The History Of The English Language History Essay
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The english language is part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European Family of languages. These Indo-European languages originate from Old Norse and Saxon. English originated from a fusion of languages and dialects, now called Old English :
It all started when the Germanic tribes arrived in Britain and invaded the country during the 5th century AD. Before the Germanic invasions in Britain, Britain was populated by various Celtic tribes. These Celtic tribes were united by customs, religion and common speech. But the celtic tribes lacked political unity and that made them vulnerable. During the first century, Britain was conquered by Rome. When Britain finally gained independence from Rome in the year 410 AD, the Roman legions had withdrawn from Britain and this left the country vulnerable to invaders. Inhabitants from the north began attacking the inhabitants of Britain. A lot of different Germanic tribes started to migrate to Britain, but a few stood out amongst the rest, such as the Saxons, the Angles,the Jutes, the Franks and the Frisians. They came from different parts of what is nowadays northwest Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.
The original inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the original inhabitants were driven to the west and north by the invaders. They mainly migrated to what is now Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. The Saxons called the native Britons, 'wealas' and wealas meant foreigner or slave, this is where the modern word Welsh came from.
The germanic tribes were constantly fighting over power. But as time passed the different germanic cultures gradually became similar to each other until they eventually stopped seeing themselves as their individual origin but collectively as either Anglo-Saxon or English. The germanic tribes already spoke similar languages that now developed into what we now call Old English. The words England and English are derived from Engla-land ("land of the Angles") and englisc (the language the Angles spoke).
How did the english language evolve?
The history of the english language is split up into three periods that are normally called Old English (or Anglo-Saxon), Middle English and Modern English.
Old English was the first form of English.It did not look or sound like the English we know today. The native English speakers nowadays would find it very difficult to understand Old English. But still, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English originate from Old English. Some fun words that are derived from Old english are: axode(asked), habbaÃ° (have), rihtlice (rightly), engla (angels), heofonum (heaven), swilcum (such), hu (how) and beon (be). Old English was spoken from 450 AD until around 1100 AD.
Middle English (1100-1500)
In 1066 AD William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy (Normandy is part of modern France), invaded and then conquered England. The Normans spoke a dialect of Old French that is known as Anglo-Norman. This became the language of the Royal Court, the ruling classes and business classes. There was a sort of linguistic class division in this period. French was the language the upper classes spoke, and English was the language the lower classes spoke. But later in 1204 AD, King John lost the province of Normandy to the King of France. Because of this, the Norman nobles of England started to take more distance from the French Normans. England became the main concern of the Norman nobles. From 1349-1350 The black death killed around one-third of the English population. Because of these deaths the labouring classes grew in social and economical importance. Along with the rise of the importance of the labouring classes English became more important compared to Anglo-Norman as well. The nobility soon used a modified English as their native tongue. By 1362, the linguistic division between the nobility and the commoners was pretty much over.
In Britain English was the dominant language again,but many French words were added to the vocabulary. This mixture of languages is called Middle English. Middle English opposed to Old English, can be read, but it would still be difficult for modern English-speaking people. The Middle English period ended around 1500 AD with the rise of Modern English.
Early Modern English (1500-1800)
There were a few major factors that influenced Middle English and helped separate Middle and Modern English.
- The first major factor was the Great Vowel Shift. This was as sudden and big change in pronunciation that began around 1400 towards the end of the Middle English period. Vowels were being pronounced shorter and shorter. Modern English shifted into something that was more understandable for modern English speaking people.
- Another major factor was that since the 16th Century the British started to get in contact with many people from all around the world.These new contacts, and the Renaissance period of Classical learning, are the reasons that many new phrases and words were added to the language. English has been constantly adopting foreign words, especially from Latin and Greek.
- The last major factor that helped with the development of Modern English was the invention of printing. In 1476, William Caxton has brought the printing press to England in. Since then books became less expensive and literature that is written in English opposed to Latin, became more common. Now everything was printed in a common language, and that brought standardization to English. Most publishing houses were located in London so the dialect of London became the printing standard. Rules were made for spelling and grammar, and the first English dictionary was published in 1604.
Late Modern English (1800-Present)
The difference between early modern English and late modern English is mainly vocabulary. Grammar, pronunciation and spelling are mostly the same as before, but late modern English has a lot more words than early modern English. There are a few explanations for the huge expansion in words. In the first place, technology and the Industrial Revolution created the need for new words so people could describe the new creations and discoveries that were made.
For this, people created many words with Latin and Greek roots. For example, words like protein,nuclear,oxygen and vaccine did not exist before, but they were made with Greek and Latin influences. Not all the new words were created from classical roots though, English words that already existed were also combined for terms like typewriter, airplane and horsepower. Secondly, at one point one-quarter of the countries on earth belonged to the British Empire, and that's why the English lanuage took over foreign words from many different countries.The britain empire was a maritime empire so phrases that were created onboard ships were a big influence on the english language. Finally, during the last half of the 20th century the military influence on the english language was significant. Before the Great War, both Britain and the United States had small, volunteer militaries. English military slang existed, but this barely had an impact on standard English. However, during the mid-20th century, a big number of British and American men joined the military. Because the military started to play a bigger role in a lot of people's lives, military slang had a big impact on standard English. Military terms like landing strip, camouflage, spearhead, blockbuster, roadblock and nose dive started massively entering the standard English language.
Why did the english language become so important?
When England started trading, exploring and conquering lands, it took the language with it. The rise of the British Empire is one of the main reasons why English spread across the world. The British Empire was expanding dramatically,during the 1700s. European settlers quickly outnumbered the original population and so English was established as the dominant language in most colonies. By the late 19th century the empire's reach was truly global and the language was also becoming global. Great Britain held colonies on every continent of the world and the trade language in those areas was English,which meant that knowing English was important. (!nog beetje eigen woorden)
After the British colonization of North America, English became the dominant language in the United States and in Canada. The growing cultural and economical influence of the US and its status as a global superpower since World War II have significantly increased the language's spread across the world. Today, American English is predominantly influential, because of the USA's dominance in television, popular music,cinema, trade and technology (including the Internet). Most website's on the internet are in English. Popular American movies and tv programmes which people watch all over the world are in English. People listen to American music and English is the language mostly used for business. So the world has been exposed to english in many ways and that's why most people know the english language and would like to study it.
Right now it has been stated by experts that around one-third of the world's population has english as their native language and even more study English as a second language. A working knowledge of English has become a necessity in a number of area's. It is the international language of communications, science, technology, business, medicine, aviation, maritime activities and many more. Because of that over a Billion people speak English to at least a basic level.
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