History of
the English
Language
Why is English so inconsistent?
Through
 Though
 Bough
 Ought
 Cough
 Rough

Linguistically Influential Periods of
Early English History
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Pre-Roman/Celtic Period  up to 55 B.C.
Roman Occupation  55 B.C. – 410 A.D.
Invasion of Angles, Saxons, & Jutes  410–1066 A.D.
Norman Conquest  1066 A.D.
Renaissance & Great Vowel Shift  aft. 14th century
(1) Pre-Roman/Celtic Period
Stonehenge was
built during the
time of the
Celts.

Historical Notes:
– The island we know as England was occupied by a
race of people called the Celts. One of the tribes was
called they Brythons or Britons (where we get the
term Britain)
– The Celts were Pagans and their religion was known
as “animism,” a Latin word for “spirit.” Celts saw
spirits everywhere.
– Druids were their priests; their role was to go
between the gods and the people.
(1) Pre-Roman/Celtic Period
(2) Roman Occupation

Historical Notes:
– Julius Caesar began
invasion/occupation in 55 B.C.
– Occupation completed by Claudius in
1st century A.D.
– Hadrian’s Wall built about 122 A.D. to
identify the northernmost reaches of
the Roman Empire
– Romans “left” in 410 A.D. because
Visigoths attacked Rome
– St. Augustine landed in Kent in 597 and
converted King Aethelbert (king of
Kent, the oldest Saxon settlement) to
Christianity; Christianity began to take
hold in England (but does not fully
displace Paganism for several hundred
years)
Today’s goals and plans:
1) Today we will look more at how our
language developed.
 2) You should takes notes of what caused
major shifts in language and include a few
examples.
 3) After our notes, you will get to look at
the runic alphabet and try creating some
words with it!

(2) Roman Occupation

Some Characteristics of the Language:
– LATIN influence:
 Latin was the official language of the Romans and it heavily
influenced the development of the English language
– The Roman practice of recording history led to the
earliest English “literature” being documented
– The Latin Alphabet
(2) Roman Occupation

Early Latin Borrowings
Latin
Meaning
caseus
pondo
calx
uncia
milia
cheese
weight
chalk
twelfth
strata
road
thousand
paces
Mod. Eng
cheese
pound
chalk
inch
mile
street
(3) Invasion of Angles, Saxons, & Jutes

Historical Notes:
– The history of the English
language really started with
the arrival of three Germanic
tribes who invaded Britain
during the 5th century AD.
These tribes, the Angles,
Saxons, and Jutes, crossed
the North Sea from what
today is Denmark and
northern Germany.
– The Angles were named from
Engle, their land of origin.
Their language was called
Englisc from which the word,
English derives.
Germanic invaders entered Britain on the
east and south coasts in the 5th century.
(3) Invasion of Angles, Saxons, & Jutes

What happened to the Celts?
– Most of the Celtic speakers
were pushed west and north
by the invaders, mainly into
what is now Wales, Scotland
and Ireland.
– One group migrated to the
Brittany Coast of France where
their descendants still speak
the Celtic language of Breton
today.
Scotland
Ireland
Wales
Brittany Coast
of France
(3) Invasion of Angles, Saxons, & Jutes

Germanic invaders called the native Celtic peoples
“wealas,” meaning foreigners. Their territory became
known as Wales.

The Celts called all Germanic invaders “Saxons,”
regardless of tribe, but by the 6th century, the term
”Angli” began to be used. (This is where the term
“Anglo-Saxon” is derived).

Because the language spoken by the German invaders
was Englisc, their territory became known as Englaland
(England).
(3) Invasion of Angles, Saxons, & Jutes


During the “Anglo-Saxon”
Period, England was divided
into seven sovereign
kingdoms (heptarchy)
Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy=
Seven Kingdoms
1. Northumbria
2. Mercia
3. East Anglia
4. Wessex (West Saxon)
5. Essex (East Saxon)
6. Sussex (South Saxon)
7. Kent
1
2
3
5
4
7
6
(3) Invasion of Angles, Saxons, & Jutes

Some Characteristics of the Language:
– GERMAN / NORSE / DANISH / SCANDINAVIAN
influence:
 Old English, the earliest form of our language,
finally developed.
Old English (450-1066 A.D.)

The invading Germanic tribes spoke
similar languages, which in Britain
developed into what we now call Old
English.

Old English did not sound or look like
English today. Native English speakers
now would have great difficulty
understanding Old English. Nevertheless,
about half of the most commonly used
words in Modern English have Old English
roots. The words be, strong and water,
for example, derive from Old English.

There were many dialects of Old English,
because there were separate kingdoms
founded by related , but different cultures:
Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Scandinavians, etc.
Part of Beowulf, a poem written in
Old English.
Old English (450-1066 A.D.)

The Runic Alphabet
– Old English was
first written in an
alphabet called
Runic, derived
from the
Scandinavian
languages, but
shifted to the
Latin alphabet
that was
reintroduced to
the land by
Christian
missionaries
coming from
Ireland.
Old English (450-1066 A.D.)

