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History of the English Language
  • English is a Germanic language at its root; (French) Latin comes later. The Romans conquer [present-day] England, but don’t force locals to learn Latin. In 5th Century, three Germanic tribes – the Anglos, the Saxons and the Jutes – invade England and bring their language(s) with them. In 1066 William the Conqueror invades from France, and brings French Latin with him. (The Norman Invasion)
  • Of the 100 most common English words spoken every day, 100 of them are Anglo-Saxon German! Of the 200 most common words spoken every day, 183 of them are Anglo-Saxon German. Neither the French nor the Romans thought it was worth “wasting” their language on the local peasants.
  • English is the largest language in the world, thanks to the overlap of two complete languages; English has over 620,000 words. The second-largest language, with only half as many words, is [Mandarin] Chinese. French has approx. 180,000 words. Russian has approx. 125,000 words.
  • Difference between Anglo-Saxon German and French Latin words: ASG words are simple and every-day, while FL words are more elegant and sophisticated. For example, ‘ask’ vs. ‘interrogate’; ‘mad’ vs. ‘discombobulated’; ‘deer’ vs. ‘venison’; ‘sweat’ vs. ‘perspiration’; ‘see’ vs. ‘survey’; ‘tasty’ vs. ‘delicious’ In his day,
  • Shakespeare was able to work with a mere 20,000 words. He’s credited with inventing 2,000 words, while popularizing obscure, existing words.
  • In addition to two complete languages (FL, ASG), English utilizes prefixes and suffixes taken primarily from Greek and Latin. Knowing the meaning of the prefix/suffix/root is instrumental in figuring out what a (new) word means.
  • New vocabulary taken largely from new technology or other world languages also accounts for hundreds of new words each year.
  • There are, roughly, three periods that linguists recognize in the development of English: Olde English, Middle English (Chaucer the best-known poet of this period) and Modern English. English eventually adopts 2,000 words from the Vikings, who invade England years after the Anglos and Saxons. Viking words include “give” and “take.”
  • The King James Bible becomes the first “best seller” in English, and is the source of many metaphors and symbols that are cited to the present day. English is not a phonetic language. Consider the words ‘Pacific Ocean.’ The three c’s in these two words are all pronounced differently. Or, consider the words ‘night’ and ‘knight’.
  • One-fourth of all countries on Earth list English as an official language. This adds up to 79 countries. It is estimated that a new English word is invented every 98 minutes. This translates to 4,000 new words every year.
  • The word “alphabet” comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta.