Anglo Saxon Language Essay

1111 words - 4 pages

AngloSaxon Language

Nearly all knowledge of the English language before the seventh century is hypothetical. Most of this knowledge is based on later English documents and earlier documents in related languages (3). The English language of today represents many centuries of development. As a continuous process, the development of the English language began in England around the year 449 with the arrival of several Germanic tribes including: the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes (1, p.49). English, like all other languages, is subject to constant growth and decay (1). Many of the political and social events that have so profoundly affected the English people in their life have generally had an impact on their language (1). The evolution and developmental changes of Anglo-Saxon Language and Modern English have been characterized by three basic periods: Old English, Middle English, and Modern English.

Old English was spoken and written in England during the early part of the Middle Ages, from about 600-1100 (2). The language’s earliest stage of development was known as Old English (OE) (3). The four main varieties of the language that were taken to Britain were: Kentish which was associated with the Jutes; West Saxon, from the Southern region, Wessex; Mercian, an Anglian dialect which was spoken in Mercia; and Northumbrian, one of the northernmost Anglian dialects (3). The “vocabulary expanded chiefly through compounding and derivation,” but there were also a few changes in meaning that contributed to this growth (3, p473). The first written form of the language was runic letters which was replaced by a modified version of the Roman alphabet during the Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity (3). Very little of OE could have been read or even understood (3). Two very important documents from this period include: Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the last document in OE (3, p723). Late into this period many linguistic changes began to occur (3, p472). The customary usage of pronunciation, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary all modified with the Norman Invasion in 1066 (2, p1 of 4). An entry dated 1154 from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle shows many features of early Middle English (ME), the second stage of the development of English (3, p723).

Middle English was spoken from 1100-1500 during the late Middle Ages (2, p3 of 4). After the Norman Invasion, a French speaking people occupied England (2, p3 of 4). Both the natural evolution of language and the French influence brought significant changes in the speech of the natives (2, p3of4). “More far-reaching, however, were the borrowings,… from French, that transformed English from an almost wholly Germanic language to a language of mixed Germanic-Romance composition (3, p473).” In ME almost every aspect of OE changed considerably (3, p473). Many OE words fell completely out of use (3, p658). But three main features of ME greatly contrasted with OE: There was a greatly increased...

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