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Is there any known reason why the scholars of the time didn't think it easier to use calques, as for instance the Germans did for the names of some of the basic chemical elements?

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English also borrowed more from Latin than Dutch did. The reason is probably that English already contained many more Latinate words than did German or Dutch, from the Norman conquest onwards: the French invaders are why English also has many more Latinate words in non-scientific areas, such as probably, contained, conquest, scientific, area etc. etc. –  Cerberus Jan 18 '13 at 2:58
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I suspect that there is no better answer than "because that was their custom", or perhaps "that best matched their belief about their language". It's basically a question of fashion, at the time. –  Colin Fine Jan 18 '13 at 17:54
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2 Answers

After the French language became powerful during the Norman era, English lost its position in writing though people still spoke it. However, by the end of the 14th century, the French language had began to lose its power affected by the events like losing the war against France(=other French nobles) and Black Death. At the same time, English had started to be written by people again(e.g. Chaucer). After that, people including the rulers wanted English to be more powerful as a language, which led to borrowing many words from Latin that was the lingua franca (in writing) at the time. This coincided with The Renaissance which brought about new ways of thinking (philosophy), science and the revival of the classics. Latin (and some Greek as well) was the language used in this cultral expansion. And this was the time English borrowed Latin words the most.

So, in conclusion, the answer is that English was more motivated to borrow Latin words than other languages. English at the time tried to gain power by borrowing words from powerful languages.

  1. Wermser, Richard. Statistische Studien zur Entwicklung des englischen Wortschatzes. Bern: Francke Verlag, 1976
  2. Gelderen, Elly van. A History of the English Language. Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 2006. 178.

edit:sources added

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If you read German authors down to the end of the 18th century you will see that they used lots of Latin words (and in the 18th century lots of French borrowings as well). But in the 19th century there was a conscious effort to replace foreign words by German equivalents.

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