Discover the History of English

Hello. I’m Gill from engVid, and today… As you know, I usually teach
an aspect of the English language, but today, we’re going to be looking
at the English language from a different perspective, a different angle,
and looking at the history of the language and how it has developed, because the English
language hasn’t always been the way it is today. It’s developed over hundreds
and hundreds of years. Now, today, hundreds of millions of people
speak English all over the world, whether it’s their first language or their second
language, or just one of the foreign languages that they speak and learn at school, and so
on. So, hundreds of millions of people speak English and learn English. But hundreds of
years ago, the English language that we know today didn’t really exist. It sort of got put
together gradually by different historical events. So we’re going to go back in history
now, and have a look at a timeline. I don’t know if you’ve seen a timeline before,
but it is literally the time, the years going from left to right, like you get on a graph if
you’ve done graphs, and the time goes across along the line. So the different developments
that happened can be shown on that line. So we’re starting here in 55 BC, hundreds of years
ago, and we’re coming up to… Well, beyond. We have 1066, here, but because I ran out
of space on the board, the time went on for such a long time, I couldn’t get all
the centuries in, but I will still tell you about them. Okay. But these are the very
interesting parts, which are on the board. So, 55 BC, the Roman invasion of Britain,
of the U.K., where we are at the moment. So, you’ve heard of the Roman Empire with Julius
Caesar and all the other Caesars, the Roman Empire that spread in different directions,
and Britain is one of the directions they spread in. They came here, and stayed for a
while, and built some nice buildings, and they built a wall that goes across between
Scotland and England, called Hadrian’s Wall, because the Emperor at the time was called
Hadrian. So, anyway, when they came and stayed for some time, they brought their language
with them, the Latin language. Okay? And the Latin language, it’s called a dead language
today, but it has influenced so many other languages, especially
in Southern Europe, so languages like Italian, French, Spanish,
Portuguese, they all come from Latin. So, in this country, in
the English language, we have had the Latin influence at different
times. So, the Romans brought their Latin language with them. Okay? So that influenced
the way people were speaking to each other as time went on. And the natives of this country
started learning Latin words, and it became integrated into the language. Okay, so let’s have a look at some of the
words that we use today that were influenced or that came from Latin words. Right? And
we have this pie chart, here, which you may know if you’ve been studying things for IELTS
and the writing task. A pie chart… So, the whole circle represents 100%. So if you’re
thinking of all the words in the English language at the moment, Latin, the Latin words that
came from… Partly from the Roman invasion, we have 29% of the words in the English language
have come from a Latin origin, from a source, Latin source. Okay. So here are just a few
of very words that we use every day, really. Words like: “human”, “animal”, “dental” to
do with the teeth, “decimal” which is to do with the fingers because we have 10 fingers,
“decimal”, and “digital”, also fingers, “factory” where things are made, manufacture, “library”
where you read books, “libre” meaning book, “library”, the building where the books are
kept, “manual” to do with if you do things with your hand it comes from the Latin word
for “hand”, “manual”. “Lunar” to do with the moon, because the Latin word for
the moon was “luna”, “luna”. And “solar” to do with the sun, again, because
the Latin word was like that, “solar”. “Military”, anything to do with
soldiers because the Latin Roman Empire soldiers were…
That was the word that was used for “soldiers”. “Melees” I think. And
we also get our “mile”, the distance, the mile from that, because that was the distance
that they would march, I think, before they had a rest or something like that. So “military”
is to do with soldiers. “Science” to do with knowledge. “Science”, and “station”, the railway
station, the bus station is a place where you stand still before you move off, and that
also comes from a Latin word to be static in one place. Okay. Okay, so that’s the Latin.
You’ll notice also that later on in history, Latin kept coming back, so there and there,
but that’s the Latin from these three points in history when we had visitors
of one sort or another. Okay, so let’s move on then, the next major
event. I’ve put 450 AD, but I’m going to start putting century numbers now, because it’s
simpler. So, 5th… The 5th century, okay, Germanic migration. That’s people from roughly
where Germany is today in the mainland Europe moved across. Okay? From the Saxon, Saxon
area of Germany. Saxony. So, the language they brought with them was a kind of… Well,
it became Anglo-Saxon, because it got merged with the English we already had, the Anglo
part, with the Saxon part added. It… And that’s another name for that is Old English,
Old English, which looks totally different from the English we have today. So they brought
a different language with them, and that got all mixed in. If you think of a big cooking
pot and different ingredients being put in, and it just keeps cooking and cooking over
time, that’s how it was developing. Okay. So, Germanic. Let’s have a look at how much
Germanic language there is in English today. So, looking at our pie chart again, we’ve
got Germanic 26%, so just over a quarter of the words in the English language today come
from a Germanic source. And I’ve put some little abbreviations here; Old English,
Middle English, Old Norse, and Dutch. These are all roughly sort
of from the Germanic area, and the Dutch words as well
are all mixed in there, too, because Holland isn’t
that far away either. Okay. So, let’s just
see a few examples of the Germanic words. They’re often quite short
words and words we use every day, like “above”, “again”, “and”, “apple”,
“bad” and “good”, “cake”, “eat” and “drink”, parts of the body especially, “eye” and
“feet” and “arm”, “boy” and “girl”, these are all the
Germanic type of words. “House”, “hand”, “bread”, so parts of the
body. “Food”, all of that kind of thing. Okay, so that’s that one. So moving on, in the 6th century, before this,
