History of english language

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from the introduction of printing to the age of Shakespeare, that is from 1475 to c. 1660. The first printed book in English was published by William Caxton in 1475. This period is a sort of transition between two outstanding epochs of literary efflorescence: the age of Chaucer and the age of Shakespeare. The growth of the vocabulary was a natural reflection of the progress of culture in the new, bourgeois society, and of the wider horizons of mans activity. Extensive phonetic changes were transforming the vowel system, which resulted n the growing gap between the written and the spoken forms of the word. The inventory of grammatical forms and syntactical constructions was almost the same as in Mod E, but their use was different. The abundance of grammatical units occurring without any apparent restrictions, or regularities produces an impression of great freedom of grammatical construction. The six period extends from the mid-17th c. to the close of the 18th c. In the history of the language it is often called the age of normalization and correctness. This age witnessed the establishment of norms. The norms were fixed as rules and prescriptions of correct usage in the numerous dictionaries and grammar-books published at the time and were spread through education and writing. The neo-classical period discouraged variety and free choice in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Word usage and grammatical construction were subjected to restriction and normalization. The morphological system, particularly the verb system, acquired a more strict symmetrical pattern. The formation of new verbal grammatical categories was completed. The English Language of the 19th and 20th c. represents the seventh period in the History of English Late New English or Modern English. The classical language of literature was strictly distinguished from the local dialects and the dialects of lower social ranks. The dialects were used in oral communication and, as a rule, had no literary tradition. In the 19th and 20th c. the English vocabulary has grown on an unprecedented scale reflecting the rapid progress of technology, science and culture and other multiple changes in all spheres of mans activities. Linguistic changes in phonetics and grammar have been confined to alterations in the relative frequency and distribution of linguistic units^ some pronunciations and forms have become old-fashioned or even obsolete, while other forms have gained ground, and have been accepted as common usage.

General characteristics of the OE language. The history of the English language begins with the invasion of the British Isles by Germanic tribes in the 5th c. Prior to the Germanic invasion the British Isles must have been inhabited for at least fifty thousand years. The Celts came to Britain in three waves and immediately preceded the Teutons. Economically and socially the Celts were a tribal society made up of kins, kinship groups, clans and tribes; they practiced a primitive agriculture, and carried on trade with Celtic Gaul.


3. OE dialects. The role of the Wessex dialect


The Germanic tribes who settled in Britain in the 5th and 6th c. spoke closely related tribal dialects belonging to the West Germanic subgroup. Their common origin and their separation from other related tongues as well as their joint evolution in Britain transformed them eventually into a single tongue, English. The OU dialects acquired certain common features which distinguished them from continental Germanic tongues. Also they displayed growing regional divergence. Tribal dialects were transformed into local or regional dialects. The following four principal OE dialects are commonly distinguished: Kentish, a dialect spoken in the area known now as Kent and Surrey and in the Isle of Wight. It had developed from the tongue of the Jutes and Frisians. West Saxon, the main dialect of the Saxon group, spoken in the rest of England south of the Thames and the Bristol Channel, except Wales and Cornwall, where Celtic tongues were preserved. Other Saxon dialects in England have not survived in written form and are not known to modern scholars. Mercian, a dialect derived from the speech of southern Angles and spoken chiefly in the kingdom of Mercia, that is, in certain region, from the Thames to the Humber. Nothumbrian, another Anglian dialect, spoken from the Humber north to the river Forth. The boundaries between the dialects were uncertain and probably movable. The dialects passed into one another imperceptibly and dialectal forms were freely borrowed from one dialect into another. Throughout this period the dialects enjoyed relative equality; none of them was the dominant form of speech, each being the main type used over a limited area. At the time of written OE the dialects had changed from tribal to regional; they possessed both an oral and a written form and were no longer equal; in the domain of writing the West Saxon dialect prevailed over its neighbours.

In the 9th c. the political and cultural centre moved to Wessex. Culture and education made great progress there; it is no wonder that the West Saxon dialect has been preserved in a greater number of texts than all the other OE dialects put together. Towards the 11th c. the written form of the West Saxon dialect developed into a bookish type of language, which, probably, served as the language of writing for all English-speaking people.


4. The Scandinavian Invasion and its effect on English


In the 8th c. raiders from Scandinavia (the Danes) made their first plundering attacks on England. The struggle of the English against the Scandinavians lasted over 300 years, in the course of which period more than half of England was occupied by the invaders and reconquered again. The Scandinavians subdued Northumbria and East Anglia, ravaged the eastern part of Mercia, and advanced on Wessex. Like their predecessors, the West Germanic invaders, the Scandinavians came in large numbers and settled in the new areas. They founded many towns and villages in northern England; in many regions there sprang up a mixed population made up of the English and the Danes. Their linguistic amalgamation was easy, since their tongues belonged to the same linguistic group. The ultimate effect of the Scandinavian invasions on the English language became manifest at a later date, in the 12th-13th c., when the Scandinavian element was incorporated in the central English dialects; but the historical events that led to the linguistic influence date from the 9th and 10th c. Under King Alfred of Wessex, by the peace treaty of 878 England was divided into two halves: the north-eastern half under Danish control called Danelaw and the south-western half united under the leadership of Wessex. The reconguest of Danish territories was carried on successfully by Alfreds successors but in the late 10th c. the Danish raids were renewed again; they reached a new climax in the early 11th c. headed by Sweyn and Canute. The attacks were followed by demands for regular payments of large sums of money. In 1017 Canute was acknowledged as king, and England became part of great northern empire, comprising Denmark and Norway. On Canutes death his kingdom broke up and England regained political independence; by that time it was a single state divided into six earldoms.

Though the Scandinavian invasions of England are dated in the OE period, their effect on the language is particularly apparent in ME. The new settlers and the English intermarried and intermixed; they lived close together and did not differ either in social rank or in the level of culture and customs; they intermingled the more easily as there as no linguistic barrier between them. In the aries of the hearviest settlement the Scandinavians outnumbered the Anglo-Saxon population, which is attested by geographical names. Altogether more than 1400 English villages and towns bear names od Scandinavian origin (with the element thorp meanings village, e.g. Woodthorp, Linthorp; toft a piece of land, e.g. Brimtoft, Lowestoft and others). Eventually the Scandinavians were absorbed into the local population both ethnically and linguistically. They merged with the society around them, but the impact on the linguistic situation and on the further development of the English language was quite profound. Due to the contacts and mixture with O Scand, the Northern dialects (to use OE terms, chiefly Northumbrian and East Mercian) had acquired lasting and sometimes indelible Scandinavian features. As the result of the Scandinavian invasion there were some borrowings: fallow, husband, wrong, to call, to take.


5. The Norman Conquest and its effect on English


The English king, Edward the Confessor, who had been reared in France, brought over many Norman advisors and favourities; he distributed among them English lands and wealth to the considerable resentment of the Anglo-Saxon nobility and appointed them to important positions in the government and church hierarchy. In many respects Edward paved the way for Norman infiltration long before the Norman Conquest. However, the government of the country was still in the hands of Anglo-Saxon feudal lords, headed by the powerful Earl Godwin of Wessex. In 1066 the elders of England proclaimed Harold Godwin king of England. As soon as the news reached William of Normandy, he mustered a big army by promise of land and plunder, and, with the support of the Pope, landed in Britain. In the battle of Hastings in October 1066, Harold was killed and the English were defeated. This date is the date of the Norman Conquest. Most of the lands of the Anglo-Saxon lords passed into t