Short History Of The English Language

Today, English is spoken by more than 2 billion of the world’s total population, making it one of the largest languages according to number of speakers. However, the history of the English language can be traced back to a time when three Germanic tribes — the Jutes, the Saxons and the Angles — invaded Britain in the 5th Century AD. The inhabitants of Britain during this period spoke a Celtic language, and were new to the languages of the invading tribes. The invaders took over, and pushed the original inhabitants to the West and North, which is today known as Scotland, Wales and Ireland, all of which are close to the Great Britain. It is generally agreed upon that English came from the language of the Angles, whose language was called Englisc. This would eventually become modified to England, their land of settlement, and English, the language they spoke.

But the English spoken during this period is ages apart from what we speak today. The English of this period is referred to as Old English, and it gradually fazed out in 1100 AD. Even though we have seen a drastic change in the English we speak today, there are still common words, which can be traced to the English spoken during this period. For example, water is a word which has roots in the Old English of the 5th century.

After the death of the Old English in 1100, the Middle English emerged and was spoken till around 1500. A significant event happened in 1066; this year saw the Duke of Normandy which was a part of modern-day France, invade the land of the English people. This invasion eventually led to the people of Normandy conquering the people of England. This then caused the culture and language of the conquerors to become popular in the courts, and among the upper class. The lower class still spoke English, and it didn’t take long before French words were added to spoken and written English. At the beginning of the 14th century, English had found its way to being the most-spoken language in England. But it had been mixed with countless French words.

At the end of the 1500s, a new form of English began spreading. It was partially due to the Great Vowel Shift, where people spoke with shorter vowel sounds. It is also due to the constant interaction of the Britons with several cultures and languages around the world. Also, the Renaissance that occurred during this period made it possible for new expressions, idioms, proverbs, words, and metaphors to be adopted into the English language. This period is known as the Early period of Modern English. It has also been calculated to have ended in 1800. This period saw the first organized attempt at writing and reading the language on a large scale. More people read, and publishing houses were built. In the year 1604, England published its first dictionary.

The last stage of the history of the English language is the late modern English which became more popular in the 1800s, and is still being spoken till today. The late modern English is a result of the industrial revolution, and the countless cultures which the British Empire conquered, whose cultures deposited words into the language. This is why many words in English language have their sources in other foreign languages (English language and Indo-European language family)


Even though the English being spoken today is a variant of the late modern English, it is still different from that which was spoken in 1800, and will of course be different from that which will be spoken in a hundred years.

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