Dr. Ahmad Fayez Al-Zu'be

Assistant Professor


ENG 320

History of the English language

English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects and was brought to Britain by Germanic invaders or settlers from what is now called north west Germany and the Netherlands. It uses a vocabulary unlike other European languages of the same era. A large portion of the modern English vocabulary came from the Anglo-Norman languages. English is considered a "borrowing" language.

Middle English differed from Old English because of two invasions which occurred during the Middle Ages. The first invasion was by people who spoke North Germanic languages. They conquered and colonised parts of Britain during the 8th and 9th centuries AD. The second invasion was by the Normans of the 11th century, who spoke Old Norman and eventually developed an English form of this, called Anglo-Norman. A new vocabulary introduced at this time heavily influenced many organizations including the church, the court system and the government. European languages including German, Dutch, Latin and Ancient Greek influenced the English vocabulary during the Renaissance.

Old English initially was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Britain. The Late West Saxon dialect eventually became dominant. Written Old English of 1000 AD was similar to other Germanic languages such as Old High German and Old Norse in terms of vocabulary and grammar. Written Old English is relatively unintelligible today, in contrast to written Modern English and written Middle English. Close contact with the Scandinavians resulted in much grammatical simplification and lexical enrichment of the English language, which had been based on Anglo-Frisian. These changes did not reach South West England until the Norman invasion in 1066. Old English developed into a full-fledged literary language, based on the most common manner of speaking in London during the 13th century.

English is divided into several historical forms. Each historical form of English had certain characteristics that distinguish it from the forms of English that came before and after it. The Old English period was from the mid-5th century to the mid-11th century, the Middle English period from the late 11th century to the late 15th century, the Early Modern English period from the late 15th century to the late 17th century, and the Modern English period from the late 17th century to the present.

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