Ms. Swanson

English 12, Per. 2, 5

Fall 2014

ERWC UNIT I: Language, Gender, Culture

Part 1: English Language History

For this unit, you will listen to college-style lecturing in class while reading several assigned texts at home.

(Work in Progress: Th 9/25-Fr 10/10)


A. “Stereotypes of English in Hollywood Movies. A Case Study of the Use of Different Varieties of English in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Transformers.” Read pp. 16-21. Annotate or take notes. Read: by Th 10/2-Fr 10/3

B. “The Best Videos Teaching the History of the English Language” (has a great poster). Look over the web page for further information. Use the poster for visual reinforcement, group work.

C. “History of English (Combined)”. Watch video twice (in class). Watch (in class): Th 9/24-We 10/1


A.  Pre-English peoples and languages of England:

1.  Druids

2.  Celts

3.  Romans

4.  Scandinavian Tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes)

B.  The three PHASES of English: (handouts)

1.  Old English—Viking Invasions—Old Germanic/Old Scandinavian influences

2.  Middle English—William the Conqueror—Middle French/Latin influences

3.  Modern English—The New World and the British Empire—English influences on the world.

4.  English language family tree

5.  Writing samples from the three phases of English

C.  The two great sound shifts: (handouts)

1.  The great consonant shift

2.  The great vowel shift

D.  Famous LITERATURE from each phase of English: (handouts)

1.  Beowulf (anonymous)=Old English

2.  Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)=Middle English

3.  The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (plays, poetry)=Early Modern English

4.  The printing press and the King James Bible=Early Modern English

5.  Spelling and Dictionaries=Early Modern English

6.  English Literature today—American, Australian, Canadian, British, Kiwi, Indian, Caribbean, South African, etc.

III. TEST: (in class: Th 10/9-Fr 10/10)

What is English? History of the English Language

A short history of the origins and development of English from:

The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders - mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from Englaland and their language was called Englisc - from which the words England and English are derived.

Old English (450-1100 AD)

Germanic invaders entered Britain on the east and south coasts in the 5th century.

The invading Germanic tribes spoke similar languages, which in Britain developed into what we now call Old English. Old English did not sound or look like English today. Native English speakers now would have great difficulty understanding Old English. Nevertheless, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English have Old English roots. The words be, strong and water, for example, derive from Old English. Old English was spoken until around 1100.

Middle English (1100-1500)

In 1066 William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy (part of modern France), invaded and conquered England. The new conquerors (called the Normans) brought with them a kind of French, which became the language of the Royal Court, and the ruling and business classes. For a period there was a kind of linguistic class division, where the lower classes spoke English and the upper classes spoke French. In the 14th century English became dominant in Britain again, but with many French words added. This language is called Middle English. It was the language of the great poet Chaucer (c1340-1400), but it would still be difficult for native English speakers to understand today.

Early Modern English (1500-1800)

Towards the end of Middle English, a sudden and distinct change in pronunciation (the Great Vowel Shift) started, with vowels being pronounced shorter and shorter. From the 16th century the British had contact with many peoples from around the world. This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that many new words and phrases entered the language. The invention of printing also meant that there was now a common language in print. Books became cheaper and more people learned to read. Printing also brought standardization to English. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of London, where most publishing houses were, became the standard. In 1604 the first English dictionary was published.

Late Modern English (1800-Present)

The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: firstly, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; secondly, the British Empire at its height covered one quarter of the earth's surface, and the English language adopted foreign words from many countries.

Varieties of English

American English (1600-present)

From around 1600, the English colonization of North America resulted in the creation of a distinct American variety of English. Some English pronunciations and words "froze" when they reached America. In some ways, American English is more like the English of Shakespeare than modern British English is. Some expressions that the British call "Americanisms" are in fact original British expressions that were preserved in the colonies while lost for a time in Britain (for example trash for rubbish, loan as a verb instead of lend, and fall for autumn; another example, frame-up, was re-imported into Britain through Hollywood gangster movies). Spanish also had an influence on American English (and subsequently British English), with words like canyon, ranch, stampede and vigilante being examples of Spanish words that entered English through the settlement of the American West. French words (through Louisiana) and West African words (through the slave trade) also influenced American English (and so, to an extent, British English).

English Today

Today, American English is particularly influential, due to the USA's dominance of cinema, television, popular music, trade and technology (including the Internet). But there are many other varieties of English around the world, including for example Australian English, New Zealand English, Canadian English, South African English, Indian English and Caribbean English.

The Germanic Family of Languages

English is a member of the Germanic family of languages.

Germanic is a branch of the Indo-European language family.

A Brief Chronology of English

BCE 55 Roman invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar. Local inhabitants speak Celtish. Beginning of Roman rule of Britain.

ca. 450CE Roman withdrawal from Britain complete. Invasion and settlement of Britain by Germanic invaders (Viking Tribes: Angles, Saxons, Jutes) begins.

450-480 Old English begins. Earliest known Old English inscriptions.

750 Second wave of Viking Invasions, aka Germanic invaders. The most famous Old English work of literature was composed, Beowulf, most likely by an illiterate poet who sang it.

ca. 1000 Beowulf was probably written down for the first time.

1066 William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy (aka France), invades and conquers England.

ca.1150 Middle English begins: Notable influence of French on English appears.

