Meaning of ENGLISH LANGUAGE in English

ENGLISH LANGUAGE

language that originated in England and is now widely spoken on six continents. It is the primary language of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and various small island nations in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is also an official language of India, the Philippines, and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa. English is a member of the western group of the Germanic languages (itself part of the Indo-European language family) and is closely related to Frisian, German, and Netherlandic (Dutch and Flemish). In the 16th century, English was the mother tongue of only a few million people living in England, but owing to that nation's colonization of other parts of the globe and other historical factors, English was the native language of more than 350 million people by the late 20th century. It is thus the mother tongue of more people than any other language except Mandarin Chinese. English is the most widely taught foreign language and is also the most widely used second languagei.e., one that two people communicate in when they cannot understand each other's native speech. It became the international language of scientific and technical discourse in the 20th century and was also widely adopted for use in business and diplomacy. In the entire world, one person in seven speaks English as either a primary or secondary language. English is an analytic (i.e., relatively uninflected) language, whereas Proto-Indo-European, the ancestral tongue of most European, Iranian, and North Indian languages, is synthetic, or inflected. (Inflections are changes in the form of words to indicate such distinctions as tense, person, number, and gender.) Over thousands of years, English has lost most of its inflections, while other European languages have retained more of theirs. Indeed, English is the only European language in which adjectives have no distinctive endings, aside from determiners and endings denoting degrees of comparison. Another characteristic is flexibility of function. This means that one word can function as various parts of speech in different contexts. For example, the word book can be an adjective in book review, a noun in read a book, or a verb in book a room. Because other European languages retain more inflectional endings than does English, they almost never have this characteristic. A third feature, openness of vocabulary, allows English to admit words freely from other languages and to create compounds and derivatives. In England, British Received Pronunciation (RP) is the usual speech of educated people. In the United States, Inland Northern (popularly known as General American) is commonly used. In both countries, however, other pronunciations are acceptable. British Received Pronunciation and American Inland Northern show several divergences: (1) After some vowels American has a semiconsonantal glide. (2) The vowel in cod, box, and dock is pronounced like aw in British and a sound similar to ah in American. (3) The vowel in but, cut, and rung, is central in American but is fronted in British. (4) The vowels in the American bath and bad and in the British bad are all pronounced the same, but the vowel in the British bath is pronounced like ah, since it is before one of the fricatives s, f, or th (as in thin). (5) When a high back vowel is preceded by t, d, or n in British, a glide (consonantal y) is inserted between them (e.g., tulip, news); in American the glide is omitted. The 24 consonantal sounds comprise six stops (plosives): p, b, t, d, k, g; the fricatives f, v, th (as in thin), th (as in then), s, z, sh (as in ship), zh (as in azure), and h; two affricatives, ch (as in church) and j (as in jam); the nasals m, n, and ng (as in young); the lateral l; the vibrant or retroflex r; and the semivowels y and w. American and British consonants have the same pronunciation with two exceptions: (1) When r occurs after a vowel, it is dropped in British but pronounced in American. (2) A t between two vowels is pronounced like t in top in British, but in American the sound is close to that of a d. English is a strongly stressed language, with four degrees of stress: primary, secondary, tertiary, and weak. A change in stress can change the meaning of a sentence or a phrase. Although in comparison with other languages English stress is less predictable, there is a tendency toward antepenultimate (third syllable from the last) primary stress. This is apparent in such five-syllable words as equanmity, longitdinal, and notorety. French stress is often sustained in borrowed words, e.g., bizrre, critque, and hotl. Pitch, or musical tone, may be falling, rising, or falling-rising. Word tone, which is also called pitch, can influence the meaning of a word. Sentence tone is called intonation and is especially important at the end of a sentence. There are three important end-of-sentence intonations: falling, rising, and falling-rising. The falling intonation is used in completed statements, commands, and some questions calling for yes or no answers. Rising intonation