12.03.2003 // Countries/Cultures // by Sergey Sirotkin

Middle English

The English language has been shaped by a number of other languages over the centuries, and many English speakers know that Latin and German were two of the most important. What many people don't realize is how much the French language has influenced English.

Without going into too much detail, it would be useful to give a little bit of background about the other languages which shaped English. It was born out of the dialects of three German tribes (Angles, Jutes, and Saxons) who settled in Britain in about 450 A.D. This group of dialects forms what linguists refer to as Anglo-Saxon, and at some point this language developed into what we know as Old English. This Germanic base was influenced in varying degrees by Celtic, Latin, and Scandinavian (Old Norse) — the languages spoken by invading armies.

When William the Conqueror became king of England, French took over as the language of the court, administration, and culture - and stayed there for 300 years. Meanwhile, English was "demoted" to everyday, unprestigious uses. These two languages existed side by side in England with no noticeable difficulties; in fact, since English was essentially ignored by grammarians during this time, it took advantage of its lowly status to become a grammatically simpler language and, after only 70 or 80 years existing side-by-side with French, Old English segued into Middle English.

По материалам F.E. Discussion Group

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