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WHY YOU ARE HERE ENG 4820 History of the English Language y g g g
Dr. Michael Getty | Spring 2010 INTRODUCTION
You're here because you speak English and you think it's more than just another language. Maybe you even love it like I do. If you don t love it, you should! And if you don t love it by If don't it don't the time this course is over, then either you or I will have failed horribly.

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A LANGUAGE LIKE ENGLISH
With every single thought we utter, our words are drenched in thousands of years of human history. Empires rising and falling. Massive invasions, heroic battles, battles forbidden love! And traces of every major development in Western thought and culture for the last three thousand years.

ENGLISH TODAY
English today is the native language of almost 400 million people living throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa, the shared global language of finance, aviation, medicine, the sciences, and engineering. It is a crucial language to hundreds of millions more. The largest volume of published literature in human history is in modern English.

1500 YEARS AGO? NOT SO MUCH.
What we now call Europe, 5th Century CE. Population: about 30 million, not much more than the population of Missouri and Illinois. Mostly a tribal society apart from the crumbling Roman Empire: No organized governments, no large settlements, no borders, dozens of different languages, cultures, and religions, limited agriculture and technology.

A CAUTIONARY TALE …
What we now call 'Britain': A backwater island populated by Celtic tribes and vulnerable Roman outposts Circa 450 CE, a Roman-Celtic chieftain named Vortigern is having trouble fighting off the Picts, a menacing group of tribes from the north, north so he hires some mercenaries from among tribes living in what we now call the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. These people call themselves Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, and they are related to the tribal groups the Romans are dealing with on the continent in an area they call 'Germania.'

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BE CAREFUL OF THE BARGAINS YOU MAKE!
Vortigern's hired thugs like the country so much that after they fight off the Picts, they decide to invade it themselves. Within a hundred years, they basically run the place, and the Celtic cultures, long abandoned by Rome, are pushed back to what we now call Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
Source: David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (1995: 1)

A SHORT TIME LATER…
 By the early 7th century, the invaders have settled down, converted to Christianity, and modeled themselves after a remembered Roman culture. They call themselves, more or less interchangeably, by the names of the two dominant tribes, the Angles and the Saxons.  They call their language Engelisc, and here's approximately what it looked and sounded like, ca. 750 CE.

BRACE YOURSELVES!
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?
This language is totally alien to our ears!  The last person who would have understood it without college-level coursework died over a thousand years ago.  And yet we still call it English, the name it has carried every day since then. This is change on a scale that is rare and troubling in its vastness.
Source: David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (1995: 11)

ENGLISH: A LANGUAGE OF INVASIONS
 While there are limits on our ability to explain everything in the past, two big events account for much of the shocking change in English over the past thousand years. Scandinavian settlers, speaking a closely related but distinct Germanic language, which became Danish/Norwegian/Swedish back home. Th overran the northern and eastern centrall areas b kh They h h d of England from the 8th to the 10th centuries before blending into the local population. In the late 11th century, the French-speaking ‘Normans,’ themselves descendants of Scandinavian invaders (‘North men’) who had settled in France in exchange for a promise to stop attacking the place.

DISTANT EVENTS. VERY MUCH ALIVE.
 When two languages are in prolonged contact, they tend to simplify over time to a greater degree than languages in isolation.  English lost a huge amount of grammatical complexity in the centuries following the Scandinavian and Norman invasions. A simple phrase like ‘the stone’ would have had any of the following forms in the 8th century, depending on iits position iin a sentence: se stan, thaes stanes, tham d di ii h h stane.  Each wave brought a mass importation of words from the invaders’ language:
From the Scandinavians: they, are, egg, ill, skin From the Normans: dine, beef, government, courtesy

DISTANT EVENTS. VERY MUCH ALIVE.
 Centuries of invasion and co-habitation left English more

open to foreign influences than its more isolated counterparts  More than half of modern English vocabulary consists of words imported from other languages in the past 1500 years years. Most significantly: Latin! French!

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LATIN ON OUR TONGUES
 Latin was the language of the Roman Empire, whose cultural and linguistic legacy we live with every single day as part of organized civil society: documented systems of laws and procedures, offices, streets, plumbing, medicine, state-sponsored religion, almost everything else we take or have taken for granted at any point in our own history.  Hi All these words were imported from Latin. Hint: h d i df L i

LATIN ON OUR TONGUES
In the course of the Middle Ages, local varieties of Latin evolved into what we now call the Romance (in other words, Roman) languages: French, Spanish, Portugese, Italian. All of these languages, and especially French in a very big way, play roles in the story of English, alongside their mother, Latin, which continues as the language of the Church.

