Is the English Language Insane?

We'll begin with a box and the plural is boxes; But the plural of ox became oxen not oxes. One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese, Yet the plural of moose should never be meese. You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice; Yet the plural of house is houses not hice. If the plural of man is always called men, Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?

History of the English Language

No written record exists Traces can still be found: Father: vater in German, pater in Latin, and pitr in Sanskrit These words are all cognates, similar words in different languages that share the same root

Latin and the modern Romance languages The Germanic languages The Indo-Iranian languages (incl. Hindi and Sanskrit) The Slavic languages The Baltic languages of Latvian and Lithuanian The Celtic languages Greek

Family Resemblances
English Pan Path Pole Pepper Pipe Plant X A: Pfeffer B: Pfahl C: Pfad D: Pfeife E: Pflanze F: Pfanne Y A: Rastenie B: Skovoroda C: Perets D: Tropa E: Shest F: Truba

Family Resemblances
English Pan Path Pole Pepper Pipe Plant German Pfanne Pfad Pfahl Pfeffer Pfeife Pflanze Russian Skovoroda Tropa Shest Perets Truba Rastenie

British Isles
The original inhabitants of the British Isles would have spoken a non-Indo-European language The first Indo-European group to arrive on English shores arrived several hundred years BC They undoubtedly spoke an early form of the language we refer to as Celtic They became the sole inhabitants of the isles for a couple thousand years

The Invasions Begin
55 B.C. – Julius Caesar begins a series of invasions Resistance is so strong that Rome leaves the islands alone for another century 43 AD – Claudius invades successfully 50 AD – Most of the area now called England is subjugated. The northern areas, however, remain free of Roman rule

Invasions – Roman Rule
For roughly 400 years England is a province of Rome
Roman houses Roman villas Roman running water Roman highways Roman religion (pagan and Christian) Roman Law

Invasions – Trouble Back Home
In the early 400s (5th Century), Rome starts having troubles back home
Increasing invasions by Barbarians Decline of effective government

As a result, Rome begins withdrawing its troops from foreign lands By 427 AD, Rome has left the Celtic Islands

Invasions – Part Two: The “English” Arrive in England
Roman rule held the Celtic people together for several centuries Once gone, the various tribes begin fighting among themselves for dominance This makes them ripe for conquest by any interested party

Invasions – Part Two: The “English” Arrive in England
The interested parties come from Jutland and Southern Denmark: The Saxons, Jutes and Angles The name “Angles” is the root for our words “England” and “English” They speak a mutually understandable language, although each group has its own dialect This Anglo-Saxon language is what will come to be known as “Old English” Similar to Frisian, which today is spoken in the northern parts of the Netherlands

Invasions – Part Two: The “English” Arrive in England
Four major dialects of Old English emerge:
Northumbrian in the north of England Mercian in the Midlands West Saxon in the south and west Kentish in the Southeast

King Arthur
Legend, and some archeological evidence, suggests that around 500 AD, many tribes united under a man of Roman descent He succeeded in holding back the AngloSaxons for a time Came to be known as “Arthur” Irony: The great English icon would have been speaking some form of Celtic while defending his country against invaders who spoke “English” Ultimately lost, and the Anglo-Saxon invasions continued until all Celtic speaking people were pushed to the north

Anglo-Saxon Rule
The Anglo-Saxons, however, are no Romans Romans brought an astounding degree of civilization, technological advancement, and order Anglo-Saxons bring a love of fighting each other The great Roman infrastructures (roads, public works, cities) are left to decay Peasants huddle in small villages

Anglo-Saxon Rule cont.
Christianity falters, replaced by AngloSaxon paganism. Some of these gods remain with us today in the names of the days of the week:
Tie – Tuesday Wodan – Wednesday Thor – Thursday Frig – Friday

The Lord’s Prayer – In Old English
Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum Si þin nama gehalgod to becume þin rice gewurþe ðin will on eorðan swa swa on heofonum. Father our thou that art in heaven be thy name hallowed come thy kingdom be-done thy will on earth as in heavens

Invasion Three: The Empire Strikes Back
By 600 AD, Rome invades again – not with armies, but with missionaries Pope Gregory sends a conversion force to the southern part of the islands The conversion meets with great success This conversion will play an important role in the evolution of the English language

