the History of the English Language

  • Jan 1, 1000

    Beowulf (Poem)

    Beowulf (Poem)
    Beowulf is the longest poem that has been written in Old English. It was written by the Anglo-Saxons to tell the fictional tale of the battle between a monster and hero. It would have been read aloud by a Court Minstrel, or Scop (a court entertainer/poet/bard, who performed poetry aloud, which told stories of faraway places, historical events, or legends/folklore, always accompanied by a harp, in front of a royal/upper class audience).
  • Period: Jan 1, 1000 to Dec 31, 1154

    Old English

    The period in which the English Language began
  • Jan 1, 1020

    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was a record of events written by King Alfred of Wessex and anonymous scholars in Old English. It is known to be the oldest historical year-by-year record written in English. It was sent by Alfred to various monastries throughout England. An account of the Battle of Hastings is an important part of the text.
  • Jan 1, 1031

    The Book of Life

    The Book of Life
    This was a record of the names of members of Monastries & convents; it was written because of the belief that any names written in these books would also appear in the book opened on Judgement Day. Some of these books were ongoing projects, whereas others were written and finished at a certain point.
  • Jan 1, 1150

    the First Middle-English Text

    the First Middle-English Text
    This is the first English translation of a Latin sermon; the first stages of the transition into Middle-English are clearly shown - the grammar patterns used in this text are the beginnings of modern English grammar. The word order, pattern and rhythm of the sentences are almost identical to modern English.
  • Period: Jan 1, 1154 to Dec 31, 1470

    Middle English

    the development of early English
  • Jan 1, 1180

    The Ormulum

    The Ormulum
    this is a text which consists of 19,000 lines of verse, based upon stories of the Bible. It is important, because many features of the grammar and syntax of Early-Middle English are preserved within its verses, from a time when Medieval French had a large influence on the English language. The Ormulum is a written record of verse which would have been read aloud.
  • Jan 1, 1190

    Layamon's Brut

    Layamon's Brut
    Brut was a 16,095 line piece of poetry depicting the history of Britain; this was important for the development of the English language, because the standard language of the time was Anglo-Norman, but this was written in Middle-English. It was also the first Historical text written since the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
  • Jun 19, 1215

    The Magna Carta

    The Magna Carta
    The Magna Carta, (full name "Magna Carta Liberatum ["Great Charter of Freedom"]), is a text which has kept its relevance up to the present day. It is Latin for "Great Charter". The Magna Carta is essentially a set of rules which dictates how much power the Monarchy can have; it was originally written to stop King John from exploiting the English people, and set down the first laws for liberty and justice in the West, although it was never supposed to be a lasting legal declaration.
  • Jan 1, 1260

    Sumer Iscumen In

    Sumer Iscumen In
    Translated as "Summer Has Arrived", this Middle English Manuscript contained the oldest collection of music lyrics known to be written in Britain. It was written in the Middle-English Wessex Dialect. The song celebrates the transition from Spring to Summer, and was written purely for entertaining guests at banquets. The song's original lyrics were very close to present-day English, and have been rewritten by different composers, used in books and films, and even in popular music.
  • Jan 1, 1280

    Havelok the Dane

    Havelok the Dane
    It has been debated whether this poem tells of a true story or a legend/folk tale, but this text was written at the time when the Danes were in Britain, and the name "Havelok" is mentioned in Chronicles of the time. It is a poem which is told in a similar style to Beowulf, but is written in Middle English. This was important for the English Language because it brought Danish words into the English vocabulary, and this text was also one of the first Romances to be written.
  • Jan 1, 1310

    3 Living And 3 Dead

    3 Living And 3 Dead
    The first stories about clashes between the living and the dead in the English Language were written in the 14th Century. A story about 3 living princes encountering 3 dead princes became not only popular in folklore at this time, but also in art, sculpture and music. The Dead princes remind the living princes that there would be a short amount of time until they, too, would be like the prince corpses.
  • Jan 1, 1348

