> > The solution is that apparently a Germanic tribe settled in
> > Britain anciently.
Because English speakers settled in Britain anciently and English is a Germanic language.
> Harper suggests the opposite. That in ancient times an
> ENGLISH tribe settled in GERMANY.
That's what I said, only instead of saying "English" I said "a Germanic tribe" because it was a Germanic tribe that spoke the Germanic English language.
> The opposite is assumed
> only because human migration has been thought possible only
> from east to west.
Not "thought possible only," but "assumed generally." Human migration has been assumed generally from east to west.
Nevertheless, if you assume that the predecessors of the English language settled anciently in Britain, from which direction did they come, from the east or from the west? It seems more likely that they arrived along the same route that the various Germanic tribes took from east to west, only the English speaking group went a little further into Celtic occupied territory.
> > Their language was originally probably
> > indistinguishable from the Germanic tribes that settled in
> > parts of the continent,
> Their language was *probably* English. :-)
Probably not if we're talking about thousands of years instead of hundreds, but definitely not German, Gothic, Franconian, Frisian, Norse or any of the other Germanic languages.
> > but after centuries and perhaps
> > millennia of relative isolation it changed, as all living
> > languages do,
> All living languages show remarkable stability. Vast eons are
> required for major gramatical change.
You have no proof of this. Proof must come in the form of written language since we don't have any examples of recorded languages older than Edison's Phonograph, I believe invented in 1877.
The earliest examples of written language have been dated 3500 BC in Egypt and 3000 BC in Sumeria, so 5,000 years ago, but these languages are no longer spoken today, in fact, they haven't been spoken for thousands of years, we don't have continuous records from that time, so these records can't be used to demonstrate language change OR "remarkable stability" over time.
The earliest continuous records come from China, but those are no help because the writing doesn't give us any clues as to how the language was actually pronounced.
Sanskit and Panini's Grammar written about 500 BC is also of little use because we don't have continuous records tracing the development of Sanskrit into any specific modern language. The various languages or India were not derived from Sanskrit, but from an proto-language for which we have no records.
So for continuous records, you have to look to Greece and Rome, but unfortunately even here, there are problems. In the case of the Romance languages, we can't really be certain that the Latin for which we have copious records dating from around 2,500 years ago, was actually the mother language of all the Romance languages, and we don't have continuous records of the history and development of those Romance languages. Latin became a dead language at some point and continued to be used unchanged for the purpose of record keeping almost right up to the Renaissance.
So we only truly have continuous records from about the time of the invention of the pinting press less than 600 years ago. That's hardly an eon, let alone a vast one. We can neither prove that languages change drastically over time nor that languages show "remarkable stability." The only thing we can really say is that in the last 600 years, languages haven't changed much.
But they have changed, most significantly in vocabulary and semantics, less so in pronunciation and even less in syntax. But, changes occur in all these areas with every generation, and although overall change from generation to generation is very slight, so slight that it often goes without notice, the percentage of divergence increases exponentially.
It stands to reason that over time a person speaking a daughter language would not be able to understand the mother language. How much time? We can only take educated guesses.
You are guessing "vast eons." My guess would be that it only takes 2,000 to 3,000 years for intelligibility to be severely hampered. This is based on the assumption that all Romance languages diverged from a proto-Romance language 2,000 to 3,000 years ago and having learned Spanish well, I can with difficulty communicate with someone who speaks Portuguese or Italian and can read with difficulty written French, I'm guessing that communication between native speakers of those languages is severely hampered due to linguistic divergence.
English shares a significant amount of vocabulary, semantics, pronunciation and even syntax with other Germanic languages to assume with confidence that it diverged from those languages anciently. The orthodox view says 1,500 years ago, which doesn't stand to reason. If it took 2,000 or 3,000 years for the Romance languages, which are still relatively closely related, to diverge from their mother language, then German and English, which, though related, are widely divergent, would have to have diverged from a mother tongue much more than 2,000 years ago.
Mr. Harper, if I'm not mistaken and I haven't yet read his book, would say at least 4,000 years ago, assuming stonehenge was begun by these people 3,900 years ago.