History of English

History of English

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This chapter covers a brief introduction on how English has been developed and influenced by multiple countries within the English timeline - including the very origin of English!

English is a West Germanic language that originated from Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain in the mid-5th to 7th centuries AD by Anglo-Saxon settlers. With the end of Roman rule in 410 AD, Latin ceased to be a major influence on the Celtic languages spoken by the majority of the population.

We also discuss the influence of one of history’s most renowned poets and play writers. – Mr. William Shakespeare and his vast knowledge added more than 1500 words to the modern version of English we know and use in our daily lives. Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare.

Some of the words Shakespeare added and the plays they derive from.

Bandit - Henry VI, Part 2. 1594

Critic - Love’s Labour Lost. 1598.

Dauntless - Henry VI, Part 3. 1616.

Dwindle - Henry IV, Part 1. 1598.

Elbow (as a verb) - King Lear. 1608.

Green-Eyed (to describe jealousy) - The Merchant of Venice. 1600.

Lackluster - As You Like It. 1616.

Lonely - Coriolanus. 1616.

Skim-milk - Henry IV, Part 1. 1598.

Swagger - Midsummer Night’s Dream. 1600.

Shakespeare must have loved the prefix un- because he created or gave new meaning to more than 300 words that begin with it. Here are just a few:

Unaware - Venus & Adonis. 1593.

Uncomfortable - Romeo & Juliet. 1599

Undress - Taming of the Shrew. 1616.

Unearthly - A Winter’s Tale. 1616

Unreal - Macbeth. 1623

Our journey includes a glimpse at how the variations of English are used within the modern era regarding differences in spelling, pronunciation, and cultural aspects within British and American English. - “This adventure shall best most wondrous!”

Interesting quirks and facts about the English Language

Have you ever wondered why the English computer keyboard is set out in the way it is instead of in alphabetical order? The reason for this is on early typewriters, the keys needed to be arranged in a certain way so that the mechanical rods which held the letters did not clash too much and jam. The letters needed to be separated so that the ones which were most commonly used were not next to each other.

Unsurprisingly, ‘e’ is the most commonly used letter in the English language: as many as one-eighth of all written letters is the letter ‘e’. Maybe a little more surprising is the fact that more letters begin with the letter ’s’ than any other in the alphabet.

A good teaching tool for writing and speaking exercises is using the following sentence: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” as it contains all of the letters of the alphabet. In addition, the longest English word that can be spelled without repeating any letters is “uncopyrightable”. The following sentence contains seven different spellings of the sound “ee”: ‘He believed Caesar could see people seizing the seas’

There is no word in the English language that rhymes with month, orange, silver or purple. ‘Queueing’ is the only word with five consecutive vowels (five vowels in a row). This is a great word to use when you play hangman!

Below is a humorous portrayal of the History of English from the Open University.


Event Hours(1)

  • Monday

    10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Assessment Category: Learner & Teacher Motivation

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