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A History of English Chapter 1 Introduction 2 Introduction 1 “To Aetius, thrice consul, the groans of the Britons.” Bede (730), Ecclesiastical History.

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Presentation on theme: "A History of English Chapter 1 Introduction 2 Introduction 1 “To Aetius, thrice consul, the groans of the Britons.” Bede (730), Ecclesiastical History."— Presentation transcript:


2 A History of English Chapter 1 Introduction

3 2 Introduction 1 “To Aetius, thrice consul, the groans of the Britons.” Bede (730), Ecclesiastical History of the English nation; Gildas, De Excidio Britannicae Picts,Scots, Huns “They consulted what was to be done, and where they should seek assistance to prevent or repel the cruel and frequent incursions of the northern nations; and they all agreed with their King Vortigern to call over to their aid, from parts beyond the sea, the Saxon nation…”

4 3 Introduction 2 In the year of our Lord 449…the nation of the Angles, or Saxons, being invited by the aforesaid king, arrived in Britain with three long ships, and had a place assigned them to reside in by the same king, in the eastern part of the island, that they might thus appear to be fighting for their country, whilst their real intentions were to enslave it. Accordingly they engaged with the enemy, who were come from the north to give battle, and obtained the victory; which, being known at home in their own country, as also the fertility of the country, and the cowardice of the Britons, a more considerable fleet was quickly sent over, bringing a still greater number of men, which, being added to the former, made up an invincible army.”

5 4 Introduction 3 “In their days Hengest and Horsa, invited by Wurtgern, king of the Britons to his assistance, landed in Britain in a place that is called Ipwinesfleet; first of all to support the Britons, but they afterwards fought against them” (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle)

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7 6 Introduction 4 Saxons, Angles, Jutes “In a short time, swarms of the aforesaid nations came over the island, and they began to increase so much that they became terrible to the nations themselves who had invited them…” 457: “In this year Hengest and Aesc (the leaders of the Jutes) fought against the Britons at a place called Crayford and there slew four thousand men; and the Britons then forsook Kent […]” 473: “In this year Hengest and Aesc fought against the Welsh […] and the Welsh fled from the English as one flies from fire […]” The history of English as a narrative

8 7 A history vs. The history There is not one story to tell The familiar narrative originated in the 19th century, drawing on the idea of a national identity Nationalism assumes the existence of an unchanging national essence residing in shared ethnic origin, fixed territory, common language Emphasis on early history, on Anglo-Saxon roots, on Standard; varieties neglected

9 8 One “truth”: English is a contact language, a Mischsprache Contact situations: Latin, Celtic, Scandinavian (Viking), Norman French, Central French, Latin again

10 9 When did English begin? The name of the language: Pytheas, Pretanoi, Britanni, Britannia Picti, Wealas, Angli, Aethelbert, Angli, Anglia, Englisc, Englaland, England The roots: Indo-European family of languages

11 10 When did ‘English’ begin? The traditional answer: When a branch of the West Germanic family of languages was brought to what is today England, from the 5th century onwards, by the Germanic peoples collectively known as Anglo-Saxons (a number of tribal groupings, each of which spoke a different, though mutually intelligible variety)

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15 14 Franks Casket Fisc flodu ahof on fergenberig War† gasric grorn †ær he on greut gisworn Den Fisch hat die Flut emporgehoben auf die Strandeshöhe Es ward der Ozean bekümmert als er auf das Geröll antrieb

16 15 Traditional periods Old English: ca. 500-1100 Middle English: 1100-1500 Early Modern English: 1500-17/1800 Late Modern English: 1700-1900 Modern English: 1900-??? Postmodern English? Global English? Beowulf, Geoffrey Chaucer

17 16 Henry Sweet before the Royal Society 1873 I propose, therefore, to start with the three main divisions of Old, Middle, and Modern, based mainly on the inflectional characteristics of each stage. Old English is the period of full inflections, Middle English of levelled inflections, and Modern English of lost inflections. gifan,given, give nama, name, name

18 17 The history of English: a story of invasions and cultural revolutions The Germanic Invasion 449 The Norman Invasion 1066 The Renaissance, the Printing Press, the discovery of the New World,and the Reformation 1500 The independence of the American colonies: the end of the English monopoly on the language 1776

19 18 Other important factors: The invasion of the Scandinavians from the end of the 8th century onwards The Royal dynasties: Lancaster, York, Tudors

20 19 Intralinguistic criteria The branching off of English from other Germanic dialects The loss of inflections The end of French influence Latin and Greek loans Standardization of Spelling and Grammar The spread of English: New Englishes industrialization

21 20 What is English? Standard English vs. Varieties Dialects and Registers Written vs. Spoken English Englishes, the English Languages Lingua franca

22 21 What is a standard language? A standard language is a written variety which is either imposed or promoted over a wider geographical area than where it originated with the aim of making it the principal or sole written form in the country as a whole It is regulated, codified, and has overt prestige

23 22 Standard Varieties of English West Saxon Standard No Standard English in Middle English: instead Latin and French The London standardization from 1400 on: English as a national language promoted by the Lancastrians (Henry IV, V) Chancery Standard: spelling standardization, printing press

24 23 When did English begin: another answer A more realistic answer: with the development of a standardised written form of the language, under the influence of Latin (providing a guide as to what a standardised language should look like) This did not happen before the ninth century under King Alfred the Great This answer underestimates dialects

25 24 Alternative histories Old English as the first phase of several phases in a single on-going language Old English as the ancestor of an English within which Sots is a distinct entity Old English as the common ancestor of both English and Scots Language history as a continuum English as a pluricentric language English-Only Europe?

26 25 Samuel Daniel “And who in time knows wither we may vent The treasure of our tongue, to what strange shores This gaine of our best glorie shal be sent, T’inrich vnknowing Nations with our stores? Which worlds in th’yet vnformed Occident May come refin’d with th’accents that are ours?”

27 26 Causes of language change: external Imperfect learning Substratum Individual variation Linguistic accomodation Migration, Prestige Replacement Contact vs. Separation

28 27 Causes of language change: internal Ease of articulation Analogy Reanalysis Grammaticalization

29 28 Sources of Information on Language Change Evidence from archaeology Theoretical reconstruction Spelling and Misspellings Rhymes Translations Modern dialects as mirrors to the past ‘Linguists’

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