A Concise History of the English Language
There are so many people in the world who can speak English, and even more are learning to speak English. However, not many people know the origins of the English language. This article seeks to provide a brief history of the English language.
The history of the English language begins around the fifth century AD. C., with the arrival of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes to Great Britain from what is now Denmark and Germany. Angles came from “England” and spoke “English” which is where “England” and “English” come from. In fact, the French word for English also comes from this word. These invaders settled in what is now called England and pushed the native Celtic speakers west and north into Scotland, the Walks and Ireland.
These Germanic tribes spoke very similar languages and these languages developed into something called Old English which was used around 450-1100 AD This version of English has very few similarities to what we speak today, however some commonly used words have their roots in Old English. For example, one of the most used verbs in the English language is ‘be’ and it comes from Old English.
After this time we moved on to what is called Middle English which was in use around 1100-1500 AD William the Conqueror successfully invaded Britain in 1066 and they bought with them a form of French. This French language divided the country and the lower classes spoke in English while the upper classes used French. English became more popular again around 1400 AD, but English incorporated many of the French words into the languages. This is one reason, English has two words for most animals, one is in place and ready to eat, while English uses another word for an animal to be alive and well. For example, pig and pig, cow and beef.
We then enter the era of Modern English, which was used from around AD 1500 to AD 1800. This form of English is much more similar to what we use today and is characterized by a sudden and very distinct change in the pronunciation of the vowels. During this time, the spelling became standardized due to the invention of the printing press, which led to books becoming more widely available and much cheaper. It was also during this period, in 1604, that the first dictionary of English was published and thus spelling and grammar were standardized.
What we speak today is known as Late Modern English. The English language has changed considerably in the last hundred years due to industrialization, technological advances, and the rise of the British Empire. New words were needed for new inventions, and English borrowed many words from the British colonies. For example, Shampoo is originally derived from India and the word gigabyte is a very new word that was never heard of 100 or even 50 years ago.
The English language will continue to evolve. The words are getting even shorter and are now making their way into the English dictionary. For example, the Oxford Concise Dictionary has added the word ‘lol’ which comes from the recent internet phenomenon to show people that you are ‘laughing out loud’ at their joke.