Sunday, 14 April 2013

The History of English Language.

Assalamualaikum WBT,

When we want to learn something, we have to know about the history of that something right? So, when we want to learn English language, we have to know where the language came from? When? Where and how?

According to Melvyn Bragg, 

"As far as England is concerned, the language that became English arrived in the fifth century with Germanic warrior tribes from across the sea. They were first invited over as mercenaries to shore up the ruins of the departed Roman Empire, stayed so share the spoils and then dug in. The natives, the Celts or Britons, were, the invaders asserted in their own triumphalist chronicles in an entry dated 449, "worthless" and the "richness of the land" was irresistible. This may have been written later, but the point is clear enough ; the place was ripe for plucking. The Anglo-Saxon historian Bede reports of "the groans of the Britons" in a letter to the Roman Consul Aetius. The groans came from those Britons who had suffered at the hands of these Germanic tribes. "The Barbarians," they called them, who "drive us to the sea. The sea drives us back towards the barbarians - we are either slain or drowned."
As you can read above, England was not a peaceful place like the present. The language particularly had undergone very tough years. It would take two to three hundred years for English become more than first among equals. Because of the capacity of English language to absorb other languages, it survived and emerge as the common tongue. 

In 1786, Sir William Jones, a British judge and amateur linguist on  service in India, after a close study of Sanskrit, which had been in existence since at least 2000 BC in the Vedic hymns, wrote; "Both Gothik and the Celtik, though blended with a very different idiom, have the same origin with Sanskrit. According to the analysis done by William, Proto Indo-European is the mother of us all and Sanskrit is certainly one of the older attested  members of the family of languages of which come all the languages of Europe (save Basque, Estonians, Finnish and Hungarian) and many in Asia. Germanic formed a subgroup of the Western Indo-European family - as did Celtic and Hellenic. Germanic further divided itself into three smaller groups East Germanic (extinct); North Germanic - the Scandinavian language, Old Norse in sum; and West Germanic - Dutch, German, Frisian and English. Frisian and English were closely connected to each other. 

Lets take a look at the examples given, by seeking similarities of these two words, we could find that the similarities are amazing. The languages somehow can be understood without knowing the languages. Lets see here. In Sanskrit, the word for father is "pitar"; in Greek and Latin it is "pater"; in German, "Vater"; in English , "father". "Brother is English, the Dutch is "broeder," in German "Bruder," in Sanskrit is "bhratar."

Even though English language was slowly came up through the hardness and toughness of the era, English received a little mark from Celtic language. As we all know, Celtic language is an old language which happens to be extinct but, there are a few of Celtic words that made a serious grip to the English language. For example, "tor" and "pen", meaning hill and hill-top.There is also "luh" or "lough" for the word lake and the two symbolic and significant English towns, Dover and London, bear Celtic names. Less than three percent of Old English, the bedrock vocabulary, is loan words from other languages.

Here is one amazing fact, the "-ing" ending in modern place names means "the people of" and "-ing" is all about the people - Ealing, Dorking, Worthing, Reading, Hastings, or as famously uttered by the fictional characters in Lord of the Ring, "Earthlings". While, "-ton" means enclosure of village , as in Wigton, Wilton, Taunton, Ashton, Burton, Luton, Crediton, Downton ; "-ham" means farm, as in Birmingham, Grantham, Fulham, Tottentham, Nottingham. There are hundreds of examples, check you village's name, it might be in these three categories. These "-ing", "-ton" and "-ham"  were straightforward territorial claims. The language clearly shout: We are here to stay, we name and we own this. 

In modern English, our conversation is still founded on and funded by Old English. These are the foundation of our modern English, is, you, man, son, daughter, friend, house, drink, here, there, the, in, on, into, by, from, come, go, sheep, shepherd, ox, earth, home, horse, ground, plough, swine, mouse, dog, wood, field,work, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, broth, fish, fowl, herring, love, lust, like, sing, glee, mirth, laughter, night, day, sun, word. There are three from Old Norse, "they", "their" and "them" and the first French-derived word is "number.

English had also dug into family, friendship, land, loyalty, war, numbers, pleasure, celebration, animals, the bread of life, the salt of the earth. Somehow, English as if knew exactly what it was doing; building slowly but building to last, testing itself among competing tribes as in centuries to come it would be tested among the competing nations, getting ready for as difficult a fight as was needed, branding the tongue. 

Churchill, 1940 was using Old English, except for the word "surrender" in "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender". 

I am using Melvyn Bragg's book The Adventure of English, The Biography of A Language for this entry. His book was my primary reference on my first semester in Bachelor of English with Communication in the year 2008 in Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Terengganu. There is another book in my possession that somehow very related to Bragg's writing, it is The Origin of Language by Merritt Ruhlen. She actually explained the origin of the language more then Bragg. So, these two books really help me in understand the adventures and the origin of the language especially English language. 

I will stop here but then, I will continue writing on the same topic. The sub topic would be the Influence of Christianity on English language. Again, I will be using Bragg's book for the source.

Until then, keep on learning.

Assalamualaikum WBT