is used in statements made with some reservation, in polite requests, and in certain questions answerable by yes or no. The third type of intonation, first falling and then rising pitch, is used in sentences that imply concessions or contrasts. American intonation is less singsong and stays in a narrower range than does British. The words of the English language can be divided according to their function or form into roughly eight categories, or parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. Modern English nouns, pronouns, and verbs are inflected, but adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections are not. Most English nouns have the plural inflection (-e)s, though some remain unchanged (e.g., deer). Five of the seven personal pronouns have separate forms for subject and object. English verbs are not complex. Regular or weak verbs have only four forms, strong verbs have five, and to be has eight. Some verbs ending in t or d have only three forms. Besides employing inflection, English exhibits two other main morphological (structural) processesaffixation and compositionand two subsidiary onesback-formation and blend. Affixes, word elements attached to a word, may either precede as prefixes (pre-, dis-) or follow as suffixes (-able, -er). They can be native (over-, -ness), Greek (hyper-), or Latin (-ment). English makes varied use of affixes; often, many different ones have the same meaning, or the same one has many meanings. Suffixes are attached more closely to the stem than are prefixes and often remain permanent. Composition, or compounding, describes putting two free forms together to form a new word. The new word can differ from the previous forms in phonology, stress, and juncture. Five types of compounds are defined by describing the relationship of the free forms to each other: (1) a compound in which the first component noun is attributive and modifies the second noun (e.g., cloverleaf, beehive, vineyard); (2) one made up of a noun plus an agent noun, itself consisting of a verb-plus-agent suffix (e.g., icebreaker, landowner, timekeeper); (3) a verb plus an object (e.g., pastime, scarecrow, daredevil); (4) an attributive adjective plus a noun (e.g., bluebell, grandson, shorthand); and (5) a noun and a present participle (e.g., fact-finding, heartrending, life-giving). Back-formation, the reverse of affixation, is the analogical formation of a new word falsely assumed to be its derivation. The verbs to edit and to act have been formed from the nouns editor and actor, respectively. Blends fall into two groups: (1) coalescences, such as bash from bang and smash, and (2) telescoped forms, called portmanteau words, such as motorcade from motor cavalcade. In English syntax, the main device for indicating the relationship between words is word order. In the sentence The girl loves the boy, the subject is in initial position, and the object follows the verb; transposing the order of boy and girl would change the meaning. In contrast to this system, most other languages use inflections to indicate grammatical relationships. In puerum puella amat, which is the Latin equivalent of The girl loves the boy, the words can be given in any order (for example, amat puella puerum) because the -um ending on the form for boy (puerum) indicates the object of the verb regardless of its position in the sentence. English sentences generally start with the subject first, followed by the verb and then by the object. Adjectives or other single words that modify nouns are placed before the noun, while whole phrases acting as modifiers are usually placed after the noun. Adverbs are normally more mobile than adjectives, and they can occur either before or after the verb they modify. As their etymology implies, prepositions usually precede nouns, but there are a few exceptions, e.g., the whole world over. Because of the laxity of syntactic principles, English is a very easy language to speak poorly. English has the largest vocabulary of any language in the world, chiefly because of its propensity for borrowing and because the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century introduced vast numbers of French words into the language. The vocabulary of Modern English is thus approximately half Germanic (Old English and Scandinavian) and half Romance or Italic (French and Latin), with copious importations from Greek in science and borrowings from many other languages. Almost all basic concepts and things come from Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, as do most personal pronouns, all auxiliary verbs, most simple prepositions, all conjunctions, and almost all numbers. Many common nouns, adjectives, and verbs are of Scandinavian origin, a fact due to the Scandinavian invasions of Britain. The English language owes a great debt to French, which gave it many terms relating to dress and fashion, cuisine, politics, law, society, literature, and art. Comparison between French and English synonyms reveals the former to be more intellectual and abstract, and the latter more human and concrete. Many of the Greek compounds and derivatives in English