Friday, 21 May 2010

Timeline of English

Before English began - up to ca. 450 AD

British (Celtic) tribes - language related to modern Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish (Erse) · Only real connection with Modern English is in lexis (mostly in place names).

Origins of English - ca. 450 AD to 1066

Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrive from north Germany · Language (Old English) is at first spoken · only writing is runes · Written form comes from Latin-speaking monks, who use Roman alphabet, with new letters (æ, ð and þ - spoken as "ash", "eth" and "thorn") · About half of common vocabulary of modern English comes from Old English · Word forms vary according to syntax (inflection, case endings and declension) and grammatical gender · Vikings establish Danelaw · some erosion of grammar and addition of new vocabulary.

Middle English Period - 1066 to 1485

Lexis - terms for law and politics from Norman French · General expansion of lexis, esp. abstract terms · Case-endings, declension and gender disappear · Inflection goes except in pronouns and related forms · Writers concerned about change · want to stabilize language · 1458 - Gutenberg invents printing (1475 - Caxton introduces it to England) · the press enables some standardizing.

Tudor Period - 1485 to 1603

Rise of nationalism linked to desire for more expressive language · Flowering of literature and experiments in style · idea of elevated diction · Vocabulary enlarged by new learning Renaissance) · imports from Greek and Latin · Lexis expanded by travel to New World, and ideas in maths and science · English settlers begin to found colonies in North America. In 1582 Richard Mulcaster publishes a list of 7,000 words with spelling forms, but this does not become a universal standard

The 17th Century

Influences of Puritanism and Catholicism (Roundhead and Cavalier) and of science · Puritan ideas of clarity and simplicity influence writing of prose· reasonableness and less verbose language · English preferred to Dutch as official tongue of American colonies.

The 18th Century

Age of reason · Ideas of order and priority · Standardizing of spelling (Johnson' s Dictionary of the English Language in 1755) and grammar (Robert Lowth's Short Introduction to English Grammar in 1762 and Lindley Murray's English Grammar in 1794)· Classical languages are seen as paradigms (ideal models) for English · Romantic Movement begins · interest in regional and social class varieties of English.

The 19th Century

Interest in past · use of archaic words · Noan Webster publishes American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828 · British Empire causes huge lexical growth · English travels to other countries and imports many loanwords · Modern language science begins with Jakob Grimm and others · James Murray begins to compile the New English Dictionary (which later becomes the Oxford English Dictionary) in 1879

The 20th Century and beyond

Modern language science developed · descriptive not prescriptive · Non-standard varieties have raised status · Ideas of formal and informal change · Modern recording technology allows study of spoken English · Influence of overseas forms grows · US and International English dominant · English becomes global language (e.g. in computing, communications, entertainment).

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