The history of the English language began over 1500 years ago in the north of Europe. Around the fifth century A.D., tribes of people known as the Angels, Saxons, and Jutes traveled west from Germany and Denmark across the North Sea. They settled in Britain, and by the late seventh century, they were speaking an early form of the English.
In the late 8th, 9th and 10th centuries, the Vikings attacked England. Fighting continued for 200 years. During this time, many Latin, Danish, and Norse words entered the English language. Latin gave English words like kitchen and cup. From Danish and Norse, English borrowed skin, leg, take and get and the pronouns them, their, and they. many synonyms from the Norse language became integrated into English, for example, wrath(English),anger(Norse);sick(English),ill(Norse).
In 1066, the Normans conquered England. French became the language of the wealthy and powerful, and English was spoken mostly by poorer people. In the late 14th century, English became the first language again. By this time, many words used in English came from French or Latin, French brought many words connecting with government, including sovereign, court, royal, government. Latin was the language of church and learning, and gave to English words, for example, school, master, minister, grammar, angel and so on. Literature began to be written again in English. One of the most famous works is Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
The development of Modern English
Modern English developed from the Middle English dialect of the East Midlands and was influenced by the English used in London, where a printing press was set up by William Caxton in 1476. English changed a great deal from this time until the end of the 18th century. During the Renaissance, many words were introduced from Greek and Latin to express new ideas, especially in science, medicine and philosophy. They included physics, species, architecture, encyclopedia and hypothesis. In the 16th century several versions of the Bible helped bring written English to ordinary people. The Elizabethan period is also famous for its drama, and Shakespeare’s plays were seen by many people.
The development of printing helped establish standards of spelling and grammar, but there remained a lot of variation. Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) was the first authoritative treatment of English. It defined about 40,000 words and gave examples of their use.
By the 18th century American English was established and developing independently from British English. After colonists arrived in the US new words began to be added from Native American languages, and from French.
20th Century English
During the 19th and early 20th centuries many dictionaries and books about language were published. New words are still being added to English from other languages, including Chinese and Japanese. Existing words gain new senses, and new
expressions spread quickly through television and the Internet.
English is now an international language and is used as a means of communication between people from many countries. As a result the influences on the English language are wider than ever and it is possible that World English will move away from using a British or American standard and establish its own international identity.