have Latin equivalents with either similar or considerably different meanings. The English adopted the 23-letter Latin alphabet, to which they added the letters W, J, and V. For the most part, English spelling is based on that of the 15th century. Pronunciation, however, has changed greatly since then. During the 17th and 18th centuries, fixed spellings were adopted, although there have been a few changes since that time. Numerous attempts have been made to reform English spelling, most of them unsuccessful. The history of the English language begins with the migration of the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons from Germany and Denmark to Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries. Their Anglo-Saxon language is known as Old English. The formation of separate kingdoms in Britain to some extent coincided with the development of the Old English dialects of Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon, and Kentish. Northumbrian was in a position of cultural superiority until the destructive Viking raids of the 9th century caused cultural leadership to pass to the West Saxon kingdom of Wessex. (See Old English language.) The Norman Conquest of 1066 set in motion the transition to Middle English. For the first century after the Conquest, a vast number of loanwords entered the English language from the dialects of northern France. The Conquest also served to place all four Old English dialects on the same cultural level and to allow them to develop independently. So West Saxon lost its supremacy, and the centre of culture gradually shifted to London. During this Middle English period the Northumbrian dialect split into Scottish and Northern, and Mercian became East and West Midland. Another outcome of the Norman Conquest was the adoption of the Carolingian script, then in use on the European continent, and changes in spelling. (See Middle English language.) The transition from Middle to Modern English started at the beginning of the 15th century. This century witnessed three important developments: the rise of London English, the invention of printing, and the spread of new learning. The Renaissance in England produced many more scholars who were knowledgeable in foreign languages, especially Greek and Classical Latin. Their liberal attitude toward language made possible the introduction of a great number of words into English. Scholars generally date the beginning of the Modern English period at 1500. The language was subsequently standardized through the work of grammarians and the publication of dictionaries, and its vocabulary underwent another vast expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries to accommodate developments in the sciences and technology. West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family that is closely related to Frisian, German, and Netherlandic languages. English originated in England and is now widely spoken on six continents. It is the primary language of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and various small island nations in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is also an official language of India, the Philippines, and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa. Additional reading Dictionaries The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 20 vol., ed. by John A. Simpson and Edmund S.C. Weiner (1989), incorporates all the words of the first edition and its supplementary volumes. Derivative dictionaries include The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 2nd ed., 2 vol. (1939); The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 6th ed. (1976); The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1969); The Little Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 4th ed. (1969); Oxford Illustrated Dictionary, 2nd ed. (1975); The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English, 3rd ed. (1974); and the Oxford American Dictionary (1980). Other one-volume dictionaries include Chambers' Twentieth Century (1972); The Universal Dictionary of the English Language, rev. by E.H. Partridge (1952); Longmans English Larousse (1968); and P. Hanks, Encyclopedic World Dictionary (1971).The leading American dictionary is Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language (1961), actually 8th in the series since the first appeared in 1828; it is updated by a separately published Addenda section, 6,000 Words (1976). Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1979) is an abbreviated version. Other comprehensive dictionaries are The New Century Dictionary of the English Language, 2 vol. (1959); and Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1963). Two comprehensive dictionaries are outstanding: The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1966); and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1969).Reliable etymological dictionaries include Ernest Weekley, An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, 2 vol. (1921, reprinted 1967); E.H. Partridge, Origins, 5th rev. ed. (1971); and Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, 2 vol. (196667). The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (1966) will long remain the most authentic work in this field.The two great historical dictionaries of American English are William A. Craigie and James R. Hulbert (eds.), A Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles, 4 vol. (193644); and Mitford M. Mathews, (ed.), A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles, 2 vol. (1951). Modern usage H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), a somewhat eccentric work, has been thoroughly updated twice: 2nd ed. with the same title, rev. by Ernest Gowers (1965); and The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, 3rd ed. edited by R.W. Burchfield (1996). It has its transatlantic counterpart in the following two works: Bergen Evans and Cornelia Evans, A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage (1957); and Margaret Nicholson, A Dictionary of American-English Usage (1957). See also Roy H. Copperud, American Usage and Style (1980). Grammar and structure of English A.A. Hill, Introduction to Linguistic Structures: From Sound to Sentence in English (1958); Samuel Jay Keyser and Paul M. Posral, Beginning English Grammar (1976); Paul Roberts, English Sentences (1962); Martin Joos, The English Verb (1964); H.A. Gleason, Linguistics and English Grammar (1965); N.C. Stageberg, An Introductory English Grammar, 3rd ed. (1977); A.E. Darbyshire, A Description of English (1967); R. Quirk et al., A Grammar of Contemporary English (1972); B.M.H. Strang, Modern English Structure, 2nd ed. rev. (1968); R.W. Zandvoost, A Handbook of English Grammar, 7th ed. (1975). Phonetics of English Handbooks include Hans Kurath and R.I. McDavid, The Pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States (1961); and A.C. Gimson, An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English (1963). Histories An excellent external history is A.C. Baugh, A History of the English Language, 3rd ed. (1978). Fernand Moss, Esquisse d'une histoire de la langue anglaise (1947), is a masterpiecebrief, lucid, and profound. Karl Brunner, Die englische Sprache: Ihre geschichtliche Entwicklung, 2nd ed., 2 vol. (196062), is indispensable to advanced students.Two brief surveys written early in the 20th century are recognized classics and remain stimulating: Henry Bradley, The Making of English (1904, rev. by Simeon Potter, 1968); and J.O.H. Jespersen, Growth and Structure of the English Language (1905, reprinted 1971). Other fairly substantial histories include Stuart Robertson, The Development of Modern English , 2nd ed. rev. by Frederic G. Cassidy (1954); M.M. Bryant, Modern English and Its Heritage, 2nd ed. (1962); M.W. Bloomfield and L.D. Newmark, A Linguistic Introduction to the History of English (1963); W.N. Francis, The English Language, an Introduction (1965); Thomas Pyles, The Origins and Development of the English Language, 2nd ed. (1971); Simeon Potter, Our Language, rev. ed. (1968); J.W. Clark, Early English: A Study of Old and Middle English (1967); A.C. Partridge, Tudor to Augustan English (1969); J.A. Sheard, The Words We Use, rev. ed. (1970); Joseph M. Williams, Origins of the English Language: A Social and Linguistic History (1975); and B.M.H. Strang, A History of English (1970). F.T. Visser, An Historical Syntax of the English Language, 3 vol. (196373), provides copious illustrations and bibliographies. Special studies George W. Turner, The English Language in Australia and New Zealand (1966); Simeon Potter, Changing English (1969); John W. Spencer (ed.), The English Language in West Africa (1971); Mitford M. Mathews (ed.), The Beginnings of American English (1931); Thomas Pyles, Words and Ways of American English (1952); Albert H. Marckwardt, American English, 2nd. ed. rev. by J.L. Dillard (1980); and Black English: Its History and Usage in the United States (1972), also by Dillard. Bibliographies Arthur G. Kennedy, A Bibliography of Writings on the English Language from the Beginning of Printing to the End of 1922 (1927); Harold B. Allen, Linguistics and English Linguistics, 2nd ed. (1977). New books are recorded in the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature, edited for the Modern Humanities Research Association, and in The Year's Work in English Studies (annual), edited for the English Association. Books and contemporary studies are listed in the MLA International Bibliography of Books and Articles on the Modern Languages and Literatures (annual) of the Modern Language Association. Simeon Potter Historical background Restoration period With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, men again looked to France. John Dryden admired the Acadmie Franaise and greatly deplored that the English had not so much as a tolerable dictionary, or a grammar; so that our language is in a manner barbarous as compared with elegant French. After the passionate controversies of the Civil War, this was an age of cool scientific nationalism. In 1662 the Royal Society of London for the Promotion of Natural Knowledge received its charter. Its first members, much concerned with language, appointed a committee of 22 to improve