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The Origins of English. By R J Phillips. Circa 450 AD. The Romans withdraw from Britain. Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians arrive in Britain. Celts forced West to the fringes of Britain. The Nature of English. Modern English is made up of three principal layers of vocabulary:

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the origins of english

The Origins of English

By R J Phillips

circa 450 ad
Circa 450 AD
  • The Romans withdraw from Britain.
  • Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians arrive in Britain.
  • Celts forced West to the fringes of Britain.
the nature of english
The Nature of English
  • Modern English is made up of three principal layers of vocabulary:
  • 1 Anglo-Saxon (with additions from Old Norse)
  • 2 French
  • 3 Latin (with additions from Greek)
  • All that remains of the Celtic languages are traces in place names eg coombe (a deep valley);
  • Some river names eg Dart;
  • Some nouns eg ass, brock, bannock.
the anglo saxon basis of english
The Anglo-Saxon Basis of English
  • Personal Pronouns: I, you, he, she, we us.
  • Demonstrative Pronouns: this, that, these, those.
  • Auxiliary Verbs: can, shall.
  • Conjunctions: as, and, but, so , then.
  • Prepositions: on, in, under, over, down, up to, by.
  • Adverbs: when, while, where.
many of our most familiar content words words that carry ideas are anglo saxon e g
Many of our most familiar content words (words that carry ideas) are Anglo-Saxon e.g.
  • Nouns: house (hus), ship (scip), sun (sunne), love (lufu), hear (heorte) and also day, father, food, winter, night, son, grass, water, king, wife, friend, moon.
  • Adjectives: right (riht), evil (yfel), cold (cald), bloody (blodig), bitter (biter).
  • Verbs:eat (etan), drink (drincan), live (libban), fight (feohtan).
other vocabulary inherited from anglo saxon
Other vocabulary inherited from Anglo-Saxon:
  • Most names for parts of the body;
  • Most numbers;
  • Most strong verbs (strong verbs form their past tense by changing the vowel e.g. speak/spoke, ride/rode, sing/sang, think/thought, do/did, be/was).
  • Can you think of three more strong verbs?
the viking period 787 1014
The Viking period 787-1014
  • Continual raiding and settlement of England by the Danes.
  • Danish kings rule England from 1014-1042
Because the Danes and Anglo-Saxons were mutually intelligible to each other many words from Old Norse passed into English.
  • bank, birth, brink, bull, leg, loan, dirt, dregs, race, root, steak, thrift, trust, freckle, gap, guess, skill, skin, skirt, sky, awkward, rotten, tight, weak, muggy, crawl, droop, gasp, glitter, raise, rake, scare, scowl, snub, take, thrive, thrust
stylistic qualities of old norse
Stylistic Qualities of Old Norse:
  • Many are monosyllabic;
  • Many contain consonants harsh to the ear e.g. sky, skin, skill, scrub, screech, bask, whisk;
  • While Old English modified the Germanic sk to sh, Scandinavian kept the sk eg shirt O.E. skirt O.N.
  • This is also true of k and g. When they are pronounced hard as in get, give, egg then they are usually Old Norse in origin.
1066 the norman invasion
1066 The Norman Invasion
  • For two hundred years after the conquest English kings spoke French, governed part of France as well as England and took French wives
  • French was the language of court
  • The upper and middle classes spoke French too, if they were ambitious
during the norman period circa 10 000 words were added to the english language
During the Norman period circa 10,000 words were added to the English language.
  • 1362 English becomes the language of government again. The language has changed over this period and is known to scholars as Middle English.