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(DOC) History of english by ahmed kadhim ali | احمد كاظم - Academia.edu
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History of the English language1
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought
to Britain by Germanic invaders and/or settlers from various parts of what is now
northwest Germany and the Netherlands. Initially, Old English was a diverse group of dialects,
reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Britain. One of these dialects, Late
West Saxon, eventually became predominant.
The English language underwent extensive change in the Middle Ages. Written Old English of AD
1000 is similar in vocabulary and grammar to other old Germanic languages such as Old High
German and Old Norse, and completely unintelligible to modern speakers, while the modern
language is already largely recognizable in written Middle English of AD 1400. The transformation
was caused by two further waves of invasion: the first by speakers of the Scandinavian branch of
the Germanic language family, who conquered and colonized parts of Britain in the 8th and 9th
centuries; the second by the Normans in the 11th century, who spoke Old Norman and ultimately
developed an English variety of this called Anglo-Norman. A large proportion of the modern
English vocabulary comes directly from Anglo-Norman.
Close contact with the Scandinavians resulted in a significant grammatical simplification and
lexical enrichment of the Anglo-Frisian core of English. However, these changes had not reached
South West England by the 9th century AD, where Old English was developed into a full-fledged
literary language. The Norman invasion occurred in 1066, and when literary English rose anew in
the 13th century, it was based on the speech of London, much closer to the centre of
Scandinavian settlement. Technical and cultural vocabulary was largely derived from Old Norman,
with particularly heavy influence in the church, the courts, and government. With the coming of
the Renaissance, as with most other developing European languages such
as German and Dutch, Latin and Ancient Greek supplanted Norman and French as the main
source of new words. Thus, English developed into very much a "borrowing" language with an
enormously disparate vocabulary.
WHY STUDY THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH?2
Language in general is an ability inherent in us. Specific languages such as English are
systems that result from that ability. We can know the underlying ability only
through studying the actual languages that are its expressions. Thus, one of the best
reasons for studying languages is to find out about ourselves, about what makes us
persons. And the best place to start such study is with our own language, the one that
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_English_language,(23 OCT.2013)
Algeo,JohnThe Oigins And Development Of English Language.Boston,Ma.(2010:p17).
has nurtured our minds and formed our view of the world. A good approach to
studying languages is the historical one. To understand how things are, it is often
helpful and sometimes essential to know how they got to be that way. If we are psychologists
who want to understand a person’s behavior, we must know something
about that person’s origins and development. The same is true of a language.
Another reason for studying the history of English is that many of the irregularities
in today’s language are the remnants of earlier, quite regular patterns. For
example, the highly irregular plurals of nouns like man-men, mouse-mice, goose-geese,
and ox-oxen can be explained historically. So can the spelling of Modern
English, which may seem chaotic, or at least unruly, to anyone who has had to
struggle with it. The orthographic joke attributed to George Bernard Shaw, that in
English fish might be spelled ghoti (gh as in enough, o as in women, and ti as in
nation), has been repeated often, but the only way to understand the anomalies of
our spelling is to study the history of our language.
Old English (Ænglisc, Anglisc, Englisc)3 or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English
language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what
are now England and southern and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the
mid-12th century. What survives through writing represents primarily the literary register of Anglo-
It is a West Germanic language closely related to Old Frisian and Old Saxon. Old English had a
grammar similar in many ways to Classical Latin. In most respects, including its grammar, it was
much closer to modern German and Icelandic than to modern English. It was fully inflected with
five grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and instrumental),
three grammatical numbers (singular, plural, and dual) and threegrammatical
genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). The dual forms occurred in the first and second
persons only and referred to groups of two.
Old English is a West Germanic language, developing out of Ingvaeonic (also known as North Sea
Germanic) dialects from the 5th century. Anglo-Saxon literacy developed after Christianisation in
the late 7th century. The oldest surviving text of Old English literature isCædmon's Hymn,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_English,(25 Oct 2013)
composed between 658 and 680. There is a limited corpus of runic inscriptions from the 5th to 7th
centuries, but the oldest coherent runic texts (notably Franks Casket) date to the 8th century.
The history of Old English can be subdivided into:
Prehistoric Old English (c. 450 to 650); for this period, Old English is mostly a reconstructed
language as no literary witnesses survive (with the exception of limited epigraphic evidence).
This language, or bloc of languages, spoken by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, and pre-
dating documented Old English or Anglo-Saxon, has also been called Primitive Old English.
Early Old English (c. 650 to 900), the period of the oldest manuscript traditions, with authors
such as Cædmon, Bede, Cynewulf andAldhelm.
Late Old English (c. 900 to 1066), the final stage of the language leading up to the Norman
conquest of England and the subsequent transition to Early Middle English.
The Old English period is followed by Middle English (12th to 15th century), Early Modern
English (c. 1480 to 1650) and finally Modern English (after 1650).
describes dialects of English in the history of the English language between the High and Late
Middle Ages, or roughly during the three centuries between the late 12th and the late 15th century.
Middle English developed out of Late Old English in Norman England (1066–1154) and was
spoken throughout the Plantagenet era (1154–1485). The Middle English period ended at about
1470, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London-based English, began to become
widespread, a process aided by the introduction of the printing press to England by William
Caxton in the late 1470s. By that time the variant of the Northumbrian dialect(prevalent in Northern
England) spoken in southeast Scotland was developing into the Scots language. The language of
England as used after 1470 and up to 1650 is known as Early Modern English.