the English tongue particularly for philosophic purposes. It included Dryden, the diarist John Evelyn, Bishop Thomas Sprat, and the poet Edmund Waller. Sprat pleaded for a close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expressions; clear senses, a native easiness; bringing all things as near the mathematical plainness as possible. The committee, however, achieved no tangible result, and failed in its attempt to found an authoritative arbiter over the English tongue. A second attempt was made in 1712, when Jonathan Swift addressed an open letter to Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, then Lord Treasurer, making A Proposal for Correcting, Improving, and Ascertaining the English Tongue. This letter received some popular support, but its aims were frustrated by a turn in political fortunes. Queen Anne died in 1714. The Earl of Oxford and his fellow Tories, including Swift, lost power. No organized attempt to found a language academy on French lines has ever been made since. With Dryden and Swift the English language reached its full maturity. Their failure to found an academy was partly counterbalanced by Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary (published in 1755) and by Robert Lowth in his Grammar (published in 1761). Age of Johnson In the making of his Dictionary, Johnson took the best conversation of contemporary London and the normal usage of reputable writers after Sir Philip Sidney (155486) as his criteria. He exemplified the meanings of words by illustrative quotations. Johnson admitted that he had flattered himself for a while with the prospect of fixing our language but that thereby he had indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience could justify. The two-folio work of 1755 was followed in 1756 by a shortened, one-volume version that was widely used far into the 20th century. Revised and enlarged editions of the unabbreviated version were made by Archdeacon Henry John Todd in 1818 and by Robert Gordon Latham in 1866. It was unfortunate that Joseph Priestley, Robert Lowth, James Buchanan, and other 18th-century grammarians (Priestley was perhaps better known as a scientist and theologian) took a narrower view than Johnson on linguistic growth and development. They spent too much time condemning such current improprieties as I had rather not, you better go, between you and I, it is me, who is this for?, between four walls, a third alternative, the largest of the two, more perfect, and quite unique. Without explanatory comment they banned you was outright, although it was in widespread use among educated people (on that ground it was later defended by Noah Webster). You was had, in fact, taken the place of both thou wast and thou wert as a useful singular equivalent of the accepted plural you were. As the century wore on, grammarians became more numerous and aggressive. They set themselves up as arbiters of correct usage. They compiled manuals that were not only descriptive (stating what people do say) and prescriptive (stating what they should say) but also proscriptive (stating what they should not say). They regarded Latin as a language superior to English and claimed that Latin embodied universally valid canons of logic. This view was well maintained by Lindley Murray, a native of Pennsylvania who settled in England in the very year (1784) of Johnson's death. Murray's English Grammar appeared in 1795, became immensely popular, and went into numerous editions. It was followed by an English Reader (1799) and an English Spelling Book (1804), long favourite textbooks in both Old and New England. Historical background Among highlights in the history of the English language, the following stand out most clearly: the settlement in Britain of Jutes, Saxons, and Angles in the 5th and 6th centuries; the arrival of St. Augustine in 597 and the subsequent conversion of England to Latin Christianity; the Viking invasions of the 9th century; the Norman Conquest of 1066; the Statute of Pleading in 1362 (this required that court proceedings be conducted in English); the setting up of Caxton's printing press at Westminster in 1476; the full flowering of the Renaissance in the 16th century; the publishing of the King James Bible in 1611; the completion of Johnson's Dictionary of 1755; and the expansion to North America and South Africa in the 17th century and to India, Australia, and New Zealand in the 18th. Old English The Jutes, Angles, and Saxons lived in Jutland, Schleswig, and Holstein, respectively, before settling in Britain. According to the Venerable Bede, the first historian of the English people, the first Jutes, Hengist and Horsa, landed at Ebbsfleet in the Isle of Thanet in 449; and the Jutes later settled in Kent, southern Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight. The Saxons occupied the rest of England south of the Thames, as well as modern Middlesex and Essex. The Angles eventually took the remainder of England as far north as the Firth of Forth, including the future Edinburgh and the Scottish Lowlands. In both Latin and Common Germanic the Angles' name was Angli, later mutated in Old