. The History of English

The History of English

School Research Paper


Jakoubson Julia

Grade: 9 A

School 9

Teacher Gorbacheva M.V.

Kolomna 2003.




I. Old English...3-17

a). Celtic Tribes3-4

b). The Romans4-10

c). Germanic Tribes.10-15

d). The Norman French..15-16

II. Middle English....16-19

III. Mordent English...20-22


List of Literature..26



Why do people all over the world learn foreign languages? Perhaps because

the world is getting smaller, in a way: nations are more closely linked

with each other than ever before, companies operate world-wide, scientists

of different nationalities co-operate, and tourists travel practically

everywhere. The ability to communicate with people from other countries is

getting more and more important. And learning foreign languages broadens

your horizons, too!

Before learners of a foreign language are able to communicate, they have to

acquire many skills. They must learn to produce unfamiliar sounds. They

must build up a vocabulary. They must learn grammar rules and how to use

them. And, last but not least, they must develop listening, speaking,

reading and writing skills and learn how to react in a variety of


All people like to travel. Some travel around their own country, others

travel abroad. Some like to travel into the future, others prefer to travel

into the past. While I was working out my research paper and reading many

books on English history, I had an exciting trip into a remote past. It was

a fantastical journey our Imaginary Time Machine and a Magic Wand. The Time

Machine took me into the depth of the centuries, into the very early

history of Britain. I waved the Magic Wand and the words began to talk,

they disclosed to me their mysteries, I discovered secrets hidden in

familiar things. In other words, you will be a witness of making of


I. Old English. (450-1100)

a). Celtic tribes.

Make a first turn of the Time Machine and you will find yourself on the

British Isles in the time of the ancient inhabitants, the Celts. The Celts

were natives of the British Isles long before the English. The Celts had

their language, which is still spoken by the people living in the part of

Britain known as Wales. And though many changes happened on the British

Isles, some Celtic words are still used in the English language.

Two thousand years ago there was an Iron Age Celtic culture throughout the

British Isles. It seems that the Celts, who had been arriving from Europe

from the eighth century BC onwards, intermingled with the peoples who were

already there. We know that religious sites that had been built long before

the arrival of the Celts continued to be used in the Celtic period.

For people in Britain today, the chief significance of the prehistoric

period (for which no written records exist) is its sense of mystery. This

sense finds its focus most easily in the astonishing monumental

architecture of this period, the remains of which exist throughout the

country. Wiltshire, in south-western England, has two spectacular examples:

Silbury Hill, the largest burial mound in Europe, and Stonehenge. Such

places have a special importance for anyone interested in the cultural and

religious practices of prehistoric Britain. We know very little about these

practices, but there are some organizations today (for example, the Order

of Bards, Ovates and Druids a small group of eccentric intellectuals and

mystics) who base their beliefs on them.

The Celts preserved their language in some parts of Britain, but they did

not add many words to the English vocabulary. Those, that are in use now,

are mostly place-names: names of regions, towns, rivers. The Celts had a

number of similar words to name rivers, like: Exe, Esk, Usk. All of them

come from a word meaning water (uisge). Later this word was used to name a

strong alcoholic drink made from barley or rye. It was first called water

of life. The word changed its from and pronunciation, and today at

restaurants in the West one can see on the menu among other spirits whisky,

a Celtic word formerly meaning water.

b). The Romans.

One more turn of our Time Machine and it took me into the 1st century of

our era. At that time Romans came into Britain, they ruled the country for

400 years. So, you can guess that many Latin words came later into the

English language through Celts, because, as you know, Romans spoke Latin.

The Roman province of Britannia most of present-day England and Wales. The

Romans imposed their own way of life and culture, making use of the

existing Celtic aristocracy to govern and encouraging this ruling class to

adopt Roman dress and Roman language. The Romans never went to Ireland and

exerted an influence, without actually governing there, over only the

southern part of Scotland. It was during this time that a Celtic tribe

called the Scots migrated from Ireland to Scotland, where they became

allies of the Picts (another Celtic tribe) and opponents of the Romans.

This division of the Celts into those who experienced Roman rule (the

Britons in England and Wales) and those who did not (the Gaels in Ireland

and Scotland) may help to explain the development of two distinct branches

of the Celtic group of languages.

