The books > Does Lewis Carroll have a preference for Anglish?

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AliceLiddle
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Does Lewis Carroll have a preference for Anglish?

Postby AliceLiddle » Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:21 pm

Hello, everyone, I've just written a post about Lewis Carroll and Anglish from the book Through the Looking-Glass. I'll paste it here (though the italics and the links have been removed):

You may have read the book Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, or heard of the poem Jabberwocky from some other means, say, from one of the movie adaptations of Wonderland or Looking-Glass. I’ve always noted his use of “looking-glass” instead of “mirror”, and something occurred to me, which is the title of this post.

Now before I present my evidence, let’s explain what “Anglish” is, first of all. Anglish refers to the theoretical form of English that would have been if there were no or little foreign influences. That is, there would not be loanwords from other languages (like “general”) and new vocabulary would be formed from existing English roots (say, “wordstock” for “dictionary”). It is a form of linguistic purism.

So, now that we’ve established what “Anglish” is, let me provide the evidence of why I think the writer might have a preference for it. The word “mirror” is a word of Romance origin. It arrived into Middle English through the Old French “mireor”, from “mirer” (to look at), ultimately from the Latin “mīrus” (Japanese jokes about “見る” aside). As “mirror” is the more common word we use nowadays (2015) to refer to those objects that you could use to see your reflection, the avoidance of it suggests that the use of “looking-glass” is intentional. And “mirror” is a word that has foreign origins, while the words “look” and “glass are words that are directly from Old English and Proto-Germanic. The fact that Lewis Carroll avoids the foreign “mirror” and coins a new word “looking-glass” through native English vocabulary seems to suggest that he prefers Anglish, even if he had not known the concept or name himself, as it is possible to think of English without foreign loanwords and make new English words by combining existing native ones for artistic or linguistic reasons. Therefore, I deduce that, from the choice of “looking-glass”, the writer has a preference for Anglish.

And that is not all. In his poem “Jabberwocky”, he makes use of several portmanteaus, and Alice finds the entire poem hard to read despite getting the general gist of it. This would probably reflect English as being written back in ancient times, for one thing, which a modern anglophone would likely find hard to understand if they had not learnt it before. Furthermore, English from the ancient times would in theory have “less influence” from other languages (even though Norman French already had influence on English by Middle English), as it was still “being shaped”, if you will. Another point would be the portmanteaus themselves. As stated, Anglish would coin new terms with existing English roots. The fact that the portmanteaus themselves are made up of smaller words would suggest such action. Therefore, another point would be that the poem is hard to understand at first and makes use of a high number of portmanteaus.

My last point is Lewis Carroll’s emphasis on the “hard G” sound in words where G follows the letters Y and I. In a previous post, I have mentioned how the softening of the G before front vowels only applies to words of Romance origin, which, though, makes up a lot of the English vocabulary for words where G precedes such vowels. A few people have pointed out that true native English words actually would not have <g> in front of these vowels, as they have historically became /j/ and are now written with a <y>, and that “hard Gs” before palatal vowels (I, Y and E in this sense) are “due to Norse influence”. However, this still would not excuse the fact that the “soft G” is a phenomenon that is limited to words of Romance origin. Thus Lewis Carroll’s choice of employing “hard G’s” is likely another attempt at using Anglish in his poem, seeing the soft G as a Romance, foreign thing. Thus I conclude that Lewis Carroll’s choice of using the “hard G” in the words “gyre” and “gimble” are another sign that he decided to employ Anglish in his work.

As such, given that Lewis Carroll avoids the word “mirror”, uses portmanteaus in his poem to make it hard to understand and how he emphasizes on the “hard G” before the letters Y and I, I am making an assumption that Lewis Carroll might have had a preference for Anglish, and even if he may not specifically know the name of it, he is, in practice, using Anglish whenever it doesn’t hinder the communication of his meanings to his readers.

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Postby Beautiful Soup » Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:13 pm

Lewis Carroll didn't coin the term 'looking glass', it has been around since the fifteen-twenties
looking-glass (n.)
1520s, from looking, present participle adjective from look (v.) + glass (n.).
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?sea ... king-glass

It is/was apparently the preferred term among the British upper classes, and was presumably simply the term he grew up using
http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca ... and-class/

I do agree however, that the poem 'Jabberwocky' could be described as sounding 'Anglish', and not without reason

Carroll originally wrote the first verse of Jabberwocky in 1855 as 'A Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry', so perhaps this is why the poem sounds 'Anglish' - because it is in fact an intentional parody of Anglo Saxon
http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/lewis ... xon-poetry

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AliceLiddle
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Postby AliceLiddle » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:27 am

Ah those have been interesting reads. I suppose the thing with mirror-looking-glass then is something like how "pork" came to be the food name for pigs since I've read something about using Romance/Latin-derived and Germanic/English-derived words depending on class but I've been mixing it up and it sounds like the lower social classes use Romance-derived words... But I suppose this is a bit off-topic.

Anyway, thanks for correcting me.

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Postby Beautiful Soup » Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:47 am

Yes, I know what you mean - Historically the Norman upper classes spoke French, while the hoipolloi spoke Anglo-Saxon. I think all courtly and legal matters were also conducted in French.

Maybe, over time, all those wars England fought with France since the Norman conquest made French undesirable to the ruling classes

But I really don't know - It's an interesting thing though


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