This was written May 2005 Thailand while I was on a four month assignment to a university there. Printed in their English magazine “The Scriptor” Volume 6
Do you recognize the title “Angle Genemnode Waeron?” Perhaps for those English students who don’t and feel it was a slip of the fingers as the typist was keying in, I should explain this certainly is English – tenth century English! I’ve lifted the words from Aelfric’s “Homily on St. Gregory the Great,” and a rough translation into modern English would be, “they were called English.” (Merriam – Webster on Line)
Why our modern English language has been attributed to the Angles I don’t know. The Angles were only one of contributing tribes and nations feeding this developing tongue. While we’re informed English is part of the Indo-European family of languages, it’s actually a composite of many of the branches of this family of languages. The Germanic family of languages and Latin family of languages contributed most to English in the formulate era. While England continued to host multiple dialects beyond its time, Alfred the Great was able to describe a language by the ninth century which could be recognized in most of the nation as “English.”
The period of modern English extends from sixteenth century to our own day. The early part of this period saw completion of a revolution in phonology of English that effectively redistributed the occurrence of vowel phonemes to something approximating their present pattern (Merriam-Webster on Line).
From the early seventeenth century onwards English influence began to be felt throughout the world. Colonization and overseas trade were agents of change to the word stock in the English language (Philip Durkin). In the process, returning travellers and colonial representatives brought foreign words back to England, which by the novelty of their sounds, became fashionable. Subsequently, these words found their way into common usage in England.
We’re indebted to Phoenicians and peoples of the near east for our alphabet of today. Children are taught in pre-school to sound letters out as a mechanism for breaking words into parts. This helps in learning to write in a logical way. Within a short time children begin to recognize words and groups of words as an idea or concept, much as the Chinese do when looking at a Chinese character. This concept is important in learning speed reading.
Students attempting to learn English as a second language tend to focus on a word, many a time misunderstood, rather than the concept contained in the group of words they’re reading. An issue in attempting to use English as a second language in different societal environments is the tendency of each society of English users in our world to use their own form of expression. English words can be used in a way which only the society of the speaker can possibly understand.
I well remember the pathetic expression on a translator’s face, well instructed in ‘proper’ English though he was, when a guest speaker from abroad powerfully delivered the words, “you would have thought the Queen was her Aunty.”
What the speaker meant to convey was the woman was a proud person. What the translator explained to his audience was very much different to the intent. Simplicity, clarity, and the omission of idiomatic expression are important when conversing across English speaking societies.
While English is not the language of the majority of this earth’s population, it is the lingua franca of world trade and politics at present. Societies which up to this time have shut themselves up in their own language cacoon are hastily rectifying the situation, and their national universities feature English as a ‘must know’ language.
English is not as poetry friendly as other languages. The mix of Germanic and Latin base languages does not fit as comfortably into poetic expression as it does with Spanish or Persian. English poets have to work diligently at their trade to produce a masterpiece, and an English poet is never fully satisfied with their best work, he/she is constantly playing with word and rhyme in an attempt to produce that perfect poem.
But with all of its limitations, English is currently a significant language in politics and trade, and will be so for the foreseeable future. Those who interpret and teach its complexities are an important group in the academic world of today, as nations seek, through education, ways to mutually understand each other’s social fabric and aspirations.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2015. All rights reserved”
The Origin and History of the English Language. www.krysstal.com/english.html
A Brief History of the English Language. www.wordorigins.org/histeng.htm
History of the English Language. www.danshort.com/ie/timeline.htm
History of the English Language. www.soon.org.uk/page18.htm
Origins of the English Language. www.m-w com/help/faq/history.htm
World of Words. www.askoxford.com/worldofwords/history
English Language. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language