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Origin of the English Language

seminar work

Speech in English Language

imon Slvik
Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra


In this seminar work I will focus on the origin, distribution and evolution of the English
language from the Old English to Modern English. I choose this topic because I think
that only few people know it in detail and I take the view that history should not be

Old English
Middle English
Early modern English
Modern English
Differencies and comparison
Conclusion and Bibliography

9 11
12 14

The Old English / 449-1100

The recorded history of the English language begins in the British Isles, where
speakers settled. During the period when the language was spoken in Europe,
it is known as preOld English.

449 Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians began to occupy Great Britain changing its major population to English speakers and separating the
early English language from its Continental relatives, the actual
migrations began earlier.
597 Saint Augustine of Canterbury arrived in England to begin the
conversion of the English by baptizing King Ethelbert of Kent, thus
introducing the influence of the Latin language.
664 The Synod of Whitby aligned the English with Roman rather than
Celtic Christianity - linking English culture with mainstream Europe.
730 The Venerable Bede produced his Ecclesiastical History of the English
People, recording the early history of the English people.
787 The Scandinavian invasion began with raids along the northeast
865 The Scandinavians occupied northeastern Britain and began a
campaign to conquer all of England.
871 Alfred became king of Wessex, rallying the English against the
Scandinavians, retaking the city of London, establishing the Danelaw,
securing the kingship of all England for himself and his successors, and
producing or sponsoring the translation of Latin works into English.
987 lfric, the homilist and grammarian, went to the abbey of Cerne,
where he became the major prose writer of the Old English period
991 Olaf Tryggvason invaded England, and the English were defeated at
the Battle of Maldon.
1000 The manuscript of the Old English epic
Beowulf was written.
1016 Canute became king of England,
establishing a Danish dynasty in Britain.
1042 The Danish dynasty ended with the death
of King Hardicanute, and Edward the Confessor
became king of England.
1066 Edward the Confessor died and was
succeeded by Harold, last of the Anglo-Saxon
kings, who died at the Battle of Hastings while
fighting against the invading army of William,
duke of Normandy, who was crowned king of
England on December 25.


Knowledge of the pronunciation of Old English can be only approximate. The
precise quality of any older speech sound from the era before sound recordings
cannot be determined with absolute certainty. Moreover, in Old English times,

as today, there were regional and individual differences, and doubtless social
differences as well. At no time do all members of any linguistic community,
especially an entire nation, speak exactly alike.
Anglo-Saxons pronunciation of vowel length was a significant distinction in Old
English. Corresponding long and short vowels probably differed also in quality,
but the length of time it took to say them seems to have been of primary
importance. We conventionally mark the spellings
of Old English long vowels with a macron and leave short vowels unmarked,
thus: gd good versus god god. In phonetic transcriptions, different vowel
symbols will be used where we believe different qualities occurred, but vowel
length will be indicated by a colon, thus for the same two words: [go:d] versus
The vowel letters in Old English were a, , e, i, o, u, and y. They represented
either long or short sounds, though sometimes scribes wrote a slanting line
above long vowels, particularly where confusion was likely, for example, gd
for [go:d] good, but that practice was not consistent. The five vowel letters a,
e, i, o, and u represented what are sometimes referred to as Continental
valuesapproximately those of Italian, Spanish, German, and to some extent
of French as well.
The letter represented the same sound for which we use it in phonetic
transcriptions: []. The letter y, used exclusively as a vowel symbol in Old
English, usually indicated a rounded front vowel, long as in German Bhne,
short as in fnf. This sound, which has not survived in Modern English, was
made with the tongue position of [i] (long) or [] (short) but with the lips
rounded as for [u] or [] respectively. The sounds are represented phonetically
as [:] and []. In the examples that follow, the Modern English form in
parentheses illustrates a typical Modern English development of the Old English
a as in habban (have) as in hm (home)
as in t (that) as in dl (deal)
e as in settan (set) as in fdan (feed)
i as in sittan (sit) as in rdan (ride)
o as in moe (moth) as in fda (food)
u as in sundor (sunder) as in ms (mouse)
y as in fyllan (fill) y as in my s (mice)
Old English words of more than one syllable, like those in all Germanic
languages, were regularly stressed on their first syllables. Exceptions to this
rule were verbs with prefixes, which were generally stressed on the first
syllable of their main element: wifohtan to fight against, onbndan to
unbind. Be-, for-, and ge- were not stressed in any part of speech: bebd
commandment, fors forsooth, gehp convenient.
Like their Modern English counterparts, Old English verbs were either weak,
adding a -d or -t to form their preterits and past participles (as in modern talktalked), or strong, changing their stressed vowel for the same purpose (as in
modern singsang- sung). Old English had several kinds of weak verbs and

