LANGUAGE FOCUS: A Brief History of the English


by StoryPaul

Have you ever wondered why English grammar rules and vocabulary are so diverse and inconsistent compared to other more "pure" languages?

The English we know today has its origins over one thousand years ago as events in history would merge speakers of Old English (a more rudimentary language that evolved from Anglo-Frisian dialects of Germanic invaders to the British isles) with those of Old French (the more academic language that descended from spoken Latin in the Roman Empire).

Today, English is a modern language that is in a constant state of evolution as business, science and technology are most often communicated globally in English. Arguably, there are many social, economic and geopolitical factors that have made this the case.

But here's the linguistic one. It's the varied origins of English in the past that make it a language that is adept at adaptation, as it becomes the world's lingua franca. It's a language that today, at the dawn of the 21st century, continues to incorporate words and concepts of other Western languages and some Eastern ones as well.

Does this means that English threatens the continuity of other languages? Absolutely not. English is just a language that many will continue to learn as a second language because it helps to break down barriers to communication with the rest of the world, not just the English-speaking countries.

So if you study English, keep in mind that it is a very open and dynamic language. Not a closed and rigid one. This is why trying to learn English by merely studying its rules is often not as effective as taking a more natural and contextual approach to learning it.

The following video from the people at TED-ed tells us the story of the early evolution of English. To watch, make sure to TURN ON the captions if you want to read along. Enjoy!

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