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The Queen’s English
More than 650 million people use it. Seventy-five percent of the world’s mail and sixty percent of telephone conversations are in it. You can use it too! It is English. But how did the language we know today develop?
The first inhabitants of Britain were the Celts. In the first century, the Romans invaded Britain and stayed for nearly four hundred years before returning to central Europe to protect their borders.
After their departure, three tribes from Northern Europe invaded England; they were Jutes, Saxons, and Angles. The language they spoke was similar to Frisian, the language of the Northeast region of the Netherlands. The Celts fled to Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Southwest England, and the English language began to develop.
The name England comes from the word Engla-land, which means the land of angles. The language developed slowly until the Norman invasion of Britain led by William the Conqueror in 1066 AD.
It is an example of Old English.
Feder ure u,e cart on heofonum
si in nama gehalgod tobecume in rice gewure in willa on eorôan swa swa on heofonum
The Normans spoke an old French dialect called Anglo-Norman, which mixed with Old English to create new words and phrases. The language from 1100 to 1500 is known as Middle English.
Here is the same text in Middle English.
Oure fadir at art in heuenes haiwid be i name;
rheume or kingdom occurs. Be i the will don here as doun in heuene.
Standardization of the language occurred after William Caxton brought the first printing press to England in 1476 and produced the first English dictionary in 1604. The language from 1500 to 1800 AD is called Early Modem English.
Here is the same text in Early Modem English.
Our father in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
English from 1800 AD to the present day is called Late Modem English. The main difference is the amount of vocabulary that increased dramatically due to the industrial revolution and the rise of the British Empire. The first led to the creation of new words necessary for new inventions, and the second encouraged the adoption of foreign words. Old English had a vocabulary of about sixty thousand words; Modem English more than six hundred thousand.
But how are new words created?
New words usually come from one of five sources. Some words are made up out of nothing. Shakespeare invented more than 1600 words and phrases. Some words are created by mistake; the word buttonhole is a mishearing of the word buttonhole.
Many words are borrowed from other languages. The Aztecs made a drink using cacao beans and a water called choco-atl, which means bitter water. The Spanish found the drink in Mexico and named it chocolate. The drink came to Europe with added sugar and became chocolate. The word checkmate in chess comes from the Persian language of Iran and Afghanistan, shah-k-mate, meaning the king is dead. The word pajamas comes from India.
Many words have changed their meaning since they were first used. The word tell used to mean to count, so people who count money in banks are called bankers. The phrase “you’re fired” comes from the fact that historically, clans got rid of unwanted neighbors by burning down their houses.
Finally, new words are created using suffixes and prefixes. For example, interest in arguing and disinterestedness for the sake of arguing. Words can be combined to create new words such as hair and brush to create hair brush. Many words used by our grandmothers have changed. Now we say exam instead of bus, omnibus, pram, perambulator.
There are also regional differences; They are called daps in South Wales, pumps in Northern England, tennis shoes in Southern England and sneakers in North America. An apartment in England is an apartment in North America. In Britain, people walk, drive and fill up on the pavement. In the United States, people use sidewalks, drive cars, and fill up on gas. These differences in language led Oscar Wilde to say, “We have much in common with America today, except, of course, language.”
Although about sixteen percent of Old English words known today have descendants, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English have Old English roots, such as be, water, and strong. An educated person knows about twenty thousand words and uses an average of two thousand words a week. So why has English become such a popular language?
This is due to its acceptance as a mother tongue by other countries, such as in North America, Canada and Australia. There are more English speakers than only Mandarin Chinese speakers. English is more widely spoken, and more than forty-five countries list it as the country’s official or co-official language. Many people choose to learn English as a foreign language, whether out of interest or necessity, which gives it an advantage over other languages.
No doubt the language will continue to grow and change, and while the Queen speaks English, she won’t be the only one for a long time.
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