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History of English

An Independent Study Project by Kris Ball

Kris Ball

on 8 December 2014

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Transcript of History of English

Teacher Resources
Classroom Materials
Compiled by
Kristen Ball
Classroom Materials
The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders - mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Old English (450-1100 AD)
The invading Germanic tribes spoke similar languages, which in Britain developed into what we now call Old English. Old English did not sound or look like English today. Native English speakers now would have great difficulty understanding Old English. Nevertheless, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English have Old English roots.

Middle English (1100-1500)
In 1066 William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, invaded and conquered England. The new conquerors (called the Normans) brought with them a kind of French, which became the language of the Royal Court, and the ruling and business classes. For a period there was a kind of linguistic class division, where the lower classes spoke English and the upper classes spoke French.

Early Modern English (1500-1800)
Towards the end of Middle English, a sudden and distinct change in pronunciation (the Great Vowel Shift) started, with vowels being pronounced shorter and shorter. From the 16th century the British had contact with many peoples from around the world. Hamlet's famous "To be, or not to be" lines, written in Early Modern English by Shakespeare. This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that many new words and phrases entered the language. The invention of printing also meant that there was now a common language in print. Books became cheaper and more people learned to read. Printing also brought standardization to English. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of London, where most publishing houses were, became the standard. In 1604 the first English dictionary was published.

Late Modern English (1800-Present)
The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: firstly, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; secondly, the British Empire at its height covered one quarter of the earth's surface, and the English language adopted foreign words from many countries.

The History of English
Autumn 2014
This Prezi was designed as a resource for educators teaching the History of English to students in grades 9-12. I have selected only well-researched, reputable sources, but expect that any teacher using this material would preview selections to ensure they were appropriate for their particular students.
Family Tree of English
Print resources
Brief History of English
Print resources
Audio Resources
Video Resources
Interactive Resources
The History of English Podcast
currently features 53 lectures on the historical evolution of the English language. Here are episodes that would be most relevant to 9-12 classrooms:

Episode 1: Introduction to the History of English

Episode 9: Who were the Indo-Europeans?

Episode 17: Ancient Celts and the Latin Invasion

Episode 29: The Anglo Saxon Invasion

Episode 40: Learning Latin and Latin Learning

Episode 42: Beowulf and other Viking Ancestors

Episode 43: Anglo Saxon Monsters and Mythology
Minna Sundberg, a Finnish-Swedish comic artist, created this beautiful tree to illustrate both the relationships between European and central Asian languages.

, John.
The Origins and Development of the English Language

, David.
How Bronze-Age Riders Shaped the World

, Melvyn.
The Adventure of English

, Bill.
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way

, J.B.
The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians

, Steven.
The Words of the Day: The Evolution of Common English

, Gregory.
The 10,000 Year Explosion

, Anne.
How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction

, Hans-Peter.
The Spiritual World of the Vikings

, Justin.
The Unexpected Evolution of Language

, Richard.
Greek and Latin in English Today

, Seth.
Inventing English: A Portable History of the English Language

, Robert.
The Story of English

, Steven.
A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People

, Peter.
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings

, Scott.
The History of English: A Linguistic Introduction

, Calvert.
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
Episode 1:
Early Origins
of English
Episode 2:
The French
Possible Discussion Questions:

1. According to historians, the Protestant Reformation would not have occurred without translations of the Bible into common languages and the advent of print technology to "spread the Word." Do you agree or disagree? Why?

2. Imagine yourself as a 16th-century Roman Catholic bishop in England. How would you regard Tyndale's Bible? What would you do or say to keep your congregation from reading it?

3. In this episode, we saw how English became an instrument of religious revolution. Can you think of modern situations in which language is a lever for social, political, or religious change?

Episode 3:
Possible discussion questions:

1. Bragg consistently uses words such as “ruthless,” “obstinate,” and “tenacious” to describe the language. To what extent do you think that English—or any other language, for that matter—has a personality apart from the people who speak it?

2. In your opinion, why did the invasion of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes kill off the Celtic language, but the Roman occupation didn’t?

3. Do you think that English’s evolution from an inflected to an uninflected language made it more or less difficult for a non-native speaker to learn? More or less flexible in absorbing words?