Christianity and the English Language
The intellectual community of Europe was centered around the Church of Rome The Roman Church dealt almost exclusively in Latin England gives up its Runic alphabet in favour or the Latin alphabet which is the most efficient way of recording virtually any language As a result, English is now written as well as spoken by more people than ever With the alphabet come numerous Latin words

A New English Scholarship
As part of the Latin intellectual community, scholarship in England advances at a surprising rate Between the 7th and 8th centuries (the 600s and the 700s), English scholars are in demand even in the elite centers of Europe

Invasion Four: The Great Danes
787 AD: the first real attack by a new group from the IndoEuropean tree Significantly different language. Significantly different social structure. Called the Danes by the English, but we know them more commonly as the Vikings. Begin attacking in the northern part of the island Gain control over a large portion of England called Danelaw.

Map Showing Danelaw

Invasion Four: The Great Danes cont.
Not big on the whole “intellectual community” thing Pagan – no compunction about raiding and looting monasteries: in fact, this makes for a profitable livelihood By the late 800s, have seized control of large areas of northern England and are steadily making their way south

Norse and English words
Norse Anger Nay Fro Raise Ill Bask Skill Skin Dike Scatter Skip English Wrath No From Rear Sick Bathe Craft Hide Ditch Shatter Shift

Vikings and the English Language
Through their various invasions, the Vikings exert a strong influence over the language “On a foggy Thursday, a sly dirtynecked, scowling outlaw skulked into the bank with a knife, ransacked it, and crawled out the window seeming happy” Every word in the above sentence comes from the Vikings except: a, into, the, with, it, and, out

King Alfred the Great – The Man Who Created England
In 871 the Danes are defeated in their advance by King Alfred In 878 he defeats them again. Unifies England until much of Danelaw is recovered He is the only king to whom the British ever gave the title “Great”

The English Become English
With the Danes in check, King Alfred begins to bring the country back to its former glory. Arranges for Latin texts to be translated into English Founds schools Institutes the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: continuously updated on major events year after year His heirs are competent rulers who followed in his tradition England once more becomes a major force in the intellectual community

King Aethelred the Unready
The standoff with the Danes doesn’t last long Olaf Tryggvason of Norway and King Svein Forkbeard of Denmark join forces to attack Southeast England King Aethelred raises armies but can’t defeat the invaders In order to hold off the Danes, the English begin paying a regular “tax” known as “Danegeld” Finally, in 1016, Canute, the son of King Svein Forkbeard, becomes King of England

England Ruled by the Danes
Canute consolidates his power and places both English and Scandanavians in positions of power In 1018, he paid off his army with one last great collection of Danegeld Ruled as a Christian King Promised an end to problems with the Vikings Canut’s heir’s lose the power in 1042 to King Alfred’s line But the biggest invasion is just around the corner

1066 And All That
In 1066 the French invade They are called Normans and speak a version of French we call “Old French” The English forces are defeated when their king, King Harold, is killed with an arrow in his eye This is to be the last successful foreign invasion, but it will also be the most allencompassing

England Under the Normans/French
English are removed from official positions and replaced by French All official business and all government is conducted in French Many of the kings from this point on don’t even speak English Along with replacing the language, the French also replace the social structure, introducing feudalism: a state hierarchy with every individual responsible to somebody above him

Feudalism and the English Language
The peasants still speak English, but feudalism keeps them bound to a particular plot of land Travel becomes rare English speakers seldom speak to other English speakers more than 10 or 15 miles away

English in Tatters
Until King Alfred, English had generally been a second-class language Now it fragments into hundreds of separate dialects French becomes the prominent language of the country

A Contemporary Account of English Under the Normans
Ranulph Higden: Children in school, contrary to the usage and custom of other nations, are compelled to drop their own language and to construe their lessons and other tasks in French, and have done so since the Normans first came to England. Also, gentlemen's children are taught to speak French from the time that they are rocked in their cradles and can talk and play with a child's toy; and provincial men want to liken themselves to gentlemen, and try with great effort to speak French, so as to be more thought of.