English to Engle (nominative) and Engla (genitive). Engla land designated the home of all three tribes collectively, and both King Alfred (known as Alfred the Great) and Abbot Aelfric, author and grammarian, subsequently referred to their speech as Englisc. Nevertheless, all the evidence indicates that Jutes, Angles, and Saxons retained their distinctive dialects. The River Humber was an important boundary, and the Anglian-speaking region developed two speech groups: to the north of the river, Northumbrian, and, to the south, Southumbrian, or Mercian. There were thus four dialects: Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon, and Kentish (see Figure 13). In the 8th century, Northumbrian led in literature and culture, but that leadership was destroyed by the Viking invaders, who sacked Lindisfarne, an island near the Northumbrian mainland, in 793. They landed in strength in 865. The first raiders were Danes, but they were later joined by Norwegians from Ireland and the Western Isles who settled in modern Cumberland, Westmorland, northwest Yorkshire, Lancashire, north Cheshire, and the Isle of Man. In the 9th century, as a result of the Norwegian invasions, cultural leadership passed from Northumbria to Wessex. During King Alfred's reign, in the last three decades of the 9th century, Winchester became the chief centre of learning. There the Parker Chronicle (a manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) was written; there the Latin works of the priest and historian Paulus Orosius, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, and the Venerable Bede were translated; and there the native poetry of Northumbria and Mercia was transcribed into the West Saxon dialect. This resulted in West Saxon's becoming standard Old English; and later, when Aelfric (c. 955c. 1010) wrote his lucid and mature prose at Winchester, Cerne Abbas, and Eynsham, the hegemony of Wessex was strengthened. In standard Old English, adjectives were inflected as well as nouns, pronouns, and verbs. Nouns were inflected for four cases (nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative) in singular and plural. Five nouns of first kinship faeder, modor, brothor, sweostor, and dohtor (father, mother, brother, sister, and daughter, respectively)had their own set of inflections. There were 25 nouns such as mon, men (man, men) with mutated, or umlauted, stems. Adjectives had strong and weak declensions, the strong showing a mixture of noun and pronoun endings and the weak following the pattern of weak nouns. Personal, possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, indefinite, and relative pronouns had full inflections. The pronouns of the 1st and 2nd persons still had distinctive dual forms: There were two demonstratives: se, seo, thaet, meaning that, and thes, theos, this, meaning this, but no articles, the definite article being expressed by use of the demonstrative for that or not expressed at all. Thus, the good man was se goda mon or plain god mon. The function of the indefinite article was performed by the numeral an one in an mon a man, by the adjectivepronoun sum in sum mon a (certain) man, or not expressed, as in thu eart god mon you are a good man. Verbs had two tenses only (presentfuture and past), three moods (indicative, subjunctive, and imperative), two numbers (singular and plural), and three persons (1st, 2nd, and 3rd). There were two classes of verb stems. (A verb stem is that part of a verb to which inflectional changeschanges indicating tense, mood, number, etc.are added.) One type of verb stem, called vocalic because an internal vowel shows variations, is exemplified by the verb for sing: singan, singth, sang, sungon, gesungen. The word for deem is an example of the other, called consonantal: deman, demth, demde, demdon, gedemed. Such verbs are called strong and weak, respectively. All new verbs, whether derived from existing verbs or from nouns, belonged to the consonantal type. Some verbs of great frequency (antecedents of the modern words be, shall, will, do, go, can, may, and so on) had their own peculiar patterns of inflections. Grammatical gender persisted throughout the Old English period. Just as Germans now say der Fuss, die Hand, and das Auge (masculine, feminine, and neuter terms for the foot, the hand, and the eye), so, for these same structures, Aelfric said se fot, seo hond, and thaet eage, also masculine, feminine, and neuter. The three words for woman, wifmon, cwene, and wif, were masculine, feminine, and neuter, respectively. Hors horse, sceap sheep, and maegden maiden were all neuter. Eorthe earth was feminine, but lond land was neuter. Sunne sun was feminine, but mona moon was masculine. This simplification of grammatical gender resulted from the fact that the gender of Old English substantives was not always indicated by the ending but rather by the terminations of the adjectives and demonstrative pronouns used with the substantives. When these endings were lost, all outward marks of gender disappeared with them. Thus, the weakening of inflections and loss of gender occurred together. In the North, where inflections