From the beginning of recorded human history, people have used language to communicate. Through language we can share information, rule empires, create families and tribes, share thoughts, and ideas with others . There are roughly 7,000 languages spoken around the globe today. One such language, however, has gone on to achieve global recognition and is often referred to as a lingua franca or common language ; English. In order to understand its importance in today’s world, one must first understand where it comes from and how it developed.
The English language first emerged sometime during the 5th century AD, when the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes tribes invaded Britain. The Angles are believed to have been one of several Germanic tribes originating in what is now northern Germany The Angles spoke a language known as Englisc, which is where we get words like English or England. The languages of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes were similar in nature and over time they hybridized to create the base of “Old English”.
When the Normans invaded and subsequently conquered Britain in 1066 AD, it not only meant a new ruling class, but also new linguistic, social, and cultural influences. The Normans spoke both Latin and French, therefore, the grammar changed to reflect Latin structure and French and Latin words were incorporated as well. For example, the words vicar, mass, and priest reflect the Latin influence, while French words such as uncle and crime replaced the Old English words eam and firen.
The Norman exchange is one example of how English is unique among the world’s languages in its ability to “absorb words from other languages while retaining its sovereign identity words and phrases (i.e. elasticity).”
The Renaissance era its accompanying technological advancements caused more changes to the English language. The invention of the printing press in the late 15th century allowed English to become standardized. The first English dictionary was eventually published, and grammar and spelling rules were set. The Industrial Revolution and technological growth made new words necessary. Words like vaccine, nuclear, and protein up until this time, had not existed.
The colonization of new territories and the increase of global trade not only brought English to the far reaches of the world, this also made it possible for English to have an influence upon other countries and cultures. These cultures, in turn, added new words to English. Today, English is the dominant language in science, entertainment, music, business, and travel.
In conclusion, the history helps us understand how outside influences and cultural advancement shaped and developed the English language. We can also see how English is now able to influence other languages and cultures today.
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