History of English Language
History of English Language
English language, like many elements in the history, has gone many transformations for nothing is permanent in this world. There are many contributing factors that played in its development as what it is now including different influences brought to it by merging of cultures and sometimes war. English language also differs depending on the culture of one’s country, since not only one country is using this as their official language but many of them; and, each has gone some modification that represents their culture.
In this global period, English language is considered as the world’s official language through which, all countries are united heading towards future economic progress and common understanding of all people in the whole world. Through this also, war is avoided, common goals are set for the good of all, and poor countries are taken into account by international organization. English language then as widely accepted fact, is the lingua franca of the world and the language of economics.
English language, since it is replacing other previously dominant languages of the world such as French and Spanish, is taught in almost schools in all countries from Pre-elementary courses to college courses. Through this emerging trend, many students from affluent countries avail themselves of western education which they consider as an advantage in their career. Some would even take English lessons in other countries to acquire fluency and competency.
The reason behind is that, English is the only means to communicate with all the people of the world wherever you are or what ever country you may be. Thus, international communication is now possible regardless of which country you come from as long as you know even just the basic and as their languages unite their understanding of their culture is strengthened. Development of Old English Language Old English language had been developed through many components with its origin from the history.
Although, many historians believed and developed the hypothesis that English language and other languages in many parts of Europe were identical because of evidences of similarities of many words. Aside from that, it was also believed that Sanskrit, the old language of India which was much older than Greek or German, had preserved common features with that of Old English language (Baugh & Cable, p. 18). It is easy therefore to presume that English is a by-product of the development of many languages in Europe which had only one origin.
The Arrival of Celts in Britain English language was known as the language of English people, however, it was not the language spoken by earliest settlers of the lands; historians believed that many races had come and their languages were not known and recorded in the history until the arrival of the Celts which had the trace of Old English language, and began the history of its development. The Celts were bronze and iron-age inhabitants and when they reached Britain they pushed the earlier settlers into the remote corners of the nation through their mighty weapons.
According to history, they arrived around 500 BC with language known for being the first Indo-European tongue to be spoken in Britain. Celts and Celtic language as they say had very little contribution in the Old English, as they tried to trace some of those words. However, scholars believed that they influenced the grammatical structure of the language (Baugh & Cable, p. 82-83). At this far-flung advancement of English, many of those languages are no longer traced; though, it is believed to be the first among the contributors of the English language development, however, its influence is no longer recognized today.
Anglo-Saxon Settlements In the beginning, Old English was an assortment of group of dialect languages, reflecting the diverse beginning of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England. Anglo-Saxon was a group of different races with the Germanic people as the dominant among them who arrived in Britain during the 5th and 6th AD upon the invitation of the King of Briton to help them against Roman invaders. This group had acquired influences of the Latin culture including language that after the collapse of Roman Empire in their country arrived in Britain to find settlement also.
According to Barbara Fennell, there was no written record about language use in Britain before the Anglo-Saxon invasion (Fennell, p. 55). There were indications that England was inhabited for thousands of years prior to Anglo-Saxon invasion, with its known early inhabitants as the Celts or Scotts. The Romans did not have much linguistic contribution on the linguistics development, but the collapsed of the Empire paved the way for the settlement of Anglo-Saxon. The native Britons were either pushed into isolated and farthest areas or they adapted the Anglo-Saxon’s way of life.
The Angli was actually a Germanic tribe which has been in Britain a couple of centuries prior to Roman invasion. These Anglo-Saxon spoke Germanic dialect which had some similarities with the original settlers, the Celts which eventually blended with them. Thus, Germanic tribes began arriving and settling in Kent. Not long when the Germans formed a kingdom known in history as the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy. As these German tribes struggled for superiority, Kent, the main settlement, emerged as the dominating tribe which claimed sovereignty over all the kingdoms of the South.
