A language is the speech of people. The history of a language is, therefore, the history of people. English is part of the Indo-European family of languages. The diagram shows how English came about.
The diagram shows only lines of descent. The diagram shows the sub-branches of only the Germanic branch and the place of English in this sub-family.
Modern English belongs to the Germanic group of Indo-European languages. In the history of making of English, some movements and events stand out: 5th and 6th century migration of the three Germanic tribes: Jutes, Saxons and Angles to what is now known as England; St. Augustine's arrival in 597 and the conversion of England to Latin Christianity; 8th, 9th, and 10th century Scandinavian invasions; the Norman conquest in the 11th century; the revival of learning in the 16th century; the settlement of North America, Australia and South Africa by the English-speaking people in the 19th century and the political colonization of India and others in the same century.
The name 'English' means 'the speech of the Anglii,’ the Angles, one of the three related tribes that settled in Britannia beginning 5th century—then from Jutland came the first tribe and settled in Kent and Southern Hampshire; Saxons from Holstein next settled south of the Thames; the Angles from Schleswig settled last north of the Thames. The Germanic name of the Angles was Angli which became Engle in Old English. After 1000 AD Englaland was used to denote the Germanic peoples in Britain— the language was always known as Englise.
In the next five hundred years or so it developed into an independent language that stood out from any Germanic language spoken in Europe. It has been claimed that of all the tongues descended from Indo-European, "English has had most contacts with its kindred near and far".
In the 1500 years of its existence, English has developed continuously. In this development, it is possible to see three main periods. Like all divisions this division is also a matter of convenience but one in which it is possible to recognise certain distinguishing characteristics in each period. The three periods are:
Old English was very resourceful in the formation of words by means of prefixes and suffixes; it was possible to form more than a hundred words from the same root. In this period several languages were being used simultaneously. Their contact inevitably produced a rich system of communication.
The Middle English period is the time when changes occurred in every aspect of the language. This was due to the conquering of England by the French, known familiarly as the Norman Conquest in 1066. Later on with William the Conqueror becoming the King of England, the entire English ruling class was replaced by a French aristocracy and the French language removed English of its rightful place. A century later, with the loss of Normandy, the ruling class began to think in English and thus English was slowly revived. In 14th century Geoffrey Chaucer (1350 -1400) used English in poetry. Canterbury Tales is the name of the famous work. He was called the 'Father of English Poetry'. John Wycliffe, translator of the Bible, belongs to this period. 15th century saw the extended use of English as a literary medium and had a number of respected and famous writers of prose. This age gave the language a great boost leading to the Elizabethan age and to Shakespeare in particular. With Shakespeare, English language stood on the brink of Modern Period. In the Modern English Period, Grammatically, English became an analytical language. In the hands of Shakespeare and others, English was perfected as the correct medium for both prose and poetry. Conscious efforts were made to make it the acceptable language for science; spelling reforms were undertaken. Dictionaries were composed and English was spread in other lands giving rise to new, non-native varieties of English.
The evolution of the word 'English' is very interesting and is in some ways symbolic of the development of the English language. The word is derived from the name of the Angles who along with the Jutes and Saxons founded settlement in England in the fifth and sixth centuries. The Angles got their name from the 'angle' or corner of the land that juts out into the Southern Baltic between the modern towns of Schleswig and Flensburg. In Latin and Germanic their name was 'Angli' which later became 'Engle' by a change of the stressed vowel. Before 1000AD 'Angelcynn' (Angle-race) was used to denote collectively the Germanic people in England, the Jutes, Saxons and Angles alike. After 1000 AD England (Land of the Angles) became popular.
Today English language is made up of 26 letters. They are–
A B C D E FG H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
There are two ways of writing them; Upper case alphabets and Lower case alphabets.
are Upper case alphabets. They are also called as Capital letters.
are called as Lower case letters. They are also called as Small letters.
are called Vowels
are called Consonants
The rules of forming words, sentences and speech are called the study of English Grammar and Linguistics. Here we learn the basic rules of English Grammar. Welcome to all the students to know and improve English.
Here is a small table to show how English spellings changed from 13th century to modern days.
Importance of the English Language
Just as the history of the English language is interesting, so are the reasons for studying the English language. Any student, who takes up the task of learning English, asks the question, why should he/she study the language? This brings us to the importance of learning English.
English is the first language of the United Kingdom and a few of its former colonies like the United States of America, Canada, and Australia. In common means of communication English is used between the peoples of different nations. The UNO has given English the status of being an official language. Thus, it can be called as an international language.
These days every country needs the help of another country for various reasons. More so in the political and economic arena. English is, therefore, being learnt and used all over the world not out of any imposition but by the realization that there are advantages in learning the language. It is no longer the language of Great Britain only.
Graduate students and scholars need to consult libraries to maintain standards in education and to get higher knowledge. Good reference books are found in English especially in science subjects. Thus English plays an important role as a library language in higher education.
Finally as a tool for communication English plays an important role in the everyday life of people across the world. Communicating thoughts and feelings is a part of language. People from different languages communicate through English. This brings people closer and encourages inter-cultural togetherness.
Thus, English has emerged as a single, powerful communication tool which helps in progress. Therefore, learning English becomes imperative.
Welcome to the wonderful and interesting arena of learning English. I hope your journey with the language is filled with interesting and happy moments.