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Travel - March 30, 2021

A Historical past of the English Language

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About 1500 years in the past, a bunch of those who we’d now name Vikings landed in what we now name England, and created a language we now name Outdated English. 

Quick-forward to as we speak, and other people from 140 nations are listening to a day by day podcast about random stuff, in a dialect, we name American English. 

How did some historic nordic invaders result in a language which is now spoken on all seven continents?

Study extra concerning the historical past of the English language on this episode of All the things In every single place Every day. 


This episode is sponsored by Audible.com.

My audiobook suggestion as we speak is Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Historical past of English by John McWhorter.

Overlaying such turning factors because the Viking raids and the Norman Conquest, and the Germanic invasions that began all of it throughout the fifth century A.D., John McWhorter narrates this colourful evolution with vigor.

Drawing on revolutionary genetic and linguistic analysis, in addition to a cache of exceptional trivia concerning the origins of English phrases and syntax patterns, McWhorter in the end demonstrates the arbitrary, maddening nature of English – and its ironic simplicity as a consequence of its function as a streamlined lingua franca throughout the early formation of Britain. 

You will get a free one-month trial to Audible and a couple of free audiobooks by going to audibletrial.com/EverythingEverywhere or clicking on the hyperlink within the present notes.


Of the hundreds of you listening to my phrases proper now, I don’t actually know a lot of something about any of you. I don’t know the place you’re, your age, intercourse, occupation, and even the gadget you’re listening to this on.

Nevertheless, there may be one factor I do know. I do know that everybody listening to this speaks English to some extent. Whether or not it’s your first language or a second language, to some extent you communicate English. 

Most individuals who communicate English have by no means actually given the origins of the language any thought, aside from perhaps the truth that it got here from England. 

English, to the shock of many individuals, is a Germanic language. 

Its roots come from the waves of nordic individuals who migrated to England from the realm which is now Denmark, Northern Germany, and Northern Netherlands

These folks got here from tribes referred to as the Angles, Saxons, and the Jutes. The names of those Germanic tribes are the place the time period Anglo-Saxon comes from. 

They mainly stuffed the vacuum which was left after the collapse of the Roman empire in Britain. 

All of them had completely different dialects of Anglo-Fresian, Fresia being the northern a part of the Netherlands. 

Over time, as all these folks intermarried, they developed a language which we all know as Outdated English.

This was very a lot a Germanic language with just a few phrases from Latin, which got here into use from the adoption of Christianity.

Most English audio system as we speak wouldn’t have the ability to perceive Outdated English in any respect. To offer you an thought of what it’s like, listed here are the primary few strains of the Lord’s Prayer in Outdated English. 

<insert audio clip>

Yeah, it’s mainly a international language. You may have the ability to determine bits and items, however it’s a far cry from the language we all know as we speak. 

The following massive change within the language occurred within the 12 months 1066 with the Norman Invasion of England. 

The Normans got here from Normandy in France. Their lineage got here from Vikings, which raided the realm and settled and blended in with the locals who had been talking Romance languages. Romance languages being these languages that had been derived from Latin.

The language which the Normans delivered to England was Norman, which was a type of Outdated French with some Outdated Norse phrases which had been blended in.

The Norman royalty didn’t trouble to talk the language of the locals. The court docket of the English crown mainly spoke this Outdated French dialect for a number of centuries. Some kings of England did study English, however they realized it as a second language, not as a main language. 

The truth that the king and his court docket spoke French meant that should you wished a spot at court docket, you wanted to talk it too. That meant that the the Aristocracy, most of whom had been Norman, had been talking French. The phrases from the romance language, all initially primarily based on Latin, started seeping into the English language of the frequent folks. 

From the Norman Conquest till concerning the 12 months 1500, you noticed the rise of what turned referred to as Center English. 

Center English noticed main modifications in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. The Latin-based phrases of the the Aristocracy closely influenced the event of English. 

Center English was the language of Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales. Center English can form of be deciphered by audio system of Trendy English. A lot simpler than Outdated English, however it will nonetheless take some effort. 

Finally, this language of the folks discovered its manner into the higher courses after the higher courses had influenced the language for hundreds of years. 

The primary King of England who really spoke English as a primary language was believed to be Henry IV, and he would have spoken Center English.

The beginnings of Trendy English started with what is called the Nice Vowel Shift. This was a big change within the pronunciations of phrases. 

For instance, the phrase meat went from being pronounced “met” to “mate” to lastly “meet”. 

The phrase boot was once pronounced “boat”. 

The phrase chunk was authentic “beet” then “bait” after which lastly “chunk”. 

Whereas the Nice Vowel Shift was occurring, spelling additionally turned standardized. 

By the early sixteenth Century, the language had advanced into one thing which you could possibly acknowledge as we speak. This is called Early Trendy English. That is the English of Shakespeare. A few of the phrases are a bit archaic however aside from some “thees” and “thous”, it’s most understandable. 

You may in all probability journey again in time and have a dialog with Queen Elizabeth I, however it is perhaps like speaking to somebody with a really heavy accent. Oddly sufficient, Queen Elizabeth might in all probability have a dialogue with you simpler than she might with somebody who was born 100 years earlier than her. 

The absolutely fashionable English that we all know as we speak might be thought-about to have arrived across the 18th century. Dictionaries revealed from that interval might nonetheless be largely used as we speak. 

