earning About The History Of The English LanguageAs most know, Pinocchio is a very curious boy. And, being fairly new to the world, Pinocchio is learning new things everyday. But besides learning how fast cars go and why bees sting, Pinocchio is learning new words everyday. And it was one day Pinocchio asked his good pal Jimminy Cricket, Where do all these words come from?
There are thousands of words in our English language and they all come from different places and different people, replied Jimminy.
I cant explain it all Pinocchio. You will just have to see for yourself!
And so Jimminy Cricket decided to take Pinocchio on a travel through time to show him exactly how the English language developed!
Where are we Jimminy?
We are in Britain. It was here, around 400 B.C. that ancient Indians called the Celts arrived. The Celts were farmers who lived in Britain alone until the Romans came in 43 A.D. Artorius, the Celtic chief, tried to hold the Romans off but was unsuccessful.
So who won Britain? Pinocchio asked with a confused look on his face.
Nobody won Britain. The Celts and the Romans both lived in Britain until 410 A.D when the Romans were called back to Rome. However, when the Romans left, a new tribe called the Pics decided that they wanted the land in Britain.
Did the Pics win Britain?
No, the Pics didnt win Britain either. With the Romans gone, the Celts needed help defending their land. So, the Celts invited Anglo-Saxon soldiers from Germany to Britain to help them fight off the Pics. However, when the Anglo-Saxons arrived in Britain. They decided that they too wanted the land for themselves, explained Jimminy.
This land must have been great if three tribes wanted it bad enough to fight over!
Must have been, exclaimed Jimminy, because not only did the Pics and Anglo-Saxons want the Britain land, but three other tribes also wanted the land and attacked the Celts.
Which tribes were they?
The other tribes were the Anglens from Denmark, the Jutes from Denmark, and the Frisians from Holand.
What did the Celts do with these tribes attacking them?
The Celts all spilt up and went to different places. Some went to Ireland, some went to France and founded Britainy, and some went to Whales where they dug the Great Ditch. The Great Ditch was a border between Whales and England that the Celts used to keep the enemies out of Whales.
This all sounds exciting, said Pinocchio, but what does this have anything to do with the English language?
Well Pinocchio, when the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain they brought their German language with them. The Anglo-Saxons German language contributed two characteristics to our English language. One is the use of alliteration. Alliteration is a sentence or phrase with the same sound at the beginning of the words. For example, sally sold sea snails would be an alliteration because of the s sound at the beginning of each word. The other one is the use of kennings. A kenning is when two words are put together to make one word. An example of a kenning would be the word hair and the word brush to make the word hairbrush. Also, the German language is Old English and 90% of basic building block words used today are Old English. But the German language was mostly a spoken language, not a written language. Lets travel to 597 A.D. when language was first put in writing.
Here we are Pinocchio. We are now in 597 A.D., when the conversion to Christianity took place. The conversion to Christianity started when a monk named Augustine was sent by the Pope to convert the Anglo-Saxons in England to Christians.
Did Augustine speak German? asked Pinocchio.
No, monks spoke Latin. From the Latin language we got words like alter and psalm.
Arent those words used mostly in the bible?
Yes they are. You see Pinocchio, the English monks wrote Illuminated Manuscripts. Illuminated Manuscripts are retellings of bible stories so they used many words like alter and psalm. These words then got sifted into the English language.
Oh! said Pinocchio. But did Augustine ever convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity?
Yes they did. replied Jimminy. But it was not an easy job. It took the monks one hundred years to change the Anglo-Saxons to Christians.
Wow! exclaimed Pinocchio. But the Illuminated Manuscripts were written in Latin. When was English first written down?
The first story ever written down was in 700 A.D. This was a fiction story called Beowulf and it was about a scary monster named Beowulf. But enough about written language. Lets travel to 787 A.D. where we will first meet the Vikings.
So Pinocchio and Jimminy Cricket traveled to 787 A.D. where Jimminy Cricket told Pinocchio of how the Vikings, also known as Danes, raided England for more than one hundred years. But Pinocchio had many questions.
I am confused, said Pinocchio. Did the Vikings ever take over England?
By 850 A.D. half of England was in Viking hands, but there was one king who would not let the Vikings take his land. This king was the King of Wessex and they called him Alfred the Great.
Pinocchio asked Jimminy, Why was he called the Great?
He was called the Great for many reasons. One reason is that he held off the Danes and saved his kingdom. He also created the Dane Law Treaty to stop the spread of Viking settlement in England. The Vikings werent the only reason Alfred was called the Great. He was also a good Englishman. Not only did he rebuild monasteries and actively encourage education, but he also had a book made called the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a record of key events. All of these things that King Alfred did made him more popular with the people which gave him more power.
Wow! Pinocchio said in excitement. He sure did a lot! But what ever happened to the Vikings? Did they go around fighting people forever?
No they didnt. During the tenth century the Vikings are Christianized. They become civilized and start living in permanent homes in other lands. The Vikings also started intermarrying with the Anglo-Saxons. But even though both cultures shared a similar Germanic background, their languages clashed because both spoke an inflective language. An inflective language is a language where the word endings of each word carry the meaning of the word. Although many of the words were the same, the word endings were different enough to make mutual understanding difficult. Because of this problem, the Great Compromise came about in 1000 A.D.
The Great Compromise was put into effect to solve the problem resulting from the Anglo-Saxon and Viking blending of cultures, explained Jimminy. By 1000A.D. they replaced the Old English inflective plural ending en with s. For example; the Viking word for horse was cross and crosset for several horses. The Anglo-Saxon word for horse was horse. After the Great Compromise the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons decided to use horse, and horses for more than one horse. However, the use of en as a plural ending did not disappear completely. We still use this word ending in words like children, explained Jimminy.
