History of English


Video credit: The Virtual Linguistics Campus, “The History of English (An Overview)” December 17, 2014, via YouTube.

Dear All,
This post discusses briefly the history of the English language.

Five major periods of the language development can be outlined:
1) England before the English (55 BC – 600 AD):
– the Celts;
– Julius Caesar’s conquest;
– the invasion by the Picts, the Scots, the Jutes, and the Saxons;

2) Old English (600 – 1100):
– the invasion by Germanic tribes (the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes);
– the language is synthetic in nature and has free word order;

3) Middle English (1100 – 1500):
– the Norman conquest in 1066;
– Norman aristocracy (law, literature, official documents are in Norman French);
– English is the language of the lower class;
– the Black Death (labour shortages and increased usage/prestige of lower class language)
– the Hundred Years War (no longer need of learning/teaching French);
– introduction of the printing press (standardization of English);
– beginning of colonization (English is spoken in Americas and other places),
– the language has the Germanic core and a lot of words of the French origin;

4) Early Modern English (1500 – 1700)
– Shakespeare;
– the King James Version of the Bible;
– the language is analytic and the word order is direct: SVO;

5) Present-Day English (1700 – present):
– inner circle (e.g. UK and Australia), outer circle (e.g. India and Jamaica), expanding circle (e.g. Japan and Indonesia);
– language of the international business, science, trade, and sports.

It is interesting to note how much the history of a language is linked to the sociocultural history within which this language functions. Similarly, the present-day sociocultural context of a language influences considerably its modern life and development.
Iaroslav

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