09.12.2002 // Countries/Cultures // by Sergey Sirotkin
The English Language
English belongs to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. In no other language is the history of the people more reflected. Germanic settlers from the Continent began invading Britain in the year 449 A.D., and had conquered the country by 600 A.D. (with the exception of Wales and parts of the West and North-West), their language replacing the native Celtic, which left very little trace on it. In the eighth and ninth centuries England was again invaded, this time by the Danes and Norwegians, who, however, were so closely related to the English that a complete fusion of nations and languages took place.
The third invasion was that of the Norman-French under William the Conqueror in 1066. The conquest was a complete one, and since the Norman French represented the most powerful and advanced classes of the people, their language superseded that of the native English for all important or official purposes. Towards the end of the 14th century, the London dialect began to predominate, and to replace both French and Latin for official use and in the schools. The vocabulary had been enormously influenced and enriched by the French language, though the foundation in structure as well as vocabulary remained Germanic.
Many changes in pronunciation have taken place in recent years, whereas writing and spelling became more or less fixed after the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. This explains the differences between the spoken and the written language.