seven groups of strong verbs distinguished by their patterns of vowel change;

and it had a considerably larger number of strong verbs than does Modern
Old English also retains original grammatical gender (masculine vs feminine vs
neuter), but with some irregularities. Gender is not sex: it is simply a
classifying system, in which each noun has to belong to some category which
predicts its agreement behaviour (forms of pronouns and adjectives). So stan
stone is masculine and takes he as its agreeing pronoun, cild child is neuter
and takes hit, later it, lufu love is feminine and takes heo. PIE had three
numbers: singular, dual (two and two only) and plural. The dual remains only in
the first and second personal pronouns.

Nouns, adjectives, and most pronouns had fuller inflection for case than their
modern developments do; the inflected forms were used to signal a words
function in its sentence.
Adjectives agreed in case, number, and gender with the nouns they modified.
Adjectives were also inflected for definiteness in the so-called strong and
weak declensions.
Old English had no articles, properly speaking.
The Old English negative adverb ne came before (rather than after) the verb it
modified: Ic ne dyde I did not. Consequently it contracted with certain
following verbs: nis (ne is is not), nille (ne wille will not), nf (ne hf has
Old English word order was somewhat less fixed than that of Modern English
but in general was similar. Old English declarative sentences tended to fall into
the subject-verb-complement order usual in Modern Englishfor example, H
ws swe spdig man He was a very successful man and Eadwine eorl cm
mid landfyrde and drf hine t Earl Edwin came with a land army and drove
him out.
Gender in Old English
Aside from its pronunciation and its word stock, Old English differs markedly
from Modern English in having grammatical gender in contrast to the Modern
English system of natural gender, based on sex or sexlessness. Grammatical
gender, which put every noun into one of three categories (masculine,
feminine, or neuter), was characteristic of Indo-European, as can be seen from

its presence in Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and other Indo-European languages. The
three genders were preserved in Germanic and survived in English well into the
Middle English period; they survive in German and Icelandic to this day.
Doubtless the gender of a noun originally had nothing to do with sex, nor does
it necessarily have sexual connotations in those languages that have retained
grammatical gender. Old English wf wife, women is neuter, as is its German
cognate Weib; so is mgden maiden, like German Mdchen. Bridd young
bird is masculine; bearn son, bairn is neuter. Brost breast and hafod
head are neuter, but br eyebrow, wamb belly, and eaxl shoulder are
feminine. Strengu strength is feminine, broc affliction is neuter, and dram
joy is masculine.
For futher reading:

Hogg. The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. 1: The Beginnings to 1066.
Baker. Introduction to Old English.
Faiss. English Historical Morphology and Word-Formation.

The Middle English / 1100-1500

The beginning and ending dates of the Middle English period are two points in
time when ongoing language changes became particularly noticeable:
grammatical changes about 1100 and pronunciation changes about 1500. The
term middle indicates that the period was a transition between Old English and
early Modern English.

1066 The Normans conquered England, replacing the native English

nobility with Anglo-Normans and introducing Norman French as the
language of government in England.
1204 King John lost Normandy to the French, beginning the loosening of
ties between England and the Continent.
1258 King Henry III issued the first English-language royal proclamation
since the Conquest.
1337 The Hundred Years War began and lasted until 1453, promoting
English nationalism.

134850 The Black Death killed an estimated one-third of Englands

population and continued to plague the country for much of the rest of
the century.
1362 The Statute of Pleadings was enacted, requiring all court
proceedings to be conducted in English.
1381 The Peasants Revolt led by Wat Tyler was the first rebellion of
working-class people against their exploitation. Although it failed in most
of its immediate aims, it marks the beginning of popular protest.
1384 John Wycliffe died, having promoted the first complete translation
of scripture into the English language (the Wycliffite Bible).
1400 Geoffrey Chaucer died, having produced a highly influential body of
English poetry.
1430 The Chancery office (where legal records were deposited) began
recordkeeping in a form of East Midland English, which became the
written standard of English.
1476 William Caxton brought printing to England, thus promoting literacy
throughout the population.
1485 Henry Tudor became king of England, ending thirty years of civil
strife, called the War of the Roses, and introducing 118 years of the Tudor
1497 John Cabot sailed to Nova Scotia, foreshadowing English territorial
expansion overseas.