LATIN ON OUR TONGUES
For two centuries, French was the language of the upper classes of England, and every day, we use their words to talk about the areas they dominated: as evidenced by the French loan words that now describe them: • Warfare battle, siege, combat, army, defense, treason • B ildi Building construction, masonry, castles, b tt t ti tl buttress, pillar ill • Law justice, justice, jury, legality, courts, testimony, attorney • Government mayor, officer, judge, council, rule, prince, baron • Fashion embroider, satin, velvet, fur, jewel, adorn • Art paint, color, music, letter, poetry, prose, tragedy, comedy • Learning treatise, logic, music, grammar, substance, manner

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT!
The history of English is a story of diverse and powerful influences playing out over centuries, punctuated by sudden and convulsive changes tied to events on the ground. It is easy to imagine these influences playing out even a little bit differently. Then we would have no English. Or it would be another Celtic or Romance language. Or something more like German or Swedish.

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT!
For something so fragile, so accidental to have come so far, taking the spotlight at this unique moment in human experience, how could you not love it?!

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What is Linguistics?
Things I Get All the Time •“Oh, I’d better watch what I say around you! Wouldn’t want you to know how much I butcher English!” •The Reality: We study what is and what happens when people use language – any language, however y they use it. •We are not in the business of telling anyone what they should or should not say or write. People who do that are not linguists. They are grammarians, stylists, or, in some cases, just tiresome people. •I will spend considerable time convincing you that common sorts of ‘grammar policing’ are wrongheaded, illogical, and, at their worst, a way of masking social bias behind objective-sounding pseudo-observations.

What is Linguistics?
We study what happens when people use language. Pure Structure:
sounds pieces of words words and groups of sounds, words, words, words occur under which conditions? Which sounds, pieces of words, words, and groups of words never occur? Language as a Social Construct Which sounds, pieces of words, words, and group of words do people use in various social contexts?
Which

What You Already Sorta Know
Look at this list of words. Going just on the sounds suggested by the letters you see, which of them are English? bilk bikl bkil bkli blik blki iblk ibkl ilbk ilkb ilkb iklb libk likb lbik lbki lkbi lkib kilb kibl kbli kbil klib kbli

What You Already Sorta Know
Look at this list of words. Going just on the sounds suggested by the letters you see, which of them are English? bilk bikl bkil bkli blik blki iblk ibkl ilbk ilkb ilkb iklb libk likb lbik lbki lkbi lkib kilb kibl kbli kbil klib kbli

•bilk – to cheat someone out of something •kibble – round food pellets, mostly for pets

What You Already Sorta Know
Now look at the list again.Which of them could be English? bilk bikl bkil bkli blik blki iblk ibkl ilbk ilkb ilkb iklb libk likb lbik lbki lkbi lkib kilb kibl kbli kbil klib kbli

What You Already Sorta Know
Now look at the list again.Which of them could be English? bilk bikl bkil bkli blik blki iblk ibkl ilbk ilkb ilkb iklb libk likb lbik lbki lkbi lkib kilb kibl kbli kbil klib kbli

• “ I bought a blik today!” -- “What’s a blik?” • “I bought a kbli today!” -- “Huh?”

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What You Already Sorta Know
Now look at the list again.Which of them could be English? bilk bikl bkil bkli blik Blki iblk ibkl ilbk ilkb ilkb iklb libk likb lbik lbki lkbi lkib kilb kibl kbli kbil klib kbli

What You Already Sorta Know
•Put •Now

your fingers or a thin piece of paper up close to your lips. say these words, slowly and with a little emphasis:

•T a k e •S t e a k
•You should feel or see a puff of air after the sound cued by the letter T in take but not as much in steak. •Try other pairs: pair-spare, Pam-Spam, kin-skin, kit-skit •If you’re a native speaker of English, you’ve been getting this right with almost 100% predictability every day since you were about five years old.

I could give you millions of random combinations of sounds, and as a native speaker, you would know, with a level of certainty approaching 100%, which of them are potential English words.

What You Already Sorta Know
•Put a finger directly under your nostrils and then say these words very slowly:

What You Already Sorta Know
•Suppose I teach you a new word, blim, which means to touch your elbows together. How would I say I did this yesterday? •I blimmed. •S Suppose I teach you a new word, skrid, which means a h d k d hi h piece of hardened belly button lint. How would I tell you I have two of them? •Skrids. •How do you know how to say blimmed and skrids if you’d never heard these words before? Why not blum and skridden?

