Old English Period

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The stage of English from its creation by the Anglo-Saxons to shortly after the Norman conquest is called ‘Old English’. The earliest Old English was much more inflected than modern English; it had a much smaller vocabulary with few loanwords from other languages and a simpler phonology. It changed a great deal over six centuries due to influences from four other languages. Latin had already loaned some words into the Germanic languages on the continent, and then more came to English when the Anglo-Saxons became Christianised. Common Brittonicn/Old Welsh, the Celtic language of central and southern Britain, which English replaced; this is believed to have had various influences on the grammar and pronunciation of English, including the continuous…show more content…
This did not have all of the letters of the modern alphabet, but did have some letters that were added to the Latin one and which have since dropped out. The stage from about 1100 to 1500 is called Middle English. The language during this time first had to compete with Anglo-Norman, now the official and prestige language of the country, and there are very few texts from the early period (late 11th and 12th centuries) to tell exactly what English was like. It continued to be spoken by the massive majority of the population and there was never any danger of Norman taking over (it’s been estimated that the French-speaking minority was never more than 3%). But Norman-French had a huge vocabulary input into English at this time, and the combined influence of it and the earlier Norse weakened the inflectional system and led to English becoming a language of far fewer endings and more fixed word order. It has been suggested that Middle English should actually be considered a creole. The special added letters of the Anglo-Saxon alphabet were gradually lost as they were seen as inferior by French-influenced scribes, and instead new French-styled digraphs were introduced to spell sounds the alphabet found…show more content…
This is mostly due to the advent of printing, which massively increased the availability of written texts and in turn literacy: as a result people were loath to make now established texts and their readability invalid by moving the spelling on. It was Early Modern English that gave us two of the most influential texts in the history of English: Shakespeare’s plays and the King James Bible. These two works have given the language a huge number of new words, set phrases and sayings. Shakespeare himself invented countless new words, altho it was the vogue at the time for intelligent writers to borrow words from other languages - including by this point Latin and Greek - to create new English ones. This was a time of rapid change and new experiences and influences, such as the discovery of other parts of the world, their peoples, cultures, plants and animals; of the Reformation, and of new science and philosophy that needed new terms to be communicated. Thus a great increase in vocabulary was necessary and English among European languages was unusually profligate in acquiring, which led to the ‘mongrel’ lexicon we have
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