How on earth did we get from a language of 1,000+ years ago to the English we speak today – or do we speak English … is a tweet, or text message, or morse code a completely different language … who knows – come back in a thousand years and someone will be able to tell you!
|Showing how explorers exploited our lands - |
as they expanded their settlements
in 400 - 500 CE (AD)
All I can say is – I am so grateful I'm an English speaker in this day of the internet and books … I have no idea how I learnt to write in English or adapt my own style for my blog – life takes us on odd paths …
I spoke English – no choice there … parents did the same! At school we were taught grammar – I still don't understand it … but seem to have an intrinsic ability to cope …
… then throw in Latin – again I'm grateful I had that learning period … it helps with plant identification, some legal words – before French got added to the mix … then for some reason I decided to try Italian, after school came German – before Afrikaans – once I went off to South Africa …
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the
elder (1563) - Humans have speculated about
the origin of language throughout history:
this is one such account
Before the journey down to South Africa – I'd worked with East European countries … so those names had to be absorbed …
Globe showing the African
continent and the area of
India and Asia
I've never learnt any of these languages, other than that Brit one, nor did I ever go across to the Indian and Asian continents to 'glance at' their languages.
You'll have realised I'm not a linguist … but I do love learning … however I won't go into things I have no idea about … so cannot easily expand on the above ideas, or the next paragraphs for that matter …
|Old English epic poem - |
Beowulf - in the tradition
of German heroic legend
Old English came about before William conquered back in 1066 AD … we might have been conquered over the centuries, but language adjusted … absorbed by our oral and rural life …
… it might be that the conquerors quite liked the English roses they met and stayed on … ???!!!
English is named after the Angles, one of the ancient Germanic peoples that migrated to our islands post the Roman era.
Wild rambling roses
The second part of this will follow (if I remember!) ...
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
They say two hundred years in either direction and our language starts changing so much that we wouldn't understand it. So make a that a thousand years ago and I bet we'd all be at a loss.
Let's face it, "English" is the original mixed language preceding Esperanto (remember that?!!) It is a cobbled-together, only latterly formalised, conglomerate of tongues; Brythonic, Danish, Flemish, French, German, even some Hindi and Tamil...now Americanisation and even Aussieisms... it is probably the most fluid language of all! YAM xx
Language flows and changes all the time, doesn’t it? I know that, yet I can’t help myself getting annoyed when a word gets used in a way I consider wrong.
This reminds me a bit of The Story of English. I believe it was made by the BBC 20-ish years ago. Fascinating stuff.
When teaching Shakespeare to students (I still do), at first I was surprised when it was categorized as Modern English or Early Modern English - sometimes referred to as Shakespearean English or Elizabethan English. So many terms, but students do struggle with the words of a man who created at least 20,000 words to add to our language.
I didn't realize you spoke so many languages. Good on you, Hils. Woot. Woot.
Learning Latin and French were two very clever moves. Well done!
At coffee today, a young American woman sat a couple of tables away from me. I gave her 3 minutes to speak softly OR not to use "like" as every second word. After hearing her use "like" 27 times in that 3 minute break, I took my coffee to a distant table.
Hello Hilary. I wonder if any other language is ready and able to take in so many 'guests' as English does?
Everyday we use words from Latin, Greek, French, German, Hindi, Yiddish, Inuit, Japanese etc etc.
We can hardly understand the language of Chaucer and even reading Shakespeare requires a dictionary to be handy! This one of my favourite topics.😊
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s truculently tenacious Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
@ Alex – you're right … I couldn't read what was written all those years ago – I can manage Shakespeare – but earlier than the 1400s would be very difficult – also not much available to read … the printing press was introduced around 1439 AD ...
@ Yam – thanks for your thoughts – you're right about English probably being the most fluid language of all. Esperanto only came in about 150 years ago … (1870s)
@ Anabel – yes … language does change so much and people aren't that particular about it. I too get upset when I see something printed that to my mind isn't right … and I know my grammar isn't perfect either – probably better than many people's … but poor at times …
@ Liz – I never saw those programmes – I have found it was made in 1986 (when I was in South Africa … and Beeb programmes weren't allowed to be shown); and I see there was a companion book, which has been revised in 1993 and again in 2002. There's a brief article on in Wiki ...thanks for letting me know about it. I've decided to buy the book.