we had been what you call a Pagan country, sort of pre-Christianity. In the 6th century,
Saint Augustine came and started converting people to Christianity. Okay. And that meant
bringing languages with him, like the Bible that was written in these different languages,
other books, books of learning. So, again, Latin came in. And Greek as well came in,
and Hebrew all came with the Christianity, which spread around the whole country. So
we’ve covered Latin already. Let’s just have a look at Greek in our pie chart to see how
much influence that has had on the language today. So looking at Greek, it’s
actually quite small, just 6%. But they’re very sort of… They’re kind of
words that are used in a sort of academic life, and the word “academic” itself is one
of them; “academic” is a Greek word. And “Android”, if
you have an Android mobile phone, you wouldn’t believe that it
had come from an old Greek word, but it has. “Android”. Okay? A word like “basic”, “cinema” even,
“climate”, “democracy”, “economy”, “geography”, “history”, “idea” because philosophy,
thinking, ideas is very important and had a big… Greece had
a big influence on that. “Politics” and “technology”
all come from Greek. Okay, Hebrew, we don’t have unless it’s included
under other one of the other influences which is another 6%. Okay, so moving on to a period when we
had some more invasions and it wasn’t the Romans this time, it was people called the
Vikings who came from Scandinavian countries, so that’s Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and they
came across the sea and invaded. And it wasn’t just one invasion; it happened over three
centuries, from the 8th to the 11th century. So the Viking invasions, and they brought
their Scandinavian languages with them. And Old Norse is one of them. And as I said earlier,
from this Germanic migration, this was another sort of input into the Germanic types of languages
that we have. That’s why we’ve got 26% because there was such a lot coming in, a
lot of words, there. Okay. Right. So, moving on again to the… This is 11th
century as well, 1066, which is a big date in English history. The Norman invasion. And if you
know the area called Normandy in Northern France, there’s a connection, there. So, the Normans
were French, and they invaded… They came across the channel, they had a big battle
near the south coast of Britain, and they won so they took over. So the Norman invasion,
that brought French for the first time and some more Latin again, because anyway, French
developed from Latin, so it was a mixture of that. But French for the first time,
their French that had developed from Latin, as well as Latin itself. So, let’s have a look at some of the words we use
in English today that came from French sources. Okay. So, food, French people love food
and a lot of words for food came in. So: “beef”, “pork” and “veal” all
come from French words. Okay? But then some other interesting words
that maybe were Latin originally, but they became French,
and then these French words came into English and
they’re still with us today, words like: “continue”,
“liberty”, “justice”, so a lot of legal language,
words to do with the law come from French. So “liberty”, “justice”. “Journey”, if you go
on a trip, a journey comes from a French word. “People” comes from a French word for
people. And even the little word “very”. When you say: “Oh, that’s very nice”,
“very” just is the French word for true, so it means “truly”, “truly nice”.
That is truly nice, that is very nice. So, a little word like “very” comes
from the French word for “true”. Okay. Right, so we’ve covered Latin, French, Germanic,
and Greek. And we’ve come up to 1066, but of course, the English language didn’t stop
developing then. As I said, I ran out of space. But other things happened, for example, in the
15th century, 16th century, people started exploring the world, going off in ships and
finding other countries, finding places like America that they didn’t know was there before;
Christopher Columbus. Also going the other way, and at the Portuguese, for example, found
India and China. So, people explored. So, from the English point of view, we had explorers
who went off and found things, and came back, and that also influenced the language because,
for example, we got tobacco and potatoes from America, so the words for
those things were new. Okay. And then 18th, 19th century, colonialism, British
Empire, Britain became involved politically in other countries, then eventually the British
Empire ended and we now have the Commonwealth instead. And now in the 20th, 21st century,
the language is still developing. We’ve got the internet, the speed of travel. It’s very
easy to get on a plane and travel thousands of miles and go to another country, so words keep
coming back from other countries, for example. So looking at from the British Empire
onwards, a lot of Asian words, words from the Middle East and the far east, like “balcony”
and “bangle”, a bangle that you wear around your wrist, “bangle”. A “bungalow”, that’s
a house which is only one storey, a bungalow. We have quite a
lot of those in this country. A “guru” from India, someone
who you go to for advice and help, “guru”. A “kiosk”, “pajamas” that you
wear in bed at night to sleep in, “pajamas” are from an empire country. “Sandals” that
you wear on your feet, sandals with spaces in between for hot weather. And even “shampoo”
that you wash your hair with, “shampoo” is a foreign word from one
of the empire countries. And finally… So, we were talking about the
internet and technology. If you’re doing the housework and hoovering the carpet, we also
say vacuuming the carpet because you use a vacuum cleaner, but one of the major brands
of vacuum cleaner is the Hoover, and that was the name of the maker, the Hoover. So, but
that word has now become a verb “to hoover”, and “hoovering”. Okay? So, names count for
about 4% in the English language, so Hoover, and more recently, Google; we all use Google,
and now there is a verb “to Google”, so I am googling something. So… No,
sorry, not like that, that’s hoovering. I’m googling something. So those are just two
examples of names that are now part of the English language, and it’s changing all the time still.
So… But it’s a fascinating language to study, as I hope you agree. So, I hope that’s been interesting
for you, a bit of history. And there is a quiz on the
website,, so I hope you’ll go
and give that a try. And so that’s all for today. But come back soon, and we’ll have
another lesson for you. Okay? Thank you. Bye.

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