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History Of English Essay

4070 words - 17 pages

History of English

(Source: A History of English by Barbara A. Fennell)
The English language is spoken by 750 million people in the world as either the official language of a nation, a second language, or in a mixture with other languages (such as pidgins and creoles.) English is the (or an) official language in England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand; however, the United States has no official language.
Indo-European language and people
English is classified genetically as a Low West Germanic language of the Indo-European family of languages. The early history of the Germanic languages is based on reconstruction of a Proto-Germanic language that evolved into German, English, Dutch, ...view middle of the document...

This PIE language was also highly inflectional as words had many endings corresponding to cases.
The spread of the language can be attributed to two theories. The I-E people either wanted to conquer their neighbors or look for better farming land. Either way, the language spread to many areas with the advancement of the people. This rapid and vast spread of the I-E people is attributed to their use of horses for transportation.
Germanic Languages
The subgroup of Germanic languages contains many differences that set them apart from the other I-E languages.
1. Grimm's Law (or the First Sound Shift) helps to explain the consonant changes from P-I-E to Germanic.
* a. Aspirated voiced stops became Unaspirated voiced stops (Bʰ, dʰ, gʰ became b, d, g)
* b. Voiced stops became Voiceless stops (B, d, g became p, t, k)
* c. Voiceless stops became Voiceless fricatives (P, t, k became f, θ, x (h))
Verner's Law explains other exceptions that Grimm's law does not include.
2. Two Tense Verbal System: There is a past tense marker (-ed) and a present tense marker (-s) on the verb (without using auxiliary verbs.)
3. Weak Past Tense: Used a dental or alveolar suffix to express the past (such as -ed in English, -te in German, or -de in Swedish.)
4. Weak and Strong Adjectives: Each adjective had a different form whether it was preceded by a determiner or no determiner.
5. Fixed Stress: The stress of words was fixed on the first syllable.
6. Vowel Changes (Proto Germanic)
* Short o to short a (Latin: hortus, English: garden)

* Long a to long o (Latin: mater, OE: modor)
7. Common Vocabulary: Words developed that hadn't been used before, such as nautical terms (sea). Others include rain, earth, loaf, wife, meat and fowl.

Old English (449 - 1066 CE)
The Old English language (also called Anglo-Saxon) dates back to 449 CE. The Celts had been living in England when the Romans invaded. Although they invaded twice, they did not conquer the Celts until 43 CE and Latin never overtook the Celtic language. The Romans finally left England in 410 CE as the Roman Empire was collapsing, leaving the Celts defenseless. Then the Germanic tribes from the present-day area of Denmark arrived. The four main tribes were the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians. These tribes set up seven kingdoms called the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy that included: Mercia, Northumbria, Kent, Wessex, Sussex, Essex, and East Anglia. Four dialects were spoken in these kingdoms: West Saxon, Kentish, Mercian and Northumbrian. The Celts moved north to Scotland, west to Ireland and south to France, leaving the main area of Britain.
In 731 CE, Bede wrote the "Ecclesiastical History of the English People" in Latin. It detailed the sophisticated society of the Germanic tribes. They had destroyed the Roman civilization in England and built their own, while dominance shifted among the kingdoms beginning with Kent and Northumbria. They aligned with the Celtic clergy and converted to Christianity. Laws and...

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