Old English is mainly Germanic in grammar
(syntax and morphology) and lexicon (words)
the core of or modern English is vastly
influenced by this early linguistic “DNA”
Old English (450-1066 A.D.)

Old English vocabulary
– an Anglo Saxon (German) base
– borrowed words from the Scandinavian
languages (Danish and Norse)
 sky, egg, cake, skin, leg, window (wind
eye), husband, fellow, skill, anger, flat,
odd, ugly, get, give, take, raise, call,
die, they, their, them
– borrowed words from Latin
 street, kitchen, kettle, cup, cheese,
wine, angel, bishop, martyr, candle
– surviving Celtic words (mainly place
names and river names)
 Devon, Dover, Kent, Trent, Severn,
Avon, Thames
Many pairs of English and Norse words
coexisted giving us two words with the
same or slightly differing meanings.
Examples below.
Norse
English
anger
wrath
nay
no
fro
from
ill
sick
bask
bathe
skill
craft
ski
hide
skirt
shirt
scatter
shatter
skip
shift
Old English (450-1066 A.D.)

What did Old English look like?
Line
Original
Translation
[1]
Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum,
Father ours, thou that art in heaven,
[2]
Si þin nama gehalgod.
Be thy name hallowed.
[3]
To becume þin rice,
Come thy rich (kingdom),
[4]
gewurþe ðin willa, on eorðan swa swa
on heofonum.
Worth (manifest) thy will, on earth also
as in heaven.
[5]
Urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us
todæg,
Our daily loaf sell (give) us today,
[6]
and forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we
forgyfað urum gyltendum.
and forgive us our guilts as also we
forgive our guilty (lit. guiltants).
[7]
And ne gelæd þu us on costnunge, ac
alys us of yfele.
And lead thou us not in temptation, but
loose (release) us of evil.
[8]
Soþlice.
Soothly.
Old English (450-1066 A.D.)

What did Old English sound like?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av37L0G8lw
(4) Norman Invasion

Historical Notes:
– In 1066 William the
Conqueror, the Duke
of Normandy (part of
modern France),
invaded and
conquered England.
The new conquerors
(called the Normans)
brought with them a
kind of French,
which became the
language of the
Royal Court and the
ruling and business
classes.
(4) Norman Invasion

Some Characteristics of the Language:
– A period of linguistic class division…
 Upper classes, political leaders, royal court: spoke French
 Lower classes: spoke Old English
– By the 14th Century…
 English became dominant in Britain again, but with many
French words added.
 In 1399, King Henry IV became the first king of England
since the Norman Conquest whose mother tongue was
English. By the end of the 14th Century, the dialect of
London had emerged as the standard dialect of what we
now call Middle English.
OLD ENGLISH
(Celtic, Latin, Germanic,
Scandinavian)
+ FRENCH = Middle English
Middle English (1100-1485)

WORDS:
– Because the English underclass cooked for
the Norman upper class, the words for most
domestic animals are English (ox, cow, calf,
sheep, swine, deer) while the words for the
meats derived from them are French (beef,
veal, mutton, pork, bacon, venison).

PLURALS:
– The Germanic form of plurals (house,
housen; shoe, shoen) was eventually
displaced by the French method of making
plurals: adding an s (house, houses; shoe,
shoes). Only a few words have retained their
Germanic plurals: men, oxen, feet, teeth,
children.

SPELLING:
– French also affected spelling so that the cw
sound came to be written as qu (eg. cween
became queen).
In 1066 the Normans conquered
Britain. French became the
language of the Norman aristocracy
and added more vocabulary to
English. More pairs of similar words
arose.
French
English
close
shut
reply
answer
odour
smell
annual
yearly
demand
ask
chamber
room
desire
wish
power
might
ire
wrath /
anger
Middle English (1100-1485)

Middle English was the language of the great
poet Chaucer (c. 1340-1400), but it would still
be difficult for native English speakers to
understand today.
Middle English (1100-1485)

What did Middle English look and sound like?
Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.
When in April the sweet showers fall
That pierce March's drought to the root and all
And bathed every vein in liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has with his sweet breath,
Filled again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and leaves, and the young sun
His half-course in the sign of the Ram has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)
Then folk do long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands,
To distant shrines well known in distant lands.
And specially from every shire's end
Of England they to Canterbury went,
The holy blessed martyr there to seek
Who helped them when they lay so ill and weak
Early English
1
Roman Occupation
55 B.C.-410 A.D.
2
Anglo-Saxon and Viking
Invasions 410 – 1066 A.D.
GERMAN(IC)
LATIN
3
The Norman Invasion
(The Battle of Hastings)
in 1066 A.D.
FRENCH
Modern English (1485-Present)

Modern English began around the 16th
century (late 15th century).
– Early Modern English (1485-1800)
– (Late) Modern English (1800-Present)

Why did it change?
Modern English:
Early Modern English (1485-1800)

