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The History of the English Language Essay (Article)


Chapter 3 and 4 of Gelderen’s book looks at the analysis of how the English language evolved from the eras of prehistory to the modern English period. Chapter 3 provides information on the prehistory of the English language based on Cavalli-Sforza’s and Greenberg’s work. It goes into great detail to discuss and look at the origins of humans and when they first acquired language while chapter 4 focuses on the details of how the English language developed. It looks at the era before the Proto-European to show how the language in general evolved.

The English Language originated out of another ancient language which was known as Proto-Indo-European that existed 5,000 years ago. It was not the original language spoken by the English people since three other languages had preceded it as the spoken language in the British Isles. It is not known what the original language was though evidence from the archaeological investigations confirms that the Celtics may have earlier inhabited the area.

The next language to enter the British Isles was Latin. This was after the Romans conquered it in the middle of the first century AD. As a result, Latin became the spoken language of the ruling class for many years but even so the Celtic languages continued being spoken among the Celtic people’s. When the Romans finally withdrew their troops in 410 A.D Latin ceased being a spoken language in the British Isles for a while.

The English language entered into the British Isles when Britain got invaded by three Germanic tribes in the 5th century AD.

People in the British Isles spoke the Celtic language and when the Germanic tribes invaded them, they had to move to the western and northern parts of England. The ethnic groups who invaded Britain all spoke similar languages and when these languages came into England they developed into what was known as’ old English’. This was not like English of today although most modern English derives its words from old English. Evidence about Old English exists in texts collected from various regions and even on preserved stone and wood monuments. This evidence points to the fact that old English indeed differed from modern English in its spelling, phonetics morphology, and syntax. This includes words like strong, water, and many others.

The use of old English in England got changed when William the conqueror invaded the country in 1066. The language they brought to England was a kind of French which became adopted by the royal court. The lower classes spoke using the Old English while the royal classes spoke French.

In the 14th Century, English again gained its dominance. It had become revolutionized and now contained many words which the revolution had brought. This was known as Middle English and it was the language used by the renowned poet Chaucer.

Between the periods of 1500-1800, a sudden and distinct change occurred in pronunciation which became popularly known as the “Great Vowel Shift” where vowels pronunciation became shorter and shorter. This shift signaled the end of Middle English, a time that had seen more and more new words and phrases emerging. Then in 1800 and beyond many more words got added into the language. This was principally because of two factors that affected the language namely the industrial revolution and technological advancement.

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IvyPanda. (2020, August 29). The History of the English Language. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-the-english-language/

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"The History of the English Language." IvyPanda, 29 Aug. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-the-english-language/.

1. IvyPanda. "The History of the English Language." August 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-the-english-language/.


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IvyPanda. "The History of the English Language." August 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-the-english-language/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The History of the English Language." August 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-the-english-language/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The History of the English Language'. 29 August.

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