Foreign influences on vocabulary

During the Middle English period, Latin continued to exert an important
influence on the English vocabulary. Scandinavian loanwords that must have
started making their way into the language during the Old English period
became readily apparent in Middle English, and Dutch and Flemish were also
significant sources. However the major new influence, and ultimately the most
important, was French. In the comparison down, you can see changes from Old,

to Middle and Modern English.

Just as French words were borrowed, so too were French spelling conventions.
Yet some of the apparent innovations in Middle English spelling were, in fact, a
return to earlier conventions. For example, the digraph th had been used in
some of the earliest English textsthose written before 900but was replaced
in later Old English writing by and . During the Middle English period, th was
gradually reintroduced, and during early Modern English times printers
regularized its use.
Similarly, uu, used for [w] in early manuscripts, was supplanted by the runic
wynn, but was brought back to England by Norman scribes in a ligatured form
as w. The origin of this symbol is accurately indicated by its name, double-u.
Other new spellings were true innovations. The Old English symbol (which we
transliterate as g) was an Irish shape; the letter shape g entered English writing
later from the Continent. In Middle English times, the Old English symbol
acquired a somewhat different form, (called yogh), and was used for several
sounds, notably two that came to be spelled y and gh later in the period. The
complex history of these shapes and the sounds they represented is illustrated
by the spellings of the following five words:

Reduction of Inflections
As a result of the merging of unstressed vowels into a single sound, the number
of distinct inflectional endings in English was drastically reduced. Middle
English became a language with few inflectional distinctions, whereas Old
English, as we have seen, was relatively highly inflected, although less so than
Proto-Germanic. This reduction of inflections was responsible for a structural
change of the greatest importance.
Loss of Grammatical Gender
One of the important results of the leveling of unstressed vowels was the loss
of grammatical gender. Grammatical gender, for psychological reasons rather
than phonological ones, had begun to break down in Old English times. In Old

English, gender was readily distinguishable in most nouns: masculine

nominative-accusative plurals typically ended in -as, feminines in -a, and
shortstemmed neuters in -u. In Middle English, on the other hand, all but a
handful of nouns acquired the same plural ending, -es (from OE -as). These
changes, coupled with invariable the (replacing Old English masculine se,
neuter t, and feminine so), eliminated grammatical gender as a feature of
Middle English Vowels
The Old English long vowel sounds , , , and remained unchanged in Middle
English although their spelling possibilities altered: thus Old English ft, Middle
English ft, feet feet; OE rdan, ME rden, rden to ride; OE fda, ME fde,
foode food; OE hs, ME hous house. Except for Old English and y, the short
vowels of those Old English stressed syllables that remained short were
unchanged in most Middle English speechfor example, OE wascan to wash,
ME washen; OE helpan to help, ME helpen; OE sittan to sit, ME sitten; OE
hoppian to hop, ME hoppen; and OE hungrig hungry, ME hungry.
Loss of Schwa in Final Syllables
The leveled final e [] was gradually lost in the North in the course of the
thirteenth century and in the Midlands and the South somewhat later. Many
words, however, continued to be spelled with -e, even when it was no longer
pronounced. Because a word like rd(e) (OE rdan) was for a time pronounced
either with or without its final [], other words like brd(e) (OE brd) acquired
by analogy an optional inorganic -e in both spelling and pronunciation. We
know that this unhistorical [] was pronounced because of the meter of verses,
such as Chaucers A bryde shal net eten in
the halle (Canterbury Tales), in which the scansion of the line of iambic
pentameter requires bryde to have two syllables. There was also a scribal -e,
which was not pronounced but merely added to the spelling for various
reasons, such as filling out a short line, in the days before English orthography
was standardized.

For further reading:

Blake. The Cambridge History of the English Language, Vol. 2: 10661476.

Brunner. An Outline of Middle English Grammar.
Kurath and Kuhn. Middle English Dictionary.
Moss. A Handbook of Middle English.
Kristensson. A Survey of Middle English Dialects, 12901350.

The Early Modern English / 15001800

The early Modern period was transformative for both England and the

language. The sixteenth to eighteenth centuries were a time of revolutionary

development, opening the way for English to become a world language.

