You are on page 1of 35

LANGUAGE CHANGE

A History of
the English
Language

Key dates: periods of English


450-1150
1150-1500

Old English
Middle English
Early Modern
1500-1700
English
1700-1900 Modern English
Late Modern
1900-present
English

An introduction
When analysing how language has
changed, the following need to be
considered for each period:
Semantics
Lexis
Syntax
Phonology
Graphology

Languages that have


influenced English

5% Greek
7.5% Latin
40% Anglo Saxon
15% Norse
30% French
2.5% other languages

Old
English
years 450-1150

OLD ENGLISH

Context
Celts had been invaded by the Romans which brought
Latin words into the language
Germanic tribes then invaded England (5th century) and
established the Anglo Saxon Heptarchy (a collective name
applied to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east, and
central Great Britain) and introduced their language
Celtic words are rare in modern English, although Celtic
languages do still remain: Welsh, Irish, Gaelic and Cornish
The conversion of the Anglo Saxons to Christianity began
in the late 6th century meaning a large amount of the texts
that have been found of this time are religious
Vikings began to invade at the end of the 8th century. Their
Old Norse language resembled that of the Anglo Saxon
invaders and much of its vocabulary was absorbed
OLD ENGLISH

Words from Old English

Words used today


Pronouns: I, you, he, she, it,
we, this, that, these, those
Nouns: friend, husband,
anger, window, bull, cake,
dirt, sun
Adjectives: happy, cold,
black, bloody, tight, low, ill
Verbs: can, shall, get, give,
want, call
Conjunctions: as, and, but,
so, then
Prepositions: up, down, in,
on, to, by
Adverbs: while, when, where

OLD ENGLISH

Archaic words
Fulsome: rich, plentiful
Onuppan: above
Pudh: horrible
Yore: years ago
Fere: friend, companion
Beseech: request, ask
Nary: none, nothing

Key features of Old English

OLD ENGLISH

UNES

No single, agreed system of spelling


Heavy use of inflections (parts of words, usually
endings, that indicate grammatical functions, e.g.
-eth)
Muscular quality to the words: short, direct and
forceful
Grammatical gender in nouns and adjectives
Writing system involved runes as well as the
Roman alphabet
Use of kennings, e.g. bone-house = body
Flexible word order due to inflections

Key dates for Old English


450

1000

1066

1150

OLD ENGLISH

Beginning of the Old English period


Approximate date of the only surviving
manuscript of Beowulf
Battle of Hastings Norman Conquest
which brought in French to the language
(spoken by the most powerful people,
therefore was used in political
documents, administration and literature)
Middle English period begins

Examples of texts
The following text is from the Anglo
Saxon Chronicle a text from the 19th
century from Alfred the Great who
decided to compile important events.

Translation

Anno 449. Her Martianus and Valentinus


onfengon rice, and ricsodon seofon winter.
And on hiera dagum Hengest and Horsa,
fram Wyrtgeorne gelaode, Bretta
cyninge, gesohton Bretene on m stede
e is genemned Ypwines-fleot, rest
Brettum to fultume, ac hie eft on hie
fuhton. Se cyning het hie feohtan ongean
Peohtas; and hie swa dydon, and sige
hfdon swa hwr swa hie comon. Hie
asendon to Angle, and heton him sendan
maran fultum. a sendon hie him maran
fultum. a comon a menn of rim
mgum Germanie: of Ealdseaxum, of
Englum, of Iotum.

Anno 449. In this year [lit here] Martianus


and Valentinus succeeded to [lit received]
kingship, and ruled seven years. And in
their days Hengest and Horsa, invited by
Vortigern, king of [the] Britons, came to
Britain at the place which is called
Ebbsfleet, first as a help to [the] Britons,
but they afterwards fought against them.
The king commanded them to fight against
[the] Picts; and they did so, and had
victory wherever they came. Then they
sent to Angeln, and told them to send
more help. They then sent to them more
help. Then the men came from three tribes
in Germany: from [the] Old Saxons, from
[the] Angles, from [the] Jutes.

OLD ENGLISH

Middle
English
years 1150-1500

MIDDLE ENGLISH

Context

This period followed the Norman invasion which brought a lot of French into the
language. This is because William, Duke of Normandy, crowned himself the king
of England but only spoke French. This meant English was considered as only
suitable for lower classes
As a result of the Black Death, however, (1348-1351) there was a need for
working class labourers. These people all spoke English, which led to a rise in the
language
The printing press arrived near the end of the period (1476) from William Caxton.
He printed all kinds of texts and in the following 150 years around 20,000 books
were printed. This led to improved literacy rates and lowered price of books.
Printers were able to choose which grammar and spellings to use, leading to a
more standardised language
The accessibility of texts led to an increased interest in literature
The society was very religious at the time (influencing attitudes and also the texts
written at the time)
There was a lack of medical knowledge, so illness was a constant threat
Exploration of the New World brought new words from across the empire,
including coffee, yoghurt, kiosk (Turkish) and bizarre, chocolate, vogue (French)

