The history of English By John Whelpton 1. BEFORE ENGLISH The IndoEuropean Language Family English is one of a large group of languages spoken over most of Europe and also in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Northern India and Sri Lanka. They developed from a parent language probably spoken somewhere in Eastern Europe or Western Asia around 5000 years ago. The Celts • Two thousand years ago, people speaking Celtic languages, one of the main branches of Indo-European, occupied most of what is now Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and northern Italy WHAT A CELTIC VILLAGE IN BRITAIN AROUND 40 A.D. PROBABLY LOOKED LIKE Celtic languages are still spoken in some parts of Britain, especially in Wales. Here are some lines from the oldest surviving Welsh poem, Y Gododdin, which was written in the 7th century A.D. It describes fighting between Celts and English in southern Scotland, which was then still a British (Welsh)-speaking area Gwyr a aeth Gatraeth, oedd ffraeth eu llu, Glasfedd eu hancwyn a gwenwyn fu, Trychant trwy beirant yn catau, A gwedi elwch tawelwch fu. Men went to Catraeth, their group was swift Fresh mead was their drink, and it was bitter Three hundred fighting under orders And after the cries of joy there was silence CELTIC WORDS IN ENGLISH • Very few words were taken from Celtic when Englishspeakers first entered Britain and almost all of these were place or river names (e.g. Avon, Severn, Kent, Trent, Thames etc.) • Words borrowed later included: – (from Welsh): penguin (= head+white), maggot, flannel – (from Cornish): gull, puffin (names of seabirds) – (from Irish/Gaelic): slogan, whisk(e)y, hooligan, pony, trousers • Some scholars believe that the very frequent use of the present continuous tense in English is a grammatical borrowing from Celtic as this structure (gerund + the verb be) is common in Celtic but not in other European languages THE COMING OF LATIN Latin was the language of the Romans, who first invaded Britain in 55 B.C. England and Wales were actually a part of the Roman empire from 43 A.D. to 410 A.D. Latin never became the speech of the common people in Britain but it remained important for many centuries for communication with the rest of Europe, for record-keeping and for academic writing. Sir Isaac Newton wrote his Principia Mathematica (1687) outlining his theory of gravitation in Latin and only switched to English for his Opticks (1704). 2. THE CREATION OF ENGLISH English developed from the dialects spoken by the Germanic tribesmen who settled in Britain from the 5th century onwards OLD ENGLISH – ENTRY IN THE ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE FOR 867 A.D. • Her for se ilca here innan Myrce to Snotingaham 7 þær wintersetl namn. 7 Burhred Myrcna cing 7 his witan bædon Æþered Westsexna cing 7 Ælfred his broðor þæt hie him fultmodan þæt hie wiþ þone here gefuhton. 7 þa ferdan hie mid Westsexna fyrde innan Myrce oþ Snotingaham 7 þone here þær metton on þam geweorce 7 hie hine inne besætan, 7 þær ne wearð þeahnam hefelic gefeoht, 7 Myrce friþ naman wiþ þone here. THE ENTRY IN MODERN ENGLISH. • In this year that army (i.e the Danish) went into Mercia to Nottingham and settled there for the winter. And Burhred king of the Mercians and his council asked Athered king of the West Saxons and Alfred his brother to help them fight against that army. And they went with the West Saxon forces into Mercia up to Nottingham and they found the Danish army inside its fortified position and surrounded it. However, there was no serious fighting and the Mercians made peace with the Danes. THE VIKING INVASIONS From the 8th century onwards Germanic peoples from Scandinavia came to Britain as raiders and then as settlers THE DIVISION OF ENGLAND BETWEEN ALFRED’S ANGLO-SAXON KINGDOM AND THE DANES Anglo-Chinese Viking (Janet Whelpton, 華美恩 ) with a Viking warrior’s helmet and shield ENGLISH AND OTHER GERMANIC LANGUAGES Norse influence on English • The new settlers, known as Norsemen, Danes or Vikings contributed some basic words to English: – E.g. sky, anger, axle, husband, knife, seem, ill, give • The main influence was perhaps to begin a simplification of English words: English and Norse words often had similar stems but different endings, so the endings were sometimes omitted completely. In 1066 the Normans, Scandinavians who had settled some generations earlier in northern France, defeated the English army in the Battle of Hastings and their leader, Duke William, became the new king of England. The ordinary people farmed the land as before and continued speaking English but the ruling class was now French-speaking. Gradually the Normans became more English but you still needed French to show you were important. In 1300, more than two hundred years after the Battle of Hastings, an English writer, Robert of Gloucester, wrote these words (translated from the French he wrote in). • `... unless a man knows French he is thought little of. But humble men keep to English and their own speech still. I reckon there are no countries in the whole world that do not keep to their own speech, except England only.' During the 14th century English finally