1348 English replaces Latin as the language of instruction in most schools.

1362 English replaces French as the language of law. English is used in Parliament for the first time.

ca. 1388 Chaucer starts writing The Canterbury Tales, the most famous Middle English work of literature.

ca. 1400 The Great Vowel Shift begins.

ca. 1450 The first printing press invented.

1476 Early Modern English begins: William Caxton establishes the first English printing press.

1564 Shakespeare is born.

1604 Modern English begins. Table Alphabeticall, the first English dictionary, is published.

1607 The first permanent English settlement in the New World (Jamestown) is established.

1616 Shakespeare dies.

1623 Shakespeare's First Folio is published.

1702 The first daily English-language newspaper, The Daily Courant, is published in London.

1755 Samuel Johnson publishes his English dictionary.

1776 Thomas Jefferson writes the American Declaration of Independence.

1782 Britain abandons its American colonies.

1828 Late Modern English begins. Webster publishes his American English dictionary.

1922 The British Broadcasting Corporation is founded.

1928 The Oxford English Dictionary is published.

#1053 Publication date: January 16, 2012

“From Spoken to Written: Defining the English Language”

Stanley M. Aronson

England, 1604: Elizabeth has died in 1599 and the island nation is now ruled by James I, scion of the Scottish Stuart dynasty. William Shakespeare is a 40 year old aspiring playwright composing, producing and acting in a score of his masterful plays. The population of the nation is estimated to be close to five million souls, mostly illiterate.

It was a time of monumental change in England; from a place where the capacity to read and write was confined essentially to the clergy, the lawyers, a modest number of teachers and still fewer scriveners; to a more literate world where even the Holy Bible was now to be fully translated to English (The Authorized King James Version appearing in 1611). Communication, official or interpersonal, had been largely oral, while proclamations, if written, were confined to the churches, courts of law and the royal palace.

An obscure school teacher and Anglican priest named Robert Cawdrey (circa 1538 – 1612), published a slim textbook entitled, “A Table Alphabeticall of Hard Unusual Words” in 1604. It was a modest enterprise struggling to define the words deemed to be the core vocabulary of English, a promiscuous language with roots in Anglo-Saxon German, Latin, Danish, Greek, Hebrew and French; and a language without prior printed source to establish meaning or spelling of its words.

Cawdrey was born in Rutland County, England, taught school locally and was then selected as rector in South Luffingham, a small East Midlands village with one church and two pubs. His Puritan beliefs eventually caused him to lose his church post for “lack of canonical obedience” and he then reverted to school teaching and the writing of educational texts. He caused to be published his eclectic dictionary (although the word, dictionary, had not yet been devised) in 1604. It represented a monumental advance for a language, at that time, with a viable content of about 45,000 spoken words.

There had been bilingual dictionaries (Latin to English) before but Cawdrey’s book was probably the first monolingual text portraying the evolving English language, using English words to do so. It defined, with a paucity of language, 2,543 English terms. (For comparison, Samuel Johnson’s English Dictionary (1755) cited 42,773 words; Noah Webster’s American Dictionary (1828) listed about 70,000 words; and the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary now contains over one million word definitions.)

Few copies of Cawdrey’s book were printed and only one, in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, is known to have survived. What, additionally, distinguishes this book? First, that it employed a revolutionary means of word-classification. Instead of the customary categorizations based upon theme (dividing definitions by whether they pertain to occupation, domesticity, emotion, avocation, etc.), Cawdrey chose to compile his words in a novel methodology that required a detailed explanation for his readership. First, he defined each letter of the alphabet as occupying a numerical station: thus, ‘a’ was first, ‘b’ was second, ‘c’ was third and so on. (It must be remembered that there is nothing about the letter ‘a’ to indicate that it is the first of 26 letters or ‘z’ the last. Indeed, the letter, zeta – the Greek alphabet letter equivalent to the English ‘z’ - is the sixth in the Greek sequence of its 24 letters.)

He chose to list each word by comparing it to its relative station in the English alphabet. And thus, words beginning with ‘l’ preceded words beginning with ‘m’. but succeeded words commencing with ‘k’. He then explained that the second letter of each word, too, must be viewed in terms of its alphabetic sequence; and thus the word, ‘boy’ would precede the word, ‘buy’ but succeed the word, ‘bay.’ In a patient manner, Cawdrey explained to the readership the meaning of his innovative alphabetization so as to facilitate their use of his innovative text (“Thou must learne the Alphabet, to wit, the order of the Letters as they stand”).

And so, the first five word-definitions in Cawdrey’s book are:

Abandon: cast away or yield up, to leave or forsake.

Abash: blush

Abba: father

Abbesse: [fr.] abbatesse, Mistris of a Nunnerie, comforters of others

Aberration: a going a stray, or wandering.

And while Cawdrey notes that ‘Abbesse’ is a French word, he doesn’t show its etymological relation to the preceding word, ‘abba’ which is of Greek/Aramaic origin and has given rise to such cognates as abbess, abbot, abbey and abbe.

Cawdrey’s book of synonyms wends its way through the alphabet while noting no words commencing with the letters ‘j’, ‘k’, ‘w’, ‘x’, or ‘y’. His book beseeches the readers “to acquaint themselves with the plainest & best kind of speech”, for, “Do we not speak, because we would have others to understand us ?”

Stanley M. Aronson, MD, , a weekly contributor, is dean of medicine emeritus, Brown University.