Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 3

AGAFITEI MADALINA-IRINA ENGLISH GERMAN

THE STORY OF ENGLISH THE MOTHER TONGUE

English is a language of West Germanic origin that was first spoken in early mediaeval times, in the British Isles and became in present day the leading language of international discourse. It survived waves of invaders that left clear marks in the evolution of the language, it overcame many challenges that could have erased it from the face of the Earth, but it has transcended time and space and has been widely propagated throughout the world. The second episode of The Story of English The Mother Tongue traces the origins and evolution of this language and the impact the successive invasions of the British Isles had on the native speakers. The story of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) tribes which invaded Britain around the 5th and 6th century AD. These tribes - the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany and arrived on the British Isles where they found Celtic speaking natives. The invasion caused most of the Celtic speakers to migrate to the west and the north of the Isles, into the territory that is now known as Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The word English is derived from the tribe of the Angles, which came ancestral region Angeln. This lead to naming the invaded territory Englaland and the language "Englisc" - from which the words "England" and "English" are derived. The invading Germanic tribes spoke a mutually intelligible language, similar to modern Frisian which was useful as they managed to understand each other, so the blending of their different dialects developed into what we now know as Old English. Old English was very different both in writing and in speaking from Modern English and, although Native English speakers now would have great difficulty understanding Old English, there are significant clues that prove that about half of the most

commonly used words in Modern English have Old English roots (be, strong and water). Later, the Old English was strongly influenced by the North Germanic language Norse, spoken by the Viking invaders which settled mainly in the north-east of England. As the early and the new settlers spoke dialects from different branches of the same Germanic family, there were obvious similarities of the lexis, although their grammatical systems were more distinct (prefixes, suffixes, inflections, word order). Then the Germanic language of these Old English speakers was influenced by the contact with Norse invaders, which might have been the reason behind the grammatical simplifications that happened within Old English. The most famous monument of Old English is a fragment of the epic poem "Beowulf" composed by an unknown poet. The introduction of Christianity within the boundaries of the British Isles added another influential wave on the language this time some Latin and Greek words were introduced. The Old English period formally ended with the Norman conquest in 1066, when the language was influenced to an even greater extent by the Norman-speaking invaders in the 11th century, there was an incredible amount of borrowings from Norman French, and the vocabulary and spelling conventions introduced gave the impression of a close relationship between Middle English and the Romance languages. For about 300 years following the Norman Conquest, only the Norman kings and their high nobility spoke Anglo-Norman, while common people spoke Middle English. An example would be that, in Old English there was a single word for the ruler of the country king; after the Norman conquest, more words were introduced to name the same concept royal, monarch. English spelling was also influenced by Norman in this period. The // and // sounds being spelled th rather than with the Old English letters (thorn) and (eth), which were completely erased. The most celebrated work from the Middle English period was The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer. Later on, an important development in the evolution of the English language was the Great Vowel Shift that began in the south of England in the 15th century, considered one of the historical events that mark the emergence of Modern English from Middle English. This accounts for a great deal of the difference between English words and their Frisian and Dutch counterparts. For better or worse, our spelling still reflects these earlier pronunciations.

The grammar of English has also an interesting story: It went from a typical old IndoEuropean language, with many complex and irregular verb conjugations and noun declensions, to arguably the most isolating Indo-European language to date. To conclude, the English language was able to overcome, throughout the centuries, invasions, tribulations, conquers, challenges and became what is nowadays: the leading language of international use and one of the most important modern languages in the world.