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Jumaat, 11 April 2008

History Of English


Very interesting article!! Must read..

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    Find out in this four-part series.

    English is the language of the Internet, of music, movies, medicine,
    air traffic controllers and captains at sea. International business
    would grind to a halt without it.

    It is an official language in more than 45 countries. Three hundred
    and fifty million people are native English speakers but a further
    billion speak English as a second or foreign language – many of them
    are in Asia .

    If you've always wondered about this colourful – but sometimes
    complicated and contrary – language, read on!

    Where did English come from?

    Surprisingly, it didn't come from England ! English began its life on
    the dusty plains of India more than 4,000 years ago. It belongs to the
    family of languages that linguists call "Proto-Indo European".

    How did linguists discover the roots of English? They noticed strong
    resemblances between English, German and Dutch words and Sanskrit –
    one of the oldest of the Indo-European languages. The word "brother"
    is "bhratar" in Sanskrit, "bruder" in German and "broeder" in Dutch.
    This makes English, German and Dutch linguistic `cousins'.

    England before English

    Up to about the year 500, Celtic languages were spoken by the common
    people of Britain . The Romans ruled Britain from 43 to 410 and it is
    thought that the Celtic tribes learned enough Latin (the language of
    the Romans) to transact daily business.

    Some of the words we use today that come from the Romans are "plant",
    "cat", "wine", "wall" and "street". Very few Celtic words remain in
    English and they usually refer to geographical features or places like
    "tor", "crag" and " London ". What happened to almost wipe out the
    Celtic languages?

    The Germanic invasion

    Around the year 500, people from Germanic tribes (nowadays Northern
    Germany and Denmark ) began to pour into Britain . Some of them were
    recruited as mercenaries to keep the peace after the Romans left. Some
    were immigrants in search of a better life.

    These tribes were the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. They fought with the
    Celtic inhabitants for land and in the process pushed the Celts to the
    northern and western edges of BritainScotland , Ireland , Wales ,
    Cornwall – and even over to Brittany in France . Celtic languages still
    cling on in these places today, but Cornish is now extinct.

    The language of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes was "Englisc", from which
    we get the name "English". Linguists refer to their language as "Old
    English". They wrote in "runes" – characters formed from straight lines.

    In the late 500s, Christian missionaries arrived in Britain , bringing
    with them the Roman alphabet. As well as getting a more flexible
    alphabet, Britain got its second injection of Latin with religious
    words like "angel" and "Mass" entering the language.

    By the 7th century, an English alphabet had emerged from the Roman
    alphabet. The most famous writing we have in Old English today is the
    poem `Beowulf'. But Old English is still vitally important in our
    Internet age – about half of the most commonly used words in English
    have Old English roots e.g. "be", "come", "day", "earth", "friend",
    "from", "go", "here", "home", "love", "lust", "man", "sing", "sleep",
    "the", "word", "work".

    The Vikings make their mark

    For almost 300 years from 787, Norwegian and Danish seafaring tribes
    attacked and invaded the UK . Their language, Old Norse, was not
    dissimilar to Old English as it came from the same branch of
    Proto-Indo European. The Vikings and the English would have been able
    to understand each other's languages – if not motives.

    King Alfred came to a practical solution to years of fighting by
    dividing the UK diagonally from the NE to the SW. The Northern side of
    the line (the "Danelaw") was ruled by the Danes and their dialect took
    hold. This explains the marked difference between the Northern and
    Southern British accents, which still persists today.

    For more information, contact the British Council or visit
    www.britishcouncil.org

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