@ Denise – I admire your ability to teach English … I should read more and learn more … that's about to come into play in my life. I can understand students struggling with our language – but I'm amazed at how many are able to speak a version of English – English English, or American English, or Aussie English, etc …
@ Sandra – I don't speak those languages – it's just that studying them briefly … I have some idea about how to pronounce them, and at times I can work out what they mean. I'd love to be a linguist … that would be 'woot woot'!!
@ Hels – no choice – they were part of the curriculum back in the 1950s/60s.
Oh I agree with you – re overhearing people's conversations … usually an unpleasant interlude: and as you rightly decided an unnecessary one.
I do wonder how much some people can understand legal and statutory documents …
@ Bazza – another thought – yes we've absorbed so many people's words into our language – what a great way to describe the English story … as 'guests' … that's great to read this post and its content appeals to you … I'm delighted!
Thanks – interesting comments to have here … cheers Hilary
The very strength of English, it seems to me, is its flexibility. It changes with usage, useful phrases from other languages are accepted and incorporated easily, and the lingua franca goes merrily along. Every so often as you know, the Oxford English Dictionary publishes lists of hitherto unaccepted words that have been deemed acceptable and are incorporated into the language. Two recent additions that spring to mind are "selfie" and "humungous." I am a traditionalist and I am put off by casual use of English, but I realize that is just me, and the inexorable changes will occur whether I like them or not! Best wishes, Hilary -David
It's amazing how many people in the world speak English, too. Outside of a little sign language, it's all I know.
I have a book about the development of the English language waiting patiently to be read. I occasionally get text-messages from a friend which I can't translate, so maybe it's already a foreign language.
It's good I was born to learn English, although I've always struggled with grammar. I did try to learn German, and I still try reading some German blogs without hitting the translate button. I'm trying to remember if I even imagined there would be a translate button when I was in high school slogging through Herman Hess and Bertolt Brecht in my 4th year of German.
Looking forward to Part-2.
Such an interesting post, Hilary. And you've brought up a great point...today's texting and AI messaging will be a huge influence on our language. It already has and the change is speeding up. Where are the brakes?
Oh! You are writing about the thing I love most, our fabulous, crazy, inventive, difficult English language! And Old English, when I learned that the 1000 plus year-old word "snot" has come down to us unchanged in spelling or meaning I just about lost it! Looking forward to the rest of your exploration into our wonderful, ever evolving language.
Tower of Babel: Love the picture and the connotation.
Exactly, what version is it? I hear some folks talking and don't understand a word of - English.
I'm like you and enjoy learning. I should spend some time learning Spanish. Oh, yeah, and grammar. :)
@ David - you're right ... its flexibility to adapt and absorb. The words the Oxford Dictionary are including seem a little odd - I can't come to grips with them ... as you mention. Selfie - no ... humungous I'd have thought had been around for much longer. I see it's etymology is American ... I miss the words that have been around for centuries ... eg 'brook' - defines a tiny clear stream in a woodland setting ...
@ Diane - we are so lucky that English has been accepted as for now the 'accepted normal' language of the world ...
@ John - I must look into a few books i've got on the subject - and I've just ordered the one Liz' recommended - BBC book from the 1980s. I'm like you - I really struggle to understand some people at times - your comment about your friend's text messages is an interesting thought ... what we do about regulating our society I've no idea.
@ Dan - I know - thank goodness I was born into an English speaking family, and like you the understanding of grammar has been beyond my ken. Of all the languages I attempted to learn I still can only recognise the odd word - and no way could I read a book - though did try an Italian one - Pirandello.
@ Lee - thank you there's so much change in our language ... texting and AI (I can't think about that one!) ... I just wonder about regulating society ... as you say where are the brakes? - none I can see ...
@ Bish - oh great ... thank you ... I know you're so right 'our fabulous, crazy, inventive, difficult English language'. I had to check you on your comment re' snot' - but, of course, see you're right! Did you note that our town of Nottingham was originally, in Anglo Saxon times, Snot's land (the homestead of Snot's people)?
@ Sandra - the connotation called to me ... the confusion of tongues - a confused uproar ...
@ Renee - over here ... I definitely can't work out what some people are saying - so appreciate your comment. I think I just need to learn English, and will now concentrate on my own language - but I do envy others who can slip between languages ... good luck with the Spanish!
