The start of what is the English language can be dated back to around 440 AD (5th century), some 1,560 years ago (AD means Anno Dominia, a Latin term used in Christianity religion which came about with the birth of Jesus Christ). It was then that the powerful Roman Legions or great armies returned to Rome after nearly 400 years of ruling and living in Britain.
The local Britons who mainly spoke Celtic (pronounce with a K) had no ruler which opened the door to new invaders, namely the Picts (Scotland) and the Scots (Ireland).
This was not good for the locals and they needed help to keep the naughty invaders away.
The help came in the forms of 3 Germanic tribes, The Saxons, The Angles and The Jutes from the lands which are now known as Germany and The Netherlands and Northern Denmark.
However, these tribes also turned on (attacked) the local Britons and pushed them back to the South West of Britain, Wales and Scotland where they stayed isolated(on their own) for many many years.
The Germanic tribes, had a very similar language which had a strong Germanic sound. This was to be the start of the English Language and if it was heard today, would be nearly impossible to understand.
Furthermore, the Angles and the Saxons came together (The Jutes just disappeared) to become Anglo-Saxons and the name England came from Angle-land or land of the Angles.
Below is one of the oldest writings of Old English, a poem of a legendary Danish warrior BEOWULF. Historians (people who study history) believe it to be around 700 AD and nearly 3,200 lines. Below is a couple of the lines in Old English with the Modern English in brackets ( )
Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum
(Listen! We --of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore)
þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon
(of those clan-kings-- heard of their glory)
hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon
(how those nobles performed courageous deeds)
Oft Scyld Scéfing sceaþena þréatum
(Often Scyld, Scef's son, from enemy hosts)
monegum maégþum meodosetla oftéah·
(from many peoples seized mead-benches)
egsode Eorle syððan aérest wearð
(and terrorised the fearsome Heruli after first he was)
féasceaft funden hé þæs frófre gebád·
(found helpless and destitute, he then knew recompense for that):-
wéox under wolcnum· weorðmyndum þáh
(he waxed under the clouds, throve in honours)
oð þæt him aéghwylc þára ymbsittendra
(until to him each of the bordering tribe)
ofer hronráde hýran scolde
(beyond the whale-road had to submit)
gomban gyldan· þæt wæs gód cyning.
(and yield tribute:- that was a good king!)
As you can see, the Anglo-Saxon language is very different to what is used today. Even the English below in the brackets is difficult to read. The underlined words 'Spear-Danes' and 'Whale-road' were early forms of compound words like traffic-light or news-paper. This kind of compound was known as kenning. Whale-road would mean sea and Spear-Danes would mean Danish army.
Days of the week still used today are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. These days were to celebrate the Anglo-Saxon gods Tiw, Woden and Thor.
This was the standard (normal) language used by the Anglo-Saxons until around 597 AD when Christian Missionaries (a missionary is a member of a religious group) came from Rome, across Europe and to England with a large Latin vocabulary (words). Some of these Latin words were: Religion - angel, bishop, chalice
Everyday vocabulary- candle, cucumber, cheese, cup, elephant, fever, giant, history, kettle, kitchen, paper, plant, purple, street, wine.
The missionaries also brought many manuscripts (old writings) such as the Bible. This started the beginning of literacy or reading and writing.
In 787 AD (8th century), The Vikings came from Denmark and after many battles with the Anglo-Saxons settled in England for the next 250 years.
Many place names were from the Viking language such as the '-by' in Grimsby (‘farm’ or ‘town); the '-thorpe' in Linthorpe (‘village’); and the '-thwaite' in Braithwaite (‘isolated area’).
Along with place names, common words like ‘both’, ‘same’, ‘get’, ‘give’, ‘take’ entered the English language, as with regular English pronouns like ‘they’, ‘them’, ‘their’. It has been said that up to 1,800 Scandinavian words probably entered the language at this time with others such as:
awkward, band, bull, crawl, die, drag, gasp, get, glitter, harbour, knife, loan, muck, raise, reindeer, scowl, sister, sky, stack, tight, want, weak.
To listen to the Lord's Prayer in old English: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQVyol7N1Jo&NR=1&feature=fvwp .You will be surprised how different Old English sounds.
When the Normans invaded from France in 1066 AD, it started the end of Old English and the beginning of Middle English. This brought about a change in the language which I will write more about at a later date......
I hope the history of Old English has been of some interest. It is difficult to think that the English language spoken today started here..
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