    The Chronicle Of The Black Death

    The Chronicle Of The Black Death
    The Black Death was a pivotal point in the history of English, as a consequence of many peasants dying, which meant fewer people could farm the land, which meant that peasants could now live in better conditions and advance up the social hierachy; for the first time, these peasants could learn to read and write, and consequently, more works of literature could be written and spoken language advanced. This chronicle is a first-hand account of the Black Death; describing changes which took place.
  • Jan 1, 1387

    The Canterbury Tales

    The Canterbury Tales
    The Canterbury Tales, the famous work of Geoffrey Chaucer, a 14th Century poet, depicted a pilgrimage to Canterbury by 29 pilgrims. Rather than being written in Latin or French, which were the official languages of the Church and the Court at the time, Chaucer decided to write his work in the Vernacular (spoken) English which was used in London at that time. This was a turning point for the English language, because for the first time, a poem had been written which ordinary people understood.
  • Jan 1, 1419

    English Becomes The Official Language Of Government

    English Becomes The Official Language Of Government
    When Henry V became King, he used English in his written instructions, letters and speeches, abolishing the usage of Norman French for Government purposes. This meant that English was now a language of authority, and not just the language spoken by the common people.
  • Jan 1, 1455

    The Gutenberg Bible & Printing Press

    The Gutenberg Bible & Printing Press
    The Gutenberg Bible was the first real book to be printed; the printing press was invented by Gutenberg himself. This was crucial for language, because it meant that books could be mass-produced and sent to different parts of Europe. As a result, more information could be accessed, and different languages could become more widespread.
  • Jan 1, 1469

    The Legend Of King Arthur / Le Morte D'Arthur Manuscript

    The Legend Of King Arthur / Le Morte D'Arthur Manuscript
    Thomas Malory wrote this piece of work about the well-known legend of King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table. It was written in Middle-French, then translated by William Caxton in 1485. It was composed from a variety of Anglo-French sources, such as the poem Morte Arthur and various French sources about Lancelot.
  • Period: Jan 1, 1470 to

    Early Modern English

    The period when the English language started to evolve into English as we know it today.
  • Jun 9, 1473

    William Caxton Prints The First English Books

    William Caxton Prints The First English Books
    William Caxton introduced the printer to England. The very first book twhich he printed in English was The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. Although this wasn't actually printed in England (It was printed in Belgium), it was important because it was the first book to ever be printed and mass-produced in the English Language. The book was a collection of stories/accounts from the Trojan Wars, and was originally written in French by another author. Consequently, English became more widespread.
  • Jun 9, 1526

    First English Bible

    First English Bible
    Prior to this date, the Church in Rome had complete control over the Churches of England, which therefore meant that all Church services were conducted in Latin, all Bibles and Religious documentation was written in Latin, and a Bible being written in the English Language was thereby unthinkable. This Bible was produced during the reign of Henry VIII, who famously wanted to reform the Churches of England by means of burning down Monastries, but it remained illegal to write a Bible in English.
  • The Faerie Queene - Edmund Spenser

    The Faerie Queene - Edmund Spenser
    The Faerie Queen was a famous epic poem combining themes of christianity, mythology, folklore and British history. The author also seeks to praise Elizabeth I. The poem was so long that it took up 6 books and also took most of Edmund Spenser's life to complete. It was an important piece of work for the development of the English Language, because of its vivid descriptions and its attack of the Catholic Church.
  • Richard III - William Shakespeare

    Richard III - William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare was arguably the one person who had the most influence on the English Language. Many people were influenced and inspired by the style of his writing, so influenced, that many of the new words which he coined began to appear in the Oxford English Dictionary; 800 of these survive today. Richard III was his 3rd play, which concluded his 1st tetralogy (series of 4 related dramas/plays); the two plays preceding this one were Henry VI parts 1 - 3.
  • Hamlet - William Shakespeare

    Hamlet - William Shakespeare
    Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, and it has remained thought-provoking for audiences ever since it was first performed. Shakespeare's choice of language in his plays changed the face of literature. He experimented with words, often making them up; he challenged literary traditions. Hamlet is the play with the famous quote, "to be, or not to be, that is the question."
  • First English Dictionary

