History Of The English Language English Language Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

By the fact that we speak and write English we would like to let you know that English is so important for us, let alone for others. It is spoken in all over the world and it is highly being used.

There are so many countries that speak English as their first language, so many others that speak it as their second language, and millions of people, like Kosovo, as a foreign language.

According to CIA World Fact Book 5.6 % of the world's population speak English as their native language (VistaWide 2004-2010). How many other people as their second language and as a foreign language speak in the world? We just can say that the number of them is highly being increased everyday.

The development of technology made people learn English: e.g. using a computer you have to know the English Language because the instructions were in English. The best movies are in English. Most medical and scientific studies are in English.

"Seaspeak" and "Airspeak" are languages that are spoken in the sea and air traffic and it is mostly in English. They cut long sentences short in order to be quick. There are some examples: Instead of Sorry, what was that? or What did you say?,

you say Say again ( Viney, 2003 , p. 2 ).

As we hear in the movies words in the wars e.g.: I am out. The speaker meant to say I ran out of bullets, but he has no time to say it all.

Today internet is still changing English because most of the information is in English.

I would say that English is so widely spreading that one can not begin to imagine.

Many industrial discoveries and inventions in America and Britain were one of the key factors to spread the English Language. So many Europeans wanted to do business with Americans and British in order to make money. They had to speak English while doing business.

When we have multinational organisations they mostly choose English as the working language.

English is being changed a lot. Approximately 2000 - 3000 new English words are introduced every year (Liberman, 2003).

Why did English Language become so necessary? Where and who did it start?

In order to answer these questions we will go back and discuss: The History of the English Language is divided in three main periods:

Old English (450 - 1100 AD), Middle English (1100 - 1500 AD), and Modern English

(since 1500) .We will start first with Old English Language.

Old Language

Talking about The History of the English Language is a bit difficult without being based on the Old Literature of the English Language. It is really important to say that English Language and The Albanian Language are derived from the same source which is well known Proto-Indo-European Language family as so many other Languages are derived the same way.

To understand the origin of the English language we have to study the main languages of the Indo-European Family. It was Sir Williams Jones who began to study Sanskrit, an old language of India. He compared some Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, [Albanian] and some other words to see the similarities.

Sanskrit Latin Greek [Albanian] English

Pitr pater pater babe father

Asti est esti është is

Trayah tres treis tre/tri three

There are lots of other examples (Viney, 2003, p. 4).

He concluded that European Languages, Latin, Sanskrit, Greek are derived from "a common source" - Pro-Indo-European, which is no longer spoken.

According to Viney here were a group of people called Kurgans who lived in the southern Russia, spoke Proto-Indo-European. The group travelled into different places and so they developed different dialects so by the time these dialects became different languages.

When we start to talk about the dialects of English we can mention: West Saxon, Kentish, Mercian, and Northumbrian. These dialects still have some small differences in grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary.

Kentish was spoken in the East in England, Mercian was mostly central, and Northumbrian was spoken in the north of England. This time old English was nearly entirely Germanic.

The first group to move around Europe was the Celts. Germany and Denmark were populated by Germanic tribes, the Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes. They spoke a language called Englisc. There are still so many Celtic words that exist today. It is so important to say that West Saxon was one of the main dialects in the Old English.

That time it was a different alphabet what it is today. There were a lot of differences in pronunciation.

St Augustine came from Rome to teach Anglo-Saxons about Christianity. King Aethelbert and Queen Bertha invited them so they met together.

The monks started to build churches and to teach science and literature. They were borrowing Latin words e.g. scol ( school ), cest ( chest) and so on.

Some verbs from Latin such as: spendan (to spread), tyrnan ( to turn ). At first it was used Latin but then later they started to write in Old English.

The most important and influencing poem in literature at this time was Beowulf. It is 3000 lines long. Old English is the type of writing used in Beowulf as we mentioned above. The story is about a man from Scandinavia whose name was Beowulf.

In contrast, The Canterbury Tales is written in Middle English, this type of writing is similar to the English written and spoken today.

There are so many differences with the English Today. Almost all of it has been replaced in the Modern English with Latin words. There are only few words that have remained: e.g. mann (person), wif (wife), cild (child)… etc. (Viney, 2003, p. 10).

During the Old English there were so many words created by suffixes and affixes

Verbs and nouns started to change. So the old language started to get improved and many words started to be entered.

Middle English

English started to change grammatically, new words came into the language whereas the old English was seen to be left. The period from (1100 - 1500 AD) is called Middle English. Gradually the plural of noun ending - (e) s was accepted everywhere in England. It was an easier way of creating the plural of nouns comparing with the plural of nouns in the Old English time e.g. giefu (gift) - giefe (gifts) and so on (Viney, 2003, p. 11).

"The" became the only definite article. Most of the verbs in the past tense end in -ed except approximately 250 irregular verbs ( Knowledgerush, 2009).

Comparing with the Old English there were more than 500 irregular verbs. It used to be the past tense of climb clomb but it changed into regular verb climbed. Sometimes the change was the opposite e.g. tear - teared became tear -tore, know - knowed became know- knew.

The unchangeable aspect between Old English and Middle English was the word order. It remained Subject-Verb-Object (Viney, 2003, p. 19).

Instead of using noun endings in Middle English some prepositions were entered

e.g. daeges - by day and nihtes - by night (Viney, 2003, p. 19).

