History of the English Language

  • Period: 410 to 460

    Germanic tribes invade Britain. End of Roman rule.

    Several Germanic tribes, including the Anglos, the Saxons and the Jutes, settle in England and bring with them their languages. The need for communication over the barriers of these different but similar languages brings about the raise of a new Germanic language – Old English.
  • 596

    St. Augustine brings Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England.

    Christian missionaries promote literacy. Latin texts are translated into Old English. The language gains many new words adopted from Latin, especially in th field of religion.e
  • Period: 793 to 1050

    The Viking Age in England

    Repeated Viking attacks on England lead to Scandinavian colonization and the collapse of 3 of the 4 Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The West Germanic Old English adopts many words and grammatical forms from the North Germanic Old Norse, thus starting to evolve into Middle English.
  • 1000

    Manuscript of Beowulf written.

    This is the longst known surviving epic poem in Old English. It allows for study of the language.
  • 1066

    Battle of Hastings

    William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, becomes the ruler of England.
    French becomes the language of the upper and educated classes, while English remains the language of the common people. English loses all official and formal usage, and spelling is not standradized,
    English takes in many influences from French, esp. French vocabulary, but also the loss of many grammatical endings that represented cases of nouns.
    This completes the evolution of Old English into Middle English.
  • 1362

    King Edward III orders that English be used in Parliament the the courts of law.

    English regains official usage. This creates a need for a standard written English.
  • Period: 1380 to 1440

    Geoffrey Chauser writes The Canterbury Tales.

    Chauser dies before completing this work.
    The work serves both as a documentation of the English of it's time and a source for the standard written English to be used in the next centuray known as Chancery English.
  • 1476

    William Caxton sets up the first printing press in England

    Printing makes written literature in English available to all the English speaking public. This creates an even greater need for a standard written language. Caxton makes many decisions about the spelling of words that will become standard spellings.
  • 1534

    Reformation in England

    King Henry VIII cuts ties to the Catholic Church. The Process is completed by Queen Elizabeth I who forms the Church of England as we know it today.
    The Bible is translated to Englsih and made available to all English readers.
    The Book of Common Prayer is published in English.
    English becomes a language in which a person can access God, and is equal to Latin.
  • Period: 1564 to

    Life of William Shakespeare

    Produced 2 long poems, 154 sonnets and 37 plays, all written in early modern English.
    A body of literature useful for study of both written and spoken English at the time.
    Important stage in standradizing the language.
    Establishment the theature as a central cultural activity in the English language to this day.
  • Period: to

    First British settlements in North America

    1607: Settlement of Jamestown, Virginia
    1620: Settlement of Plymouth, in today's Massachusetts The English language arrives in North America, and becomes a languge used outside of the British Islands.
    The differences between settlers in these two early colonies gives rise to different accents of American English
  • Samuel Johnson publishes A Dictionary of the English Language

    Spellings used in this dictionary are largely unchanged.
    Simple everyday words are included and defined with clarity and elegance.
  • Treaty of Paris

    France cedes to Great Briain all its North American possessions east of the Mississippi, with the exeception of New Orleans.
    Start of a process that makes Canada part of the inner circle of English speaking countries, as an officially bilingual country.
  • The United States of America declares its independence.

    The USA becomes an independent English speaking country, able to decide its own policy.
    This includes:
    - taking in lange numbers of immigrants from various countries and linguistic backgrounds
    - expanding its borders to the west across the American continent, thus coming in contact with speakers of Spanish and other languages.
    - Slavery of people of African decent who develop the African.American accent in American English .
  • The First Fleet anchors in the Bay of Botany

    First English speaking settlers in Australia.
    Start of a process which will make Australia in English speaking country with its own dialect, accent, and litterature.
  • First organised British immigration to the Cape of Good Hope

    English arrives in what is to become South Africa.
    Start of process where South Africa becomes an inner circle country. Although there are to this day many languages in South Africa, English is used as the language of communications between people of different languages.
    South Africa develops its own version of English and its own English literature.
  • Establishment of the British Straits Settlements

    Malaya, Singapour and neighbouring Islands become British colonies and English is introduced.
    South East Asia develops into an area with many outer circle countries with their own versions of English.
  • Treaty of Waitangi

    The Maori accept British sovereignty over New Zealand.
    Start of British settlement in New Zealand and introduction of the English language to this country.
    New Zealand develops into an English Speaking inner circle country with its own form of English.
  • The Government of India Act 1858

    Britian takes direct rule over India and the British East India company is dissolved.
    The English language gains widespread usage in India, and an Indian dialect of English evolves. All countries in the Indian Subcontinent become outer circle countries oof the English speaking world.
    Under British rule, Englishmen write a large body of literature about India (for eksample R. Kipling).
    After independence many Indians create literature in English, including many novels and films.
  • First full length film with sound, The Jazz Singer, released in the USA

    The cinema becomes a popular form of literature, culture, and entertainment. English speaking films are produced in many countries, most importantly the USA (Hollywood), Britain. India (Bollywood) produces many films that are partly in English. All these film industries enjoy a popularity beyond these countries' borders.
    Spoken English, with different accents and dialects becomes part of the culture in many countries where the films are not dubbed.
  • Period: to

    Goldan age of televiosin

    Television spreads around the world as a major source of culture and entertainment in the private home.
    The British BBC and the American NBC, CBS, and ABC produce many programs in English that become popular around the world. In countries where dubbing is not used, spoken english enters the homes of most people.
  • End of World War II

    The USA replaces the United Kingdom as the English speaking world power. The American dialect of English becomes more interesting for countries in the outer circle and outside the English speaking world.
  • Collapse of the Soviet Union

    The USA is now the only remaining world power. Interest in its language spreads to all parts of the world, including the former soviet block. This leads to expansion of the outer circle. English becomes a language of the entire world.
  • The World Wide Web (internet) becomes available to the public

    The internet develops into the common media for communications and self expression.
    All people become able not only to consume culture, but also to produce and publish it, creating more accept of different linguistic forms.
    International communication becomes easy and cheap, creating a need for an international language, which becomes International English.
    Written English develops to include new symbols - emogis in addition to letters.