Looking At The History Of Language English Language Essay


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            The history of the English language dates back before England itself was even its own nation.  The English language really started with the invasion of three Germanic tribes invading Britain in the 5th century AD by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.  These tribes invaded Britain from Denmark and northern Germany, crossing the North Sea.  At this time the inhabitants of Britain spoke mostly a Celtic language.  Most of the Celtic inhabitants were forced north by these new invaders into what is now Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.  The Angles who invaded Britain brought with them their Germanic language, Englisc, which is where the words English and England come from.

            The invading Germanic tribes all spoke similar languages.  When these languages where combined in Britain and new language was invented, Old English.  Old English did not last very long in a historical sense, only 700 years, lasting from the Germanic invasions around the 5th century till the Norman invasions of 1066.  During this time Old English picked up words and sounds from other languages spoken in the surrounding area, such as the Celtic language and variations of Old Norse language spoken by the Vikings.  The different dialects are attributed to regional lines.  The Old English spoken in eastern Britain differed greatly than Old English spoken in northern and western Britain depending on the ruling tribe in that area.  Old English looked and sounded nothing like English spoken today.  Also unlike modern English, sentence structure and order wasn't that important.  As long as the declension was correct order didn't.  In Old English it didn't matter whether you said "My name is..." or "Name my is…"  Old English was spoken until around 1100 AD.

  In 1066 AD, William the Conqueror invaded and conquered Britain.  The new invaders, the Normans, brought with them the language spoken among the royal elite in France, called the Royal Court.  During this time period there was a linguistic class division in Britain, where the lower class spoke English and the upper class spoke French.  In the 14th century English became the dominate language in Britain once again but with many more French words integrated into it.  Even now the Norman influence on English is still apparent today.  Early Middle English used a mostly Anglo-Saxon vocabulary despite the French influence.  Middle English began to take hold largely thanks to the Chinese printing press brought into Britain during this time, making literary works such as the English Bible more available the lower and middle classes in Britain.

Towards the end of Middle English a distinct change in pronunciation occurred known as the Great Vowel Shift, where the pronunciation of vowels became shorter and shorter.  During the 15th century and beyond, Britain had contact with many people around the world; couples this with the Renaissance, meant new words and phrases were needed.  By now the printing press had been revolutionized by Johannes Gutenberg.  By 1555 books became much cheaper and more readily available for the common people of Britain.  With printing becoming more and more common among people came the need for a more standardization of the English language.  Spelling and grammar had to become fixed and the dialect used in London became standard.  In 1604 the first English dictionary was published. 

Modern English can be divided into two eras, Early and Late modern English.  The only true difference in the two is vocabulary.  Late modern English has many more words were added primarily because of two factors, 1) the impact of the Industrial Revolution and 2) the great impact that the British Empire had on the globe.  Around 1600 the colonization of the North American continent directly affected the adoption of a new dialect, American English.  In some ways American English is more like Shakespearian English than modern British English is.  Some American expressions were actually original British sayings that were kept in America long after they had been used in Britain.  Words like "trash" for rubbish. 

Today American English is the most used language in the world largely in part to America's dominance in cinema, television, music, etc.  In recent years, with the rise in the capabilities of technology, a new form of English has become prevalent.  Words have been shortened to just the bare minimum in order to get a message across.  Words such as, love, you, are, probably, and many more have been shortened for the sake of efficiency.  When will we have a dictionary that includes the words luv, u, r, and prolly in it?  The day is coming that the "texting" dialect of English will be the more prevalent among English speaking people around the world. 

With the way English has evolved and adapted over more than 1000 years, there's no telling how much English will change in the next 1000 years.  Will English-speaking people a millennium from now have a hard time interpreting English spoken today?  A millennium from now will we be considered speaking "Old English?"  As history has proven time and time again the changes are inevitable. 


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