Across the time that fashionable English was creating, one thing occurred on the geopolitical stage. England turned a very massive deal. 

The British Empire started taking up the world, and so they took English with them. English went from an odd language spoken on an island off the coast of Europe to a really international language. 

In some nations, they introduced English audio system with them, like Australia and the United States, the place the language took on a lifetime of its personal. 

In different nations, English was utilized by the educated elite within the nation and oftentimes served as a common language for big nations like India, the place there have been dozens of languages in any other case spoken. 

Empires rise and fall, nonetheless. Simply because a rustic and a language may dominate at one level doesn’t imply it will likely be so eternally. Latin and French had been as soon as the languages of diplomacy and commerce in Europe, and each of them finally fell out of favor. 

Because the British Empire waned within the twentieth century, it simply so occurred that the nation which changed them additionally occurred to talk the identical language. The USA. 

This timing of passing the worldwide hegemon torch from Britain to the USA additionally occurred on the similar time when digital communication and mass media was taking off. 

English was the dominant language for movement photos and in style music. Put up-war organizations adopted English as their working language. The Worldwide Civil Aviation Organisation recommends that every one air visitors management communications be achieved in English, and virtually all worldwide flights are. 

The day-to-day working languages of most worldwide our bodies is English, together with the European Union and the European Financial institution, although the UK is now not a member. 

At the moment English is the widest spoken language on the planet, though it doesn’t have the biggest inhabitants of people that communicate it as a primary language. There are extra English audio system than Mandarin, and the overwhelming majority of Mandarin audio system are solely in a single nation: China.

English is an official language in 55 nations on six completely different continents, and it’s the working language between analysis stations in Antarctica. In contrast, Mandarin is simply an official language in two nations, China and Singapore, and Singapore really makes use of English as their working language. 

At the moment, extra books are printed every year in English than in some other language, doubling the quantity printed in Chinese language. Likewise, there are extra newspapers, movies, and net pages in English than in some other language. 

The biggest English-speaking nation is, not surprisingly, the USA. The second-largest English-speaking nation is India, although solely 10-15 p.c of the inhabitants can communicate English. Given the scale of the inhabitants, that also provides as much as lots of people.

It’s adopted by Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Philippines

The United Kingdom has solely the sixth-largest English-speaking inhabitants.  

In Europe alone, many nations now have over 50% of their inhabitants that speaks English. These embrace Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Slovenia, Greece, and Estonia. 

Oddly sufficient, English will not be an official language in the USA, which has no official language. 

Not like another languages like French, there isn’t any academy or group which oversees English. It’s a completely natural language. One results of that is that the language retains evolving, and additionally it is affecting different languages as English phrases and idioms popup within the native language. 

This may end up in hybrid Englishes world wide. In Singapore, Chinese language and English are sometimes used collectively to type what is named Singlish. Likewise, in Germany, you may hear folks talking Denglish. 

The affect goes each methods. Different nations the place English is spoken will add phrases and phrases to English that may not in any other case exist in English. Schadenfreude is a latest adoption from German, and I’ve encountered the usage of the phrase “kindly” as an alternative of “please” in lots of nations, which got here from India. 

English has developed into a world language largely by historic accident.

Nevertheless, how good is it as a world language? 

It has its pluses and its minuses. 

On the plus facet, it’s a very forgiving language. There isn’t any appropriate accent. An Indian or Caribbean accent is simply as legitimate as a Canadian or Australian accent. Simplified English might be very straightforward to study. There may be a complete different Wikipedia that exists only for simplified English. 

There aren’t any genders. As an alternative of memorizing if a phrase is masculine, female, or neuter, as in German, in English, all the pieces noun simply makes use of “the” or “a”. 

English can be a marriage of Germanic and Romance languages. Though it has Germanic roots, over half of the phrases in English have a Latin root, often by means of French. For those who communicate a Romance or Germanic language, there may be in all probability one thing in English which you could acknowledge. 

On the draw back, the hodgepodge nature of English means there are quite a lot of issues concerning the language that makes completely no sense. The phrases “sufficient” and “stuff” rhyme but are spelled completely otherwise. We now have silent “p’s” in phrases like psychiatry. 

I used to be researching a potential episode on spelling bees, solely to be shocked to seek out out that a lot of the world doesn’t have spelling bees. They don’t must as a result of their languages simply make sense, and all the pieces is spelled the way it sounds. 

So, whereas fundamental English is perhaps straightforward to choose up, mastering it may be very troublesome. 

What does the long run maintain for English? 

The variety of audio system is simply anticipated to extend, maybe by so much. The variety of college students studying English in India is anticipated to double over the following a number of a long time. 

Likewise, the variety of people who find themselves in some stage of studying English in China, often nicely beneath fluency, is believed to be as excessive as 200 million. In a couple of a long time, it’s potential that China might have the biggest variety of English audio system on the planet. 

English has achieved an escape velocity the place it’s now nicely past the management of nations that gave it start. If a Norwegian is speaking to a Korean whereas on trip in Dubai, they are going to virtually actually be talking English. 

As extra folks study English, the inducement for everybody else to study it is going to solely change into higher. It would by no means change into the primary language for most individuals, however it has already change into the first second language for a lot of the world. 

It could possibly be that in 100 years or extra, the worldwide language isn’t English, however moderately one thing which was primarily based on English, in the identical manner, the Outdated and Center English had been the precursors to the language we have now as we speak. 

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