MIDDLE ENGLISH

Key features of Middle English


Non-standard / inconsistent spelling
Biblical-sounding syntax and imagery
Grammatical conversions: verbification, prefixation, suffixation,
compounding
The spelling of words resembles the literal pronunciation, influenced by
the Bible which was meant to be a spoken text
Prepositional semantic shifts
Lack of do constructions for questions / negatives (e.g. enter not, sit
not
Capitals used for proper nouns but also for important common nouns
Emergence of ; although not yet standardised
Changing vowel sounds (as the Great Vowel Shift began)
French words: more elegant and refined with softer sounds and different
stress on the endings of words
Loss of many inflections, making word order more important
Context can be used to decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words in texts
of this period (unlike Old English where words are difficult for modern
readers to understand)
MIDDLE ENGLISH

Key texts
Chaucers Canterbury Tales
Written from 1387, using romantic language
(Latin and French). The influence of this is
shown through other literary texts produced
after the tales were published

Gawain and the Green Knight


Written religious texts

MIDDLE ENGLISH

Key dates
1171

1476

1500

MIDDLE ENGLISH

Henry II declares himself overlord of


Ireland, introducing Norman French and
English to the country
Around this time the University of Oxford is
founded
William Caxtons printing press arrives
Henry VIII cuts the link between Rome and
the Church of England

Examples of texts
Chaucer
A knyght ther was, and that a worthy
man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and
curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man
ferre,
As wel in cristendom as in
hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his
worthynesse.
At alisaundre he was whan it was
wonne.

MIDDLE ENGLISH

Translation
A knight there was, and he a worthy
man,
Who, from the moment that he first
began
To ride about the world, loved
chivalry,
Truth, honour, freedom and all
courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his liege-lords
war,
And therein had he ridden (none
more far)
As well in Christendom as
heathenesse,
And honoured everywhere for
worthiness.

Early
Modern
English
years 1500-1700
EARLY MODERN ENGLISH

Context
The printing press (established in the Middle English period)
meant spellings became more fixed and established
Science became a key factor in language change as more
discoveries were made. Many words introduced through
scientists were loan words which had been borrowed from
other languages as people struggled to name their
discoveries
Religion was still just as important in society as it had always
been (during this period the protestant reformation occurred,
which also could have informed the language / attitudes )
Exploration and colonisation also affected the use of language
and meant more words were picked up
The Renaissance led to a growth in interest in classical
culture, contrasting to the intellectual sterility of medieval
times
Latin was still spoken and was influential of the English
language, aided by the Renaissance
EARLY MODERN ENGLISH

Words of Latin origin

Ambiguous
Colossal
Emotion
Exaggerate
History
Immense
Intellect
Magnificent

EARLY MODERN ENGLISH

Monopoly
Nation
Opponent
Quotation
Ultimate
Vacuum

Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Shakespeare made a huge impact on the English
language, leading to a more romantic style of
literature, with French and Italian influences (as well
as creating his own words)
He reduced inflections on endings of words, which led
to grammatical conversion (particularly making verbs
from nouns), e.g. season your admiration,
destruction shall dog them at their heels, I, who at
Phillipi, the great Brutus ghosted
He also introduced idiomatic expressions into normal
language, e.g. in my minds eye, a tower of strength,
be cruel only to be kind, love is blind
His use of hyphenated compounds also proved
influential, often to form new words e.g. faire-play, illtuned, pell-mell
EARLY MODERN ENGLISH

The King James Bible (1611)


King James appointed a panel of university
scholars to develop a single Bible translation
for use across the country
They listened to the translations being read
out loud to assess rhythm and balance it is
intended as a spoken document
Unlike Shakespeares language, the King
James Bible reserves an archaic style (e.g.
keeps digged instead of dug and gat
instead of got
EARLY MODERN ENGLISH

Key features of Early


Modern English
The grammar reflected the transition between Middle English and contemporary English
Spelling and punctuation started to become more standardised (inconsistencies remained
but gradually began to disappear)
Shakespeares work utilised unusual words, some inflections (such as est and eth)
were favoured while others completely rejected, and pronouns thou, thee and thy were
used in his work
The use of inflections was reduced (aided by Shakespeares works, mentioned above)
Phonology was influenced by the Great Vowel Shift. This is where the pronunciation of
long vowel sounds transformed to become similar to the pronunciation we have today
Latin and French influences on spelling still remained: v and u were interchangeable
Many prefixes (anti-, post-, pre-) and suffixes (-ate, -ic, -al) were taken from Latin. Latin
words are often lengthy and sound weighty and learned
Word order became more fixed: subject > verb > object
Literature flourished due to the Renaissance and the accessibility of texts
Shakespeare and Bibles / Book of Common Prayer increased the normality of idioms
There is evidence of class correlation with standard English (higher classed and bettereducated people speaking the standard language)
Different tense usage (e.g. glad we are got acquainted)