1534 The Act of Supremacy established Henry VIII as Supreme Head of

the Church of England, and thus officially put civil authority above
Church authority in England.
1549 The Book of Common Prayer was adopted and became an influence
on English literary style.
1558 At the age of 25, Elizabeth I became queen of England and, as a
woman with a Renaissance education and a skill for leadership, began a
forty-five-year reign that promoted statecraft, literature, science,
exploration, and commerce.
157780 Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe, the first
Englishman to do so, and participated in the defeat of the Spanish
Armada in 1588, thus removing an obstacle to English expansion
15901611 William Shakespeare wrote the bulk of his plays, from Henry
VI to The Tempest.
1600 The East India Company was chartered to promote trade with Asia,
leading eventually to the establishment of the British Raj in India.
1604 Robert Cawdrey published the first English dictionary, A Table
1607 Jamestown, Virginia, was established as the first permanent English
settlement in America.
1611 The Authorized or King James Version of the Bible was produced by
a committee of scholars and became, with the Prayer Book and the works
of Shakespeare, a major influence on English literary style.
1619 The first African slaves in North America arrived in Virginia.
164248 The Puritan Revolution overthrew the monarchy and established
a military dictatorship, which lasted until the Restoration of King Charles
II in 1660.
1660 The Royal Society was founded as the first English organization
devoted to the promotion of scientific knowledge and research.
1670 Hudsons Bay Company was chartered for promoting trade and
settlement in Canada.
1688 The Glorious Revolution was a bloodless coup in which Parliament
invited William of Orange and his wife, Mary (daughter of the reigning
English king), to assume the English throne, resulting in the
establishment of Parliaments power over that of the monarchy.
1702 The first daily newspaper was published in London, resulting in the
expanding power of the press to disseminate information and to form
public opinion.
1719 Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe, sometimes identified as
the first modern novel in English.
1755 Samuel Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language.
177583 The American Revolution resulted in the foundation of the first
independent nation of English speakers outside the British Isles.
1788 The English first settled Australia near modern Sydney.

Expansion of the English Vocabulary

The word stock of English was expanded greatly during the early Modern period
in three ways. As literacy increased, a conscious need was felt to improve and
amplify the vocabulary. As English speakers traveled abroad, they encountered
new things that they needed new words to talk about. And as they traveled,
they increasingly met speakers of other languages from whom they borrowed
The Great Vowel Shift
By the early Modern English period, however, all the long vowels had shifted:
Middle English , as in sweete sweet, had already acquired the value [i] that it
currently has, and the others were well on their way to acquiring the values
that they have in current English. The changes in the long vowels are
summarized in the following table:

The Middle English diphthongs had a tendency to monophthongize. For
example, [a] in lawe and [] in snow were monophthongized to [] and [o],
respectively. The early fifteenth-century merger of [] in nail with [a:] as in
name has already been mentioned; the subsequent history of that diphthong
was the same as that of the long vowel with which it merged.

Early Dictionaries
The first English dictionaries appeared in the early Modern English period. the
first work designed expressly for listing and defining English words for Englishspeaking people was the schoolmaster Robert Cawdreys Table Alphabeticall
(1604) (conteyning and teaching the true writing, and understanding of hard
usuall English wordes, borrowed from the Hebrew, Greeke, Latine, or French.
In 1730, Bailey (and others) produced the Dictionarium Britannicum, with about
48,000 entries. In 1755 Samuel Johnson published his great two-volume
Dictionary of the English Language, which was based on the Dictionarium
Britannicum, though containing fewer entries than it.
Uninflected Genitive
In early Modern English an uninflected genitive occurred in a number of special
circumstances, especially for some nouns that were feminine in Old English and
occasionally for nouns ending in [s] or preceding words beginning with [s]for
example, for conscience sake and for God sake. A few uninflected genitives,
not generally recognized as such, survive to the present day in reference to the
Virgin Maryfor example, Lady Day (that is, Our Ladys Day Feast of the
Annunciation), Lady Chapel (Our Ladys Chapel), and ladybird (Our Ladys

Important changes happened in the pronouns, which are the most highly
inflected part of speech in present-day English, thus preserving the earlier
synthetic character of our language in a small way.
Personal Pronouns
The early Modern English personal pronouns are shown in the accompanying

For further reading:

Barber. Early Modern English.

Lass. The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. 3: 14761776.
Wolfe. Linguistic Change and the Great Vowel Shift in English.
Lancashire. Early Modern English Dictionaries Database.

