Originally Posted by coaster
Actually, English isn't a "native" language per se of ANY indigenous people, England was a mixing ground of Celts, Britons, Danes, Romans, Normans, Saxons, and I don't know how many others. They kept appropriating words from the ones who came and stayed and from the ones who just passed through. Having a smattering of several different languages, fluent in none, it's interesting comparing the many English words with the Latin, German, French, etc they came from. You'd think it should be easy for English-speakers to learn one of those other languages.
Old English is not a strange mish-mash; it has as much of a pedigree as any other language. As proto-indoeuropean became separate languages, the Germanic branch became distinct. Then the West Germanic languages became more distinct, and then something close to Early Old English, closely related to Frisian. Our grammar is still much more closely related to other Germanic languages than anything else, and no amount of word borrowings is likely to change that.
Old English was the language of the anglo-saxon people who conquered those people, and for the most part, didn't borrow a whole ton of words from them. There are surprisingly few words of Celtic origin, for example, because they were the subjugated. The language of the viking people in Northern England/Scotland being one major exception-- even our pronouns are heavily borrowed from them.
A good argument could be made that English today is the descendant of a English-Norman French creole, and that it's strange we speak English at all. It's just a strange coincidence of politics that we aren't speaking something much closer to French. The ruling classes spoke Norman French, the peasant people spoke English (which is why we have pairs like cow-beef, sheep-mutton, etc among other things) and then it became politically advantageous to distance from the French when they started fighting.
We may have a ton of borrowings, but we also have an unusually large lexicon with all kinds of jargon words and academic words (like, angst for example) and a population that is for the most part historically and currently well-educated, especially since English wasn't considered a language worthy of academic pursuits until massive general education started. People learnt Latin and Greek grammar-- the reason we have those stupid nonsense rules like not splitting infinitives (because it is impossible to in Latin, not because its somehow wrong)
Sorry, I could go on forever... forgive the historical linguist in me.
My favorite borrowing is "assassin" from "hashashin"-- from some form of Arabic (forget what century and place) which meant literally "hash smoker" because the skilled hit men often had a hash habit.