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The evolution of language



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  • 1. The Evolution of Language Old English to Middle English to Today
  • 2. Beginnings of the English Language
    • England was originally part of the Roman Empire, so Latin and Greek were spoken in the area
    • When the Empire collapses, the native Britons go back to using their own regional dialects
    • In the 400s, each group of people living in what is now England had their own language; the dialects were close enough for each to understand the other
  • 3. Settlements in Britain (approx 600 AD) Jutes Saxons Angles Native Britons
  • 4. A Change is Coming
    • In the 800s, the Vikings arrive (mostly from Denmark) and settle with the Anglo-Saxons on the east coast
    • Their language was different enough for two things to happen:
    • 1. Many Old Norse words entered into English (like “they” and “them”)
    • 2. Complex structure of language becomes more simplistic, because people now argued about which form of the language to use
  • 5. Elements of Old English (approx 400-1050)
    • Anglo-Saxon or Old English was pronounced quite differently from Modern English
    • P, b, t, d, m, n, l, and r were pronounced as they are today
    • The letters k, q, v, x, and z were not used
    • Inclusion of distinctly unmodern letters thorn ( þ ) and eth ( ð ).  Both were pronounced like the “th” in thin, unless between vowels, in which case they were pronounced like the “th” in then.  
  • 6. Examples of Old English
    • Min nama is Michael -- My name is Michael.
    • Hwæt eart þu? -- Who are you?
    • Wel þu writst -- You write well.
  • 7. Side by Side Comparison
    • Old English Pronouns
    • ic     
    • wé   
    • þú     
    • gé      
    • hé     
    • héo    
    • hit   
    • híe
    • Modern Pronouns
    • I
    • we
    • --
    • you
    • he
    • she
    • it
    • they
  • 8. Beowulf
    • Old English secular poem
    • Anonymous author
    • Set in Denmark
    • Danish king sent for the hero Beowulf to save his people from the vicious attacks of a monster named Grendel.
    • Only surviving manuscript of its time period (approx 1010 AD)
  • 9. Page of Beowulf Manuscript
  • 10. The Most Important Date - 1066
    • William the Conqueror invades from Normandy (the Norman Invasion); he brings with him a dialect of French
    • French words are introduced into the language (like “maison”)
    • The grammar rules get easier still
  • 11. Middle English (approx 1150-1475)
    • Change in language from Old to Middle English caused partially by William the Conqueror’s invasion
    • French is a big influence
    • Spelling remains inconsistent – based on writer’s dialect
  • 12. Who Speaks What?
    • English = commoners
    • French = aristocracy, monarchy
    • Latin = clergy
    • Greek = philosophers, scientists, medical practitioners
  • 13. Side by Side Comparison
    • Late Middle English Pronouns
    • I     
    • we     
    • thou   
    • ye     
    • he     
    • she   
    • hit    
    • they
    • Modern Pronouns
    • I
    • we
    • --
    • you
    • he
    • she
    • it
    • they
  • 14. Geoffrey Chaucer (early 1340s – 1400)
    • Made a crucial contribution to English literature in using English at a time when much court poetry was still written in Anglo-Norman or Latin
    • Born in London to prosperous wine merchants
    • Educated and spoke a variety of languages – French, Latin, and Italian
  • 15. The Canterbury Tales
    • Written mostly between 1392-1395
    • Depicts a pilgrimage of about 30 travelers on their way to shrine of St. Thomas á Becket
    • On the way, they amuse themselves by telling stories
    • Stories are linked by conversations between travelers that reveal a lot about the characters