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History of the English Language

Introduction for English IV Students

Nikki Morrell

on 31 August 2015

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Transcript of History of the English Language

History of the English Language
American English
1607- establishment of Jamestown and thus the first colony of English speakers in America
The Colonists
When the settlers first arrived, their language was constantly taxed because there were no words for many of the new things they were experiencing.
For example: bluff, foothill, notch, gap. Some were derived from Native American names: moose, raccoon, skunk, opossum, chipmunk, porgy, terrapin, wigwam, tomahawk, canoe. Some were formed from descriptions: garter snake, bullfrog, potato bug, ground hog, reed bird. Some words were formed due to new governments: congressional, presidential, etc.
The Celts
The Celts
Very few Celtic languages have survived:
1)Gaelic in Ireland 2)Welsh in Wales 3)Breaton in Brittany (France)

43 AD
Then, Claudius conquered GB and made it part of the Roman Empire
*If no else had invaded later on, the language would probably still be a Romance Language

Life in Roman Britain was fairly civilized. The people were ruled by Roman officers and officials; the Celtic natives were workers and drafted into the armies. The Romans built cities, which was new for Britain!
Old English
Notes about the actual language used by the Celtic/Anglo-Saxon peoples

Dialects- 4 main dialect groups

Gender System- used a gender system (like French) Verbs were conjugated (findan, fand, funden- find, found, found)

Word pattern- no rigid pattern of subject-verb-object like we have today

30,000 words in Old English language; modern English has 10 times that

Alphabet- until Christianity, there was no real alphabet! Christianity brought the Greek alphabet. Before it, they used runes.
Conquerors- The Vikings were conquering the world during this period.

Searchers- The Vikings were searching for new land because their homeland was overpopulated and inhospitable; the lure of European wealth helped.

Violent Marauders- The Vikings were extremely violent! (tossing babies from pike to pike, cutting "blood eagles" into the backs of their victims). The church added, "God saves us from the wrath of the Northmen" to their prayers.

The full onslaught of the English began in 856 AD; by 870, only one Anglo-Saxon community existed.
1000- The oldest manuscript of Beowulf dates from this year.

Latin- In sheer number, Latin gave the most to English, but in popularity and usage, the Norse gave more.

Poetry v. Prose
Most literature before this point was in poetry form; after Alfred the Great (ruler 871-900), prose becomes more popular.
France- France was the fast growing center of Europe

The Normans (from Normandy, France), following William, the Duke of Normandy, defeated the Anglo-Saxons, led by Herold, in GB at the battle of Hastings.
*This established without a doubt the dominance of French culture in England.

Kings- None of the kings of this era were English; they were Frenchmen who spoke French.
End of the Middle Ages Through Modern Times
Modern English began around 1500. (So, yes, Shakespearean English is considered modern!)

1425- English becomes the official language of Great Britain!

1492- Columbus discovers America

1603- King James I (IV of Scotland) becomes King of England and Scotland. Attempts to unite the two with the King James Bible. Forcing his Scottish people to learn and use English

1620- Mayflower sets sail; this begins American English.
Native Americans influence English with the addition of much of their vocabulary

Something to think about: the English spoken in America during the Colonial period was British English. American English did not exist yet.
In the Beginning
410 AD
The Roman Empire disintegrated. Picts from Scotland, Germanic Tribes (the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons), and the Irish began to invade. The Romans attempted to keep their hold, but were swept away by 410. What they left behind: THEIR LANGUAGE!!!!

436- the Romans withdraw from G.B.

Angles, Jutes, and Saxons (all Germanic tribes- Germany, Denmark, and Norway) poured in and took over!
Celts were pushed to the corners of GB by these tribes
Celtic Britain was very soon extinguished.
Celts believed the Anglo-Saxons to be savages!

Nearest relatives to the English Language -Dutch, Flemish, Low German
Interesting Facts!
Britain was constantly invaded and seized by foreign tribes. It was constantly in turmoil. What does that mean for the language? a never-ending change of cultures, languages, beliefs, religions, etc, meant that the languages of Britain were always changing! Languages combined!
Last Names- three hundred years after the Norman Invasion, last names were used for the first time.
*It came about in imitation of the French nobility, who used the practice to discriminate among the many men in the same community who bore the same first name.
*Last names were usually derived from one of three things:
1) kinship-Johnson: son of John
2)occupation- miller, faulkener, cooke
3)complexion- Brown, Black

In England- Three languages were spoken/written- 1) French 2)Latin 3)Early form of English
*Latin was the language of the church and education
*French was the language of the public life, the nobility, and courts
*English was the language of lower society and the illiterate.

