The history of English language

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The history of English language

English belongs to the group of Germanic languages, i.e. English goes back to the same proto-language that is also the “mother” of Dutch, Low German, High German, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic. The group of Germanic languages, in turn, belongs to the Indo-European language family, like the Romanic languages (e.g. Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian) and their “mother” Latin, the Celtic languages (e.g. Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic), the Balto-Slavic languages (e.g. Polish, Czech, Croatian, Russian, Lithuanian) and others. The date of the birth of English is normally given as 449, when the three Germanic tribes of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes are said to have settled over from the continental areas by the Northern Sea. The first written records of English can be dated back to the 7th century. The period from the mid-5th century to around 1100 is referred to as Old English, the period from 1100 to around 1500 as Middle English, the period from 1500 to around 1750 as Early Modern English and the period thereafter as Modern English.

The historical study of English can begin by looking at the mix of languages from which English ultimately emerged: Indo-European. By examining some of the features of the different surviving Indo-European (IE) languages, linguists can reconstruct the sounds and the possible meanings of a language spoken by a group of agricultural peoples approximately five or six thousand years ago. By the term Indo-European, we mean that postulated “language” or group of dialects out of which the Western and Eastern European, Indian, and Iranian languages developed. Some language groups, like Hittite, have not survived. Who were the “Indo-Europeans”? It is generally believed that they probably lived in Southeastern Europe in the fourth millennium B.C. Recent archaeological discoveries have suggested that they buried their dead and that they moved into central Europe in about the third millennium B.C. and into Asia Minor and Indo-Iranian areas after about 3400 B.C. A series of later migrations brought them to Mediterranean and Northern Europe.


1 The Beginnings of English 4
2 The Middle Ages 7
2.1 Norman French Influences on English Vocabulary 9
3 Modern English 10
3.1 Early Modern English Vocabulary 12
3.2 RP and its successors 12
4 The history of American English 14

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