Western Germanic

During this unit of study, we will analyze
the deep history of the English
We will also take a look at some of the
literature that symbolizes each
historical era.
The study of language.
One who studies language is a linguist.
The study of words within the language
is etymology.
The English language is constantly
changing through the addition of new
words and phrases.
i.e. cyber school, online, Internet, etc.
Today, there are over 1 billion words in
the English language.
English has been traced back to its
prehistoric ancestor called IndoEuropean.
Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire
brought Latin to England in 44BC.
An epic poem written
around 800 A.D.
1 – an epic is a long narrative poem about heroic deeds
West Germanic invaders pushed the Celtics
out of the British Isle to what is now
It was created by the combination of Latin
and Western Germanic, the language
brought by the invasion of the Angles,
Saxons and Jutes.
Few words in modern English come from Old
English. Therefore, it is very difficult to interpret
text written in Old English.
However, about ½ of the MOST COMMONLY used
English words used today were derived from old
English roots. Ex. “be”, “water”, and “strong”.
The Canterbury Tales
Written by Geoffrey Chaucer
approx. 1380 AD
Norman Conquest – William the
Conqueror invaded England in 1066.
These new rulers spoke a French.
(Anglo-Norman) This brought French
words to the language. However, it
created a language gap between upper
and lower classes.
 1349 – Black Death killed about 1/3 of
English population, creating the middle
class and more adopted the English
language rather than the Anglo-Norman.
 The language gap between the commoners
and nobility was shrinking.
 1362 – Statute of Pleading declare English
as the official language of the courts.
William Shakespeare
The English language’s most
famous playwright and poet wrote
around 1600 A.D.
 Renaissance Era – French word means
rebirth (transition from medieval to
modern times)
 Brought classic Greek and Latin terms
into the language by scholars.
 Many did not take to this kindly, but
many terms are still alive today.
 Shakespeare coined many idioms
used today.
 Ex. “flesh and blood” and “vanish
into thin air”
 Great Vowel Shift also influenced
Modern English and still does
 Ex. Lyf pronounced leef became
modern life; doon became down
 Printing press had a major influence in
standardizing English words.
 Many more were able to read because it was
quicker and less expensive to make books.
 Most books were printed in London and
therefore the dialect used there became the
 First English dictionary published in 1604
 Basically the only difference from Early Modern
English is that there are more words. We have a wider
Industrial Revolution and the age of technology
require new words to be coined.
Ex. Byte, cyber, hard-drive
Most of these words borrow from other languages like
Latin or Greek.
The English language has borrowed from practically
every language in the world.