Duplicate words
In French, the word "boef" means both a male cow and beef But it was Anglo-Saxons who tended the animals, and they called them by Old English names (cow, pig, sheep) When the food was served, the Normans used the French names (beef, pork, mutton)

Duplicate words
Many legal terms, such as indict, jury, and verdict have Norman roots because the Normans ran the courts Sometimes French words replaced Old English words; crime replaced firen and uncle replaced eam Other times, French and Old English components combined to form a new word, as the French gentle and the Germanic man formed gentleman Other times, two different words with roughly the same meaning survive into modern English. Thus we have the Germanic doom and the French judgment, or wish and desire

Black Death
1348 AD, the Black Death strikes England Has already been raging in Europe Between 1348 and 1351 roughly 1/3 of the people in England die This causes a massive labour shortage

A New Work Force
For the first time since the Norman invasion, peasants become a force to be reckoned with They begin to travel They begin to demand wages for their toil The ruling classes have to deal with the peasants. Which also means having to deal with their language

The Hundred Years War
The English begin taking back England At the height of their success, the English even manage to capture land in France Eventually, they are driven out by French forces led by Joan of Arc

The English Language: Our Story So Far
1000 BC: proto-Celtic speaking people arrive 43 AD: Rome invades, pushing the Celtic speakers to the north 427 AD: Romans leave Post 427 AD: Anglo-Saxons invade, bringing the language that would become known as Old English 600 AD: Pope Gregory sends conversion force. Introduces Latin to the language 787 AD: Viking invasions begin. Introduce Norse language 878 AD: King Alfred halts the Vikings, England divided Alfred begins consolidating the English language Early 1000s, Danes begin new invasions 1016: a Danish king is on England’s throne 1042: England ruled again by an English King 1066: The Norman Invasion 1348: The Black Death comes to England 1336-1352: The Hundred Years War

Assembling a Language
With the Normans gone, there is no longer a reason to continue speaking French Problem: there is now little in the way of a cohesive “English” language London had long been the central city in England attracting people from all over the country Result: develops a hybrid version of English Becomes “Standard” English and is the basis of English as spoken everywhere in the world now

English Enters Adulthood
The language now enters the phase known as Middle English When spoken, it is somewhat understandable to the modern ear True “English” literature begins to appear:
Chaucer – the first great English writer Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – a Middle English story based on a tale from the early Celtic Arthurian tradition

Chaucer’s English
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages), Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; And specially from every shires ende Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende, The hooly blisful martir for to seke, That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. When April with his showers sweet with fruit The drought of March has pierced unto the root And bathed each vein with liquor that has power To generate therein and sire the flower; When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath ,Quickened again, in every holt and heath, The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun Into the Ram one half his course has run, And many little birds make melody That sleep through all the night with open eye (So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage, And palmers to go seeking out strange strands, To distant shrines well known in sundry lands. And specially from every shire's end Of England they to Canterbury wend, The holy blessed martyr there to seek Who helped them when they lay so ill and weal

Modern English
No other country ever invades England again – although the Spanish give several valiant attempts in the 18th century, and the Germans pound London to a pulp in the 20th century England develops as a true empire, complete with colonization With centuries of a linguistic tradition of incorporating outside languages, as the English colonize other countries, their languages colonize English “English” grows exponentially

English Today
By the 19th century, English has become the largest language in the world Today the English vocabulary outstrips every other by a margin of almost two to one Estimated: 300 million native speakers, 300 million English as a second language speakers, 100 million use it as a foreign language It is the language of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy, and tourism It is listed as the official or co-official language of over 45 countries and is spoken extensively in other countries where it has no official status This compares to 27 for French, 20 for Spanish and 17 for Arabic

What percentage of the modern English vocabulary consists of words from other languages?
10% 30% 45% 75% 89% 98% 98% - only 2% of the English language is actually “English”

Borrowed Words: Amoy (Sino-Tibetan family)
Ketchup Tea Fish brine A refreshing drink

Borrowed Words: Basque (No known family)
Anchovy Bizarre Jingo Dried fish Beard God (used in “jingoism”)

Byzantine Greek: Extinct (IndoEuropean family)
Diaper White

Ancient Egyptian: Extinct (AfroAsiatic)
Ammonia Camel dung (burning camel dung produces ammonia) Cargo boat Asphalt (used in mummification) Papyrus

Barge Asphalt Paper

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