Why did it change?
– (1) Towards the end of Middle English, a
sudden and distinct change in pronunciation
(the Great Vowel Shift) started, with vowels
being pronounced shorter and shorter.
Modern English:
Early Modern English (1485-1800)

Why did it change?
– (2) Other things that helped the evolution from Middle English to
Modern English:
 New words and phrases
– Resulted from…
 Increased contact with many peoples from around the world
 The Renaissance of Classical learning
 Standardization of language, dialect, spelling, grammar
– Resulted from…
 Invention of printing
 Mass availability of books
 Increased literacy
 Dialect of London standardized by publishing houses located there
 Publication of the 1st English Dictionary (1604)
Modern English:
Early Modern English (1485-1800)

Shakespeare wrote in Early Modern English.
Hamlet's famous "To be, or not to
be" lines were written in Early
Modern English by Shakespeare.
Modern English

Although Modern English began around
the 16th Century, like all languages it is
still changing.
– One change occurred when the th of some
verb forms became s (loveth, loves: hath,
has).
– Auxiliary verbs also changed (he is risen, he
has risen).
Modern English:
(Late) Modern English (1800-Present)

The main difference between Early Modern
English and Late Modern English is vocabulary.

Late Modern English has many more words,
arising from two principal factors:
– (1) the Industrial Revolution and technology created
a need for new words;
– (2) the British Empire at its height covered one
quarter of the earth's surface, and the English
language adopted foreign words from many
countries.
So what does the evolution of
English look like?
Old English
400-1066
Beowulf
(from
Beowulf!)
“Gaæþ a wyrd swa hio scel” (OE)
=
“Fate goes ever as it must” (MnE)
Middle English
1066-1485
Chaucer
(from CT)
“Whan that Aprille with his shoures
soote . . . ” (ME) =
“When that April with its sweet showers
. . .” (MnE)
Early Modern
English
1485-1800
Shakespeare
(from KL)
“Sir, I loue you more than words can
weild ye matter” (EMnE) =
“Sir, I love you more than word can
wield the matter” (MnE)
Modern English
1800present
Austen
(from P&P)
It is a truth universally acknowledged,
that a single man in possession of a
good fortune must be in want of a wife.
OE=Old English ME=Middle English EMnE=Early Modern English MnE=Modern English
What about “American” English?

From around 1600, the English colonization of North America
resulted in the creation of a distinct American variety of English.

Some English pronunciations and words "froze" when they reached
America. In some ways, American English is more like the English of
Shakespeare than modern British English is. Some expressions that
the British call "Americanisms" are in fact original British expressions
that were preserved in the colonies while lost for a time in Britain
(for example trash for rubbish, loan as a verb instead of lend, and
fall for autumn; another example, frame-up, was re-imported into
Britain through Hollywood gangster movies).

Spanish also had an influence on American English (and
subsequently British English), with words like canyon, ranch,
stampede and vigilante being examples of Spanish words that
entered English through the settlement of the American West.

French words (through Louisiana) and West African words (through
the slave trade) also influenced American English (and so, to an
extent, British English).
Other Varieties of English

Today, American English is particularly
influential, due to the USA's dominance of
cinema, television, popular music, trade
and technology (including the Internet).
But there are many other varieties of
English around the world, including for
example Australian English, New Zealand
English, Canadian English, South African
English, Indian English and Caribbean
English.
Bibliography









http://www.englishclub.com/english-language-history.htm
http://www.krysstal.com/english.html
Abrams, M. H., and Stephen Greenblatt, Eds. Introduction. The Norton
Anthology of English Literature, seventh ed., vol. 1. New York: W.W.
Norton, 2000. 1-22, 29-32.
Anderson, Robert, et al. Eds. Elements of Literature, Sixth Course,
Literature of Britain. Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1993. 2-42.
Burrow, J. A. “Old and Middle English Literature, c. 700-1485.” The Oxford
Illustrated History of English Literature. Ed. Pat Rogers. Oxford: Oxford UP,
1987.
Grant, Neil. Kings and Queens. Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1999.
Hollister, C. Warren. The Making of England, 55 B.C. to 1399. 6th ed.
Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1988
Pyles, Thomas and John Algeo. The Origins and Development of the English
Language. 4th Ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1993.
Wikipedia (articles on “Norman Invasion,” “Roman Occupation of Britain,”
“King Alfred,” “King Aethelbert,” “Vikings,” and “Battle of Hastings”). Dates
of access: August 10-20, 2006.
Some Characteristics of the Language:
CELTIC
A vigesimal number system (counting by
twenties)
verb-subject-object (VSO) word order
bifurcated demonstrative structure
Examples:
(Irish) Ná bac le mac an bhacaigh is ní
bhacfaidh mac an bhacaigh leat.
(Literal translation) Don't bother with son
the beggar's and not will-bother son the
beggar's with-you.
(Welsh) pedwar ar bymtheg a phedwar
ugain
(Literal translation) four on fifteen and
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History of the English Language