The English language is part of the Indo-European group of languages, which had a common origin somewhere in the North of India about 10,000 years ago.
OLD ENGLISH (450-1100 AD)
- Until the 5th century the British Isles where inhabited by Celtic-speaking people influenced by Latin. Celtic languages are still spoken now in Wales (Welsh), Scotland (Gaelic) and Ireland (Irish).
- Celtic words: place names such as Kent, York, Thames, Avon.
- Latin words: candle, belt, wine and place names such as London.
- During the 5th century three Germanic tribes, Jutes, Angles and Saxons, went to the British Isles from different parts of what is now Denmark. Their dialects mixed through the years.
- After the 597 AD century St. Augustine brought Christianity and many Latin and Greek words were introduced:
- Latin and Greek words: church, bishop, baptism, monk
- After 878 AD the Vikings introduced many Norse words, particularly in the North of England and Scotland. Norse was another Germanic language:
- Norse words: sky, egg, cake, skin, leg, window, husband, fellow, anger, flat, ugly, get, give, take, call, die, they.
- In 1066 AD Britain was invaded by the Normans. This Germanic people spoke Old French. For centuries, England had two languages: the powerful spoke French whereas peasants spoke English. Latin was used as a written language and English was considered vulgar.
- By 1200 AD English was largely influenced by French.
- French words from this period: crown, castle, parliament, army, mansion, beauty, banquet, art, poet, romance, duke, servant, peasant, and governor
- It is in this period that the vocabulary for animals becomes dual:
- the word for the animal is Anglo-Saxon: ox, cow, calf, sheep, swine, deer
- and the word for the meat is French: beef, veal, mutton, pork, bacon, venison
MODERN ENGLISH (1500-PRESENT)
- During this period the Great Vowel Shift took place. A great change in the way vowel sounds were pronounced. This is way the pronunciation of vowels does not correspond to the Latin sounds they used to represent.
- The printing press was invented by Gutenberg in Germany and in 1450 Caxton set up the first press in England. Books become cheaper, people learnt to read and English became standardized.
- During the Renaissance many words from Greek and Latin entered English.
- Latin words: street, kitchen, cheese.
- The Industrial Revolution resulted in many technical words being invented to name the new products and machines.
- New technical words: trains, engine, pulleys, combustion, electricity, telephone, telegraph, camera.
- The British Empire also brought many words from distant lands and languages:
- Chinese words: ketchup, tea, silk, soya.
- Indian words: shampoo, pyjamas, bungalow.
- Arabic words: algebra, bazaar, giraffe, lemon.
- African words: jazz, safari, cola, banana, zebra.
INTERESTING LINKS ABOUT THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Text adapted from: http://www.studyenglishtoday.net/english-language-history.html