History of the English language
English is a Germanic language, and it belongs to the Indo – European family of languages.English did not always sound the way it does in our times. Old English is quite well known to us through translations of the Bible, from old chronicles, but also from other documents. It was used until about the end of the11th century A.D.It sounded very different form contemporary English.In fact, it was more similar to the German language of our century than to present- day English. It had many inflections, and the word order was by far not so important as it is in the syntax of English today.
During the period which followed the Norman Conquest, many French and Latin words entered the vocabulary od English. These new words, however, did not change the structure of the English language.The simplification of the English inflectional system was caused by an inner development of English morphology and syntax. We refer to this newer form of English by the term Middle English. Middle English was spoken and written from the begnning of the 12 th century till aobut the end of the 14th century. Geoffrey Chauser was the most important literary figure of the period.His English was still very different from the English we use today.
Shakespeare used a language that we today refer to as Early Modern English. There we can find many words and structures which are different from those used in Modern English. Early Modern English is not so difficult to understand today as is Middle or Old English.The grammar of English was even more simplified till the end of the 16 th centuryThere were also numerous changes in the pronunciation of English. In fact, there were so many of them that the spelling could not follow all of these changes. As a result, the written representation of English is quite different from its spoken form.
There were many dialects of English during the Old and Middle English period, and it was very difficult to achieve a pronunciation which would be uniform everywhere. It was easier to standardize the literary language, especially so after Caxton introduced printing in England before the end ot the 15 th century. English pronunciation was also being standardized in the centuries that followed.
Though there are stillseveral wstandards of English even today.
However, English – speaking persons of the 20 th century have no problem no serious difficulties in understanding one another , no matter whether they speak to an American, to an Australian, or to a British- born person. There are some diffetences between the different standars and dialects, but they seldom cause a breakdown in communication.
The sutdy of the history of language development is called a diachronical study, while the one that is concerned with the description of contemporary language, is called synchronical. Comparative linguistics deals with the description and comparison of two different periods in the development of the same language.