Middle English
No spelling rules
No grammar rules
No set sentence structure

Though most writers did not use English in written form, especially for literature, Geoffrey Chaucer decided to use it for his works. He was writing during the 1300s.
Geoffrey Chaucer
Chaucer’s most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, which we will read this semester.
He was from a middle class family and is a wonderful example of London English as well as Middle English.
George Pettie in his book on Civile Conversation ( 1586):

"There are some others yet who wyll set lyght by my labours, because I write in Englysh: and . . . the woorst is, they thinke that impossible to be doone in our Tongue: for they count it barren, they count it barbarous, they count it unworthy to be accounted of." "But," he adds, "how hardly soever you deale with your tongue, how barbarous soever you count it, how litle soever you esteeme it, I durst my selfe undertake (if I were furnished with Learnyng otherwyse) to wryte in it as copiouslye for varietie, as compendiously for brevitie, as choycely for woordes, as pithily for sentences, as pleasauntly for figures, and every way as eloquently, as any writer should do in any vulgar tongue whatsoever."
Three Ways the Renaissance Changed the English Language (1500-1650 A.D.)
1) The Printing Press
1439- Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Never before was it possible to print multiples of a document with a set type instead of hand-copying. This meant that books were only for the wealthy, which was okay considering that only the wealthy were educated and literate. However, with the printing press, books and pamphlets were more available and cost much less.
(Think of the iPod now and the one five or six years ago– how much has the price changed? How much easier is it to get music and an iPod now?)
2) Rapid Spread of Popular Education
Before the Renaissance, education was not a priority and most children were NOT sent to school (especially considering how expensive it was!).
During the Anglo-Saxon rule of England, Alfred first began the “schooling system,” and finally with the Renaissance, most children of decent family were able to attend.
As more people were educated to read English, more books were bought (thanks to the printing press); this helped the English language to flourish!
English in the 18th Century
The 18th Century can be characterized by a need for a sense of order. It is no surprise then that writers desperately desired to “FIX” the English language.
Writers wanted to standardize and refine it. How?
English had no set grammar.
There were no spelling rules.
There was no set sentence structure. (Subject-verb-object)
Everything was uncertain!

This was distasteful to those who desired order above all else!

Before the 18th century scholars debated whether to use English or not in their writing, preferring to use the language of education- Latin; however, after Chaucer and his contemporaries began utilizing English, others saw the benefit in using the language of the common man
From the French colonists they learned portage, chowder, cache, caribou, bureau, bayou, levee, and others; from the Dutch cruller, coleslaw, cookie, stoop, boss, scow; from German noodle, pretzel, smearcase, sauerkraut. More interesting, however, are the cases in which the colonist applied an old word to a slightly different thing, as when he gave the name of the English robin to a red-breasted thrush.
1720- The Scottish began their immigration to America- influencing American speech
1772- At least 500,000 slaves have been brought to America; greatly influencing Amer. Eng.
1787- Congress finally approved the Federal Constitution, or better, 1790, when the last of the colonies ratified it and the first census was taken. At this date the population numbered approximately 4,000,000 people, 95 % of whom were living east of the Appalachian Mountains, and 90 % were from various parts of the British Isles.
1845-1847- The potato famine in Ireland; the Irish immigrate to America and a influx of German immigrants as well
More Important Dates
1920s- Cultural Renaissance in Harlem; the accent of black Americans more widely affect Eng.Literature- such as the Brer Rabbit stories; minstrel shows, like Vaudeville; and eventually movies

Since the Civil War:
75-90% of immigrant shave been from the British Isles and N. Europe.
More than 1 million Scandinavian immigrants (1/5 of the populations of Norway and Sweden have moved here!)
Since 1890, many southern European and Slavic immigrants have immigrated
Before WW1, 300,000 Italians a year came to the US
More than fifteen million black immigrants from mostly African countries

It is the colonists who are responsible for our American language.
Archaic English in America?
Modern American speech has many archaic features. In fact, our speech holds words and phrases that are no longer used in England.
The qualities of our speech is actually more like 18th century English.
(the preservation of the r in General American and the flat a in fast, path, etc. are two such that were abandoned in southern England at the end of the eighteenth century. In many little ways standard American English is reminiscent of an older period of the language. We pronounce either and neither with the vowel of teeth or beneath, while in England these words have changed their pronunciation since the American colonies were established and are now pronounced with an initial diphthong [aI]. Our use of gotten in place of got as the past)
Additional Notes
Language- a convention of vocal or written signs by which humans communicate
why do we use language- to communicate, to get rid of nervous energy, to maintain relationships, sound, to foster beliefs (religious), to keep records, and for a sense of identity
what can you tell by a person's tone of voice?- emotions, attitude, personality

Accent v. Dialect
accent: different sounds for the same word
dialect: different words in the same language with the same meaning

Has society lost some of their accents?
yes, with the spread of technology (tv, radio, internet, etc.) many accents have become less obvious, making it harder to differentiate
English Facts

There are 300 million native speakers and 300 million who use English as a second language.

