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Main Historical Stages of the English Language Formation

The main vector of the Old English language in the history of the English language was formed with settlement of Germanic tribes of Angles, Saxons and Jutes on the British Isles in the 5th century, who came to Britain, which was the Roman province during 400 years, and settled there after the breakdown of the Roman Empire. The original geographical names that had survived since that time, originated from the language of the Celtic population of Britain subjugated by the Anglo-Saxons. At that time, the population of Britain communicated basically, like all Roman provinces, in Latin – simplified official Latin language. The Germanic tribes that had replaced the Romans, actively adopted the Latin lexis. At that time, Christianity was actively spread in Britain, and during the 6th century the Latin alphabet had already replaced the Old German runes, and influence of the Latin language reflected on the English lexis. Given close interaction with related dialects of Scandinavian tribes – Danes and Norwegians, the Old English language experienced a significant impact in numerous raids of these tribes with the end of the 8th century, who have formed their settlements on the East Coast. The Viking expansion had led to the conquest of the whole Britain to the North and East from Watling Street – the ancient road that was still built by the Romans, which distance was from London to Rockseter. Extensive conquests in 1016 had led to the fact that Britain found itself under command of the Danish King Canute, whose reign extended not only to England, but also Denmark (since 1019) and Norway (since 1028). For the first time, among the Vikings, England included the Danes, then joined the Norwegians from Ireland, from the Isle of Man and the Hebrides, who founded their settlements in Cumberland and Westmorland, on the west of Yorkshire, as well as in Lancashire and Cheshire.

A considerable number of words of Scandinavian origin in the modern English, as well as a variety of phonetic features that characterize the dialects of Northern England resulted from interaction of closely related languages, English and Scandinavian. The Norwegian and Danish dialects greatly influenced on modern English, while simplification of form-building structures of the language occurred, this Scandinavian origin can be also seen in many lexical units of the English language. The process of transformation in the flexional Old English was accelerated due to withering away of flexions, which spread from North to South. This factor can be explained by closeness of the vocabulary interaction of languages of the conquerors and the Anglo-Saxons, in which linguistic mixing occurred with subsequent consequences in the field of morphology.

In the process of establishment of Britain and during the Old English period, the language was represented by four dialects: Kent, Northumbrian, Mercian and Wessex. Under the influence of economic and political development on the side of the Wessex Kingdom, in the 9-10 centuries, the Wessex dialect became the most significant in the cultural life of England. The result of strengthening the political role of the Wessex Kingdom became formation of the English literary language.

The next stage in development of the English language occurred in the period from 1066 to 1485: during the invasion of the Normans in the territory, which local population used the Old English language that was supplemented by one of the adverbs of the Old French language, used by the conquerors. This language was used by the Church, management and upper class. Under the influence of the Norman and Picardian dialects of the French language, transformation of the Anglo-Saxon language occurred, with further expansion of the boundaries of the Angevin Empire till the Pyrenees, other dialects, especially the Central French – the Parisian dialect, also began active interaction with the English language. The Central French dialect had reached a high level in England due to the increasing power of the Parisian dynasty of the Capetians. Since the new occupiers were very few in number, then the active propagation of the French language did not bring the expected results to impose Britain their language intact. As a result of interaction of the two languages, the English-French bilingualism was established. Consequently, the Norman French language was gradually replaced by the language compromise – the language, that is now English, began to originate.

Analyzing the process of development of the English language into the Middle English, it can be characterized by a number of changes in which sharp distinction of the sound system of Middle English from the Old English had occurred. Due to the fact that all flexions in the Old English language were unstressed, then subsequent reduction of unaccented vowels had also an impact on considerable simplification of the morphological structure of the language. In this period, the great influence was exerted by the Catholic Church, which in the age of Renaissance was a vector of education and correspondence, under which Latin remained the means of international and cultural communication, that lasted throughout all the middle ages. During quite a long period – of about three centuries, formation of the literature of England was featured as the trilingualism, which was represented by the Latin, French and English languages. Over time, the trend was going on leave of the Norman French language. A fateful date is 1362, in which the English language was introduced in the court proceedings, in 1385 – in teaching, and since 1483, the parliamentary laws began to be printed in English. At constant formation of English, its platform remained the German component, it comprised a large number of Old French words, which led to a mixed language. Since 1200, and until the end of the Middle English period, there was a stage of influence of Old English words on the English lexis. When translating from English to French, today there are many French words. That greatly facilitates communication between the French and the British at the present day, in tourist visits to each other, correspondence, online communication. Thus, cultural interaction between the two countries remains, that allows to keep cultural, economic and political ties between the two countries.

Source by John Smith

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