Episode 5:
English in
the New
Episode 6:
Episode 7:
and the
Episode 8:
Episode 1:
Episode 2:
The Norman Conquest
Episode 3:
Episode 4:
The King James Bible
Episode 5:
The English of Science
On Language: A New York Times Column
About Usage in Modern America
This collection of one-minute videos is entitled
The English Language in Ten Minutes
. These are highly entertaining, and would be great conversation starters. They are fast-paced and feature a distinctly British humor.
Episode 6:
English and Empire
Episode 4:
Episode 8:
American English
Episode 7:
The Age of the Dictionary
Episode 9:
Internet English
Episode 10:
Global English

Words Matter, So Here's "Word Matters"
The Linguistics of LOL

A Very Brief History of English
These are companion videos to Melvyn Bragg's book,
The Adventure of English
. While accessible, these videos are academic in nature and better suited for accelerated classes.
Resources for Teaching
Possible discussion questions:

1. Bragg notes many word pairs that have similar, but not quite identical meanings: "bit/morsel," "room/chamber," "answer/respond," "wish/desire." How do the meanings of those words differ for you, and how do you use them differently in everyday conversation?

2. Can you think of other word pairs that have different shades of meaning?

3. Can you think of contemporary writers, TV shows, or movies that use different dialects or variations in language to convey character?

Possible Discussion Questions:

1. Why do you suppose that the "purity" and "Englishness" of English became such a hot topic at the end of the 16th century?

2. Bragg focuses on Shakespeare's contributions to the language, noting that roughly 2,000 words commonly used today are first recorded in Shakespeare. Why do we still read and stage his plays today?
Possible discussion questions:

1. In this episode, Bragg emphasizes the egalitarianism of English: if something needs saying, the language will adopt it, regardless of its origin in a social class. Do you think language is more or less egalitarian today than it was in the 19th century?

2. Why do you think some slang words stick in the language ("bootleg," "okay"), and others fade away as fads?

Possible discussion questions:

1. Some Jamaicans want to make Patois the nation's official language and require its formal teaching in schools. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of such a policy?

2. Can you think of similar movements elsewhere?
Many people seek to preserve vanishing tongues such as Welsh and Native American languages. Do you think such efforts are worthwhile? Why or why not?

3. In this episode, we've seen how English evolved differently in different countries. On a smaller scale, has language evolved within your family or social group? For example, have you coined new words or used a word in a peculiar sense that people outside your family or social circle wouldn't understand? What are the effects of speaking a micro-dialect?

Possible discussion questions:

1. During the Enlightenment, new words came into English from science, technology, and commerce. Name as many words as you can that we have adopted from advances in technology over the past 10 years.

2. Reflecting widespread concern about the state of English, Jonathan Swift mounted a campaign to "freeze" the language so that future generations could understand contemporary writers. Do you think such a move is even possible? Why or why not?

3. English is still not the "official" language of the United States, and many people argue that we need an official, standardized English. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
Possible discussion questions:

1. Do you agree or disagree with Bragg's observation that Americans have developed a "classless" language–an everyday informality that doesn't betray a person's social standing?

2. What do you think of prescriptive efforts to protect language, such as France's prohibiting the introduction of English words where French equivalents exist?

3. Bragg notes how ethnic diversity is changing English in places such as the British Isles and Singapore. How is cultural diversity changing American English today?

Word of caution: Episode 5 mentions the scientific origins of the words "penis", "clitoris", and "vagina."
Source: Open Classroom's YouTube channel.
Independent Study
BBC Interactive British History Timeline
The History of English Podcast

The Atlantic: www.theatlantic.com
BBC: www.bbc.com
NPR: www.npr.com
The New York Times: www.nytimes.com

The English History Channel (YouTube)

The Open University Channel (YouTube)

Algeo, John. The Origins and Development of the English Language (2004)
Anthony, David. How Bronze-Age Riders Shaped the World (2007)
Bragg, Melvyn. The Adventure of English (2003)
Bryson, Bill. The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way (1990)
Bury, J.B. The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians (1967)
Cerutti, Steven. The Words of the Day: The Evolution of Common English (2005)
Cochran, Gregory. The 10,000 Year Explosion (2009)
Curzan, Anne. How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction (2006)
Hasenfratz, Hans-Peter. The Spiritual World of the Vikings (1992)
Hayes, Justin. The Unexpected Evolution of Language (2012)
Krill, Richard. Greek and Latin in English Today (1990)
Lere, Seth. Inventing English: A Portable History of the English Language (2007)
McCrum, Robert. The Story of English (1986)
Ozment, Steven. A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People (2004)
Sawyer, Peter. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (1997)
Shay, Scott. The History of English: A Linguistic Introduction (2008)
Watkins, Calvert. The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (1985)
"We have but room for one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans of American nationality and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house."
-Theodore Roosevelt

"To this day, good English usually means the language wealthy and powerful
people spoke a generation ago."
- Jack Lynch
Discussion starters
Full transcript