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Influences on the English Language

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English is the most widely used language in the world nowadays. As a part of Germanic languages, it is now spoken on six continents. Countries, which use English as a first language, include Great Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other sovereign states. It is the official language of a number of world organizations, including the European Union. The importance of this language can’t be denied in politics, business, medicine, engineering, technology, education, travel and nearly in all fields.

Despite of that, many people still don’t know how the English language was created, how it changed during its history and what had the main influences on it. So in this writing I’ll try to talk about all the main events that caused changes and helped in development of English language as we see it today.

The English language was first spoken in early medieval England, which is called Anglo-Saxon England. Anglo-Saxon England existed from the 5th to the 11th century, until the Norman Conquest. It was created after the end of Roman Britain in 410 AD in what is now the south of England by Angle and Saxon tribes. These tribes spoke a variety of West Germanic dialects, and the close proximity of the tribes led to the evolution of a single language, which is known as Old English. Despite the name, Old English was vastly different from modern English, and most people who speak English today cannot recognize Old English as the same language. About half of the words in modern English have Old English roots, but they existed in different forms back then, and Old English grammar was very different. Words were given a different order in sentences, and they were even inflected based on gender.

The usage of Old English covers a period a period of about 700 years. Many people think that this language evolved from Latin, but this is not true. The Old English is a West Germanic language which evolved from “Proto-Germanic” language and dialects. Proto-Germanic language is the proto-language of the Germanic branch of the Indo- European languages which is also called a “Germanic parent language”. Latin language has its roots in the same language so the West Germanic dialects had already absorbed many Latin words by the time Old English was developed and after creation of English, even more words were borrowed. English also inherited words from Celtic languages which were used in British before the colonization by Germanic tribes. For today scholars have discovered for dialects of the Old English language: Mercian in central England, West Saxon in southern and southwestern England, Northumbrian in northern England and southeastern Scotland, Kentish in southeastern England. But most of the writings of that period are done on the West Saxon dialect in the era of the literary activity occurred during the 9th century. In contrast to the Modern English, Old English language had three genders in the adjective, nouns and pronouns.

The first major event that influenced the English language came about with the Viking invasion of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Some Norse raiders came from Sweden and Norway, but the vast majority who arrived in Britain were from Denmark. Soon, raiding was followed by settlement along the coasts and rivers, and overthrow of local rulers. By the late 9th century, Viking descendants controlled virtually the whole eastern half of England, an area which came to be known as the Danelaw.

Many English words which begin with “th” originate from the Old Norse. For Example the words thrall, thrift, thrust, then, all originate from Old Norse. Also the words starting with “sk” like sky, skirt, skill were taken from Norse. But scholars agree that similar sounds already existed in Old English.

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