Friday, 21 May 2010

Table of Language Change

Pre-1st century AD Britain inhabited by Celts, or Britons People spoke varieties of Celtic languages, the roots of Welsh, Gaelic, Irish, Manx and Cornish. Partly as a result of what happened to the Celts later (they were displaced by the Anglo-Saxons), relatively few Celtic words survive in modern English. However, numerous place-names (Penrith, Leeds, York, Thames and Avon) remind us of our ancient roots.
1st – 5th centuries The Romans occupied mainly England There was some limited influence from Latin on the native language during this period. Some Latin words have survived, but the major Latin influence of English was to come much later. Many place names, such as Manchester, Lancaster, Chester and Worcester derive from this period. A few other words of Latin origin which survive, such as street, port, wine and wall may also date from this period.
5th – 8th centuries Invasions of the Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons and Jutes)

Christianity adopted (587)
The Celtic language was displaced except in Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and Ireland. Old English developed from the Germanic dialects of the invaders, which varied according to where the different tribes were settled.

This was the true beginning of English; many of the basic grammatical words (the, in was, etc.) and many everyday nouns and verbs derive from this period.

The Latin alphabet was adopted and Latin was used by the educated elite and in church.
Old English – a considerable body of literature from this period survives. It is very foreign to modern eyes, and requires special study to understand it, as in this example from the poem Beowulf:

Hwaet we Gar-Dena in geardagum,
Peodcyninga pryn gefrunon
Hu da aepelingas ellen fremedon

(So by the Spear-Danes in days gone by,
And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.)

8th – 11th centuries Viking invasions The Vikings’ language (Norse) was close enough to the Anglo-Saxon of the inhabitants to allow communication between the peoples. The Vikings took over many of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, particularly I the north and east of the county. Many Norse words have passed into Standard English – get, take, angry, awkward, they, she – and even more have survived in the dialects of the north where some pronunciations and grammatical forms of dialects are also Scandinavian in origin.
11th – 14th centuries 1066:the Normans invaded, led by William the Conqueror
Norman French and English co-existed
Following the Norman invasion, there was a French-speaking power bas – the court, the church and major landowners were mainly French-speaking, while the populace spoke English.

During the twelfth century English was more widely used by the upper classes and in 1362 was used for the first time at the state opening of parliament. By 1425 English was used universally in speech and writing.
This was the beginning of the Middle English period; there was an inevitable flow of vocabulary from Norman French (itself heavily based on Latin) into English. English not only survived but was enriched by the language of the invaders.

This period also saw the loss of many Old English word endings (inflections), many of which were replaced with the prepositions by, with, from etc.

Much Middle English literature survives and is reasonably accessible to patient modern readers. This period also saw the beginnings of a major change in English pronunciation: the Great Vowel Shift.
15th- 17th centuries Printing invented (William Caxton set up his press in 1746)

Many Greek and Latin texts were translated into English
There was a gradual acceptance of a standard form of English, made necessary by the increasing dissemination of printed materials. Early modern English: In the period 1500 – 1700 many more words entered the language than at any other period.

New words were needed for new concepts and an influx of Latin and French words resulted.

This period of world exploration also brought words from the language of Africa, Asia and the New World.

The Great Vowel Shift was completed – and the pronunciation of English began to stabilise.

This was also the age of Shakespeare, himself a great coiner of words.
18th – 19th centuries The search for a standard, pure form of English Attempts to define the vocabulary and grammar of English led to the establishment of the prescriptive ideas about correctness. Non-standard varieties were viewed as inferior; Latin was upheld as an ideal language and a model for English dictionary writers and grammarians tried to lay down rules for correct usage. This was the age of the dictionary, when writers tried to ‘fix’ spellings and meanings.
  • 1721 – Nathaniel’s Bailey’s Universal Etymological Dictionary
  • 1755 – Samuel Johnson’s English Dictionary
  • 1762 – Robert Lowth’s Short Introduction to English Grammar
  • 1762 – Lindley Murray’s English Grammar
19th century - present The Expansion of British and American English In the nineteenth century, rail travel colonial expansion, the spread of literacy and education and the printed word extended access to standard and written forms of English.

Electronic media extended this process in the twentieth century; meanwhile, American economic and political power succeeded that of the British empire to ensure the spread of English as a world language.
American English was starting to become noticeably different from British English.

English continues to absorb loan words from language across the world. Grammar and pronunciation see few major changes, but in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, a drift towards more colloquial and casual styles of language in many contexts reflect major social changes.

American English increasingly influence British English and English worldwide.

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