•S e e d •S e e n
should feel warm, moist air on your finger when you hit h ld f l it i fi h the vowel sound in seen but not in seed. •Congratulations! You just manipulated your velum. •Your velum: A fleshy muscle in the middle of your head between your oral and nasal cavities. When it’s relaxed, air comes out of your nose. When it’s flexed, the air only comes out of your mouth. •If you’re a native speaker of English, you’ve been doing this with almost 100% accuracy since you were about five years old.
•Y You

What You Already Sorta Know
Maybe you recall this book, which explored the instinct some common house cats have to dip their paws in paint and go wild …

What You Already Sorta Know
Not long after Why Cats Paint, there was this …

Source: Amazon.com

Source: Amazon.com

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What You Already Sorta Know
Why is this funny? •Because everyone knows that now it’s the cats that are being painted, and we’re not used to that sort of thing happening to live f thi h i t li animals. •All that just from flipping two words around? Cats Paint  Paint Cats

What You Already Sorta Know
doesn’t have to be this way! Latin, commonly spoken from about 500 BCE to about 500 CE, the parent language of presentday Portugese, Spanish, French, Catalan, Italian, and Romanian (but not English!) •All of these sentences mean ‘Marc loves Anna.’ Marc Anna.
•Consider •It

•Marcus

amat Annam. amat. •Amat Marcus Annam. •Amat Annam Marcus. •Annam amat Marcus. •Annam Marcus amat.
•Marcus Annam
Source: Amazon.com

Source: Amazon.com

What You Already Sorta Know
But what if the relationship is different? What if it’s Anna who loves Marc? ‘Marc loves Anna’ ‘Anna loves Marc’
Marcus amat Annam. Marcus Annam amat. M A t Amat Marcus Annam. Amat Annam Marcus. Annam amat Marcus. Annam Marcus amat. Marcum amat Anna. Marcum Anna amat. M A t Amat Marcum Anna. Anna asinus Marcum. Anna amat Marcum. Anna Marcum amat.

What You Already Sorta Know
But what if the relationship is different? What if it’s Anna who loves Marc? ‘Marc loves Anna’ ‘Anna loves Marc’
Marcus amat Annam. Marcus A M Annam amat. t Amat Marcus Annam. Amat Annam Marcus . Annam amat Marcus . Annam Marcus amat. Marcum amat Anna. Marcum A M Anna amat. t Amat Marcum Anna. Anna asinus Marcum. Anna amat Marcum. Anna Marcum amat.

So in Latin, the shape of a word – and not its position – tells you who’s doing what to whom…

So in Latin, the shape of a word – and not its position – tells you who’s doing what to whom…

What You Already Sorta Know
Why doesn't English work this way? Spoiler: It used to, as recently as about 1000 years ago. We see the remnant in phrases like ‘… who loves whom.’ But h B t when people lament the decline of English, l l t th d li f E li h which they do with alarming regularity, hardly anyone brings this up. The truth is, languages do decline and die off, but for reasons that have nothing to do with the many factors influencing the development of English today…

What You Already Sorta Know
Look at these sentences… John showed Mark a portrait of himself.
Who’s looking at the portrait?  Mark Who’s Wh ’s in the portrait  Mark OR John rtrait

John asked Mark to look at a portrait of himself.
Who’s looking at the portrait?  Mark Who’s in the portrait?  Only Mark

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What You Already Sorta Know
People often criticize redundancy in other people’s speech and writing – usage like irregardless or continue on… But the truth is, language is filled with necessary redundancy. Y DS TXTNG WRK? IT SMS LK U CAN TK OUT HLF THE LTRS IN A SNTNS & STL B UNDRSTD MST OF THE TM. SO Y WRT THEM AT ALL? Spoiler: What you see here has much in common with a number of the world’s major writing systems, including Arabic and Hebrew.

What You Already Sorta Know
People often criticize redundancy in other people’s speech and writing – usage like irregardless or continue on… But the truth is, language is filled with necessary redundancy. Try to read the sentence I’m about to flash on the Im screen…

John and Mary tried convince Mark that should leave, but Mark said couldn't.

What You Already Sorta Know
People often criticize redundancy in other people’s speech and writing – usage like irregardless or continue on… But the truth is, language is filled with necessary redundancy. Your brain filled in words that weren’t there…

What You Don’t Know You Know
Just like you can identify words you've never heard as either consistent or not consistent with the English language, you can do the same for sentences you've never heard ... and probably never will again. * = This is not English ?? = This is weird English WARNING: For linguists, dirty words are just words. I’m going to show you a bunch of them now to illustrate something important.

John and Mary tried to convince Mark that he should leave, but Mark said he couldn't.

What You Don’t Know You Know
Screw you! Go screw yourself! You Y go screw yourself! lf! *Go screw you. *You go screw you!

