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Evolution of the English Language

Students will interpret contemporary linguistic issues by applying an understanding of events and influences in the evolution of the English language.
by

Katelyn Shanklin

on 27 September 2011

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Transcript of Evolution of the English Language

Evolution of the
English Language Students will interpret contemporary
linguistic issues by applying an understanding
of the major events and influences in the
history and evolution of the English language. Prior Knowledge:
Answer all the questions as best you can.
If you don't know, think about it... you
may be able to guess based on what you
already know. The Beginning Around 55 b.c.e., the Romans, led by Julius Ceasar, began to invade the British Isles.
They officially took power around 43 c.e. At the time, the local inhabitants of the British Isles spoke Celtish, but most Celtic speakers were driven out of the area.
Very few speakers of the language remain today.
When the Roman Empire fell, the Romans left Britain, and the Celts remained.
Around 449, tribes from around the area now known as Germany began to settle in the British Isles.
There were three of these Germanic tribes: The Jutes, the Angles, and the Saxons.


Old English These tribes mixed together into the culture we now refer to as the Anglo-Saxons.
Their languages mixed together as well, and became Old English.
Old English is only responsible for about 1% of the words in our language today. But they are some of the most important words we have.
Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;

Si þin nama gehalgod

to becume þin rice

gewurþe ðin willa

on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.

urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg

and forgyf us ure gyltas

swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum

and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge

ac alys us of yfele soþlice

While the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons were populating the British Isles and giving birth to the English language, their countrymen were also migrating and settling.
Other Germanic tribes produced other Germanic languages, all of which share some structural and syntactical similarities with English.

The Anglo-Saxons were pagans, like the other Germanic and Scandinavian tribes. The days of the week were named after their gods– Wednesday was named for Woden (Odin), and Thursday for Thor.
St. Augustine was largely responsible for bringing Christianity and literacy (reading and writing) to Britain when he arrived as a missionary in the 6th century.

From the 6th century until the 11th century c.e., the Vikings continually invaded and inhabited parts of the British Isles.
This explains many of the similarites between English and some Scandinavian languages like Norwegian. English meets French In 1066, William the Conqueror, of Normandy (Vikings), finally invaded Britain once and for all.
Prior to invading Britain, the Normans had invaded and occupied the French coast for quite some time. They had adopted the French language almost completely. Consequently, French became the language of the English nobility, and the two languages started to bleed into one another.
The form of English that emerged from this bizarre marriage of Old English and Norman French is called Middle English.
Middle English was the language of English commoners from around 1348-1476 c.e.
Modern English Two things caused the transition from Middle English to Modern English:
1. The invention of the printing press, and
2. Something called the Great Vowel Shift. William Caxton invented the printing press in 1476. This meant that people suddenly had access to identical texts. Conventions of print began to become normalized.
As the British began to travel and entertain visitors from other parts of the world, there was a change in the pronunciation of vowels. This changed the way words were spelled.
William Shakespeare was one of the first writers to use
Modern English exclusively. The first dictionary was
published in 1604, which
helped to regulate
spelling... And then in the 18th century, the first guidelines of English grammar were written, using Latin grammar as a model... New technologies and media have changed the availability of text, and increased communication and travel have changed the frequency with which English speakers interact with speakers of other languages... So what happens next? In the 1990s, there was an enormous debate in the California public schools over whether or not to consider Ebonics (AAVE dialect) a separate language.
Today, you can frequently hear parents complaining that their teenaged children are using “text-speak” or “IM-speak” instead of “proper English.”
Reflect:
Think about what you learned today about the history of the English language. How can this knowledge provide insight into these contemporary debates?
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