EARLY MODERN ENGLISH

Key dates
1450-1650

The Great Vowel Shift occurred, where the pronunciation of vowel


sounds changed and two were dropped completely

1509

Henry VIII reigned the throne

1534

Tynedales Bible was released the first English version of the Bible

1549

The first version of the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of


England was published

1558

Elisabeth I reigned the throne, which will have had a significant


impact on attitudes towards women in society

1564-1616

Shakespeare was alive very significant contributor to the English


language

1611

The King James Bible was published

1622

Weekly News, the first English newspaper, published in London

1721

Samuel Johnson formed the most influential dictionary in the English


language (meaning it was finished in the Modern English period)

EARLY MODERN ENGLISH

Examples of texts
Extract from Shakespeares The Tempest
Where should this music be? Ithe air or the earth?
It sounds no more; and, sure, it waits upon
Some god othe island. Sitting on a bank,
Weeping again the King my fathers wreck,
This music crept by me upon the waters,
Allaying both their fury and my passion (line 395)
With its sweet air. Thence I have followed it
Or it hath drawn me rather. But tis gone.
No, it begins again.
EARLY MODERN ENGLISH

Modern
English
years 1700-1900

MODERN ENGLISH

Context
The industrial revolution influenced the English language
as new ideas and contraptions were being invented,
along with a range of new fields people could work in
English started to become an international language at
this point. New varieties such as American English and
Indian English began to form. The expansion of the
British Empire (19th century) and growing superpower
status of the US (20th century) also influenced our
language, as evident in the Americanisms in everyday
modern use
Cultural issues at this time included womens and
childrens rights. Religion also continued to play an
important role in society
MODERN ENGLISH

Key features of Modern English


Spelling became much more consistent and standardised
Regional differences in language lessened
A leap in quality of education, literacy and communication
meant English became much more standardised as a
whole
Americanisms and American spellings (e.g. or/our and
re/er endings) started to form
Newly coined words were used more heavily and quickly
Use of auxiliary verbs became mandatory in interrogative
sentences, e.g. did he go running?
Archaic possessive pronouns were still in use in earlier
examples of texts, e.g. thy and thou

MODERN ENGLISH

Johnsons dictionary (1755)


Samuel Johnson published his dictionary in
1755
It was not the first dictionary but was the
most thorough and authoritative, giving
advice on usage and different senses of
words as well as definitions.
The dictionary provided clear, prescriptive
standard spellings, though this took several
decades to filter through to everyday use
MODERN ENGLISH

Key dates
1755
Johnsons dictionary is published
1760-1820/40 Industrial revolution
Expansion of the British Empire brings
1800s
other words into our language as well as
taking English words into others
Webster publishes books on grammar,
1828
creating standards for grammar as well as
spelling

MODERN ENGLISH

Late
Modern
English
years 1900-present
LATE MODERN ENGLISH

Context
Technology has become one of the main influences of modern language,
as well as pop culture (celebrity obsessions, tabloids, gossip
publications)
Text speak such as lol and omg has filtered through into everyday
usage, including spoken language
The Internet, texting, new gadgets (iPads, Kindles) come with entirely
new lexical sets as well as jargon and specialist language
Attitudes in society change: the importance of belief and religion has
lessened (we are in more of a secular society). Attitudes towards
females and sexuality are slowly shifting. World wars, terrorism and
environmental threats also impact values and attitudes in society
English is now very much a global language, with many influences and
new words being created constantly
Regional differences in England have lessened, aided by widespread
education, standardisation of language and the media (where the
Internet has increased accessibility to types of language)
LATE MODERN ENGLISH

Key features of Late


Modern English
Standard spelling and grammar systems
Acronyms have become a normal part of language, e.g.
omg, lol, fomo, wtf
Grammar rules can be flouted more easily, e.g.
experimenting with syntax and fronted conjunctions. The
grammar can be used to suit the formality of the text
Slang and jargon is heavily used
In the written word, informality is much more common,
especially in journalism where fronted conjunctions and
the use of bullet points are normal, particularly in online
news articles (appealing to on-the-go readers)
LATE MODERN ENGLISH

Key dates
1914-1918

World War I

1922

BBC founded

1928

Oxford English Dictionary is published

1939-1945

World War II

1961

Websters Third New International Dictionary is


published

1988

The Internet is released to the public

1994

Text messaging is introduced, and the first modern


blogs go online

2006

Twitter is formed, leading to impulsive online


expressions, fast-spreading news and a constant (but
concise) vent for users thoughts

LATE MODERN ENGLISH

Major influences on modern


language development and
variation
The media
Technology
Social media and communication
Travelling and migration
Texting
Jargon and slang
Education
Worldwide language

LATE MODERN ENGLISH