Developing the English Language Through the Influence of Romans, Vikings and Anglo-Saxons

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From what we learned the England invasions start off with the Celts. Although, they are not really important to the story of our English literature, because they did not give much towards our language, so therefore they won’t be mentioned. After the invasion of the Celts, then came the Romans. The Romans contributed one word to the language we use today, being aqueduct. This word isn’t exactly common, so it did not benefit much to the English language.

The first groups of invaders to bring something forth to our English language were the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. They are better known as the Anglo-Saxons. The intermingling of these tribes brought forth the part of our language that we know as Old English. “The early Anglo-Saxons worshipped ancient Germanic Gods” (2.4). This is showing how part of our language is of Germanic descent.

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Aside from the main contributions of the Anglo-Saxons, we also have the Vikings. The Vikings gave two important things to our language. Most of the words we know today that start with the letters “Sk” came from the Vikings. Words such as sky, skull, skirt, and so on, all come from the Vikings.

They also ensued the battles with the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. This is the point where the Danes fought the Vikings to a standstill. This resulted in Alfred the great ascending to the position of the king for the Danes. Alfred the Great is known as the father of the English language. He helped to translate parts of documents into their language of that day making it easier to understand and accessibly better for all the people. The Danes also come from a Germanic descent, so they brought forth the same amount of language as those from the Anglo-Saxon period. They combined their language with the current language then, because they were so similar.

The invasion of King Edward was when the Anglo-Saxon literature started to come to an end. King Edward had a close association with the Normans, and when he passed away it immediately led to the Norman Conquest in 1066. This invasion left a very prominent part of our language to no longer exist. The Norman Conquest, after King Edward’s death, culminated into the Battle of Hastings involving an important person to our current language, William the Conqueror. William the Conqueror helps to develop the Anglo-Saxon language, since the language lasted for at least 500 years, it became a primary language. He aids the language by telling the French that they can stay and this combines their language with ours. This is the point in time where the Old English into Middle English, which most resembles what we have today, known as Modern English.

Most of our sophisticated words come from the French. Words such as beef, which derived from the French term Bouef. When the French language was combined with the Anglo-Saxon language, it tripled our language to approximately 450,000 words. Which amounts nothing to the amount of words we have today, which is over 1,000,000. It is said that most of what we write comes from the French descent, so that we come off more sophisticated, but what we actually speak is typically of the Germanic descent.

Focusing more on the Anglo-Saxon alone, they have their specific type of poetry which is very well known. There are two types, known as Heroic Poetry and Elegiac Poetry. Heroic poetry “recounts the achievements of warriors involved in great battles” (5.26), while Elegiac poetry is “sorrowful laments that mourn the deaths of loved ones and the loss of the past” (5.26). One of the most well-known or infamous works of Anglo-Saxon poetry is Beowulf, which is a form of Heroic poetry.

Beowulf with an unknown author is so well-known “because it is the first such work to be composed in the English language” (6.29). Beowulf consists of 13% (4,000 of 30,000) of the Anglo-Saxon verse to still exist to this day. It was written in the 11th century, but was originally recited at least 5 centuries earlier than that. It is also prominently known for its Christian references, despite that Beowulf is about a hero with pagan beliefs.

Beowulf was not the end of Christian Anglo-Saxon poetry. Bede’s History, from the Venerable Bede, notes two other important works that reference the Christian religion. These two important works are Caedmon and Cynewulf.

The Venerable Bede is an important person to our language, coming before Alfred the Great. He was an English-Latin Scholar. He records events “of England from the Roman invasion to his own time” (6.33). His work(s) give us our knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon times.

All of these important people, works, and tribes have led up to the English we use today. Our language has developed so much through many specific points in time, and many things have had that effect to it.

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