Partie 7 : À propos de la langue anglaise

Chapitre 66 : Une brève histoire de

From Celtic languages to modern English, page 138

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55 BC Roman invasion of Britain. Local people speak Celtic languages. Very few words in English are of Celtic origin except place names such as York or Avon.
436 AD The Romans withdraw.  
450-1100 AD The Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes push away the Celtic speakers to what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Approximately one third of Anglo-Saxon vocabulary survives into modern English, including many of the most basic, everyday words: earth, house, food, sing, night…
The invading tribes speak Germanic languages, which produced “Old English” (5th century to 11th century).
9th century The Vikings conquer most of the territories north of London.

Words derived from Norse or Danish include anger, cake, die, egg, freckle, knife, shame, shoulder, ship, silver, skirt, smile, take…
1066 William the Conqueror (from Normandy) conquers England.

Thousands of French words were absorbed into the English vocabulary: crown, castle, court, parliament, army, grief, honest, beauty, banquet, art, poet, romance, coast, duke…

Many words were borrowed from Latin too, during the Middle Ages, when that language spread all over Europe.
Norman French becomes the language of the court and of the ruling classes.
1348 English replaces Latin as the language of instruction. Middle English
1362 English replaces French as the language of law.  
1388 Chaucer starts writing the Canterbury Tales considered one of the most important literary works in English.  
1400-1500 A sudden change in pronunciation occurs with vowels being pronounced longer, like the letter “i”, which changed from < i > to < ai >. Early modern English
1564 William Shakespeare is born.

Shakespeare coined new words and expressions that have remained in modern English: to dwindle, gloomy, fretful, it’s high time…, Good riddance, an eyesore, the game is up.
1500-1800 The British have contacts with many peoples from around the world.

With these fresh findings come new words from across the globe, including macaroni, violin from Italian; magazine, sherbet from Arabic; coffee, yoghurt, kiosk from Turkish; tomato, potato, tobacco from Spanish; waltz, delicatessen from German,robot from Czech.

Food for thought, page 139

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  1. “Dieu et mon droit” is the motto of the British monarch. It refers to the divine right of the monarch to govern. It’s supposed to have been used by Richard the Lionheart, who reigned from 1189 to 1199, as a battle cry. It became the official motto of English monarchs in the 15th century.
  2. One legend claims that whilst dancing the Countess of Salisbury lost her garter, which caused some courtiers to snigger. King Edward III (1312-1377) then picked it up and tied it to his own leg, exclaiming “Honi soit qui mal y pense”. This phrase quickly became the motto of the Order of the Garter, the world’s oldest national order of knighthood, first instituted in 1344.
  3. “E Pluribus Unum” is the motto suggested by the committee Congress appointed on July 4, 1776 to design “a seal for the United States of America”. The motto implies that there’s one nation despite the diversity of its people.