The earliest English language writing comes from the 7th century, but by 1000 AD, the language was already widely spoken. Before that, it existed as various Germanic dialects, including Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon. The first historical record of the modern English language dates back to 1150 AD, during the reign of King Henry II.
When did English Language Start?
The Old English language evolved from the Germanic languages. It started to split off around 600 AD, though it was still very close until 800 AD (so-called Anglo-Saxon period). There were several different dialects spoken at this time; Old Saxon and Old Northumbrian being some of them. Modern English is derived mainly from these original two dialects, with little influence by Danish or Continental European languages like French, Spanish or Italian. Middle English developed during the 11th century, drawing on Old and Early Modern French as well as Italian (for example) for new words.
England & English
William I of England (later, William I. of England) invaded the island of Britain from his home base in northern France, taking what was then called ‘Northumbria’ plus the area around Newcastle upon Tyne. He had landed in both areas, but after his death, most of what is now disputed by Scotland was taken over by Scotland. England’s claim was to the Elbe river- Elburton, hence England. Other English monarchs called their kingdoms after locations in England at points of strength; for example Kent (battle related) and Poitou (from French).
Dialects and accents in Britain
The main regional accent of English has typically been known as the “general national” accent. However, there are various sub-divisions that have become more common over time. Something like an East Midlands dialect or a Yorkshire dialect tends to be associated with specific professions and circles of society.
The overall “general national” accent is known as the Received Pronunciation (RP). It hasn’t made any attempts to standardize itself, instead of giving regional accents free reign. Critics say this encourages local variation and makes communication difficult for outsiders trying to learn English.
Changes in grammar
While the grammar of English has changed very little, there are some new changes that have taken place in more recent years (these generally relate to recent European immigration).
The following adjectives derive from Old English roots: blond (“fairy”), “grey”, “bald” and “lean”; “dish” came from Old English; “hop”, “trip”, arrived in the 16th century (from French).
Old English verbs
The following new verbs have been created since Old English:
- ‘to do’: To shop, to dine.
- ‘not to do’: Not shopping, not dining.
- ‘to cost’: To be cheaper.
- ‘not to account for’: Not costing, not accounting.
Some would argue that the vowel sounds of English have not greatly changed since Old and Middle English. There is a minor controversy about the pronunciation of high front unrounded vowels, such as, for example, “l” and “e”. Some linguists believe that these sounds were not as rounded as their modern counterparts. This explains the difference in pronunciation of Sir (rhymes with root) compared to Sir (particles).
Evolution of English pronouns
- Old English pronouns were far more different depending on gender. The new pronoun “you” was created by Shakespeare to mockingly portray schoolboy speak.
- The new pronoun “we” evolved from the plural form of the word ‘us’ meaning one’s countrymen according to George Orwell who coined it as a political alternative. This seemed rude yet surprised people because their subconscious mind thought that “we” meant you and I or somebody else.
- Nowadays there are over 80 pronouns in the English language and 25 of them have been invented recently including: “there”, “own”, “was “, “were”, “who?”, “him”, “her”, “them” etc.
- The use of the pronouns differs depending on if you are talking about yourself or somebody else.
The vocabulary of Shakespeare vs. rappers
Jun 5, 2014: It turns out that for the same sized block of lyrics, a good handful of rappers use a lot more vocabulary than Shakespeare did. Rap is the only music genre where you can make up your own words, like getting dope or turnin’ my swag on.
Slam poets are credited with the first recorded use of over 1,700 words in the English language, or with the invention or introduction to more than 20,000 words in their poems.
1- Why is it important to know about the history of the English language and how it evolved over time?
That was the first thing that piqued my interest just because of how weird it sounds. Here’s what I know about the English language:
Many words, left off today’s word lists are rarely used or have fallen out of common use by accident after being overused so much they became clichés. Vocabulary is often reduced to its simplest form, for example, the word “Mum” was effectively reduced by three syllables by replacing “Mother”.
2- Is there any way to go back in time and see what was happening at that particular moment in history when the first words were written down for us to read today?
What I found was strange, the idea of writing may be more than 2,000 years ago just seems to be forever in time. We know that language is always changing and evolving over time but there were some written texts more than 3,500 ago just seemed so ancient. They also suggest that.
3- How did the English language evolve over time?
During the Middle Ages, new words were constantly being added to English vocabulary. The spellings used in writings of that period are known as Anglo-Saxon for “old speech” or Nordic. For example, there was no word for ‘log’ at this time but had to be inferred from its Saxon name, “law”. The poet Beowulf was the first to give its pronunciation.
4- Why are accents not used in the English language?
When English was first being used, it’s almost an entirely different language. Vocabulary terms are less likely to be the original ones because the years have passed over time and made them difficult or old words that may sound “off.” It has become more linguistically reasonable for these differences.
In conclusion, the English language is constantly evolving and changing. As it has evolved, there have been many changes to the way it is used. These changes are still occurring today as new words are added to the English language. The changes that occur over time are not only limited to grammar but also include vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling.