Evolution of the English Language

Essay, 2002

9 Pages, Grade: 1 (A)


1. Introduction

1.1 Why I have chosen this subject for my essay?

The topic of my essay, development of the English language, directly refers to the theme of our seminar “linguistics” because this evolution plays an important role at the consistence of linguistics.

1.2 Brief information about the English language

English is a Germanic language of the Indo – European family. It is the second most spoken language in the world.

It is estimated that there are 300 million native speakers and 300 million who use English as a second language in the world and a further 100 million use it as a foreign language. It is the language of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy and tourism. In 45 countries English is the official or co – official language.

2. The English language

2.1 Old English (500 – 1100 AD)

The Angles, Saxons and Jutes began populating British Isles in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. They spoke a mutually intelligible language, similar to modern Frisian (language of northeastern region of the Netherlands), that is called Old English. Four major dialects of Old English emerged, namely Northumbrian in the north of England, Mercian in the Midlands, West Saxon in the south and west and Kentish in the Soouth east.

These invaders pushed the original, Celtic – speaking inhabitants out of (what is now) England into Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland leaving behind a few Celtic words.

These Celtic languages survive today in Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland and in Welsh.

Another influencing aspect at this time were the Vikings. A number of invasions, beginning around 850, brought many North Germanic words into the language, particularly in the north of England. An example for Old English is the following poem called “Beowulf”. I just show an exerpt of it:

“Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,

monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra

ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning!
ðæm eafera wæs æfter cenned,
geong in geardum, þone god sende
folce to frofre; fyrenðearfe ongeat



[1] URL: http://www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/library/oe/texts/a4.1.html ( 28.12.01)

Excerpt out of 9 pages


Evolution of the English Language
University of Kassel  (FB Anglistics)
1 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
536 KB
Evolution, English, Language
Quote paper
Carolin Klöver (Author), 2002, Evolution of the English Language, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/2018


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