weakened earlier, the marks of gender likewise disappeared first. They survived in the South as late as the 14th century. Because of the greater use of inflections in Old English, word order was freer than today. The sequence of subject, verb, and complement was normal, but when there were outer and inner complements the second was put in the dative case after to: Se biscop halgode Eadred to cyninge The bishop consecreated Edred king. After an introductory adverb or adverbial phrase the verb generally took second place as in modern German: Nu bydde ic an thing Now I ask [literally, ask I] one thing; Thy ilcan geare gesette Aelfred cyning Lundenburg In that same year Alfred the king occupied London. Impersonal verbs had no subject expressed. Infinitives constructed with auxiliary verbs were placed at the ends of clauses or sentences: Hie ne dorston forth bi thre ea siglan They dared not sail beyond that river (siglan is the infinitive); Ic wolde thas lytlan boc awendan I wanted to translate this little book (awendan is the infinitive). The verb usually came last in a dependent clausee.g., awritan wile in gif hwa thas boc awritan wile (gerihte he hie be thre bysene) If anyone wants to copy this book (let him correct his copy by the original). Prepositions (or postpositions) frequently followed their objects. Negation was often repeated for emphasis. Historical background Middle English One result of the Norman Conquest of 1066 was to place all four Old English dialects more or less on a level. West Saxon lost its supremacy and the centre of culture and learning gradually shifted from Winchester to London. The old Northumbrian dialect became divided into Scottish and Northern, although little is known of either of these divisions before the end of the 13th century (Figure 14). The old Mercian dialect was split into East and West Midland. West Saxon became slightly diminished in area and was more appropriately named the South Western dialect. The Kentish dialect was considerably extended and was called South Eastern accordingly. All five Middle English dialects (Northern, West Midland, East Midland, South Western, and South Eastern) went their own ways and developed their own characteristics. The so-called Katherine Group of writings (11801210), associated with Hereford, a town not far from the Welsh border, adhered most closely to native traditions, and there is something to be said for regarding this West Midland dialect, least disturbed by French and Scandinavian intrusions, as a kind of Standard English in the High Middle Ages. Another outcome of the Norman Conquest was to change the writing of English from the clear and easily readable insular hand of Irish origin to the delicate Carolingian script then in use on the Continent. With the change in appearance came a change in spelling. Norman scribes wrote Old English y as u, y as ui, u as ou (ow when final). Thus, mycel (much) appeared as muchel, fyr (fire) as fuir, hus (house) as hous, and hu (how) as how. For the sake of clarity (i.e., legibility) u was often written o before and after m, n, u, v, and w; and i was sometimes written y before and after m and n. So sunu (son) appeared as sone and him (him) as hym. Old English cw was changed to qu; hw to wh, qu, or quh; c to ch or tch; sc to sh; -cg- to -gg-; and -ht to ght. So Old English cwen appeared as queen; hwaet as what, quat, or quhat; dic as ditch; scip as ship; secge as segge; and miht as might. For the first century after the Conquest, most loanwords came from Normandy and Picardy, but with the extension south to the Pyrenees of the Angevin empire of Henry II (reigned 115489), other dialects, especially Central French, or Francien, contributed to the speech of the aristocracy. As a result, Modern English acquired the forms canal, catch, leal, real, reward, wage, warden, and warrant from Norman French side by side with the corresponding forms channel, chase, loyal, royal, regard, gage, guardian, and guarantee, from Francien. King John lost Normandy in 1204. With the increasing power of the Capetian kings of Paris, Francien gradually predominated. Meanwhile, Latin stood intact as the language of learning. For three centuries, therefore, the literature of England was trilingual. Ancrene Riwle, for instance, a guide or rule (riwle) of rare quality for recluses or anchorites (ancren), was disseminated in all three languages. The sounds of the native speech changed slowly. Even in late Old English short vowels had been lengthened before ld, rd, mb, and nd, and long vowels had been shortened before all other consonant groups and before double consonants. In early Middle English short vowels of whatever origin were lengthened in the open stressed syllables of disyllabic words. An open syllable is one ending in a vowel. Both syllables in Old English nama name, mete meat, food, nosu nose, wicu week, and duru door were short, and the first syllables, being stressed, were lengthened to name, mete, nose, weke, and dore in the 13th and 14th centuries. A similar change occurred in 4th-century Latin, in 13th-century German, and at different times in other languages. The