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Why Don’t We Speak Viking? A Brief History of the English Language.

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Presentation on theme: "Why Don’t We Speak Viking? A Brief History of the English Language."— Presentation transcript:

1 Why Don’t We Speak Viking? A Brief History of the English Language.

2 A question to start? If you could go back in time just 100 years, what would the people of Arlington say about the way you talk? What would explain the differences between your speech and theirs?

3 How Did English Happen? The language we speak has been growing for 1500 years. We’ve borrowed (and continue to borrow) pieces from German, Latin, French, Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Italian, American Indian dialects, African dialects, Dutch, Scandinavian, Celtic, and others. Study of the English language is an exercise in multiculturalism and world travel.

4 Old English Going back in time, the residents of England didn’t interact much with the outside world until . . . . . . roughly 450 AD when the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade the British Isles. The resulting language borrows heavily from these Scandinavian “guests”.

5 Remember: William Shakespeare, the Bible, and early Americans are NOT Old English. The Old English era continues until about 1066 AD. An example . . .

6 Beowulf What follows is a line-by-line translation
              1Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum,            LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings               2þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,            of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,               3hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.            we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!               4Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena/ þreatum,            Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,               5monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,            from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,               6egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð/            awing the earls. Since erst he lay               7feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,            friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:               8weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,            for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,               9oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra            till before him the folk, both far and near,             10ofer hronrade hyran scolde,             who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate, Beowulf if the most famous of all works from Old English. It dates from roughly the year 800. This translation comes from:

7 Language Casserole The language of the native speakers gets mixed up with the language of the conquering peoples. In about the year 700, when the native Britons had been (mostly) converted to Christianity, they began to write.

8 1066: Remember The Date The period from is referred to as the Old English period (and neither Shakespeare nor George Washington was around then). In 1066, the Norman Invasion happens. Normans (aka, people from the area now know as France) invade and conquer Britain. Now there’s a new language casserole being created.

9 The Best of Middle English
From The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue Here bygynneth the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury       Whan that Aprill, with his shoures sooteThe droghte of March hath perced to the rooteAnd bathed every veyne in swich licour,Of which vertu engendred is the flour;5Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breethInspired hath in every holt and heethThe tendre croppes, and the yonge sonneHath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,And smale foweles maken melodye,10That slepen al the nyght with open eye-(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimagesAnd palmeres for to seken straunge strondesTo ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;15And specially from every shires endeOf Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,The hooly blisful martir for to sekeThat hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke. This dates from about the year 1300. This translation comes from:

10 More on Middle English Middle English is much more recognizable as the English we speak today. You can decipher most of it with some head scratching and a big dictionary. The Middle English period goes from 1066 to about 1485.

11 (Early) Modern English
1485 (give or take a few dozen years) begins the Modern era of English. History buffs will note that this corresponds to the beginning of the Renaissance.

12 What does Early Modern English look like?
Ever hear of a little guy named William Shakespeare? How about the King James Bible? They may sound a bit funny to our ears, but they are modern.

13 Early Modern From Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623).
This picture from:

14 It doesn’t sound modern to me.
It’s modern because 98% of the words used by English speakers then are still in use today. Those English speakers had access to the wonderful world of books and a printing press. They also were able to spread their language around the world a bit.

15 WHAT NEXT? For the next 500 years, things continue to change.
Words continue to evolve and get swapped among languages. The language you speak says much about your history and the history of the places you were born and live.

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