The Modern English / 1800present

The history of English since 1800 has been a story of expansionin geography,
in speakers, and in the purposes for which English is used. Geographically,
English was spread around the world, first by British colonization and empirebuilding, and more recently by American activities in world affairs. Braj Kachru
has proposed three circles of English: an inner circle of native speakers in
countries where English is the primary language, an outer circle of secondlanguage speakers in countries where English has wide use alongside native
official languages, and an expanding circle of foreign-language speakers in
countries where English has no official standing but is used for ever-increasing
special purposes.

1803 The Louisiana Purchase acquired U.S. territory beyond the

Mississippi River, ultimately resulting in westward expansion to the
Pacific Ocean.
1805 A victory over the French at the battle of Trafalgar established
British naval supremacy.
1806 The British occupied Cape Colony in South Africa, thus preparing
the way for the arrival in 1820 of a large number of British settlers.

1828 Noah Websters American Dictionary of the English Language was

1840 In New Zealand, by the Treaty of Waitangi, native Maori ceded
sovereignty to the British crown.
1857 A proposal at the Philological Society of London led to work that
resulted in the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (1928),
reissued as the Oxford English Dictionary (1933), 2nd edition 1989, now
revised online.
1858 The Government of India Act transferred power from the East India
Company to the crown, thus creating the British Raj in India.
18615 The American Civil War established the indissolubility of the
Union and abolished slavery in America.
1898 The four-month Spanish-American War made the United States a
world power with overseas possessions and thus a major participant in
international politics.
1906 The first public radio broadcast was aired, leading in 1920 to the
first American commercial radio station in Pittsburgh.
191418 World War I created an alliance between the United States and
the United Kingdom.
1922 The British Broadcasting Company (after 1927, Corporation) was
established and became a major conveyor of information in English
around the world.
1927 The first motion picture with spoken dialog, The Jazz Singer, was
1936 The first high-definition television service was established by the
BBC, to be followed by cable service in the early 1950s and satellite
service in the early 1960s.
193945 World War II further solidified the British-American link.
1945 The charter of the United Nations was produced at San Francisco,
leading to the establishment of UN headquarters in New York City.
1947 British India was divided into India and Pakistan, and both were
given independence.
1961 Merriam Websters Third New International Dictionary was

The National Varieties of English

The worlds total number of English speakers may be more than a billion,
although competence varies greatly and exact numbers are elusive. The two
major national varieties of Englishin historical precedent, in number of
speakers, and in influence are those of the United Kingdom and the United
StatesBritish English and American English. Other countries in which English
is the major language with a sizable body of speakers are Australia, Canada,
India, the Irish Republic, New Zealand, and South Africathe inner circle of
National Differences in Word Choice
There are many lists of equivalent British and American words, but they must
not be taken too seriously. Many American locutions are perfectly well
understood and used in Britain. For instance, automobile, said to be the
American equivalent of British car or motor car, is practically a formal word in

America, the ordinary term being car; moreover, the supposedly American
word occurs in the names of two English motoring organizations, the Royal
Automobile Club and the Automobile Association. Similarly, many British
locutions are known and frequently used in Americafor instance, postman (as
in James M. Cains very American novel The Postman Always Rings Twice) and
railway (as in Railway Express and the Southern Railway), though it is certain
that mailman (or today letter carrier) and railroad do occur more frequently in
Word Formation
With compounding, the established patterns continued, producing many new
combinations due to the increasing demand of new designations for new
referents. The following extremely selective examples are first documented
from this period:
N + N: air miles, aircraft, barman, border-land, congressman, couch
potato, fingerprint, frogman, home page, lifestyle, lipstick, mountain bike,
policeman, rifle-range, soap opera, speed camera, sword-opera
Ns + N: bailsman, clansman, oarsman, plainsman
Adj + N: blackboard, hardware, mobile home, software, tightrope
V-ing + N: adding machine, sewing machine, swimming pool
V + N: helpline, hushmoney, payload, pushboat, thinktank
N + V-er: baby-sitter, cash-dispenser, dog-sitter, house-sitter
N + V-ing: road-pricing, desktop publishing
N + V/: bellhop, hairdo, jetlag, nightfall, shoeblack, soda jerk
N + Adj: air-sick, car-sick, class-conscious, colour-fast, duty-free, kissproof, nation-wide
Adj + Adj: Anglo-French, Anglo-American, German-Jewish, phoneticsemantic, Swedish-American
N + V+-ed: airborne, communist infiltrated, factory packed, government
British and American Spelling
Finally, there is the matter of spelling, which looms larger in the consciousness
of those who are concerned with national differences than it deserves to.
Somewhat exotic to American eyes are cheque (for drawing money from a
bank), cyder, cypher, gaol, kerb (of a street), pyjamas, and tyre (around a
wheel). But check, cider, cipher, jail, curb, pajamas, and tire also occur in
England with varying frequency. Noah Webster, through the influence of his
spelling book and dictionaries, was
responsible for Americans settling upon -or spellings for a group of words
spelled in his day with either -or or -our: armo(u)r, behavio(u)r, colo(u)r,
favo(u)r, flavo(u)r, harbo(u)r, labo(u)r, neighbo(u)r, and the like. All such words
were current in earlier British English without the u, though most Britons today
are probably unaware of that fact; Webster was making no radical change in
English spelling habits. Furthermore, the English had themselves struck the u
from a great many words earlier spelled -our, alternating with -or: author,
doctor, emperor, error, governor, horror, mirror, and senator, among others.
World English
Although American and British are the two major national varieties of the