So the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings had to change some of their words so they could understand each other? asked Pinocchio.
Thats right, answered Jimminy. Some shared vocabulary also survived the Great Compromise, like wish and want, and shirt and skirt. Some purely Viking vocabulary also found its way into the English Language. For example; anger, brang, happy, hug, ugly, wrong, and ill are all Viking words. Words in the English language that start with sc and sk come from early Viking invaders.
The Great Compromise sure had an affect on the English language, said Pinocchio.
It sure did! And, not only did the Great Compromise contribute to the English language, it also started the transition from Old English to Middle English. This begins following the Norman invasion of England in 1066 A.D.
Why did the Normans invade England?
Lets travel in time to 1066 A.D. and find out!
Here we are Pinocchio!
Where are we?
We are at the Battle of Hastings where William the Conqueror defeated the English king, Harold the Second.
Who is William the Conqueror and why did he want England?
William the Conqueror became king of the Normans at age seven when his father died. His ancestors had been Vikings who had settled in France two hundred years earlier and adopted the French language and customs. So, naturally William spoke French.
But what does that have to do with England?
Well, William believed that he should be King of England. He believed this for three reasons. One reason, he was second cousin to Edward the Confessor, the English King before Harold the Second. The second reason is he had earlier tricked King Harold the Second into pledging allegiance to him. This means that Harold the Second gave his loyalty to William. The last reason is that William had the approval of the Pope.
So did William become King of England?
Yes, but not until the Battle of Hastings. At this battle, Harold the Second and his two brothers were caught off guard and killed. The English army fled leaving William the clear winner! The Bayeux Tapestry retells this historical event with 237 embroidered pictures on linen, or cloth.
After much thought Pinocchio asked, I understand that the Normans now rule England. But how did they communicate with the people if they spoke French?
The Normans declared their language the official language of England and just assumed the English language would wither away. Obviously it didnt! Little did the Normans know, in the countryside away from the powers of government, English grew stronger and picked up much of the French vocabulary. The Normans language was not only spoken, it was also written. We first see it written in the Doomsday Book. The Doomsday Book was created to identify all wealthy landowners and establish a base for taxing personal property.
Why did the Normans have to tax the peoples property?
Well, when the Normans introduced feudalism in England it brought about knights and castles. Both were expensive to maintain so it became necessary to tax the peoples property in order to pay expenses.
I understand now, said Pinocchio.
Also, exclaimed Jimminy Cricket, over time the English Church replaced Anglo-Saxon Bishops with Benedictine, or Norman Bishops. And in 1155 A.D. the English monks stopped recording the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle because they refused the order to start recording in French.
Obviously the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons didnt like French being Englands language. How did they get English to be Englands declared language again? asked Pinocchio.
In 1250 A.D. a book was written teaching French as a second language. This was proof that the English language survived despite Norman rule. By 1300 A.D. the Norman French language declined and before the end of the century, English was back as the official language of England. We also know that English replaced French as the written language by Geoffrey Chaucers Caterbury Tales that was written in the late 1300s. But Pinocchio, even though the English language returned to being the language of England, during the three hundred years of Anglo-Norman rule 10,000 Norman words became a part of the English language. We already had words from the Anglo-Saxons who raised livestock like cow, calf, and sheep. The Norman lords who ate the livestock had different words for the livestock after they had been killed. For cow they had beef, for calf they had veal, and for sheep they had mutton. All of these words we use today. From the Normans we also got military, political, legal, and medical words and words related to the arts.
It sure sounds like our language grew from the time of the Celts, said Pinocchio.
Youre right. It grew a lot but it wasnt done growing yet. In 1476 A.D. William Caxtons bringing of the printing press to England helps begin the English Renaissance. Lets travel to the 1500s where we can learn more about English Renaissance and its Modern English.
What was the English Renaissance? Pinocchio asked Jiminy.
The English Renaissance was a time period full of people with interest in exploration, science, and literature. During this time period 12,000 new vocabulary words, both invented and borrowed, were added to our language within a ten-year period. It was also in the 1500s during the reign of Elizabeth the First (1558-1603) and James the First (1603-1625) that the English Language was considered to be in its Golden Age. Both Elizabeth the First and James the First were involved in arts, fist allowing and later supporting the theater. And it is through theater that we meet William Shakespeare.
Who is he?
William Shakespeare wrote poetry and thirty-seven plays. He used a vocabulary of 34,000 words and created new words and new phrases. He also played with grammar, creating verbs from nouns, explained Jiminy.
He sounds very smart. But all of this occurred in England. When did the English language come to America?
The first attempt to bring English to America was in 1584 A.D. when Sir Walter Raleigh founded the Panoke Colony in the New World, also known as America. Because the Panoke tribe was wiped out by Indians, the attempt failed. However, almost immediately after, the Native American vocabulary found its way into the English language.
The second attempt was in 1607 A.D. when the first English speaking settlement Jamestown, survived in America.
And what about the third attempt?
The third attempt occurred in 1620 A.D. after King James the First had a committee work until 1610 A.D. on the final text of the bible. His goal was to create a bible that read clear and sounded poetic. In 1620 the Pilgrims founded the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusits. The Pilgrims were strict, jealous people who stuck strictly to the bible and its rules. This settlement brought the written word to America in for of the King James Bible. And that is where our language came from Pinocchio. Do you have any more questions? asked Jiminy.
Yes, just one. When do we get to go home?
Laughing with Jiminy all the way home, Pinnocchio finally returned home to Gepetto with more knowledge about the English language than he had ever hoped for. And from then on, every time Pinocchio learned a new word, he tried to think of where that word came from!
Jiminy Cricket and Pinnochio travel through time and learn the history of the English Language.