History of the English language
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic invaders and/or settlers from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the Netherlands. Initially, Old English was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Britain. One of these dialects, Late West Saxon, eventually came to dominate.
The English language underwent extensive change in the Middle Ages. Written Old English of AD 1000 is similar in vocabulary and grammar to other old Germanic languages such as Old High German and Old Norse, and completely unintelligible to modern speakers, while the modern language is already largely recognisable in written Middle English of AD 1400. The transformation was caused by two further waves of invasion: the first by speakers of the Scandinavian branch of the Germanic language family, who conquered and colonized parts of Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries; the second by the Normans in the 11th century, who spoke Old Norman and ultimately developed an English variety of this called Anglo-Norman. A large proportion of the modern English vocabulary comes directly from Anglo-Norman.
Close contact with the Scandinavians resulted in a significant grammatical simplification and lexical enrichment of the Anglo-Frisian core of English. However, these changes had not reached South West England by the 9th century AD, where Old English was developed into a full-fledged literary language. The Norman invasion occurred in 1066, and when literary English rose anew in the 13th century, it was based on the speech of London, much closer to the centre of Scandinavian settlement. Technical and cultural vocabulary was largely derived from Old Norman, with particularly heavy influence in the church, the courts, and government. With the coming of the Renaissance, as with most other developing European languages such as German and Dutch, Latin and Ancient Greek supplanted Norman and French as the main source of new words. Thus, English developed into very much a "borrowing" language with an enormously disparate vocabulary.
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