It was a period from 1066 when nothing was being written; almost everything was at a standstill that's why lots of grammatical changes occurred. The government officially was using Latin Language, so usual people were able to change the spoken English much easier because you could rarely find written English. During this time 10,000 French words were borrowed that are still in use today. For example: fashion, government, fruit, gentle, literature, chair, city, crime, travel, music (Viney, 2003, p. 20).

It is interesting that the words of some animals were from Old English such as: cows, sheep and pigs whereas the meat of them were French such as: beef-meat of cows, mutton-meat of sheep, pork - meat of pigs.

The "ly" ending is also French: adjective + ly = adverb, noun + ly = adjective.

We have also to take into account the Latin words that were borrowed. They came from medicine, law and so on such as: admit, history picture etc.

While translating there were words that could not be translated from Latin into English so one translator wrote: (…. There are many Latin words that we do not have English words for.) (Viney, 2003, p. 21).

As we said above there were some dialects but not all of them were developing, some of them developed independently. Understanding people from different areas had become difficult because of changes that happened in English.

There were cases where two people could not understand each other while they were talking in English but different dialects. One of them asked for eggys (eggs) but the other one could not understand because the word eggs in her dialect was eyren.

Scottish from Scotland was very different from the English in England.

Geoffrey Chaucer was one of writers who lived in London. He wrote in Oxford, Cambridge triangle dialect.

The printers influenced in developing the English language. That time people did not leave out the "k" and "l" in pronunciation e.g. know, would etc.

It was a time when William Shakespeare changed a lot Middle English.

Modern English begins

As we mentioned above the printing machine made English change so much. Changes started to occur not only in the language but in different aspects as well. English, Spanish and some other Europeans started to explore the Americas, churches especially the protestant churches changed a lot. Martin Luther was one of them who brought some changes and announced them. He could understand that the popes from Rome had been stealing from the taxes that people had been paying that time. So people started not to believe the popes from Rome anymore. In a way their Latin language that was used in churches faded away because he translated the Bible (Wikipedia, 2010). A lot of events were happening so people wanted to read books about science, medicine, religion and so on.

So many books were translated into English and some of the writers stopped writing in Latin but they started to write in English. Sir Isaac Newton was one of them who wrote Principia in Latin but some couple years later he wrote Opticks in English.

It was like people were in rush. About 30,000 words were borrowed from different languages. This huge growth of vocabulary was the main change in English. Writers borrowed words from Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Greek etc.

A simple example is the Albanian word "flia" the traditional food is the same in English because they do not have any other word for it so they were obliged to borrow words from others in spoken English. Mostly there were words discovered and invented not in England such as: banana from Africa, coffee from Turkey, baklava from Turkey and etc.

There were some writers who did not agree with borrowing words from others.

Sir John Cheke in 1557 wrote:

" I am of this opinion that our tung shold be written cleane… unmixt…with borrowing of other tungs." ( I think we should write English without using words from other languages.) . (Viney, 2003, p. 26).

One of the most important writers was William Shakespeare who is the greatest writer of plays in History of English Literature. He had a huge vocabulary and he was a great inventor of words. He coined more than two thousand words ( AbsoluteShakeaspeare, (2000 - 2005).

He used some expressions that no one could understand that time until he explained them himself: e.g. it's early days (it is too soon to know what will happen); in my mind's eye

(in my imagination); tongue-tied ( unable to speak because you are shy).

His plays were widely spread around the world.

King James I of England, Wales and Scotland ordered to translate the bible into English Language. So everywhere around there the translated bible was being read in churches.

We still find some expressions in the bible that were saved from that time because translators did not invent new words but they used words they knew.

In questions and negatives with the main verbs people began to use do.

To talk about things without gender it was used his but it was changed to "it".

Some letters became silent such as "l", "t" in words like would, could, castle, listen etc.

Some political changes made people think that they should change their lives even their language. England created an official group of linguists to control the English language. One of them was Jonathan Swift who wanted to create rules in order to have a good English including grammar, spelling and pronunciation rules.

Today thanks to the computers that have the spelling check people learn not to make spelling mistakes.

There were some Latin-English Dictionaries. The first English-English Dictionary was a collection of three thousand words that appeared in 1604.

Samuel Johnson in 1755 created a Dictionary of the English Language. It was a hard work of his but anyway it was a good one. It was the most important dictionary in Britain.

So by the passing of the years English has changed a lot and more and more words are entering into it. When something was invented they had to name that thing: e.g. fingerprint (1859), airport (1919), online (1950), download (1980), facebook (2000).

Other words: TV, coca cola, cassette and so many other words (Viney, 2003).

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) since 1150 has had all the words that entered every year, even the old fashioned ones. But the first Oxford English Dictionary was completed in 1928.

When BBC was established in 1920s they chose presenters with British accent. This accent was Standard of English Language in England. It was known as "Received Pronunciation" or RP or British accent or King's English ( Wikipedia, 2010).

The future of English

There are many people that think differently. Some of them think that English is going to be a world's second language and that will happen very soon in 2250 ( Longman, 2006). They based themselves on the fact that English is not a language of Americans or British but it is a language of the world.

Some expressions that the British call "Americanisms" are in fact original British expressions […] lost for a time in Britain (for example trash for rubbish, loan as a verb instead of lend, and fall for autumn ( EnglishClub, 1997 - 2010)

Some people in America are worried that English language will be replaced with Spanish but some of them categorically deny this and this will never happen.

It is hard to foresee the future of English but we just can ask ourselves some questions that can help us to understand or guess what it is going to happen with English in one hundred years.

Will English break up into lots of languages like Latin developed into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and Italian?

From our point of view English will always be one of the main languages in the world and it will be spoken soon all over the world as a second official language.