ТОП 10:

The Indo-European family of the Language.

I. Two definitions of Indo-European:

A. Indo-European refers to the hypothetical language spoken by a society that probably lived around the Ural Mountains between 5000 and 3500 B.C. Be sure you are familiar with the textual information about the culture of this society. When referring to this (or any) hypothetical language, linguists use the prefix "proto"; hence, the technical term for the language is "proto Indo-European." The theory is that many of our languages today were once dialects of this "mother tongue." The existence of Indo-European accounts for the similarity of words in such languages as French, German, Czech, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Persian, etc.

B. Indo-European refers also to those languages which once were dialects of the language described above and which cover a large part of Europe and part of Asia.

The Germanic languages are a subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages, which were spoken by about 420 million people in many parts of the world (chiefly in Europe and the Western Hemisphere). All the modern Germanic languages are closely related; moreover, they become progressively closer grammatically and lexically when traced back to the earliest records. This suggests that they all derive from a still earlier common ancestor, which is traditionally referred to as Proto-Germanic and which is believed to have broken from the other Indo-European languages before 500 B.C. Although no writing in Proto-Germanic has survived, the language has been substantially reconstructed by using the oldest records that exist of the Germanic tongue.


West Germanic



Dutch (including Flemish)

Afrikaans (Boerish)



North Germanic






East Germanic






The Germanic languages today are conventionally divided into three linguistic groups: East Germanic, North Germanic, and West Germanic. This division had begun by the 4th century A.D. The East Germanic group is now extinct. However, the oldest surviving literary text of any Germanic language is in Gothic.The North Germanic languages, also called Scandinavian languages or Norse, are spoken by about 20 million people. These modern North Germanic languages are all descendants of Old Norse and have several distinctive grammatical features in common.The West Germanic languages are spoken by about 400 million people. Among the dead West Germanic languages are Old Franconian, Old High German, and Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) from which Dutch, German, and English respectively developed.

Common Characteristics:

Phonetics: Strong evidence for the unity of all the modern Germanic languages can be found in the phenomenon known as the first Germanic consonant shift (also called Grimm’s law), which set the Germanic subfamily apart from the other members of the Indo-European family (together with the Verner’s law and rhotacism phenomenon).

Before the 8th century a second shift of consonants took place in some of the West German dialects. The dialects in which this second consonant shift took place were the High German dialects, so called because they were spoken in more mountainous areas. The West Germanic dialects not affected by the second shift were the Low German dialects of the Lowlands, from which Dutch and English evolved.

Also peculiar to the Germanic languages is the recessive accent, whereby the stress usually falls on the first or root syllable of a word, especially a word of Germanic origin.

Another distinctive characteristic shared by the Germanic languages is the umlaut, which is a type of vowel change in the root of a word.

Morphology: All Germanic languages have strong and weak verbs. Also typically Germanic is the formation of the genitive singular by the addition of -s or -es. Moreover, the comparison of adjectives in the Germanic languages follows a parallel pattern, generally, -r and -st endings are added. The Germanic languages have two adjective declensions, a strong and a weak. The weak forms are used generally after articles, demonstrative pronouns, and possessive adjectives; the strong are used independently.

Vocabulary furnished evidence of a common origin for the Germanic languages in that a number of the basic words in these languages are similar in form; however, while word similarity may indicate the same original source for a group of languages, it can also be a sign of borrowing.

25. Historic events serving as landmarks of the history of English (the Anglo-Saxon invasion, the Scandinavian invasion, to the Norman conquest) (+Xerox).


ca. 3000 B.C.

(or 6000 B.C?) Proto-Indo-European spoken in Baltic area.

(or Anatolia?)

ca. 1000 B.C. After many migrations, the various branches of Indo-European have become distinct. Celtic becomes most widespread branch of I.E. in Europe; Celtic peoples inhabit what is now Spain, France, Germany, Austria, eastern Europe, and the British Isles.

55 B.C. Beginning of Roman raids on British Isles.

43 A.D. Roman occupation of Britain. Roman colony of "Britannia" established. Eventually, many Celtic Britons become Romanized. (Others continually rebel).

200 B.C.-200 A.D. Germanic peoples move down from Scandinavia and spread over Central Europe in successive waves. Supplant Celts. Come into contact (at times antagonistic, at times commercial) with northward-expanding empire of Romans.

Early 5th

century. Roman Empire collapses. Romans pull out of Britain and other colonies, attempting to shore up defense on the home front; but it's useless. Rome sacked by Goths.

Germanic tribes on the continent continue migrations west and south; consolidate into ever larger units. Those taking over in Rome call themselves "Roman emperors" even though the imperial administration had relocated to Byzantium in the 300s. The new Germanic rulers adopted the Christianity of the late Roman state, and began what later evolved into the not-very-Roman "Holy Roman Empire".

ca. 410 A.D. First Germanic tribes arrive in England.

