The Exciting Evolution of a Global Language
As a writer, I believe words are wonderful. As a Yorkshireman, I am blessed to have English as my mother tongue. As a historian, I am magnetically drawn toward the origins of the words I use. As a reader of my website, I hope that you too
possess an enthusiasm for the English language as a mode of human expression
My research soon showed that the roots of
English are both humble and exciting. English is a beautiful and unique fusion of Teutonic and Latin tongues. Nowhere else in the Europe did this
strange linguistic alchemy taken place. Perhaps being an island made the chemistry possible. The initial Teutonic input came from Angles, Saxons, Jutes (c.450+AD) and Viking (c.800+AD) invaders. Then came 1066 with the Norman-French invasion and their vast vocabulary of Latin-based words.
This hapless vernacular language was
subsequently battered into shape by
Chaucer, The Bible, and
Shakespeare. During the Old and Middle English periods, the linguistic rules of gender, inflexion and logic were broken or abandoned. European scholars often dismiss English as a lazy, illogical tongue - fit only for the plebs. Being an island race, the British became
buccaneers who conquered other lands.
The English tongue then lashed many shores, but it was also a sponge which eagerly absorbed foreign words.
It still does this today in our multi-cultural Britain.
I taught this exciting topic, I adopted a
humorous approach - one of discovery by students - as we re-traced
the early days and funny ways of the English-speaking people whose colourful
evolution led to the creation of a global tongue.
I taught the whole topic mainly at weekend residential colleges around the UK. My course used to follow this outline:
WELCOME: To each other and the topic. Debate plan: Purpose / Structure / Benefits.
INHABITANTS and INVADERS:
British Bedrock, Internal/External forces. Celtic/Roman Latin.
River names tended to remain unchanged by the Teutonic invaders. English,
however, absorbed very few British Celtic words from the indigenous population.
Ironically, when the Germanic invaders settled in Britain they called the
inhabitants 'foreigners' - thus that is how we have the original words 'Wales'.
Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings, and Danes. Goodbye gender and inflexion. Hello
alliteration and abridgement. Place names point to the roots of
English before these Pagans put pen to paper.
1066 AND ALL
Latin Lesson Two; Shotgun Wedding of Anglo-Saxon Ruffian and Norman-Latin Lady.
The unique fusion of Teutonic and Latin enriched the English vocabulary.
Their wayward off-spring was reared by Chaucer, Caxton and blessed by The
Bible. William Shakespeare
then transformed this vernacular tongue into
an artistic language.
TRADE IN WORDS:
English words were exported to the 'four corners of the globe'!
Rule O.K; Scholars: "It's Greek to Them".
Dictionaries were produced by odd-ball eccentrics.
Sponge tongue laps up foreign words. American / Hollywood
films project English around the world.
TO BOLDLY GO:
English in the Age of Star Trek as new words explode in a chain reaction of