The remarkable thing about the Romans is that, despite their long

occupation of Britain, they left very little behind. To many other parts of

Europe they bequeathed a system of law and administration which forms the

basis of the modern system and a language which developed into the modern

Romance family of languages. In Britain, they left neither. Moreover, most

of their villas, baths and temples, their impressive network of roads, and

the cities they founded, including Londinium (London), were soon destroyed

or fell into disrepair. Almost the only lasting reminder of their presence

are place-names like Chester, Lancaster and Gloucester, which include

variants of the Roman word castra (a military camp).

Roman rule lasted for 4 centuries. There are many things in Britain today

to remind of the Romans: wells, roads, walls.

To defend their province the Romans stationed their legions in Britain.

Straight roads were built so that the legions might march quickly. Whenever

they were needed, to any part of the country. These roads were made of

several layers of stones, lime, mortar and gravel. They were made so well

that they lasted a long time and still exist today. Thomas Hardy dedicated

his poem to Roman roads. Here is the beginning.


The Roman road runs straight and bare

As the pale parting line in hair

Across the health. And thoughtful men

Contrast its days of now and then,

And delve, and measure, and compare,

Visioning on the vacant air

Helmed legionaries who proudly rear

The eagle as they pace again the Roman road

One of the roads has a name KATLING STREET. It is a great Roman road

extending east and west across Britain. Beginning at Dover, it ran through

Canterbury to London, thence through St.Albans, Dunstable, along the

boundary of Leicester and Warwick to Wroxeter on the Severn. The origin of

the name is not known and there are several other sections of the road so

called. In the late 9th century it became the boundary between English and

Danish territory.

To guard their province against the Picts and Scots who lived in the hills

of Scotland the Romans built a high wall, a military barrier seventy-three

miles long. It was called Hadrians Wall because it was built by command

of the Emperor Hadrian. Long stretches of HADRIANS WALL have remained to

this day.

In the capital of Britain you can see the fragments of the old London wall

built by the Romans.

What really happened in AD 61? In AD 61 the king of the Celtic tribe Iceni

died. Before he died he had named Roman Emperor Nero as his heir. He hoped

that this would put his family and kingdom under the Emperors protection.

But the result was the exact opposite of his hopes. His kingdom was

plundered by centurions, his private property was taken away, his widow

Boadicea was flogged, his daughters were deprived of any rights, his

relatives were turned into slaves. Boadiceas tribe rose to rebellion.

Boadicea stood at the head of a numerous army. More than 70,000 Romans were

killed during the revolt. But the Britons had little chance against an

experienced, well-armed Roman army. The rising was crushed, Boadicea took

poison to avoid capture.

Her monument on the Thames Embankment opposite Big Ben remind people of her

harsh cry: Liberty of death which has echoed down the ages.

Some of the English words relating to meals are of Latin origin, they were

borrowed from the Romans in ancient times. The Romans in the period of

their flourishing and expansion came into contact with the Germanic tribes,

or the Teutons, who later moved to Britain and formed there the English

nation. The Romans were a race with higher civilization than the Teutons

whom they considered barbarians. They taught the Teutons many useful things

and gave them very important words that the forefathers of the English

brought with them to Britain and that remained in the English language up

to now. Kitchen and table are Latin words borrowed in those far-off days,

that show a revolution in culinary arrangements; dish, kettle and cup also

became known to the Teutons at that time.

The early words of Latin origin give us a dim picture of Roman trades

traveling with their mules and asses the paved roads or the German

provinces, their chests and boxes and wine-sacks full of goods that they

profitably bargained with the primitive ancestors of the nowadays English.

Wine was one of the first items of trade between the Romans and the

Teutons. Thats how this word came into use.

The Teutons knew only one fruit apple, they did not grow fruit trees or

cultivated gardens, but they seem to have been eager to learn, for they

borrowed pear, plum, cherry.

The Teutons were an agricultural people, under the influence of the Romans

they began to grow beet, onion.

Milk was one of the main kinds of food with the Teutons, but the Romans

taught them methods of making cheese and butter for milk.

Among other culinary refinements that came to the Teutons from the Romans

are spices: pepper, mint.

Judging by the Latin borrowings of that period the ancestors of English

were very much impressed by Roman food, werent they?

The word calendar came to us from Latin. In the Latin there was a word

calendarium. It meant a record-book. Money-lenders kept a special book,

in which they recorded to whom they lent money and how much interest they

will get. This book was called calendarium because interest was paid on

the Calends. By the Calends the Romans named the first day of each month.

Time passed, the old meaning was forgotten. Calendar began to mean the

record of days, weeks, months within a year.

