History Of English Language History of English Language As I stated previously in my Abstract, the title of my research paper is “History of the English language”. In this paper I will discuss where and how the English language originated and how it has spread to become one of the most spoken languages in the world. Before I started my research on my topic of choice, my original hypothesis was that the English language was started by a whole assortment of Germanic tribes invading England thousands of years ago. This ultimately became the goal of my paper, to see if Germanic tribes started the English language, or if it was started from some other tribes that I was not aware of. The history of the English language is of significance because English is spoken more frequently than any other language except Chinese, (Bright, 1992).
A Germanic language, English is spoken by an estimated 1,500,000,000 people, and that number is ever increasing, (Crystal, 1992). English is the chief language of world publishing, science and technology, conferencing, and computer storage as well as the language of international air traffic control (Crystal, 1992). English is also used for purposes of international communications, and international politics, business communications, and academic communities (Crystal, 1992). The history of English can be traced to the colonization of people from a family of languages, which spread throughout Europe and southern Asia in the fourth millennium BC, (Crystal, 1992). It is thought that a semi nomadic population living in the region to north of the Black Sea moved west to Europe and east to Iran and India, spreading their culture and languages (Crystal, 1992).
The European languages and Sanskrit, the oldest language of the Indian sub-continent, were tied to a common source. When a systematic resemblance was discovered in both roots and verbs and in grammar forms, by comparing similar features of the European languages and Sanskrit, a common source language were reconstructed named Proto-Indo-European (Crystal, 1997). The Proto-Indo-European language was more complex than English today. It is possible to reconstruct three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) and up to eight cases (nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, locative, instrumental). Adjectives agreed in case, number, and gender with the noun.
The verb system was also rich in inflections, used for aspect, mood, tense, voice, person, and number. Different grammatical forms of a word were often related by the feature of ablaut, or vowel graduation: the root vowel would change systematically to express such differences as singular and plural or past and present tense, as is still the case in English foot/feet or take/took (Crystal, 1997). The Proto-Indo-European language is thought to have been spoken before 3,000 BC, and to have split up into different languages during the following millennium (Crystal, 1997). The languages families include Celtic, Germanic, Italic, Indo-Iranian, Tocharian, Armenian, Anatolian, Albanian, Greek, Balto-Slavic, and Slavic languages. Yiddish, German, Afrikaans, Dutch, Flemish, Frisian, and English make up the West Germanic subgroup of the Germanic Branch (Crystal, 1997).
Scholars renamed the language group the Indo-European family after 3,000 BC (Crystal, 1997). Theorists suggest that the horse was a major element of the Proto-Indo-European and the Indo-European family of languages. They speculate that warriors who conquered from horse-drawn chariots spread the culture. The Proto-Indo-European, the Indo-European, and specifically the Germanic language, of which English is a derivative, influenced the early history of the English Language. The early history of the English language began in Britain and with several groups of people.
At first people migrated to the placed now called England. Several invading groups joined the original settlers of England, bringing with them their language and culture. English became a mixture of languages that adapted to the circumstances and the needs of the people. England eventually commanded an empire, thus, spreading the language around the world. When the empire diminished the Americas continued to spread the English language because of their political power and wealth.
The Celts were the first Indo-European people to spread across Europe, (Crystal, 1997). They emerged from south central Europe and spread throughout most of Europe, reaching the Black Sea and Asia Minor. They migrated to southwest Spain, central Italy, and throughout Britain in a series of wave-like migrations. The first group of Celts went to Ireland in the 4th century and later reached Scotland and the Isle of Man. The second group went into southern England and Wales, and later to Brittany, producing a type of Celtic know as British. During the greatest days of the Roman Empire, their law ruled all men from Britain to Egypt, from Spain to the Black Sea, (Van Doren, 1992).
Britain was acquired as a province of the Roman Empire during the 14 century, following the death of Augustus. Words from Latin and Greek languages were adopted into the language. The Greek alphabet, with a few minor changes, is used in the English language today (Asher, 1994). English became a distinct tongue about 449 AD when Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, who spoke Germanic dialects, arrived in Celtic-speaking Britain. Groups of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes came to aid the Britons who were besieged by Picts and Scots after the Roman military withdrew in 410 AD (Bright, 1992). English owes its origin to the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes who crossed the sea and settled in Britain (Dalby, 1998). The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms covered most of what is now England by around 600 AD.
The West Saxons were the most powerful of the new kingdoms, and the only one able to withstand the Viking invasion in the 9th century AD. It was also in Wessex or the West Saxon kingdom that a written language first flourished. The International Encyclopedia of Linguistics divides the history of English into three periods: Old English, Anglo-Saxon from 700 to 1100 AD, Middle English from 1100 to 1500 AD, and Modern English or New English from 1500 to the present (Bright, 1992). Old English (OE) was a highly inflected language. There were suffixes on nouns, verbs, adjectives, and demonstratives.
It had an elaborate system of personal interrogative and relative pronouns. The four dialects during the Old English period were Kentish in the southeast, West Saxon in the south and southwest, Mercian in the Midlands, and North Umbrian above the Humber River. West Saxon was the written standard during the reign of Alfred the Great from 871 to 899 AD. Old English morphology included noun forms of singulars and plurals, with five cases, and three genders. Old English personal pronouns have been retained, and have transferred into New English, more of their morphological variations than any other form class.
With the arrival of the Christian …