In the wake of civil war and anarchy in England, a crime wave gripped the nation. Murders and other violent crimes were rampant. Henry II sought to reimpose law and order throughout the country by reforming the English legal system. In this episode, we look at Henry’s criminal justice reforms and the emergence of the English common law. We also explore the linguistic consequences of this legal reform.
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This is certainly off-topic, but I wonder if you would be so kind as to give me a (very) brief history of the evolution of the Hungarian language? I was in conversation with a Hungarian born Australian the other day, who maintained that this language did not have Indo-European roots. I disagreed with this because I thought it did,(though very different), and thought that this had something to do with The Carpathian Mountains.
I realise I should do my homework and trawl back through the records!!
Hi Anita. I know very little about the overall history of Hungarian. The language is commonly known as ‘Magyar.’ It is one of the few European languages that is not part of the Indo-European language family. It is actually part of the Uralic language family. Here is a wikipedia article on the language that you might find interesting:
Am I right in thinking that the “Uralic” languages were thought to originate in the Ural Mountains? Louis Henwood shows the IE homeland as being between the Caucasus and the Urals, which, to me puts the two language groups close together in geography.
Denis from Down Under
Yes, I think the presumed homeland of the Uralic languages is the Ural Mountains region. I noted in one of the early episodes of the podcast that there are some very basic similarities between the Proto-Indo-European language and the Proto-Uralic language. Due to those similarities, many scholars think that the two proto languages were spoken in close proximity to each other, and they may have influenced each other. That is part of the argument for placing PIE in the Eurasian steppe region north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.
To add to that, there are many versions of a proposed ‘Nostratic’ language, where a relationship is proposed between various language families. I might be wrong, but I believe that the only connection between all of the versions is that they all include Indo-European and Uralic.
Kevin, I now have a copy of Anthony “The horse the wheel and Language.” He refers to the “ruki rule” (p52) where r,u,k and i are consonants. I can accept that i is sometimes used as a consonant but can you give an example of u as a consonant? Is this to do with our w. We would spell “look” as “l, double o, k” I had an American friend who always wrote w if I spelled out any double letter, vowel or consonant.
My friends in Finland have a lot of “double letters”. They tell me that both are always pronounced.
Mountaineers use that Welsh term cwm!!!
Denis yet again
It has been about 6 years since I read Anthony’s book, so I don’t actually recall the “ruki rule.” I can say that the vowel “i” is closely related to “y”, and the vowel “u” is closely related to “w”. We tend to think of “y” and “w” as consonants, but linguists actually classify them as semi-vowels because their sound is somewhere between a vowel and a consonant. When an “i” appears before another vowel, it tends to become a “y” sound – like in “Olivia” and “onion.” And when a “u” appears before another vowel, it tends to become a “w” sound – as in “queen” and “suite”. So maybe that sheds some light on your question.
Thank you Kevin. That is illuminating. I have also searched the web and found more info. As I understand it the S is aspirated in Satem languages when followed by those consonants and semi vowels (ruki). cf Sri Lanka. The Irish aspirate the S when followed by a “front” vowel. cf Sean and Sila.
Re Sri Lanka.
I I have never heard of “Si” or “Su” as being aspirated in Singhalese. But when I tried tried aspirating them, it sounded OK — so maybe some Singhalese aspirate and some don’t and nobody notices.
I also know that many westerners (and I think some Indians) say “Shri” instead of “Sri”, this is an English “sh” as in “sheep”, rather than aspiration.
Nowadays, only Sean Connery would speak Sinhalese in that manner. But maybe the ancients did.
 I don’t really speak Singhalese any more, but those who live in Lanka say I speak (English) “without an accent”. Moreover I know lots of names and other nouns.
 Tamil will be a whole different Kettle of fish, but since I know nothing about it, and since it is not an Indo-European language, I will leave it alone.
In Latin, I and U were each pronounced both as vowel and consonent (I/Y and U/W) but later the consonent pronunciations changed and the letters were separated out as I/J and U/V. However, since the V was by now being pronounced in the modern way, the double-u was introduced for the W sound (as noted a few episodes back).
The actual origin of Y was that it was invented by the Emperor Claudius to represent the sound of the Greek U, which was fairly different from the Latin U. So, even though most people talk about it as a consonent, it was originally a vowel, and the vast majority of its uses in modern English are as a vowel, too (most often at the end of a word).
I seem to recall that some time ago you suggested that there would be about 100 episodes in your podcast. Clearly it will go well beyond 100, and I’m just wondering how many episodes you envisage making now. (Please don’t read a negative into that question – the more episodes the better.)
Also, I’m wondering if when you finish making the podcast it might be possible to make a short mini-series where you summarise the achievements (or otherwise) of all the British monarchs – kind of like Royalty 101.
Further, when I get around to listening to all the podcasts a second time, I am planning to type up a summary of all the etymologies you have presented. Would you be interested in that document for your site, or would I be stealing your thunder? (This would be a LONG way off.)
Yes, I’m definitely going beyond 100 episodes. I decided to slow down the story and explore it in more detail. I don’t have a projection at this point, but I suspect that there will be about 150 episodes in total.
The podcast series about British royalty is interesting. It sounds similar to the Rex Factor podcast which explores the English monarchs one at a time. Either way, I definitely have plans for another podcast after this one, but it might not focus on British history.
I should also note that I am putting together an index of words and topics for the site. There will soon be a page with a list of all of the words I have discussed and a specific reference to the episode where that etymology is discussed. I don’t really have any intention to provide the specific etymologies on the site itself.
Hello, I’m doing a project about the history of Legal English, and this is really helpful! I was wondering if there’s anyway to get a transcription of the words you mentioned, especially the Old English words, just to make sure I write them down correctly. Any resources you can point me towards would be much appreciated as well. Thank you!
Sorry for the slow reply. If you can send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), I will send you a rough draft of the transcript with the words discussed in the episode.