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English Language Development: The Effects Of A French Invasion

1213 words - 5 pages

Welcome, species, mutton, fact, absurdity: these are all examples of words that English has “borrowed” from other languages. English is a complex language and its ability to “borrow” words from many different languages has made it very diverse. Within this diverse collection of languages that have influenced English, none have had as important an influence as French. In the beginning, English was a simple, strictly verbal language with few words. This all changed during the middle period when the Normans invaded England. During their rule, their spoken and written French was heavily influential on the still strictly verbal language that was English. This resulted in an increase to the English vocabulary and the formation of modern day prefixes and suffixes. The English language has progressed from a primitive form of communication with few words to the vast and every-changing language it is today, a feat that would have been impossible had the Normans not invaded.
In the early stages of the development of the English language, English or “Englisc” as it was called was a very basic and purely oral language. “Englisc” was the language of the Celts, who inhabited what is now modern day England, until it was invaded by Julius Caesar in 55 BC. Unlike many other regions that were conquered by the Roman Empire, Latin was not pressed upon the inhabitants of England. If the Romans had thought that England was worth controlling, modern day English would be a Latin-based language. When the Romans left England for the last time in 450 AD, “the Celts felt themselves increasingly vulnerable to attack”(“Old English”), so they invited the leaders of the Jutes to settle on the eastern coast. At this time, while the Jutes were coming to England:
[t]he Angles (from a region called Angeln, the spur of land which connects modern Denmark with Germany) gradually began to settle in increasing numbers on the east coast of Britain, particularly in the north and East Anglia. The Frisian people, from the marshes and islands of northern Holland and western Germany, also began to encroach on the British mainland from about 450 AD onwards. Still later, from the 470s, the war-like Saxons (from the Lower Saxony area of north-western Germany) made an increasing number of incursions into the southern part of the British mainland. Over time, these Germanic tribes began to establish permanent bases and to gradually displace the native Celts(“Old English”).
These Germanic tribes pushed the Celts into what is now modern day Wales, a name that originates from the old English word “weales”, meaning slaves. This would continue for three centuries until the Vikings invaded in the 8th century, bringing with them an estimated 1000 words that would become a part of the language, including skin, sister, husband, smile, and awkward. The Vikings would continue to inhabit the country of England until the Normans invaded.
The Middle English period is said to have started in 1066 AD when...

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