History of the English Language

Published 31st August 2010
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The English language derivThe history of the English language by Lingua Translationses from the West Germanic languages that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England with the arrival of the three Germanic tribes; the Angles, the Saxons and Jutes in the 5th Century A.D.

The Angles came from Englaland and their language was called Englisc – from which the words England and English are derived. The English language developed over three main periods in history and were accordingly named.

These were:

Old English (450-1100 AD)
also known as Anglo-Saxon was an early form of the English Language which in Britain developed into what is now known as Old English. Although completely different from the English spoken today, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English have Old English roots. One of the most famous works of Anglo-Saxon literature written in Old English is the heroic epic poem, Beowulf.

Middle English (1100-1500)
came into existence when England was invaded by William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy (part of modern France). Their rule was characterised by a linguistic class division as the language the French brought by them became the language of the Royal Court. The upper classes spoke French while the lower classes spoke English. This resulted in the creation of the Chancery standard, a form of London-based English. In the 14th century, English regained its predominance in Britain but with the addition of many French words. Middle English was the language of the great poet Chaucer.

Modern English
has been spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England in approximately 1550. It is distinguished by a shortening of vowels which meant a sudden and distinct change in pronunciation. With the colonisation of many countries, Britain had contact with many peoples all around the world. Thus many new words and phrases entered the language. The advent of printing brought the language to the masses and was responsible for the standardization of English.

If you want to know more about the history of English, see you next week!



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