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Old English External History. Pre-English Era. I. Neolithic Era (c. 5000-2000 BCE). Evidence of non-Indo European speaking groups. Construction on Stonehenge in southwest Britain begins (c. 2800 BCE). II. Bronze Age (2000-500 BCE).

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I neolithic era c 5000 2000 bce l.jpg
I. Neolithic Era (c. 5000-2000 BCE)

  • Evidence of non-Indo European speaking groups.

  • Construction on Stonehenge in southwest Britain begins (c. 2800 BCE)


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II. Bronze Age (2000-500 BCE)

  • Evidence of Indo-European speaking cultures, mainly agrarian (farmers).


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III. Celtic Stage

  • Celtic groups begin to arrive around 750 BCE.

  • Many different Celtic groups including the Britons (hence the term Britannia)

  • Many Celtic languages spoken are Gaelic and Brythonic (Britannic)

  • See Handout


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IV. Latin (Celtic Contact) Stage

  • 55 BC Celtic Britain is invaded by Roman forces (Julius Caesar).

  • 43 AD Conquest is completed under the Emperor Claudius after a 3 year military campaign and 40,000 Roman occupation force.

  • Romans hold political power for over 300 years (until 410 AD) and Latin functions as the “official” language of government and religion. Many but not all Celtic peoples convert to Christianity.

  • Celtic influence remains very strong during this period. Many communities are bilingual.


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IV. Latin (Celtic Contact) Stage

  • 410 AD Roman forces begin to withdraw, largely because troops are needed in other parts of Europe (eg. Germanic tribe Visigoths invade Rome in 410 AD).

  • Celtic groups that remain face raids from the north (from Picts and Scots) and from Germanic tribes from the European mainland.

  • NOTE: The Germanic tribes also had contact with Latin speakers while living on the continent, so this can be considered and earlier stage of contact with Latin prior to the emergence of English. See Handout


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B. English PeriodV. Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) Stage

  • 449 AD Celtic (British) leader Vortigern invites various Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) into an alliance against Picts and Scots which the defeat.

  • Leads to successive waves of invasion / occupation / settlement over the next 100 years.


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V. Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) Stage

  • 449 AD Jutes, a relative small group, settle in the area of Kent.

  • 477-495 AD Saxons settle in the South (Sussex) and West (Wessex).

  • 547 AD Angles (largest and most diverse group) settle in the East, central interior and the North, the areas we know today as East Anglia, the Midlands, and Norththumbria.


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V. Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) Stage

  • Relationships between Celtic groups and Germanic groups were complex.

  • In some areas, there is evidence of assimilation.

  • In other areas there is evidence of fierce resistance and even separate groups living in proximity to each other.

  • Some (but not all) British Celts driven into Wales, Cornwall, Ireland, and Brittany (Northwest Coast of France).


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V. Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) Stage

  • Organized political resistance by the Celtic groups continues through the early 6th century with a major British victory by a Celtic King named Arthur in 500 AD.

  • 540 AD Gildas (a Celtic cleric) writes The Fall of Britain in Latin.


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The Seven Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

  • Called The Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy

  • Kent,

  • Sussex, Wessex, Essex,

  • East Anglia,

  • Mercia, and

  • Northumbria.

  • Four of these are the most significant.


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Four Major A-S Kingdoms

  • 1. Kent (early Jutes):

  • Relatively small kingdom but they are significant because they are the first to convert to Christianity in the 6th century (Augustine, a Roman missionary arrives in 597 AD).

  • However, Christian and native religious beliefs will continue to coexist for many centuries.


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Four Major A-S Kingdoms

  • 2. Northumbria becomes the dominant kingdom in the 7th century.

  • Conversion to Christianity leads to the establishment of monasteries at Lindisfarne and Jarrow.

  • Lindisfarne Gospels (698) written, a Latin text with interlined OE paraphrase.

  • Also Caedmom, one of the oldest poetic vernacular works is written here.


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Four Major A-S Kingdoms

  • Mercia becomes the dominant kingdom in the 8th century.

  • Northumbria is diminished by successive Viking raids (787 AD ff.).

  • Conversion to Christianity and the influence of Latin allow this area to become one of the leading intellectual centers in Europe.


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Four Major A-S Kingdoms

  • Wessex becomes the dominant kingdom from the 9th century forward.

  • King Alfred (849-899) unites the A-S Kingdoms after his defeat of (or truce with) the Vikings. Reclaims London in 886 and is recognized as King of England, the lands south of the Danelaw.

  • Revival of learning and scholarship as Alfred brings many of the Mercian scholars to Wessex. Anglo-SaxonChronicles written during this era.

  • By 1000 AD Angelcynn (Angle-kin) > England


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VI. Latin Influence (Second Stage)

  • While the first Latin stage of influence was primarily political, the second stage was essentially religious and intellectual in scope beginning with the arrival of the Benedictine missionary Augustine in 597 AD.

  • Approximately 450 Latin words enter Old English during this time.


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VII. Scandinavian Influence

  • Covers a large span of time, from the mid-8th century through the beginning of the 11th century (the end of the OE era)

  • More commonly known as the Vikings.

  • These are Germanic groups from the North: Scandinavia, Norway (Norse or Northmen) or Denmark (Danes).


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VII. Scandinavian Influence

  • First Stage:

  • 787-850 AD Early raids on the northeastern coast of England (the area around Northumbira) by small raiding parties.


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VII. Scandinavian Influence

  • Second Stage (850-878 AD)

  • Large scale invasion (over 350 ships) by the Danish army that captures the northern and eastern parts of England.

  • King Alfred pushes them back and “defeats” them in 878 (Treaty of Wedmore)

  • Danelaw established.

  • Danes do not leave but settle in these occupied areas.


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VII. Scandinavian Influence

  • Third Stage (887-1014 AD)

  • Eventually these Northern Germanic groups complete the political conquest of England when the defeat the English at the Battle of Maldon (991 AD).

  • Norway and Denmark attack and capture London in 994.

  • King of Denmark (Svein) crowned King of England in 1014. English King driven into exile.

  • 1014-1039 AD England ruled by the Danish


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Scandinavian Influence: Contributions to the Language

  • Over 1400 place names

    (Derby, Rugby, Thorsby) –by = town

  • Hard [sk] in skill, skull, skin.

  • Nautical and Military words

  • Affect OE pronoun system

  • See page 135 and handout for others contributions.