Thanks so much ... I'm surprised this post has had this reaction - but very pleased! Lovely comments and interesting thoughts - cheers to all - Hilary
We Brits are a lazy lot, most of us anyway. Many, me included, expect people to understand us no matter what country we visit. I guess this is because English is often taught as a second languge. I picked up a bit of French when I lived there, but even that seems to have deserted me now, although I can still order a beer!
Once again, I learn so much from reading your blog posts, Hilary. You have certainly visited many countries. Bravo! I love learning how the Britons and Saxons and Angles all came together.
I had trouble learning French as an adult in college because of the new learning method for teaching languages. Oral teaching. They think if you speak the language to someone, they will learn it. Not me! I need to see the vocabulary. Know what it means. Understand pronunciation and grammar before I can write and speak it. We had many writing assignments and listening tests, and speaking tests in college. And I feared every one of them.
Stay well, dear friend!
The rambling roses are beautiful.
@ Keith - yes I know ... I'm lazy vis-a-vis learning another language; while so many around the world either speak the language, or as you mention learn it as a second language. I'm sure I could order some wine! Lucky you having lived over there for a while!
@ thanks Victoria - I'll try and elaborate a bit more for my next post. Thanks for your welcome!
I admire you for learning French ... however you got round to it. But the idea of learning the oral aspect first might be sensible and then bring in the grammar aspect - depending on the student's needs. I just feared trying to speak another part of a new language ...
@ Sandra - rambling roses are so delightful - I just love them ...
Cheers to you three - Hilary
Hi dear Hillary I learned British English at school, so I was very challenged by kiwi English. Still quite a difference. Even though I was bad at English, especially grammar and spelling, I love languages. I used to speak fluent German and I caught up on English quite well (I hope)
I am a student of languages (amateur, of course) and love seeing how they grew, adapted. It's amazing to think that English is now 'British' or 'American'--after only a few hundred years! I wonder why we didn't retain the English over here?
For some reason WP does not alert me to your posts anymore. I am sorry to be so late! I assume at some point in the (near) future, the Happiness Engineers will fix the problem. Sigh.
@ Marja - yes I can see that - even being a Brit British speaker - going to another English speaking country has its quirks ...
Your English poems are very good - and I admire you now being bi-lingual ... while being Dutch you had a good start towards German. Any language opens our eyes to other worlds - thank goodness for that!
@ Jacqui - no the blogger gremlins are there for good - and I must sort something out for 'my readers' ... I'm lazy and try and remember who I must pop in to read, if they've dropped off my Feedly list ...
You're ability to learn is fantastic to see ... inspirational I'd call it ...
I expect Americans, as many come from continental Europe, not just Britain couldn't cope with the variations and spelling and so developed your American way of language and speaking. I wonder what will happen in the future ... especially as far as rules and regulations are concerned ...
Cheers for now = Hilary
Enjoy your weekend, Hils.
English adapts and expands and mutates, and isn't it wonderful. I have a habit of making up my own words in fiction - not often, but sometimes there's nothing that quite fits 😏
I hit a particularly strange time in school where we weren't taught formal grammar. Luckily, it (and spelling, which we WERE taught) comes naturally to me. It's that blasted Maths I could never get my head around.
I'm so glad you brought this subject up because I just love English so much. It's my second language, as you know, and the one I much prefer to write, think in, and speak. I recommend reading The Adventure of English, by Melvin Bragg. Only 800 pages or so, if I remember correctly, but what a joy! I'm learning about the Vikings right now, and the Danish Vikings contributed to English, as did many other nationalities, of course. I guess you Sunday is almost over, so have a lovely rest of the week.
I am way behind on responding - just haven't been on the computer. Thanks for all of your comments on mine. Language is fascinating - how we absorb it, how we learn it, all of the influences, and the constant evolution too. I have a bit of a facility to pick up languages, but nothing for full conversations. I envy folks with an effortless ease of translating. Good post and I look forward to part 2..
I've always been so interested in how we learn language! I'm a bit like you...a couple of years of Latin helped me out and five years of French. But so grateful that English was my native tongue because it's so complex to learn!
Languages are absolutely fascinating. The connections between them, how each culture absorbs words from others and then passes them further on is mind blowing. The Hausa word used in Northern Nigeria for soap was the exact same as the Hindi word, which as a child I'd found quite amazing and on growing up a bit found that they are both from Arabic, the same word taken east and west by traders/conquerors - even more amazing. :)
@ Sandra - thank you ... I'm struggling with a nasty cold and splodgy weather!! All well otherwise ...
