LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE
ENGLISH LANGUAGE
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The history of the English language really started with the arrival
of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th
century AD.
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These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the
North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany.
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At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language.
•
But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by
the invaders - mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and
Ireland.
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The Angles came from Englaland and their language was called
Englisc - from which the words England and English are derived.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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The invading Germanic tribes spoke similar languages,
which in Britain developed into what we now call Old
English.
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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. Old English was spoken until around 1100.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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In 1066 William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy (part of
modern France), invaded and conquered England.
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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.
•
For a period there was a kind of linguistic class division, where the
lower classes spoke English and the upper classes spoke French.
•
In the 14th century English became dominant in Britain again, but
with many French words added.
•
This language is called Middle English. It was the language of the
great poet Chaucer (c1340-1400), but it would still be difficult for
native English speakers to understand today.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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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.
From the 16th century the British had contact with many
peoples from around the world.
This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that
many new words and phrases entered the language.
The invention of printing also meant that there was now a
common language in print.
Books became cheaper and more people learned to read.
Printing also brought standardization to English.
Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of
London, where most publishing houses were, became the
standard. In 1604 the first English dictionary was
published.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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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. secondly, the British Empire at its height
covered one quarter of the earth's
surface, and the English language adopted
foreign words from many countries.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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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.

LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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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 reimported into Britain through Hollywood
gangster movies).
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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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).
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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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.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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English has now inarguably achieved global status.
Whenever we turn on the news to find out what's
happening in East Asia, or the Balkans, or Africa, or South
America, or practically anywhere, local people are being
interviewed and telling us about it in English.
To illustrate the point when the late Pope John Paul II
arrived in the Middle East recently to retrace Christ's
footsteps and addressed Christians, Muslims and Jews, the
pontiff spoke not Latin, not Arabic, not Italian, not Hebrew,
not his native Polish. He spoke in English.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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Indeed, if one looks at some of the facts about
the amazing reach of the English language many
would be surprised.
English is used in over 90 countries as an official
or semi-official language.
English is the working language of the Asian
trade group ASEAN.
It is the de facto working language of 98 percent
of international research physicists and research
chemists.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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It is the official language of the European Central
Bank, even though the bank is in Frankfurt and
neither Britain nor any other predominantly
English-speaking country is a member of the
European Monetary Union.
It is the language in which Indian parents and
black parents in South Africa overwhelmingly
wish their children to be educated.
It is believed that over one billion people
worldwide are currently learning English.
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LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
As part of the European Year of
Languages, a special survey of European
attitudes towards and their use of
languages has just published.
 The report confirms that at the beginning
of 2001 English is the most widely known
foreign or second language, with 43% of
Europeans claiming they speak it in
addition to their mother tongue.
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LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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Sweden now heads the league table of English
speakers, with over 89% of the population saying
they can speak the language well or very well.
However, in contrast, only 36% of Spanish and
Portuguese nationals speak English.
What's more, English is the language rated as most
useful to know, with over 77% of Europeans who do
not speak English as their first language, rating it as
useful.
French rated 38%, German 23% and Spanish 6%.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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
English has without a doubt become the
global language.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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
The previous figure shows the timeline of the history of the
English language.

The earliest known residents of the British Isles were the
Celts, who spoke Celtic languages—a separate branch of
the Indo-European language family tree.

Over the centuries the British Isles were invaded and
conquered by various peoples, who brought their languages
and customs with them as they settled in their new lives.

There is now very little Celtic influence left in English.

The earliest time when we can say that English was spoken
was in the 5th century CE (Common Era—a politically
correct term used to replace AD).
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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
In case you hadn’t made the connection, “England”
<– “Engla Land” <– “Angle Land” (Land of the
Angles, a people of northern old Germany).

Their name lives on in the district of England
named East Anglia, and also in the Anglican
Church.

In the present day there is still a region of Germany
known as Angeln, which is likely the same area
from which the original Angles came.

Angeln lies in Schleswig-Holstein on the eastern
side of the Jutland peninsula near the cities of
Flensburg and Schleswig.
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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449 Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain begins
450-480 Earliest Old English inscriptions date from
this period
597 St. Augustine arrives in Britain. Beginning of
Christian conversion
731 The Venerable Bede publishes The Ecclesiastical
History of the English People in Latin
792 Viking raids and settlements begin
871 Alfred becomes king of Wessex. He has Latin
works translated into English and begins practice of
English prose. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is begun
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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911 Charles II of France grants Normandy to the
Viking chief Hrolf the Ganger. The beginning of
Norman French
c. 1000 The oldest surviving manuscript of Beowulf
dates from this period
1066 The Norman conquest
c. 1150 The oldest surviving manuscripts of Middle
English date from this period 1171 Henry II conquers
Ireland
1204 King John loses the province of Normandy to
France English Dictionary is published
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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1348 English replaces Latin as the
medium of instruction in schools, other
than Oxford and Cambridge which retain
Latin
1362 The Statute of Pleading replaces
French with English as the language of
law. Records continue to be kept in
Latin. English is used in Parliament for
the first time
1384 Wyclif publishes his English
translation of the Bible
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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c. 1388 Chaucer begins The
Canterbury Tales 1476 William Caxton
establishes the first English printing
press
 1492 Columbus discovers the New
World

LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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1549 First version of The Book of
Common Prayer
 1604 Robert Cawdrey publishes the
first English dictionary, Table
Alphabeticall
 1607 Jamestown, the first permanent
English settlement in the New World,
established
 1611 The Authorized, or King James
Version, of the Bible is published

LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE
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1702 Publication of the first daily,
English-language newspaper, The
Daily Courant, in London
 1755 Samuel Johnson publishes his
dictionary
 1770 Cook discovers Australia
 1928 The Oxford English Dictionary is
published

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LANGUAGE
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THE END!
LECTURE 6A -A SHORT HISTORY OF THE
ENGLISH LANGUAGE
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A Short History of the Origins and Development of English