Origin and Evolution of the English Language


Origin and Evolution of the English Language

Origin and Evolution of the English Language

Origin and Evolution of the English Language

Origin and Evolution of the English Language

English, the most prestigious Lingua- Franca of the globe, is said to have taken birth in Britain around 450 A. D. to be a grand member of the Indo-European Family of Languages. But the English Language we speak today is not merely the language that it was at its birth. English of ours is the result of a tremendous evolution with a drastic change that it underwent throughout its long history of one thousand and six hundred years. The history of English may be divided into three distinct periods, as: (1) The Old English Period (from 450 A. D. to 1066 A D.) (2) The Middle English Period (from 1066 to 1500) and (3) The Modern English Period (1500 to the Present Day). Let us discuss these periods with their salient features in brief, as below:

The Old English Period (450 A. D.)

About 450 A. D. Britain was invaded by the Germanic tribes who included the Jutes, Saxons and Angles. The Celts, the aboriginals of Britain called their Germanic conquerors ‘Saxon’ indiscriminately. The English Language is said to be originated from the dialects spoken by those Germanic tribes who invaded and conquered Britain and since their invasion, the history of the English Language began.

Old English was not entirely a uniform language. In all, there were four dialects, as Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon and Kentish. Of those dialects, Northumbrian and Mercian were spoken in the north region of the River Thames, the abode of the Angels. They possessed certain features in common and were sometimes collectively known as Anglican. The only dialect in which there are an extensive collection of texts is West Saxon which was the dialect of the Jutes in the South-West. With the ascendency of the West- Saxon kingdom, the West- Saxon dialect attained something to the position of the literary standard. Old English was a very resourceful language. It was full of inflections and synthetic. From a root word, it was possible to form more than a hundred words by means of prefixes and suffixes. The Old English gender was grammatical and not natural. The Old English Noun had four cases and there was no Ablative or Locative case. Its adjectives have two-fold declension- one Weak Declension and the other Strong Declension. Like other parts of speech, the Old English verbal system was complicated. It had only two tenses- past tense and present tense. There is some literary text still in existence written during this Old English Period. Among them, mention may be made of the epic entitled Beowulf, Seafarer, The Ruin and a few others. Most of these books are on Christian themes. The most noticeable feature of Old English Poetry is that it was alliterative.

The Middle English Period (1066 to 1500)

In 1066, the Normans, belonging to the Northern Coast of France, made a conquest over Britain and with their conquest, a new turn came over English and the Middle English Period began. When William the conqueror became the king of England the entire English nobility was replaced by the French aristocracy and the French Language disposed English of its rightful place. Only gradually, with the loss of Normandy, particularly in the next century, the ruling class begin to think in English and thus began the process of rehabilitating of English.

The Middle English Period was a period of momentous changes in English. One striking feature of Middle English was its great variety, not only in spoken forms but also in written literature. In absence of a standard medium, the writers naturally wrote in their respective dialects. There were, however, four dialects, as- Northern, East Midland, West Midland and Southern. The peculiarities that distinguished these dialects were partly the matters of pronunciation, partly of vocabulary and partly of inflection. But it was the East Midland Dialect which was the dialect of the metropolis of London became the basis of Standard English. The prominent poet of that period was Geoffrey Chaucer (1350- 1400). His Canterbury Tales may be taken as a specimen of Middle English. Among few others mention may be made of William Langland, John Wycliffe, Malory, Lydgate and Coxton who contributed to the rise of Middle English.

The Modern Period (1500 to the Present Day)

At the end of the 14th century and at the beginning of the 15th century the East Midland Dialect became the recognized standard in both speech and writing and with this, the Modern Period of the English Language made a glorious beginning. Soon within a hundred years which is termed as the Elizabethan Age, English paves its way to modernity to modernity till the present day. During this period English makes tremendous changes in grammar and vocabulary. Many European and even Non- European elements have been added generously to the stock of English and thus it becomes the richest and most flexible language in the world. Now it is used as the prestigious lingua- franca of the present-day world.0 0 0

Origin and Evolution of the English Language

N. B. This article entitled ‘Origin and Evolution of the English Language’ originally belongs to the book ‘Essays on Linguistics‘ by Menonim Menonimus. Origin and Evolution of the English Language

Books on Linguistics by M. Menonimus:

  1. A Brief History of the English Language
  2. Essays on Linguistics
  3. My Imageries
  4. Felicitous Expression: Some Examples
  5. Learners’ English Dictionary

Books of Composition by M. Menonimus:

  1. Advertisement Writing
  2. Amplification Writing
  3. Note Making
  4. Paragraph Writing
  5. Notice Writing
  6. Passage Comprehension
  7. The Art of Poster Writing
  8. The Art of Letter Writing
  9. Report Writing
  10. Story Writing
  11. Substance Writing
  12. School Essays Part-I
  13. School Essays Part-II
  14. School English Grammar Part-I
  15. School English Grammar Part-II..

Related Searches:

  1. 10 Characteristics of Human Language
  2. 10 Main Features of Human Language
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  4. English Language Origin and History
  5. The Evolution of English


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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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