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History of the English Language All the Details Your Momma Didn’t Tell You.

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Presentation on theme: "History of the English Language All the Details Your Momma Didn’t Tell You."— Presentation transcript:

1 History of the English Language All the Details Your Momma Didn’t Tell You

2 The Big Picture The primary reason English is so quirky is that it’s a Germanic language upon which they have forced Latin grammar. 5 big events in the history of English language (h.e.l.l.=history of the English language Luigi) – Anglo-Saxons settled in England – Vikings toddled over too – 1066 Norman conquest – Attempt at standardization – Globalization

3 A Complex Timetable

4 Old English (where we started)— Aelfric talking about how the Pope decided to send missionaries to England Eft he axode, hu ðære ðeode nama wære þe hi of comon. Him wæs geandwyrd, þæt hi Angle genemnode wæron. Þa cwæð he, "Rihtlice hi sind Angle gehatene, for ðan ðe hi engla wlite habbað, and swilcum gedafenað þæt hi on heofonum engla geferan beon."

5 Anglo-Saxons Come to Britain Anglo-Saxons brought a Germanic language with them. There is no point in calling their early language English because it was the same dialect that was spoken on the continent of Europe. Over time, Old English emerged as a separate dialect of Old German. In the meantime, speakers of the older Gaelic languages were pushed into Wales and Scotland. Gaelic is also the mother tongue of Ireland.

6 Vikings After the Romans went home to watch their empire be destroyed, the Vikings decided that England was ripe for raiding and eventual settlement. By the 11 th century there was even a Danish king, Canute, in England. The Vikings brought their own version of a Germanic language with them, and Old English sucked a number of words that are in common use today, like take and they.

7 Norman Conquest--1066 This was a monumental event in HELL, but not for the reasons that you might think. For roughly 300 yr. French was the official language of England. That’s not the big deal because English continued to be spoken everywhere outside of the court. The important thing is that the language was neglected for 300 years and left to change as people wished. By the time it again became the official language, it had become bizarre and fragmented.

8 Middle English Lauerd me steres, noght wante sal me: In stede of fode þare me louked he. He fed me ouer watre ofe fode, Mi saule he tornes in to gode. He led me ouer sties of rightwisenes, For his name, swa hali es. For, and ife.I. ga in mid schadw ofe dede, For þou wiþ me erte iuel sal.i. noght drede; Þi yherde, and þi stafe ofe mighte, Þai ere me roned dai and nighte. Þou graiþed in mi sighte borde to be, Ogaines þas þat droued me; Þou fatted in oli me heued yhite; And mi drinke dronkenand while schire es ite! And filigh me sal þi mercy Alle daies ofe mi life for-þi; And þat.I. wone in hous ofe lauerd isse In lengþe of daies al wiþ blisse Lord my steres, not want shall me: In stede of fode there me looked he. He fed me ouer water of fode, My soul he turns in to good. He lead me ouer sties of righteousness For his name, as holy is. For, and if I go in mid shadow of dread, For thou with me while iuel shall I not dread; Thy yherde, and thy staff of might, They are me roned day and night. Thou graithed in my sight borde to be, Ogaines thas that droued me; Thou fatted in oil my head yhite; And my drink dronkenand while schire is ite! And filigh my shall thy mercy All days of my life for-thy And that I wone in house of lord is In length of days al with bliss

9 Standardization Charles I lost his head (literally). Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan Happy Boys were running the show in England for a few years. Charles II returned to England, claimed the throne, and English became, once again, the official language. The word nerds of the time looked at the confused state of the language and called for new standards. Frankly, nobody really cared about that but…

10 Printing Press Before this time, William Caxton brought the printing press to England. THIS is what really brought about standardization of English. Imagine trying to print something for sale throughout England when “Hooked on Phonics” was the only spelling rule. Even as late as Shakespeare’s time, spelling was largely free-form. Letz luk at sum egzampuls.

11 Barriers to Standardization While the Normans were speaking French and ruling England, the language fragmented into literally hundreds of regional dialects. So— whose English becomes the “correct” one?” Have you ever heard of the “king’s English?” The tradition in English has always been to keep the original spelling of loan words, i.e. the French word cuisine. In English this would have been pronounced cheweezyn.

12 They Tried It Anyway There was a chance at this point to REALLY make a change in the language. (time period=1600 to about 1750) But they let the chance slip away. – These guys were still bowing down to Latin as a model of a great language and tried to make English grammar as close to that as possible. It wasn’t possible. – They chose to keep the most “popular” spellings, pronunciations and word meanings rather than the ones that made the most sense, hence rough, slough, debt, etc.


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