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20 years overseas! Read about Leon's life
of the English Language
|To Understand English, it is helpful to understand its
history. To understand its history is to know that English is a
mixed language, full variety and rich in culture. English,
originally, was NOT a written language. Not until the Roman Empire brought written language to the British Isles, did any writing
take place. That's why not much is know about what occurred on the
Isles before the Romans conquered them. Unfortunately, the Roman
alphabet was (and is) insufficient for the English language.
English has 13-15 vowel sounds and the Roman alphabet has only five
vowels. What a pity!
Anyways, I hope this is helpful to somebody.
Archeology shows that people have been living on the Isle since at least this time. Who they were and what
language they spoke is a complete mystery. Linguists suggest that they
were Germanic Celts that migrated from central Europe (as did the Swedes, the
Norse, the Finns, the Danish, and the Dutch).
Celts lived on the Isle. Druids ruled. (nothing is known of their language;
some evidence suggests that they had a written language called "Runes");
However, the use of runes (as a written language, readable by the early
inhabitants of the British Isles, was not common and perhaps fell out of use
completely in the British Isles. However, in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark,
runes were used clear up to the 11th century A.D.
You really have to understand that most people of the British
Isles couldn't read and write. English was mostly a spoken language.
And it was quite different than the English we know today.
However, I think it is interesting to explore the runic alphabet
and compare/contrast it with other existing alphabets of the times.
|Modern English alphabet is the Roman (Latin)
(in the word below)
||Russian Cyrillic alphabet
Wikipedia's article) suggests that runes were used by Anglo-Saxon England
until the 10th century A.D.
However, as I wrote above, the lay people did not know how to
read and write. Probably only monks used the runes.
a cool website about the history of Runes.
Romans took over rule of the Isle. [The Romans introduced the Roman
a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v,
w, x, z [no "k" or "y" originally].
And, still only the monks and the well-educated were able to
read and write the new Roman (Latin) alphabet.
Emperor Constantine issues the "Milan Edict" saying
that Christianity was allowed to be freely practiced in all Roman territories.
By the time the Romans left in 410 A.D., there were a lot of
Christians in the British Isles.
I mention this, because religion has had a HUGE effect upon the
language. Most English names are now from the Christian Bible.
British Independence from Rome, and the start of 500 years of civil wars
Saxon mercenaries hired to defeat the Irish, given land.
King Arthur defeats the Saxons (because the Saxons were getting unruly).
Vikings (Norsemen) invade the Isle. And, their presence lasts for many years.
Danes (from Denmark) invade England
Danes and Norwegians invade the Isle.
King Canute the Great of Denmark & Norway invade England and Saxon Wessex.
King Canute the Great becomes the King of all England, Wessex, Denmark and Norway.
The Norman conquest of England begins. (Normandy = pre-France)
and so on....
Finally England defeats France and becomes it's own kingdom.
King James had the Bible translated into common English (of the
This was HUGE, because before that the Bible was only translated into Latin,
because Latin was deemed as some kind of holy language.
Thus, the Bible became more accessible to the common people, who
beforehand had to rely upon the interpretations of their local priests.
So, what you get is a language that is a mixture of the following:
1. The original language of the Germanic Celts
2. The Roman language (Latin)
3. The Irish language (Gaelic)
4. The Saxon language (?)
5. The Norse language (Norwegian)
6. The Danish language (Danish)
7. The Norman language (French)
Also, English also contains many many Greek words (probably due to the Roman
And of course, There are a few Arabic words and quite a few Dutch words.
As time progressed, English adopted words from
languages all around the world.
Therefore, you might be interested in my English-Words-From-Other-Languages
English, or what I would call "Pure English" is very
similar to Dutch, which is very similar to German, in fact it is thought that the first people on the isle of
Great Britain, came from Germanic tribes that migrated north along the Danube
River. But the English we speak today is so full of influence of other
languages that it makes a good lingua franka (for Europe, anyways; not for the
other parts of the world).