially between Spanish and Italian.

But those are Romance languages. What about another branch of Indo-European, namely Germanic? Our most familiar example is of course English. So you may wonder what’s the closest language to English — its sister, so to speak. Way back in 7th grade I learned that it’s Frisian, and now there’s a helpful YouTube video about this language, which you may perhaps never have heard of:

Categories: Linguistics