This is a story of the word calendar. But the story of how a calendar was

made is still more interesting indeed. We know that a calendar provides an

easy way to place a day within the week, month or year. But it is not easy

to make a calendar. The trouble is that the length of a year is determined

by the length of time the earth takes to revolve once on its own axis. But

the earth does not take an equal number of days to complete its year. It

needs 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. Obviously you cannot

divide a day of 24 hours into that. And the problem is further complicated

because the month is determined by the length of time it takes the moon to

go around the earth, which is 29 days into 365 days, minus 11 minutes

and 14 seconds. The result is that most calendars were messes.

The English got their calendar from the Romans. But at first the Romans had

a very bad calendar. They had ten month of varying length, and then they

added enough days at the end to make the year right. Besides the

politicians changed the length of the months as they wished. They could

change the length of the month to keep themselves in office longer and to

leave less time for their opponents. I cant imagine that somebody will

reduce June, July, August to two weeks each, and will take away more than

half my summer vacation? Will you like that? Of course, not.

The calendar varied so much that by the time of Julius Caesar January came

in August.

Meanwhile a very good calendar had been worked out in Asia Minor and was in

use in Egypt. Julius Caesar, a great Roman emperor, changed it a little to

fit the Roman customs and introduced it in Rome. This calendar was called

after him the Julian Calendar. As a matter of fact, Caesar only gave the

orders; he had the advice of a Greek astronomer named Sosigenes. This

calendar worked well for hundred years. But it provided only for exact

figure of 365 days a year and an extra day in every four years, it did not

count minutes and seconds. So, once more, the calendar year was getting

farther and farther from the year of the earths revolution around the sun.

Then in 1582 another change of calendar took place. The Roman Pope Gregory

XII suppressed ten days in 1582 and started new calendar. The English

people adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1752. And for a time all dates

were given two ways: one for the New Style, one for the Old Style.

Now nobody uses the Old Style any more, but of course the calendar is not

quite accurate yet. Still it will be a long time before we have to add or

subtract another day.

The year is divided into months and every month has its own name. Now wed

like to investigate how the names of months appeared. But first, lets

think of the word month itself.

A month is a measure of time. It is a very old word. It goes back to Indo-

European base. Long time ago people probably- had only three measures of

time - year, which was the four seasons; a day which was the period from

one sunrise to the next; and a month, which had the period from one moon to

the next.

So, the Indo-European base me- came into Old English, and became mona.

The word meant "a measure of time". Then it began to mean moon, since the

moon measured time. Later suffix "-th" was added to the end of the word;

the word "monath" meant the period of time which the moon measured. Still

later the English people dropped the "a" and called it "month.

And now, stories of the names of months. The Modem English names for the

months of the year all come from the Latin. But before the English people

adopted the Latin names they had their native names. And, in fact, in some

cases the native names are more interesting than the Latin ones.

The first month of the year is January. January is the month of Janus.

Janus was a Roman God of the beginning of things. Janus had two faces: on

the front and the back of the head. He could look backwards into the past

and forward to the beginning year. January is a right name for the first

month of the New Year, isn't it? On the New Year eve we always think of

what we have done in the past year and we are planning to do better in the

New Year.

Now, the Old English had its own name for January. It was Wulf-

Monath", which means month of wolves". To-day England is thickly

populated and a very civilized country and it is hard, to imagine that

their was a time when wolves roamed the island. In the cold of the deep

winter they would get so hungry they would come into the towns to look for

food, and so January was called the month of the wolves".

The name of February comes from the Latin februa - "purification". It

was a month when the ancient Romans had a festival of purification.

Before the English adopted the Latin name, they called this month

Sprate-Kale-Month. Kale is a cabbage plant, "sprote" means to sprout.

So, it was the month when cabbages sprout

March is a month of Mar's, the Roman God of war. March was the earliest

warm time of the year when the Romans could start a war. Before the time of

Julius Caesar the Roman year began with March which was then the first

month of the year.

The Old English name for March was "Hlyd-Monath", which means "the month

of noisy winds". March in Britain often comes with strong winds. By the

way, this explains the saying: "If March comes in like a lion, it will go

out like a lamb".

There are a few stories about the meaning of the name April! The most

spread one is a pretty story that the month was named from a Latin word

aperire" to open. It is a month when buds of trees and flowers begin

to open.

The English before they adopted the Latin names, called April "Easter-

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