Unlike Old English, which tended largely to adopt Late West Saxon scribal conventions in the
period immediately before the Norman conquest of England, written Middle English displays a
wide variety of scribal (and presumably dialectal) forms. This diversity suggests the gradual end of
the role of Wessex as a focal point and trend-setter for writers and scribes, the emergence of more
distinct local scribal styles and written dialects, and a general pattern of transition of activity over
the centuries that followed, as Northumbria, East Anglia, and London successively emerged as
major centres of English literature, each with their own particular interests.
Middle English literature of the 12th and 13th centuries is comparatively rare, as written
communication was usually in Anglo-Norman or in Medieval Latin. Middle English became much
more important as a literary language during the 14th century, with poets such
as Chaucer and Langland.
Transition from Old English
Norman in the Kingdom of England
The Norman conquest of England in 1066 resulted in only limited culture shock. However, the
conquest saw the replacement of top levels of English-speaking political and ecclesiastical
hierarchies by the Norman-speaking rulers who used Latin for administrative purposes. Thus
Norman came into use as a language of polite discourse and literature, and this fundamentally
altered the role of Old English in education and administration, even though many Normans of the
early period were illiterate and depended on the clergy for written communication and record-
keeping. Even now, after nearly a thousand years, the Norman influence on the English language
is still apparent, though it did not begin to affect Middle English until somewhat later.
Consider these pairs of Modern English words. The first of each pair is derived from Old English
and the second is of Anglo-Norman
origin: pig/pork, chicken/poultry, calf/veal, cow/beef,wood/forest, sheep/mutton, house/mansion, w
orthy/honourable, bold/courageous, freedom/liberty.
The role of Anglo-Norman as the language of government and law can be seen in the abundance
of Modern English words for the mechanisms of government that derive from Anglo-
Norman: court,judge, jury, appeal, parliament. Also prevalent in Modern English are terms relating
to the chivalric cultures that arose in the 12th century, an era of feudalism and crusading. Early on,
this vocabulary of refined behaviour began to work its way into English, imports of
the Normans who made their mark on the English language as much as on the territory of England
This period of trilingual activity developed much of the flexible triplicate synonymy of modern
English. For instance, English has three words meaning roughly "of or relating to a king":
kingly from Old English,
royal from French and
regal from Latin.
Likewise, Norman – and, later, French – influences led to some interesting word pairs in English,
such as the following, which both mean "someone who defends":
Warden from Norman, and
Guardian from French (Both "warden" and "guardian" are derived from Germanic.)
Old and Middle English
The end of Anglo-Saxon rule did not of course change the language immediately. Although the
most senior offices in the church were filled by Normans, Old English continued in use in
chronicles such as the Peterborough Chronicle until the middle of the 12th century. The non-
literate would have spoken the same dialects as before the Conquest, though these changed
slowly until written records of them became available for study, which varies in different regions.
Once the writing of Old English comes to an end, Middle English has no standard language, only
dialects that derive from the dialects of the same regions in the Anglo-Saxon period.
Early Middle English
Early Middle English (1100–1300) has a largely Anglo-Saxon vocabulary (with many Norse
borrowings in the northern parts of the country), but a greatly simplified inflectional system. The
grammatical relations that were expressed in Old English by the dative and locative cases are
replaced in Early Middle English with prepositional constructions. This replacement is, however,
incomplete: the Old English genitive "-es" survives in the modern Saxon genitive—it is now called
the "possessive": e.g., the form "dog's" for the longer "of the dog". But most of the other case
endings disappeared in the Early Modern English period, including most of the roughly one dozen
forms of the definite article ("the"). The dual grammatical number (expressing exactly two of a
thing) also disappeared from English during the Early Modern English period (apart from personal
pronouns), further simplifying the language.
Deeper changes occurred in the grammar. Gradually, the wealthy and the
government Anglicised again, although Norman (and subsequently French) remained the
dominant language of literature and law for a few centuries, even after the loss of the majority of
the continental possessions of the English monarchy. The new English language did not sound the
same as the old; for, as well as undergoing changes in vocabulary, the complex system of
inflected endings Old English had, was gradually lost or simplified in the dialects of spoken Middle
English. This change was gradually reflected in its increasingly diverse written forms as well. The
loss of case endings was part of a general trend from inflections to fixed word order that also
occurred in other Germanic languages, and therefore cannot be attributed simply to the influence
of French-speaking sections of the population: English did, after all, remain the language of the
vast majority. It is also argued that Norse immigrants to England had a great impact on the loss
of inflectional endings in Middle English. One argument is that, although Norse- and English-
speakers were somewhat comprehensible to each other, the Norse-speakers' inability to
reproduce the ending sounds of English words influenced Middle English's loss of inflectional
endings. Another argument is that the morphological simplifications were caused by Romano-
Britons who were bilingual in Old English and either Brittonic (which lacks noun case) or British
Romance (which may have lacked noun case, like most modern Romance languages).
Late Middle English
Further information: Early Modern English
The Late Middle English period was a time of upheaval in England. After the deposition of Richard
II of England in 1399, the House of Plantagenet split into the House of Lancaster and the House of
York, whose antagonism culminated in the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487). Stability came only
gradually with the Tudor dynasty under Henry VII.
During this period, social change, men coming into positions of power, some of them from other
parts of the country or from lower levels in society, resulted also in linguistic change. Towards the
end of the 15th century a more modern English was starting to emerge. Printing began in England
in the 1470s, which tended to stabilise the language. With a standardised, printed English Bible
and Prayer Book being read to church congregations from the 1540s onward, a wider public
became familiar with a standard language, and the era of Modern English was under way.