English is today’s most international language (20% speak it), but…
When and where was it born?
How did it evolve?
How did it spread around the globe?
What languages are related to English?
What other languages influenced English?
It is impossible to say the exact time and place when a language is born.
There are always previous languages that give some material, contacts with other languages, etc.
The Celtic Stock
The Celtic language was one of the first known to be recorded in Britain before the following invasions of the island.
Celtic tribes (coming from Europe) lived in Britain in the Iron Age for over 500 years until the arrival of the Romans.
The Celts in Europe
The Roman invasion
Julius Caesar conquered Britain in 55 BC and Claudius in 43 AD, but it wasn’t permanent or really influential.
Latin was never the language of the people, it was only the language of the ruling class.
The Roman invasion
Rome introduced Latin words in commerce, religion, army, some place names, etc.
Christianity introduced more Latin in the English language later on.
The Roman Empire
The Anglo-Saxon Conquest
Different Germanic tribes coming from current Denmark conquered Britain in 449 AD .
The Angles and the Saxons were very important and gave English its basic vocabulary and structures . English is Teutonic in essence.
The Anglo-Saxon Conquest
The Anglo-Saxon language is also known as Old English and it is the primitive form of modern English.
The Angles gave the name of the country ( England, “land of Angles”).
Some words coming from Anglo-Saxon are:
This language also left the “Saxon Genitive” ( Terry’s brother )
man eat house work woman
The Germanic family
In the 9th and 10th centuries Vikings from Scandinavia occupied the North-East of Britain.
Their language, Old Norse (connected with the Anglo-Saxon), gave many words to the English language.
The Viking Invasion
Some basic everyday words in English come from Old Norse:
sky leg take window call dirty church
The Norman Conquest The Normans came from Normandy, Northern France in 1066 . It was the last invasion in England but had an enormous influence in many aspects of British life: habits, language, society, literature, justice, etc.
The Norman Conquest
French Influence French was the language of the top of society (government, church, justice…) and little by little its influence spread a bit to the rest of the population who always spoke English. This is the birth of Anglo-French .
French Influence The Normans brought more than 10,000 words into English, 75% still in use and no longer felt as foreign. By the 13th / 14th centuries only the top class uses French. By 15th century it disappears but always as a favourite foreign language. With French also came a lot of Latin vocabulary.
This is the span from 11th to 15th centuries.
Some French words incorporated were:
court advise mutton govern sovereign duke
The Great Vowel Shift meant the complete dissolution between spelling and pronunciation (the first was kept while the second evolved a lot).
English was not a unique language but a collection of dialects ( Southern dialects were more important).
Middle English dialects
Early Modern English
This is the span from 15th to 17th centuries .
The use of the printed press helped to fix the language.
The Renaissance meant the arrival of many classical terms from Latin and Greek (only at cultivated level).
These languages gave many words for different sciences and disciplines (not for common language) and grammar rules.
physics radius history architecture educate algebra
The British Isles
English is now the official language imposed on the whole of Great Britain and also taken to Ireland .
More regional languages ( Welsh and Pictish ) are pushed away and nearly disappeared.
The British Empire
Britain is now a powerful nation and begins its colonial expansion .
North America was the first colony but later many more territories were incorporated to the Empire.
The British Empire By 1870 67% of non-European countries are British .
The expansion of English worldwide meant contact with other languages that gave more new words to English:
tea tornado sauna tattoo yatch futon boomerang pasta
Today English is an international language for communication with more than 1,000 million speakers:
400 m as native speakers
600 m as second language speakers
Varieties of English
English has different variations in every country (British, American, Australian…) and also more local dialects (Brummie, Geordie, Cockney… in the UK)
American English is no doubt the predominant one (TV, cinema, music, the Internet…)
Future of English
English will probably be the international language in the future.
Today’s communication prevents the breaking up of English into different languages.