For many people, the question regarding the history of the English language is often one they think about. A number of the things people ask are queries such as what is the origin of the English language, how long have we been speaking English and several others. This guide, covers most of those questions and various others in order to help answer them in detail.
The Origin Of The English Language –
History credits the origination of the English language to three Germanic tribes. The 3 tribes were called the Jutes, the Angles and the Saxons. These tribes first invaded Britain in the 5th to 7th century AD. The Germanic invaders, came from what is now known as the Netherlands and northwest Germany. Deriving from the Anglo-Frisian dialects, the English language true origin, is from the West Germanic language. Before the invaders arrived in Britain, their spoken language was a Celtic speech. However, as the invaders pushed most of the Celtic speakers west and north, the West Germanic language, became primary.
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The Old English Language –
The English language is divided into three different periods by historians. The first period, is called the Old English, or Anglo-Saxon. It was through the invading Germanic settlers, that the dialects spoken by them, ended up developing into what is now called Old English. Interestingly enough, the Old English language, neither looks nor sound anything like the English dialect we all use today. Furthermore, the majority of native English speakers, would have a hard time understanding the Old English language altogether. Notwithstanding, nearly half of all the most common words we use today in Modern English, derive from the Old English dialect. Words such as strong, water and be, all originated from the Old English language. The years in which the Old English was used centered around 450 to 1100 AD.
The Middle English Language –
Sometime during the year 1066, Normandy – which is now part of modern France – had a Duke named William the Conqueror, who invaded and conquered England. These new conquerors, used a dialect which mirrored the French language. That dialect, resulted in becoming the language of the business classes, the ruling and the Royal Court. During that time, the upper class population spoke French, while the lower classes, spoke English. However, during the 14th century, the English language became dominant in Britain once again. At the same time though, numerous French words were added to their dialect. Just like the Old English, it would very difficult for any native English speakers of today, to be able to really understand the Middle English language. One of the great poets of the Middle English era, was Chaucer (C1340 -1400).
The Modern English Language –
By the year 1500 to 1800, the Modern English dialect began to take form. During this time, what is now known as the Great Vowel Shift, started to take affect. Henceforward, distinct and sudden changes in pronunciation took place. As the 16th century arrived, contact between British and people around the world became very common. It was during that time when the vowels being pronounced, became shorter and smaller. Together with the Renaissance of Classical learning, this reform began to add a lot of new words and phrases to the English language. In addition, with printing being invented soon after, a common language in print was now everywhere. This movement led to printing becoming standardized to English. Since most of the publishing houses were in London, spelling and grammar became fixed according to the language of that country. Finally, in 1604, the first ever English dictionary was published. The Early Modern English era produced the works of the famous poet, playwright, and actor, William Shakespeare.
The Late Modern English Language –
Unlike the old English and Middle English languages, the main differences between Early and Late Modern English languages, is mostly vocabulary. The industrial revolution and technology, ended up creating the need for new words. These two factors resulted in Late Modern English having so many more words. In addition, at the height of its history, the British Empire, covered more than one quarter of the Earth’s population. Because of that, the English language resulted in adopting and using numerous new words from various other countries.
The English Language Of Today –
In the same manner that the British had such a large impact on the English language at the height of their empire, America has that similar influence today. The American English language of today, is very influential on the rest of the world. This is due in part because of the USA’s dominance of so many media outlets. Between popular music, cinema, television and technology, there are numerous sources which promote and influence the American dialect. The internet is also another tool that adds to those mediums by which American English is spread. Nevertheless, there are still many other variances of the English language all over the world.