@ Annalisa - it is a wonderful language - yet must be so difficult to learn ... I admire all who manage that. Well your making up words could easily add to the language at some stage in the future ... fun thing to do.
I was hopeless at school - spelling I could manage, but that intrinsic ability of speaking and writing the language I was blessed with.
@ Inger - thanks for the interesting comment ... yes I realise English is your second language and am interested to see you prefer writing, thinking, and speaking in it - I guess after over 45 years in the States it's logical as you're using English each and every day.
I've ordered Melvyn Bragg's book ... so await its arrival! I'm sure you're enjoying learning about the effect the Vikings and the Danish Vikings had on our language ... as having lived here you'd recognise the places and names etc.
I wrote a post 3 June 2014 about the Viking exhibition I visited at the British Museum in 2014 ... and the lecture I went to that accompanied my visit ... if you search for Scandinavian Words (3 June 2014) on my blog it'll pop up ...
Sunday was almost over you're right ... now we're in a grotty weather week ... cold, damp and snowy - perhaps not down here.
@ Joanne - no worries ... I know you've been busy with your Dad, life at home and visits. You're so lucky if you can pick up new languages - even as an overview ... I agree I'd love to be able to switch from one language to another, no such luck unfortunately ...
@ Elizabeth - I'm now much more interested ... back as a kid and still in school or soon after - it was a pain, as it was 'impossible' in my eyes for my brain to absorb and learn! And yes I'm grateful I'm an English speaker ...
@ Nila - languages are fascinating aren't they - and I'm nearly completely hopeless at them. The Proto-Indo-European group of languages ... I'll now look into them (v briefly) ... but fascinating to learn the Hausa (Nigerian) word for soap, is the same as in the Hindi world ... then to find that connection to the Arabic world. Yes - how language moved around ... traders/conquerors - colonialists/settlers etc ... as you say very amazing!
Thanks so much - these are wonderful comments to have here ... and you've sent me off in other directions ... so part 2 and probably 3 will be along shortly ... cheers Hilary
Hils, Hope you are feeling better and that your cold is in the review mirror.
What I love about language is that it's ever evolving and changing.
English does have a lot of offshoots these days, doesn't it? Feeling better?
Have a happy weekend and feel better. Cheers,
how goes it? Are you as fed up with the everlasting political troubles we are experiencing as I am?
Much better to concentrate on something pleasant, like language. My view: if a language doesn't evolve, it's dead. European languages are alive and kicking!
I love tracing he history of the English language! If I'm not careful, I could spend half an afternoon reading the Oxford English Dictionary :p A long, long time ago, I wrote about Tolkien and wariangles: https://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2011/08/august-literary-resolution-and.html
Are you feeling any better?
@ Sandra - thanks for your (I hate to say it four) check ins ... I've been feeling off-colour - nothing serious thankfully ... just not enthusiastic to get on with things ...
@ Lynda - you are so right our language is ever evolving and changing ...
@ Friko - as you can read ... probably a bit like you - pondering life ... but fine and for me being positive, albeit slowly. I can't really be worried too much for my own point of view ... life goes on and must be lived.
I hate to say I've indulged in rather a few more books on English language - which should give me a week or two of reading ...
@ Deniz - great to see you I know you love your language and admire your knowledge of the different dialects etc and then creating your own ... with your love of Tolkien ...
Thanks so much - really appreciate your thoughts - cheers Hilary
Language and its evolution is always interesting. Like the English themselves, it is a mixture of many different influences from widely diverse cultures.
Hi Janice - yes we are a mixed race in all sorts of ways ... we've melded into each other over time ... as you so rightly point out. I'm glad I'm here ... though so much to learn and appreciate about being English. Cheers Hilary
The English language is a mashup of so many languages now but I do love that it is Germanic in origin. When Shakespeare enters into the orbit of kids, I smile because they have no clue what he's saying just like we have no clue what they.may say.
Actually there are a lot of slang that ages a person. We no longer say " groovy" Ora few others from the late 60s. In the 40s they had slang too like.." use the Ameche". What does that mean? Use the phone. Don Ameche was a popular actor who portrayed Bell o a movie and it was a big hit.
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