    First English Dictionary
    Table Alphabeticall by Robert Cawdrey was the first single-language English dictionary,written at a point when many more words were constantly being added to the English language; many explorers were discovering different cultures, along with there being scientific breakthroughs, changes in literature & the arts, and trade with many other countries. This meant that many complex words and phrases would have to be explained to the general public in an uncomplicated yet effective way.
  • Period: to

    Late Modern English

    The gradual development of the English language into its present state.
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton

    Paradise Lost, John Milton
    Paradise Lost is a famous poem, and said to be one the greatest poems in the English Language. Milton was determined to create something that would have as much impact on the English Language as Homer's Odyessey had on the Greek language. He chose to base his poem on Genesis.
  • Fables, Ancient & Modern

    Fables, Ancient & Modern
    Dryden translated many Greek, Latin and French manuscripts, and retold well-known fables such as Pygmalion And The Statue, in verse form. He also believed having a good knowledge of Latin and its grammar rules would be crucial for being able to write in a high standard of English. Many other writers of that era were influenced by his style of writing.
  • The Spectator

    The Spectator
    The Spectator was a daily periodical written by two politicians, Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steel. About 4000 copies were sold per day. within each periodical, there were the daily news and comments, particularly on literature and morals.
  • The Arrival Of English To The West Indies

    The Arrival Of English To The West Indies
    The Slave Trade began in the early-1600's, and by 1655 the English had took over Jamaica from the Spanish; newspapers & publications began to be written in standard English rather than Barbados vernacular English by the early 1700's.
  • The Age Of Scientific Discoveries, Inventions And Industrialisation

    The Age Of Scientific Discoveries, Inventions And Industrialisation
    In an even more eventful Century that the 1700's, of course there would be many more new terms coined. Scientific knowledge was becoming more and more sophisticated, international trade had become increasingly widespread and the British Empire was expanding. New terms about economy and banking were created - "capitalism", "inflate".
  • Jane Austin, Persuasion

    Jane Austin, Persuasion
    Persuasion was Jane Austen's final published novel, which explores social problems, such as prejudice, women's inequality and the complexities of the high society, as well as being another piece of work which influenced the English Language.
  • Poverty & The Workhouse Parliamentary Paper

    Poverty & The Workhouse Parliamentary Paper
    This parliamentary paper provided an insight into the terrible conditions in which all of the inmates of a workhouse had to live. There are descriptions of forced labour, illness, lack of nutrition and dangers to health and safety within this piece of work. The workhouse meant that many new words were coined, including "pauper".
  • Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    Sherlock Holmes is one of English Literature's most popular characters. The story-lines of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous book series are known to be complex, extremely analytical and gripping. Conan Doyle's collection of books were something new to fiction, in the sense that everything was meticulously written and very detailed. This had a big impact on literature and language.
  • The Speech Of Emmeline & Christabel Pankhurst

    The Speech Of Emmeline & Christabel Pankhurst
    The early 1900's was the era of the Women's Suffrage Movement. Emmeline Pankhurst, the famous women's rights campaigner, started her public campaigns in 1907; she and Christabel, her daughter, founded the Women's Social and Political Union which fought for the women's right to vote. They gave symbolic speeches, organised mass rallies and lead strikes. They were energetic speakers and encouraged women to join their fight.
  • Wilfrid Owen Poem - "Dulce Et Decorum Est"

    Wilfrid Owen Poem - "Dulce Et Decorum Est"
    This famous poem based on the horrors of WWI seeks to be a chilling first-hand account of life in the trenches - in literature form. Owen challenged the propaganda circulating at the time, which was deceptive; in his descriptions an image of war without the lies, deceit and glamourization was portrayed.
  • The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling

    The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
    JK Rowling's Harry Potter series has been exceptionally popular since the first book was written, and is one of the most popular book series of recent times. The language and style used within the books may not be as elaborate as popular literature from other centuries, but they show how our language has developed and turned into contemporary English.