It is the language of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy, and tourism.

It is listed as the official or co-official language of over 45 countries.

Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more people, but English is now the most widespread of the languages.
Angles and Saxons (Germany)
Jutes (Jutland- Denmark)
By early 6th century, the A-S were in control of Britain. Celts were pushed father to the west
There was no unified government or laws as the A-S separated into groups and established their own areas; at one time, 12 such kingdoms
King Alfred tried to establish A-S as a written language and use it in literary pursuits instead of Latin. He arranged for Beowulf to be written; he translated Bede himself and he created a court school with good teachers to educated the royals!!!
Beowulf is an example of early Anglo-Saxon language.
It is the greatest work of Old English literature

An example of Old English:
Gistas setan modes seoce and on mere staredon; wyscton and ne wendon peat hie he heora winedrihten selfne gesawon.
Gistas setan modes seoce
Visitors sat down in spirit sick

and on mere staredon; wyscton
And on pool stared; they hoped

and ne wendon peat hie he heora
And not did expect that they their

winedrihten selfne gesawon.
Friend-lord himself would see

3) Increased Communication and Means of Communicating
different parts of the world were brought together through commerce, transportation, and the rapid means of communication
The Renaissance was a time of import, export, and travel. This meant that sailors and travels experienced the world and returned with new languages, words, etc. The exchange of ideas and even products stimulated the language!
Earliest humans in Great Britain
were roaming hunters (nomadic) around 200,000 BC
evidence: skeletal remains recovered with mastodon and wooly rhino
language: Indo-European Language

6 Branches of Indo-European Language:
1) Indic
4) Graeco-Latin
5) Teutonic
These indigenous peoples were invaded by the Celts.
Discussion of the history of English must start with the history of Great Britain.
Great Britain's past is a tumultuous one! As we study its language, remember this important fact.
Last prehistoric invaders on Britain were the Celts, “members of a large culture group that came to encompass most of N. Europe”

It is Possible that Celts began in Central Europe, along the Danube, moved into France, Spain, and Netherlands, and eventually Britain

The Roman writers describe them as “war mad” and aggressive. They write that Celtic women were equal in status to men in stature and courage. Most were tall, blue eyes, red or blonde hair.

Celts were illiterate, but eloquent speakers and storytellers
200,000 BC
600 BC
55 and 54 BC
Caesar raided; only intent was reconnaissance. His first trip resulted in his ships being damaged; so, he came back with 10,000 or more men! He established a ruler he called a “client king.” This lasted for a few years.
55-54 BC
43 AD
410 AD
The Influence of Christianity

In 595, the Roman Pope sent a prior- Augustine- to bring Christianity to the wilds of Great Britain, which was still under Anglo-Saxon rule.
With permission from King Aethelberht, Augstine successful Christianized much of Britain; this led to hundreds of new religious-based and Latin words to the growing English language.
William Shakespeare 1564-1616

Many consider Shakespeare to be the greatest English poet/writer.
He coined/changed over 1700 words in the English language!
Words that include: bet, bump, bloodstained, discontent, excitement, scuffle, swagger, unreal, and submerge.
King James

In 1603 King James (James I/James VI) joined Scotland and England under one crown.
James hired a large group of translators to rewrite The Bible into English.
This new translation would help promote the literary use of the language.
The History of the English Language in 10 Minutes
Noah Webster was concerned about helping Americans create a national identity separate from Britain.
He was particularly obsessed with the idea of a language that was also separate from it's overseas counterparts-- new idioms, pronunciation, and style.
Webster's new dictionary held over 70,000 words and would standardized American English
At this same time, classes in school studied pronunciation of words phonetically, and it was this practice that helped to change the sound of American words borrowed from the British


WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote 1
The droghte 2 of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich 3 licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 5
Inspired hath in every holt 4 and heeth
The tendre croppes, 5 and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 6
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye, 10
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages: 7
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
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