410-600 Settlement of most of Britain by Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, some Frisians) speaking West Germanic dialects descended from Proto-Germanic. These dialects are distantly related to Latin, but also have a sprinkling of Latin borrowings due to earlier cultural contact with the Romans on the continent.

Celtic peoples, most of whom are Christianized, are pushed increasingly (despite occasional violent uprisings) into the marginal areas of Britain: Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Anglo-Saxons, originally sea-farers, settle down as farmers, exploiting rich English farmland.

By 600 A.D., the Germanic speech of England comprises dialects of a language distinct from the continental Germanic languages.


600-800 Rise of three great kingdoms politically unifying large areas: Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex. Supremacy passes from one kingdom to another in that order.

ca. 600 Christianity introduced among Anglo-Saxons by St. Augustine, missionary from Rome. Irish missionaries also spread Celtic form of Christianity to mainland Britain.

793 First serious Viking incursions. Lindisfarne monastery sacked.

800 Charlemagne, king of the Franks, crowned Holy Roman Emperor; height of Frankish power in Europe. Wessex kings aspire to similar glory; want to unite all England, and if possible the rest of mainland Britain, under one crown (theirs).

840s-870s Viking incursions grow worse and worse. Large organized groups set up permanent encampments on English soil. Slay kings of Northumbria and East Anglia, subjugate king of Mercia. Storm York (Anglo-Saxon Eoforwic) and set up a Viking kingdom (Jorvik). Wessex stands alone as the last Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Britain.

871 Vikings move against Wessex. In six pitched battles, the English hold their own, but fail to repel attackers decisively. In the last battle, the English king is mortally wounded. His young brother, Alfred, who had distinguished himself during the battles, is crowned king.

871-876 Alfred builds a navy. The kings of Denmark and Norway have come to view England as ripe for the plucking and begin to prepare an attack.

876 Three Danish kings attack Wessex. Alfred prevails, only to be attacked again a few months later. His cause looks hopeless.

878 Decisive battle at Edington; Alfred and a large contingent of desperate Anglo-Saxons make a last stand (they know what awaits them if they fail). Alfred leads the Anglo-Saxons to decisive victory; blockades a large Viking camp nearby, starving them into submission; and exacts homage from the kings of Denmark and an oath that the Danes will leave Wessex forever.

Under Alfred's terms of victory, England is partitioned into a part governed by the Anglo-Saxons (under the house of Wessex) and a part governed by the Scandinavians (some of whom become underlords of Alfred), divided by Watling Street. 15 years of peace follow; Alfred reigns over peaceful and prosperous kingdom. First called "Alfred the Great".

925 Athelstan crowned king. Height of Anglo-Saxon power. Athelstan reconquers York from the Vikings, and even conquers Scotland and Wales, heretofore ruled by Celts. Continues Alfred's mission of making improvements in government, education, defense, and other social institutions.

10th century Danes and English continue to mix peacefully, and ultimately become indistinguishable. Many Scandinavian loanwords enter the language; English even borrows pronouns like they, them, their.

978 Aethelred "the Unready" becomes king at 11 years of age.

991 Aethelred has proved to be a weak king, who does not repel minor Viking attacks. Vikings experiment with a major incursion at Maldon in Essex. After losing battle, Aethelred bribes them to depart with 10,000 pounds of silver. Mistake. Sveinn, king of Denmark, takes note.

994-1014 After 20 years of continuous battles and bribings, and incompetent and cowardly military leadership and governance, the English capitulate to king Sveinn of Denmark (later also of Norway). Sveinn sets up a Norse court at the new capital of Viking England, Jorvik (a city which survives as York, capital of the English county of Yorkshire). Aethelred flees to Normandy, across the channel.

1014 Sveinn's young son Cnut (or Canute) crowned king of England. Cnut decides to follow in Alfred's footsteps, aiming for a peaceful and prosperous kingdom. Encourages Anglo-Saxon culture and literature. Even marries Aethelred's widow Emma, brought over from Normandy.

1050s After Cnut's death his sons bicker over the kingdom. When they die without issue, the kingdom passes back to the house of Wessex. The new king is Edward, son of Aethelred and Emma, who had been raised in exile in Normandy. Edward is a pious, monkish man called "The Confessor".

Edward has strong partiality for his birthplace, Normandy, a duchy populated by the descendents of Romanized Vikings. Especially fond of young Duke William of Normandy. Edward is dominated by his Anglo-Saxon earls, especially powerful earl Godwin. Godwin's son, Harold Godwinson, becomes de facto ruler as Edward takes less and less interest in governing.

1066 January. Edward dies childless, apparently recommending Harold Godwinson as successor. Harold duly chosen by Wessex earls, as nearest of kin to the crown is only an infant. Mercian and Northumbrian earls are hesitant to go along with choice of Harold.

William of Normandy says that not only did Edward the Confessor name him as heir, but he also claims that Harold once promised to support him as successor to Edward. Harold denies it. William prepares to mount an invasion. Ready by summer, but the winds are unfavorable for sailing.

September. Harald Hardradi of Norway decides this is a good time to attack England. Harold Godwinson rushes north and crushes Hardradi's army at Stamford Bridge.

The winds change, and William puts to sea. Harold rushes back down to the south coast to try to repel William's attack. Mercians and Northumbrians are supposed to march down to help him, but never do. They don't realize what's in store for them.

October. Harold is defeated and killed at the battle of Hastings.

December. William of Normandy crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.


1066-1075 William crushes uprisings of Anglo-Saxon earls and peasants with a brutal hand; in Mercia and Northumberland, uses (literal) scorched earth policy, decimating population and laying waste the countryside. Anglo-Saxon earls and freemen deprived of property; many enslaved. William distributes property and titles to Normans (and some English) who supported him. Many of the English hereditary titles of nobility date from this period.

English becomes the language of the lower classes (peasants and slaves). Norman French becomes the language of the court and propertied classes. The legal system is redrawn along Norman lines and conducted in French. Churches, monasteries gradually filled with French-speaking functionaries, who use French for record-keeping. After a while, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is no longer kept up. Authors write literature in French, not English. For all practical purposes English is no longer a written language.

Bilingualism gradually becomes more common, especially among those who deal with both upper and lower classes. Growth of London as a commercial center draws many from the countryside who can fill this socially intermediate role.

1204 The English kings lose the duchy of Normandy to French kings. England is now the only home of the Norman English.

1205 First book in English appears since the conquest.

1258 First royal proclamation issued in English since the conquest.

ca. 1300 Increasing feeling on the part of even noblemen that they are English, not French. Nobility begin to educate their children in English. French is taught to children as a foreign language rather than used as a medium of instruction.

1337 Start of the Hundred Years' War between England and France.

1362 English becomes official language of the law courts. More and more authors are writing in English.

ca. 1380 Chaucer writes the Canterbury tales in Middle English. the language shows French influence in thousands of French borrowings. The London dialect, for the first time, begins to be recognized as the "Standard", or variety of English taken as the norm, for all England. Other dialects are relegated to a less prestigious position, even those that earlier served as standards (e.g. the Wessex dialect of southwest England).

1474 William Caxton brings a printing press to England from Germany. Publishes the first printed book in England. Beginning of the long process of standardization of spelling.


1500-1650 Early Modern English period. The Great Vowel Shift gradually takes place. There is a large influx of Latin and Greek borrowings and neologisms.

1611 King James Bible published, which has influenced English speech and writing down to the present day.

1616 Shakespeare dies. Recognized even then as a genius of the English language. Wove native and borrowed words together in amazing and pleasing combinations.

1700s Classical period of English literature. The fashion for borrowing Latin and Greek words, and coining new words with Latin and Greek morphemes, rages unabated. Elaborate syntax matches elaborate vocabulary (e.g. writings of Samuel Johnson).

The rise of English purists, e.g. Jonathan Swift, who decried the 'degeneration' of English and sought to 'purify' it and fix it forever in unchanging form.

17th-19th centuries British imperialism. Borrowings from languages around the world.

Development of American English. By 19th century, a standard variety of American English develops, based on the dialect of the Mid-Atlantic states.

Establishment of English in Australia, South Africa, India, and Singapore, among other British colonial outposts. Local varieties develop in these areas which later become native English regional standards, even where the population continues to speak the original languages of the localities (e.g., Indian English).

19th century Recognition (and acceptance) by linguistic scholars of the ever-changing nature of language. Discovery of the Indo-European language family. Late in century: Recognition that all languages are fundamentally the same in nature; no "primitive" or "advanced" languages.

19th-20th centuries Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. Development of technical vocabularies. Within a few centuries, English has gone from an island tongue to a world language, following the fortunes of those who speak it.

20th century Communications revolution. Spread of a few languages at the expense of many. Languages of the world begin to die out on a large scale as mastery of certain world languages becomes necessary for survival. Classification and description of non-Indo-European languages by linguists continues, in many cases in a race against the clock.

1945-? American political, economic, military supremacy. Borrowing patterns continue. English has greater impact than ever on other languages, even those with more native speakers. Becomes most widely studied second language, and a scientific lingua franca.

By the 1990s, preferences begin to shift in many places from British to American English as the selected standard for second language acquisition. The twin influences of British and American broadcasting media make the language accessible to more and more people. Hollywood and the pop music industry help make English an irresistible medium for the transmission of popular culture. Even long-established European cultures begin to feel linguistically and culturally threatened, as English comes into use in more and more spheres and large numbers of English borrowings enter their languages.

New waves of immigrants to the U.S. Linguistic diversity increases where the newcomers settle, but immigrants repeat the pattern of earlier settlers and lose their language within a generation or two. The culture at large remains resolutely monolingual (despite the fears of cultural purists). But as ever, the language continues to absorb loanwords, continually enriched by the many tongues of the newcomers to these shores.

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