A Brief History of the English Language
What do you learn at your English language school in Los Angeles? Modals, vocabulary, sentence structures, etc, right? But have you ever thought about the history of the English language?
A language is a living thing, and as such, it evolves through time. Just imagine traveling back to the past. You’d be perplexed by the way people spoke English then. Throughout history, numerous social, economic, and cognitive factors have affected its development. So, to get you intrigued with this topic, here is a short history of the English language. Read on!
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Where was English first spoken?
English is a West Germanic language that descended from Anglo-Frisian dialects introduced to Britain by three Germanic tribes, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. These warlike tribes invaded and settled on the island during the 5th and 6th centuries AD, pushing native Celtic-speaking inhabitants to the north and west (present-day Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall).
Over time the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes mixed their various Germanic dialects, creating what is today known as Old English, the first stage in the history of the English language. Originally, the words England and English derived from the Old English word Angle-land, which means “the land of the Angles” where the people spoke “Englisc”.
Who is the father of the English language?
Geoffrey Chaucer is considered to be the father of the English language. He was born in London sometime between 1340 and 1344 to a wealthy family. An English author, poet, and philosopher, he also pursued a career in the civil service as a diplomat, member of parliament, bureaucrat, and courtier.
In his time, Anglo-Norman French and Latin still dominated the literary landscape in England. However, Chaucer wrote in Middle English, so he played a key role in establishing it as a literary language. More than two thousand English words first appear in his manuscripts.
Chaucer's most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, a collection of twenty-four stories written in Middle English. He also wrote The House of Fame, The Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde, and The Legend of Good Women.
How old is modern English?
The modern English language emerged between 1450 and 1500. There are two stages in its development: the Early Modern Period (from 1450 to 1800) and Late Modern English (from 1800 to the present).
The shift from Middle English to Early Modern English happened due to numerous cultural, political, and economic factors. One of them was the invention of the printing press. William Caxton established his printing press at Westminster Abbey in 1476. This was significant because people started using a common language in print. As a result, English grammar and spelling became more standardized. And since most publishing houses were in London, its dialect became the standard.
Also, during the English Renaissance, many Greek and Latin words entered English. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) invented many English phrases and sayings, still used today. Finally, there was the rise of the British Empire and the Industrial Revolution, which led to the expansion of the vocabulary.
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Do you want to discover some amusing facts about English? Or do you prefer to memorize some weird English words just for fun? Come to the College of English Language and learn whatever interests you. Our native teachers will know how to make your learning journey more exciting and will help you with all challenges you may have.