replaced French as the language of the law courts and of the schools but the English language was now very different from the English spoken before the Battle of Hastings: • Before 1066, English, like modern German, still had many different endings which had to be added to verbs and nouns to show their grammatical role. By 1400, most of these endings had disappeared. • Before the Normans came, English usually combined simple words and syllables of its own to make new words, just as modern German and Chinese do. After 1066 English began to borrow foreign words instead – chiefly from French (which was itself a later form of Latin) and Latin but later also from many other languages. Examples of English words borrowed from Latin or from French (which developed out of Latin) THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE In Congress, June 4, 1776 The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America. When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. The introduction to the Declaration re-written using only native English words and syllables (from http://anglish.wikia.com/wiki/Saying_Forth_of_Self_Rule) THE SAYING FORTH OF SELFSTANDING In Lawmaker Body, Afterlithe 4, 1776. The anmood saying forth of the thirteen Banded Folkdoms of Americksland, When in the flow of mannish happenings, it becomes needful for one folk to break up the mootish bands which have bonded them with another, and to take among the mights of the earth, the freestanding and even post to which the laws of life and of life’s God give them, a good worth to the thoughts of mankind must needs that they should say forth the grounds which bring them to the sundering. 3. EXPANSION BEYOND THE BRITISH ISLES Settlement of immigrants from Britain in North America began in the late 16th century and increased after the `Pilgrim Fathers’ reached New England aboard the Mayflower in 1620 When the British took control of Quebec from the French in 1759, there were around 1 million English-speakers in North America. As well as the independent United States, English spread to lands which remained or became part of the British Empire. Canada, Australia and New Zealand became largely English-speaking through settlement by immigrants from Britain or elsewhere in Europe and English became the language of administration in territories such as India, even though most of their inhabitants still spoke other languages. Some words borrowed from nonEuropean languages • Native American languages (sometimes borrowed via Spanish): – tomato, avocado, shack (= a hut), axolotl (a kind of fish), coyote (wild dog), maize, wigwam (a conical tent), jaguar, puma • Chinese: – typhoon, coolie, ketchup, lychee, tycoon, chop suey, dim sum • Hindi and other Indian languages: – jungle, bungalow, cot, loot (= goods captured by fighting), curry, mango, avatar, guru, chit (short note or letter) Shortly before his death in 1898, Otto von Bismark, former chancellor of Germany, was asked what would be the most important factor for the 20th century and he replied: `North America speaks English’ French had replaced Latin as the link language between European countries in the 18th century, but after America’s participation in World War I, the French government agreed to English becoming a co-official language with French at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference. Since then the international role of English has continued to grow. How many people now use English? • Estimates of the number of native speakers vary, but it is somewhere between 330 and 400 million. Chinese (counting all dialects together) and probably now also Spanish have more. • The number using English as a second or foreign language is even more uncertain because of difficulty deciding how many of those who study English become fluent users. The total is probably between 300 million and 1 billion. • We also do not know just what percentage of internet pages are in English. A figure of 80% was widely quoted a few years ago. This must have gone down with increasing Internet usage in China and elsewhere but there are probably still more pages in English than any other language. Tasks 1. 2. What pictures do you remember from slide 1? What is the name of the language family English originated from? • 3. 4. 5. 6. Can you remember the countries where languages from this‘family’are now spoken? What countries did the Celts occupy? What did a Celtic village probably look like? Name one country where a Celtic language is still spoken. Why and how did Latin become an important part of the English language? 7. Where did English first develop from? 8. Can you remember what parts of the British Isles were NOT settled by Germanic tribesmen? 9. Who were the Vikings and what was their influence on Britain and the English language? 10. When did French start to play an important role in Britain & why was it so influential? 11. What countries were part of the British Empire & how did they contribute to the development of the English language? 12. What do you think was the legacy of the British Empire? 13. What would the world be like if the British Empire had never existed? 14. What would your country be like?