History of English Language

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The English language has evolved over time through three different phases- Old English, Middle English and Modern English. Old English is the oldest recorded stage of English and is very different from today’s English. Even a native or fluent English speaker would find it difficult when they try to understand Old and Middle English. And that is due to the massive changes the English Language has gone through over the years; a key factor in the reformation of the English Language is invasion.

Before the Old English, a Celtic language was spoken in Britain. But during the 5th century, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, all of whom speak very similar languages, invaded Britain and the combination of these three languages resulted the Old English.

In 1066, William the Conqueror and the Normans invaded England bringing a form of French to the nation. This became the language of the Royal Court and the upper class whereas Old English still remained common among the lower class; but the recent invasion had brought French influence and verbiage into the English language, creating Middle English. But this division between classes lasted until the 14th century, when Middle English finally became the main language in Britain due to its dominance.

Old and middle English were spoken languages caused by high illiteracy rate in England. It was taught via communication; hence lacked uniformity, causing dialect to heavily influence the means in which one hears another’s words and phrases But this all changed in 1440, when the printing press was invented. The printing press allowed quick, easy and affordable access to books; leading to a sudden increase in literacy rates. In addition, due to most publishing houses being located in London, the London dialect became the standard for spelling and grammar checks; resulting in, for the first time in history, standardized English Language.

Around the 1500s, The Great Vowel Shift started, during which vowels began to be pronounced simpler and shorter, leading to a drastic pronunciation shift. During this time The Great Britain began expanding its empire through imperialism. By the end of the 16th century, more than a third of the world had been influenced by the British Empire; this not only led to the globalization of the English Language we see today, but also influences of other foreign languages made its way into English-resulting in new words and phrases being introduced to English. This is what resulted in modern in English. Even though today’s English is also considered modern English, Modern English from the 1600s and today are very different.

Firstly, American English played a part in the changing of Modern English. Americanized English has words or phrases which were originally British Shakespearean English which now are not common in Britain English but are still a part of the English Language in America. This happened due to The United States of America cutting ties with the British Crown in the 18th century, leading to both British English and American English to further develop on its own. The Spanish Language also played a part in influencing American English as Spanish immigrants moved to the americas. That’s why British English also influenced and changed. Because of the worldwide influence of The United States of America, new Modern English words such as engineering, music, television, and cinema from America became a part of the global English Language. Secondly, one of the most prominent causes of the change in Modern English is technology.

Today specifically social networking plays a major role in the way people talk and communicate with one another. The internet had made it easier for people to gain insight of other people’s lives from all around the world- from a variety of different cultures, language, ethnicity and lifestyle. Making it easier for people to adopt a new vocabulary and dialect in the regular English language; therefore continuously altering the English Language. Colloquialisms also contributed to this ever-changing language. Now no matter where you go around the world, the slang and dialects of the different cultures and places play an important part in making English unique and similar at the same time. Making the language a part of the entire world.

Cite this paper

History of English Language. (2020, Nov 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/history-of-english-language/

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