Barbara Fennel pointed out that they dominated largely because of the influence of centers of learning at Linchfarne. Subsequently, the kingdom was passed from King Egbert down to his grandson Alfred the Great, and on to King Edward the Confessor who became Rex Anglorum, which means King of the English in 1026 BC (Fennel, p. 57). The merging of Anglo-Saxon and Celtics had come to be known as the English people, and their language as the English language. The Scandinavian Influence
Of course, there had been more developments and significant contribution towards the linguistic development of the English language. But, ultimately, invasions and settlements had been the major factors for this development. The invasion of the Romans and the collapse of the Empire lay the ground for the settlement of Anglo-Saxon, while the influx of more Germanic tribesmen overlay the founding of a new nation. In 787 to 850 AD, a new invasion and settlement had taken place; the Scandinavian under King Guthrum invaded Britain which was under King Alfred.
As the Danes were defeated by King Alfred, they withdrew from King Alfred’s territory but remained in Britain. Eventually, he accepted Christianity and was baptized. The settlement of these people in England not only involved political and linguistic assimilation but also culture and religion which are essential in the development of language. The succeeding political assimilation that follows after the Scandinavian invasion as well as the intermarriages of political rulers had been instrumental in Anglo-Saxon – Celtic people to be identified as an English people.
Fennell said that King Henry’s successor Richard II, was renowned as the lion’s heart “…who spoke little or no English at all, and spent only six months in total on English soil” (p. 57). Fennel’s emphasis on “speaking English and spending six months on English soil” meant two things, the beginning of the English language and of the English country. The Linguistic Development during the Middle Ages Middle Ages had been a very significant in the development of English languages after its assimilation during the merging of Anglo-Saxon and Celts.
This period gave way to the advancement of the language in terms of words incorporation from other native languages specifically the Northern European and some Germanic tribes. This was also significant in the expansion of the language in its grammatical structure. Change in the Inflectional Endings Inflectional endings are unstressed syllables at the ends of words of most of Old English language such as –en in drunken. The decay of inflectional endings was attributed to the influence of Vikings in their language and at the same time, the Germanic language has a stress on the first syllable and not on endings.
Some of those endings that were omitted were -a, -e, -u and –an, which had been evenly reduced to -e, (pronounced ). Another alteration involved the loss of final -n after -e in unstressed syllables. For example, drinken, from Old English drincan “to drink,” became first of all drinke and then drink (Baugh and Cable, 1993, p. 155). Fennel had also observed these significant changes in the English language. She pointed out that the “development of more fixed words order and the loss of inflections” (p. 97), characterizes the Middle English.
Further, she observed slight consonantal changes in such that certain voiced consonants became voiceless and other voiceless consonants became voiced (p. 97). The Noun and Adjectives Old English is also typified in terms of infection wherein they add letters to the end of the word to signify another meaning either from singular to plural or gender differences. For instance, the singular stan, stanes and stane having its plural form of stanas, stana and stanum; which according to Baugh and Cable, reduced to stan, stanes and stane.
These changes have been observed in the Modern English. Old English was seen as having similarity with the Latin grammar which was more inflected. To note, Old English had four cases: the nominative, accusative, genitive and dative cases that are emphasized by adding letter/s at the end of the word. For example, the singular neuter had an ending –a, feminine had –o, masculine had –n. On the other hand, Latin had six cases such as nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative and ablative.
This development in English language was obviously an influence of Roman in their language. Throughout the development process, especially coming into the Middle Ages, English language had survived its –s plural form and the weak –n form become infrequent as in the case of oxen, brethren, children and oxen. Verb Form The Middle English had a grammatical rule similar to the Modern English. In general, the first person singular of the Middle English present tense verbs end in –e, the second person had –est, while the third person had –eb.
This is applied to strong verb, while in weak verbs, word endings used are –ed(e), -d(e), or –t(e). It was also usual in the Middle English the Object -Verb sequence whereas the Modern English follows the Verb-Object pattern; for example : then fell he down, which is contrast with today’s grammar structure as then he fell down. (Fischer, p. 180-181) The infinitive –to was also usual in Middle English which was later replaced by that. For instance, He commanded them that they should tie him up. (Fischer, p. 211)
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 22 September 2016
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