popular notion has arisen that final mute -e in English makes a preceding vowel long; in fact, it is the lengthening of the vowel that has caused e to be lost in pronunciation. On the other hand, Old English long vowels were shortened in the first syllables of trisyllabic words, even when those syllables were open; e.g., haligdaeg holy day, rende message, errand, cristendom Christianity, and sutherne southern, became holiday (Northern haliday), errende, christendom, and sutherne. This principle still operates in current English. Compare, for example, trisyllabic derivatives such as the words chastity, criminal, fabulous, gradual, gravity, linear, national, ominous, sanity, and tabulate with the simple nouns and adjectives chaste, crime, fable, grade, grave, line, nation, omen, sane, and table. There were significant variations in verb inflections in the Northern, Midland, and Southern dialects (see table). The Northern infinitive was already one syllable (sing rather than the Old English singan), whereas the past participle -en inflection of Old English was strictly kept. These apparently contradictory features can be attributed entirely to Scandinavian, in which the final -n of the infinitive was lost early in singa, and the final -n of the past participle was doubled in sunginn. The Northern unmutated present participle in -and was also of Scandinavian origin. Old English mutated -ende (German -end) in the present participle had already become -inde in late West Saxon (Southern in the table), and it was this Southern -inde that blended with the -ing suffix (German -ung) of nouns of action that had already become near-gerunds in such compound nouns as athswering oath swearing and writingfether writing feather, pen. This blending of present participle and gerund was further helped by the fact that Anglo-Norman and French -ant was itself a coalescence of Latin present participles in -antem, -entem, and Latin gerunds in -andum, -endum. The Northern second person singular singis was inherited unchanged from Common Germanic. The final t sound in Midland -est and Southern -st was excrescent, comparable with the final t in modern amidst and amongst from older amiddes and amonges. The Northern third person singular singis had a quite different origin. Like the singis of the plural, it resulted almost casually from an inadvertent retraction of the tongue in enunciation from an interdental -th sound to postdental -s. Today the form singeth survives as a poetic archaism. Shakespeare used both -eth and -s endings (It blesseth him that gives and him that takes, The Merchant of Venice). The Midland present plural inflection -en was taken from the subjunctive. The past participle prefix y- developed from the Old English perfective prefix ge-. Chaucer, who was born and died in London, spoke a dialect that was basically East Midland. Compared with his contemporaries, he was remarkably modern in his use of language. He was in his early 20s when the Statute of Pleading (1362) was passed, by the terms of which all court proceedings were henceforth to be conducted in English, though enrolled in Latin. Chaucer himself used four languages; he read Latin (Classical and Medieval) and spoke French and Italian on his travels. For his own literary work he deliberately chose English. Transition from Middle English to Early Modern English The death of Chaucer at the close of the century (1400) marked the beginning of the period of transition from Middle English to the Early Modern English stage. The Early Modern English period is regarded by many scholars as beginning in about 1500 and terminating with the return of the monarchy (John Dryden's Astraea Redux) in 1660. The 15th century witnessed three outstanding developments: the rise of London English, the invention of printing, and the spread of the new learning. Although the population of London in 1400 was only about 40,000, it was by far the largest city in England. York came second, followed by Bristol, Coventry, Plymouth, and Norwich. The Midlands and East Anglia, the most densely peopled parts of England, supplied London with streams of young immigrants. The speech of the capital was mixed, and it was changing. The seven long vowels of Chaucer's speech had already begun to shift. Incipient diphthongization of high front /i:/ (the ee sound in meet) and high back /u:/ (as in fool) led to instability in the other five long vowels. (Symbols within slash marks are taken from the International Phonetic Alphabet.) This remarkable event, known as the Great Vowel Shift, changed the whole vowel system of London English. As /i:/ and /u:/ became diphthongized to /ai/ (as in bide) and /au/ (as in house) respectively, so the next highest vowels, /e:/ (this sound can be heard in the first part of the diphthong in name) and /o:/ (a sound that can be heard in the first part of the diphthong in home), moved up to take their places, and so on (see table). Every one of the sounds appearing in this table can still be heard somewhere in living English dialects. When Caxton started printing at Westmins

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