What You Don’t Know You Know
Here are some patterns you’ll hear often in non-native speech, especially from speakers of Germanic and Slavic languages. can't talk now. *I drive. I'm driving. g •I understand a little Russian. *I've taken a class last year. • I took a class last year. •I’ll drop by your place on the way home. *I'm there at five. • I'll be there at five. •*Sorry I didn't answer the phone! *I went to the bathroom when you called. • I was going to the bathroom
• •Sorry, I

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What You Don’t Know You Know
Native speakers of English apply all sorts of rules to compress casual speech, but they're sensitive to context in ways that people would be hard-pressed to explain:  I'm gonna go shopping. I'm going to go shopping. I'm going to a party.  *I'm gonna a party.  I gotta get going. I've got to get going.  *I gotta tickets. I've got two tickets.  I shoulda slept in. I should have slept in.  *I shoulda breakfast. I should have breakfast.

What You Don’t Know You Know
If you had to right now, could you explain any of these patterns in clear, consistent, and context-independent ways? Probably not yet, despite the fact that as a native speaker, you get them right virtually 100% of the time. Understanding the systems at play in all these examples is going to be difficult b a diffi l game of abstract concepts and structures. B iin f b d But principle, you won’t be learning anything you don’t already know. You acquired all of this, your knowledge of the complex, interacting systems of your native language, in roughly the first five years of your life. And you did it without formal instruction or the kind of training in linguistic analysis you’re going to receive in this course.

How amazing is that?

What Is This Course Good For?
Okay. Does the world really need more people schooled in linguistic analysis? Maybe, maybe not. But understanding how language works at a deep level will nourish your understanding of what it means to be human. Hint: It’s all language. Every other characteristic we've thought of as distinguishing us from other beasts has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. Other primates can use tools, scheme, lie, and learn sign language. Birds have regional accents. Dogs can do basic math. Smart birds can reason abstractly. Only humans have language.

What Is This Course Good For?
Understanding how language works at a deep level can help you become a better citizen and neighbor. People often decry variation and change in language as sure signs of chaos and decay. Linguists understand that variation and change in language just are – they are neither intrinsically good or intrinsically bad. What matters is how we act towards one another another. Centuries ago, many African-American varieties of English adopted a version of the word ask that puts the two consonants in a different order, ax. In formal and informal studies, property owners screening potential renters over the phone have been observed steering conversations in such a way as to get applicants to use that word. When the ax pronunciation comes out, renters are disproportionately told that properties are no longer available or have become more expensive.
Link

What Is This Course Good For?
Here’s the kicker. I’m going to give you a live reading of what William Caxton, owner of the first English printing press in 1490, had to say about the language of his day. Ignore the weird spellings. English spelling wasn’t systematized until well into the 17th and 18th centuries. I’ll be using the results of decades of scholarship in language change and English history to model late fifteenth-century English for you, which is going to sound a little like pirate speak, for reasons we’ll explore later. The vowels are going to sound very strange to you. Caxton lived in the first decades of a massive reorganization of the English vowel system that didn’t really end until the 18th century. Listen for what Caxton has to say about the fact that English speakers of his time had two words for the tasty thing that comes out of a chicken: egg, which was used in roughly the North of England, and ey in the South. And above all, listen for Caxton’s version of present-day ask.

William Caxton, ca. 1490
And certaynly our langage now used varyeth ferre from that whiche was used and spoken whan I was borne ... And mercer = salesman that comyn englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth mete = food Ferre from a nother. In so much that in my dayes happened wyf = woman That certayn marchauntes were in a shippe in Thames for to Have sayled ouer the see ... and for lacke of wynde thei ... wente to lande for to refreshe them. And one of theym named Sheffelde, a mercer, cam into an eyren = plural hows and axed for mete, and specyally he axyd after egg[e]s. of ey And the good wyf answerde that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry, for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wold have hadde egges, and she understode hym not. And thenne at last a nother sayd that he wolde have eyren. Then the good wyf sayd that she understod hym wel. Loo, what sholde a man in thyse days now wryte, egges or eyren?

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What Is This Course Good For?
What should you take away from this? Both ask and ax were around in Caxton’s time and in the centuries after. In 1490, though, ax was a perfectly good choice for an esteemed gentleman such as Mr. Caxton. Over the centuries, one of them became associated -- for no good reason -- with lower socioeconomic status status. In a little over 500 years, English has changed in ways so profound that Caxton, given how much he worried about having two words for ‘egg,’ would find very distressing. Was he wrong? We would have to say he was; otherwise we’d be holding ourselves in very low esteem. By extension, anyone who lives in the present and sees change as decline would also be wrong, or at the very least, bear the burden of proof.

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