A Brief History of English and Why it Matters

I love the information and the humor of this blog entry. I’ve always been intrigued by the nuances of language, but don’t have the discipline (or time) to truly understand how English developed and how to approach it with historical accuracy. I know far too many inappropriate words sneak into my writing. I appreciate all you kind folks who put up with them.

Mad Genius Club

Languages are anything but static. Some change very slowly, like French- which owes much of its ponderousness to a government department specifically tasked with rooting out heretic words that creep in from the outside. Other languages undergo periods of very rapid change- the English of Chaucer (late 1300s) would be very confusing to Shakespeare (late 1500s and early 1600s). Two hundred years seems like a long period of time, but in the history of an entire country, it’s a drop in the bucket.

English doesn’t just borrow words; it lifts whole phrases and grammatical ideas from other languages without so much as a by-your-leave. With the coming of the Saxons to Britain, Germanic languages crashed headlong into Brythonic and became Old English. Then the Vikings went for a multi-century beer run starting in the late 700s and left behind a bunch of Norse words, because who doesn’t invent a new…

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