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Around AD Danes and Norsemen, also called Vikings, invaded the country and English got many Norse words into the language, particularly in the north of England.

Words derived from Norse include: The most famous is a heroic epic poem called "Beowulf". It is the oldest known English poem and it is notable for its length - 3, lines. Experts say "Beowulf" was written in Britain more than one thousand years ago.


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The name of the person who wrote it is unknown. Middle English circa AD: After William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, invaded and conquered England in AD with his armies and became king, he brought his nobles, who spoke French, to be the new government. The Old French took over as the language of the court, administration, and culture.


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  • Latin was mostly used for written language, especially that of the Church. Meanwhile, The English language, as the language of the now lower class, was considered a vulgar tongue.

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    By about , England and France had split. English changed a lot, because it was mostly being spoken instead of written for about years.


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    The use of Old English came back, but with many French words added. This language is called Middle English.

    A History of the English Language edited by Richard Hogg

    Most of the words embedded in the English vocabulary are words of power, such as crown , castle , court , parliament , army , mansion , gown , beauty , banquet , art , poet , romance , duke , servant , peasant , traitor and governor. It was a massive sound change affecting the long vowels of English. Basically, the long vowels shifted upwards; that is, a vowel that used to be pronounced in one place in the mouth would be pronounced in a different place, higher up in the mouth.

    The Great Vowel Shift occurred during the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. The most famous example of Middle English is Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" , a collection of stories about a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury, England. The portraits that he paints in his Tales give us an idea of what life was like in fourteenth century England.

    A Brief History of the English Language

    Modern English to the present: Modern English developed after William Caxton established his printing press at Westminster Abbey in Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in Germany around , but Caxton set up England's first press. The Bible and some valuable manuscripts were printed. The invention of the printing press made books available to more people. The books became cheaper and more people learned to read.

    Printing also brought standardization to English. By the time of Shakespeare's writings , the language had become clearly recognizable as Modern English. There were three big developments in the world at the beginning of Modern English period: This period in English cultural history early 16th century to the early 17th century is sometimes referred to as "the age of Shakespeare" or "the Elizabethan era" , taking the name of the English Renaissance's most famous author and most important monarch, respectively.

    Although English was spoken widely on the British Isles by 1, AD, the Norman invasion established French as the language of royals and of power. Early Modern English — — the tempest ends in a storm: In the 14thth century, following the Hundred Years War with France that ended French rule of the British Isles, English became the language of power and influence once again. It got a further boost through the development of English literature and English culture, spearheaded by William Shakespeare.

    Towards the end of Middle English, a sudden and distinct change in pronunciation the Great Vowel Shift started, with vowels being pronounced shorter and shorter. From the 16th century the British had contact with many peoples from around the world. This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that many new words and phrases entered the language. The invention of printing also meant that there was now a common language in print. Books became cheaper and more people learned to read.

    Printing also brought standardization to English. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of London, where most publishing houses were, became the standard. In the first English dictionary was published. Last Modern English — Present: Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: From around , the English colonization of North America resulted in the creation of a distinct American variety of English. Spanish also had an influence on American English and subsequently British English , with words like canyon , ranch , stampede and vigilante being examples of Spanish words that entered English through the settlement of the American West.

    History of the English Language

    French words through Louisiana and West African words through the slave trade also influenced American English and so, to an extent, British English. And on that note: From the development of local dialects and slang in countries as far apart as the US, South Africa and New Zealand, and in cities as different as New York, Oxford and Singapore, to the incorporation of tech vocabulary into everyday English.

    English is in a constant state of flux. Vocabulary alone is increasing at a pace of approximately 1, new and approved words per year; and these are just the words that are considered important enough to get added to the online version of the English Dictionary! This dramatic increase in new words is largely due to technology, and how people spontaneously coin new words in their email and text transmissions that spread quickly and efficiently via social media. You get the idea. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.

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