History English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers (Angles, Saxons and Jutes) from various parts of northwest Germany. Initially, Old English was a group of dialects (Northumbrian in Northumbria, north of the Humber, Mercian in the kingdom of Mercia, West Saxon in the kingdom of Wessex, Kentish in Kent) reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England. One of these dialects, West Saxon, eventually came to dominate by the 10 th century. Written Old English is mainly known from this period. It is written in an alphabet called Runic, derived from the Scandinavian languages.
History of the English language Contents -History -Proto-English -Old English -Middle English - Early Modern English History English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers (Angles, Saxons and Jutes) from various parts of northwest Germany. Initially, Old English was a group of dialects (Northumbrian in Northumbria, north of the Humber, Mercian in the kingdom of Mercia, West Saxon in the kingdom of Wessex, Kentish in Kent) reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England. One of these dialects, West Saxon, eventually came to dominate by the 10 th century. Written Old English is mainly known from this period. It is written in an alphabet called Runic, derived from the Scandinavian languages. The original Old English was influenced by two waves of invasion. The first was by language speakers of the Scandinavian branch of the Germanic family; they conquered and colonized parts of Britain in the 8 th and 9 th centuries. The second was the Normans in the 11 th century, who spoke a variety of French. These two invasions caused English to become mixed to some degree. Cohabitation with the Scandinavians resulted in a significant grammatical simplification and lexical enrichment of the Anglo-Frisian core of English; the later Norman occupation led to the grafting onto the Germanic core a more elaborate layer of words from the Romance branch of the European languages. This Norman influence entered English largely through the courts and government. Thus, English developed into a borrowing language of great flexibility and with a huge vocabulary. The Latin alphabet was brought over from Ireland by Christian missionaries. This has remained the writing system of English. Proto-English The Germanic tribes who gave rise to the English language, traded with and fought with the Latin-speaking Roman empire in the process of the Germanic invasion of Europe from the East. Many Latin words for common objects therefore entered he vocabulary of these Germanic people even before any of these tribes reached Britain; examples include camp, cheese, cook, dragon, fork, giant, gem, inch, kettle, kitchen, linen. The Romans also gave English words which they had themselves borrowed from other languages: anchor, butter, cat, chest, devil, dish and sack. Old English The invading tribes dominated the original Celtic-speaking inhabitants, whose languages survive largely in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. The dialects spoken by the invaders formed what is now called Old English, and eventually Anglo-Saxon. Later, it was strongly influenced by the North Germanic language Norse, spoken by the Vikings who invaded and settled mainly in the north- east of England. Many pairs of English and Norse words coexisted giving us two words with the same or slightly differing meanings. Examples: Norse English anger wrath fro from skill craft ill sick The new, and the earlier, settlers spoke languages from different branches of the Germanic family; many of their lexical roots were the same or similar, although their grammars were more distinct, including the prefix, suffix and inflexion patterns for many of their words. The Germanic language of these Old English speaking inhabitants of Britain was influenced by contact with the Norse invaders, which may have been responsible for some of the morphological simplification of Old English, including loss of grammatical gender and explicitly marked case. The introduction of Christianity added another wave of Latin and some Greek words. The Old English period formally ended with the Norman conquest, when the language was influenced to an even greater extent, by the Norman-speaking Normans. Middle English For about 300 years following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the Norman kings and their nobility spoke only a variety of French called Anglo-Norman. English continued to be the language of the common people. More pairs of similar words arose. French English close shut reply answer odour smell annual yearly demand ask chamber room desire wish Because the English underclass cooked for the Norman upper class, the words for most domestic animals are English ( ox, cow, calf, sheep, swine, deer) while the words for the meats derived from them are French (beef, veal, mutton, pork) The Germanic form of plurals (house-housen; shoe- shoen) was eventually displaced by the French method of making plurals: adding an s (house-houses; shoe-shoes). Only a few words have retained their Germanic plurals: men, oxen, teeth, children. French also affected spelling so that the cw sound came to be written as qu ( cween became queen). Among the changes was an increase in the use of the unique aspect of English grammar, the continuous tenses, with the suffix-ing. It was not till the 14 th century that English became dominant in Britain again. In 1399, King Henry IV became the first king of England since the Norman Conquest whose mother tongue was English. By the end of the 14 th century, the dialect of London had emerged as the standard dialect of what we now call Middle English. Chaucer wrote in this language. During the 15 th century, Middle English was further transformed by the Great Vowel Shift. Various contemporary sources suggest that within fifty years of the invasion most of the Norman outside the royal court had switched to English, with French remaining the prestige language of government and law. Great Vowel Shift The Great Vowel Shift was a massive sound change affecting the long vowels of English during the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. Basically, the long vowels shifted upwards; that is, a vowel that used to be pronounced in one place in the mouth would be pronounced in a different place, higher up in the mouth. The Great Vowel Shift has had long-term implications for, among other things, orthography, the teaching of reading, and the understanding of any English- language text written before or during the Shift. Early modern English Modern English began around the 16 th century, and like all languages is still changing. One change occurred when the th of some verb forms became s (loveth-loves), auxiliary verbs also changed (he is risen- he has risen). Since the 16 th century, because of the contact that the British had with man people from around the world, and the Renaissance of classical learning, many words have entered the language either directly or indirectly. New words were created at an increasing rate. Shakespeare coined over 1600 words. Borrowed words include names of animals (giraffe, tiger, zebra), clothing (pyjamas, turban, shawl), food (chocolate, orange), scientific and mathematical terms (algebra, geography), drinks (coffee, tea), religious terms (nirvana, Islam), sports (golf, billiards), vehicles (chariot, car), music and art (piano, theatre), weapons (trigger, rifle), political and military terms (admiral, Parliament), and astronomical names (Saturn, Leo, Uranus). In 1755 Samuel Johnson published the first significant English dictionary. Languages that have contributed words to English include Latin, Greek, German, Arabic, Hindi, Italian, Malay, Dutch, Farsi, Sanskrit, Portuguese, Spanish. Even with all these borrowings the heart of the language remains the Anglo- Saxon of Old English. Only about 5000 or so words from this period have remained unchanged but they include the basic building block of the language: household words, parts of the body, common animals, natural elements, most pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs. English -A Family tree Modern English Middle English Old English Ahglo Saxon Church Latin Old Norse Scientific Latin and Greek Other languages Norman French Danish 4 th Century German