The english language?

Where does the english language have its very beginning? I know it combines many different sources but how did it actually come about and when?

4 Answers

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    It's not well-understood.

    The key point was the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066. Before that, people spoke Old English, a West Germanic language with a rather complex grammar - inflections, case endings, grammatical gender, and so on - that looked like this:

    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

    Over only 300 years or so, Old English had a massive 'reboot', dropping huge amounts of grammatical complexity, and become Middle English, the language of Chaucer:

    Oure fadir that art in heuenes,

    halewid be thi name;

    thi kyngdoom come to;

    be thi wille don, in erthe as in heuene.

    Yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce,

    and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris;

    and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.

    Nobody knows exactly how it happened; the process wasn't documented. There's one theory that Middle English developed as a 'pidgin' - a kind of cut-down hybrid language to enable communication between the natives and the Norman incomers - that later firmed up into a 'creole', a new language in its own right. But that's a nice theory that doesn't terribly wash in the detail and timings: for instance, the simplification of grammar had already started before the Normans arrived.

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    The "English" side comes from the Anglo-Saxons, about 1500 years ago, though the language of that time would be quite unreadable to a modern English-speaker.

    Other influences are Latin and French. More recently we have borrowed words from colonial areas such as India and Africa.

    In other words, English is a hodge-podge language, with Germanic "grammar" and many other influences.

    Note also that it has divided into several versions, with some almost incomprehensible to a native British or American speaker of "conventional" English. For that matter, I, as a southern English person, find some northern English accents and dialects difficult, and very few people who live outsided Glasgow can understand a native Glaswegian!

  • 7 years ago

    English is a Germanic language [ like German and Dutch, and th4e Scandinavian languages]

    It was brought to the British Isles by invaders from continental Europe in the 5th century Ad , about 1,500+ years ago. What records we have left of the early language are called " Anglo-Saxon" or Old English.

    Before that - when the invading tribes still lived in continental Europe, probably in the areas that are now north Germany and south Denmark - their language was called West Germanic, and before that , Proto-Germanic.

    If you go back even further, almost all the languages in Europe, plus the languages of Iran, Pakistan, some Indian languages - are all descended from a common ancestor, which is known as Indo-European.

  • 7 years ago

    Way back in the "new" (i.e.late) stone age the speakers of a language near Russia's Pripet Marshes began migrating in all directions, getting as far as Ireland in the west, northern India in the south, hence the descriptive name "Indo-European" for their language. As they spread out they lost touch with each other and so developed different dialects, which eventually became so different as to lose mutual intelligibility. The first one to leave a written record and reveal the oldest known of these dialects was Hittite, spoken in Anatolia (now Turkey) around 1700 BC. A dialect spoken in Scandinavia known to scholars as Urgermänisch gave rise to West Germanic spoken in northern Germany around 200 BC. A very distinctive form of this still spoken by 500,000 people along the coasts of northern Holland, southern Denmark and N.W. Germany is Fri(e)sian. This was taken by migrants from Angeln, Saxony and Jutland to Britain, where it was affected by the Celtic (i.e. Old Welsh) of the existing inhabitants (place names, the words "mam" and "dad" and verbal periphrasis), and later contaminated by the Old Norse (ancient Danish) of Viking invaders ("big" and "small" alongside "great" and "little") during the 9th-10th centuries. In 1066 England was conquered by the Norman French, giving us an upper class that spoke French for 500 years (and a new upmarket French word for almost every object and activity known to man, besides radically simplifying our grammar). English survived as the despised English of serfs and kitchen maids until the social chaos following the Black Death allowed sufficient upward social mobility to make English half-way respectable again: the courts began accepting evidence in English around 1380.. Our first printer, William Caxton,realizing he could not compete with cheap imports in French or Latin, saw a niche market and not only printed in English but for purely commercial reasons concocted a normalized national dialect for his books (his prefaces openly boast how he did this) and, since Scotland had no printer, could even sell his books there with the result that by 1700 the Scots even began speaking an approximation to this sort of English. All this time the Church, the learned and the educated had been introducing Latin and Greek borrowings in the fields of theology, alchemy, astrology, mathematics etc. When empire building began in the 16th century, words for exotic plants, textiles and social customs came flooding in. But after all this English remains so close to its original Frisian that a friend sailing from Holland earlier this month told me how he had mistaken a party of Frisians on the ferry for Geordies (speakers of Northumberland dialect English).

    Source(s): A life long interest in comparative Germanic grammar and in the history of printing, plus fluent Portuguese, very good French, Latin and Spanish and a lesser competence in several other European languages, including a smattering of Welsh.
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