The Birth of the English Language

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A summary of the settlement of the British Isles by north Europeans and then Norman French provides the backdrop to this essay which will focus on the period between the early 15th century, when English reasserted its dominance after the decline of official French, until the 17th century when a 'standard' English evolved. It will be shown that modern-day English is very different to that first introduced to the British Isles, but by identifying changes through the centuries, its continuity can be demonstrated. Finally it will be proposed that present day worldwide English, is in a similar position to that which existed before the Norman invasion, when there were many varieties and dialects, as now globally, and that this may lead to its decline as the main global language, due to increasing unintelligibility. The beginnings of English can be found in the occupation of England from the 5th century by tribes from the north and west of Germany who brought with them their 'indigenous dialects' (Seargeant, P. 2012, p. 1). The Oxford English Dictionary defines English as 'Of or related to the West Germanic language spoken in England and also used in many varieties throughout the world' (Seargeant, P. 2012, p. 7). In the 9th century invasion and settlement by Scandinavians, in the north of England had a marked effect on the language spoken there. These periods are known respectively, as Early and Later Old English (Beal, J. 2012, p. 50). In 886 AD Danelaw was established defining the area governed by the Danes in the north and east. The Norman invasion of 1066 AD began a period of two centuries in which French was the official language of England, resulting in the introduction of many words with French or Latin roots, such as 'bar... ... middle of paper ... ...glish in the World), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 151-195. English: A Linguistic Tool Kit, (2012), (U214, Worlds of English, DVD ROM), Milton Keynes, The Open University. English in the World, (2012), (U214, Worlds of English, DVD ROM), Milton Keynes, The Open University. Hepworth, M. D. (2012), Tutorial Notes, '69214339 TMA01', Unpublished Work. Leith, D and Seargeant, P. (2012), 'A Colonial Language' in Seargeant, P. and Swann, J. (ed.) History, Diversity, Change (U214, English in the World), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 101-149. North, S. (2012), 'English a Linguistic Toolkit' (U214, Worlds of English), Milton Keynes, The Open University. Seargeant, P. (2012), 'English in the World Today' in Seargeant, P. and Swann, J (ed.) History, Diversity, Change (U214, English in the World), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 5-47.
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