language, with the largest numbers of speakers and the greatest impact
worldwide, there are many other varieties of English used around the globe.
Today English is used as a first language (a speakers native and often only
language), as a second language (in addition to a native language, but used
regularly for important matters), and as a foreign language (used for special
purposes, with various degrees of
fluency and frequency). Other important first-language varieties of English are
those of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Irish English
Irish English is an old national variety with close links to both Britain and
America. It has had an influence far greater than its number of speakers or the
political and economic power of Ireland. Because large numbers of Irish men
and women emigrated or were transported to the British colonies and America,
their speech has left its imprint on other varieties of English around the world.
The influence of Irish English on that of Newfoundland and the Caribbean, for
example, is clear. In addition, many of the common features of Australian and
American English may be due
to a shared influence from Ireland.
Indian English
English, although a relative latecomer to India, is one of the subcontinents
most important languages. It is, after Hindi, the second most widely spoken
language in India. Because India includes so many different languages, many
incomprehensible to other speakers in the country, an interlanguage is needed.
Efforts to promote Hindi as the sole national language have met strong
resistance, especially in the south, where the native languages are non-IndoEuropean and local pride resists northern Hindi but accepts foreign English.
The entry of English into India can be traced to as early as the end of the year
1600, when Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter to the East India Company of
London merchants for a monopoly of trade in the Orient. Missionaries and
missionary schools followed the merchants. In the nineteenth century, the
British Raj (or government in India) was formed and promoted English
instruction throughout the land. For young Indians to make their way in life,
they needed to assimilate to
English culture, particularly the language, and so an Indian dialect of English
came into existence.
The pronunciation of Indian English is greatly influenced by local languages and
thus varies in different parts of the country.

For further reading:

Burchfield. The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. 5: English in Britain
and Overseas.
Romaine. The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. 4: 17761997.
Tottie. An Introduction to American English.
Trudgill. The Dialects of England.

Bauer. An Introduction to International Varieties of English.

Examples and comparison

Old English:
On angynne gescop God heofonan and eoran. 2. So eore
In [the] beginning created God heavens and earth. The earth
ws slce del and mtig, and ostra wron ofer re
was truly void and empty, and darknesses were over the
nywelnysse brdnysse; and Godes gst ws geferod ofer wteru.
abysss surface; and Gods spirit was brought over [the] water.
Middle English:
Twa lyves ar er at christen men lyfes: ane es called actyve lyfe,
Two lives there are that Christian men live: one is called active life,
for it es mare bodili warke; another, contemplatyve lyfe, for it es in mare
for it is more bodily work; another, contemplative life, for it is in more
swetnes gastely. Actife lyfe es mykel owteward and in mare travel,
sweetness spiritually. Active life is much outward and in more travail,
and in mare peryle for e temptacions at er in e worlde.
and in more peril for the temptations that are in the world.

As you can see, English has undergone many transformations in order to get to
its present form. Certain elements of language are preserved, while others
again completely changed.


Algeo, J. (2010) The Origins and Development of the English Language:

Sixth Edition. Wadsworth: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Hogg, Denison (2006) A History of the English Language. Cambridge:
Cambridge Unversity Press.
History of the English language. (accessed
December 05, 2015).
Beowulf Cotton MS Vitellius A XV f. 132r.jpg
V_f._132r.jpg (accessed December 05, 2015).
Hundred Years War/Joan of Arc (accessed
December 05, 2015).