Ever wondered why English is the way it is?
The English language is the second most widely used language in the world after Mandarin. It is however the international language of communication in the way Latin or French used to be.
English has been influenced by Latin, Norse (Viking), German and French. This reflects waves of invasions as different peoples invaded and occupied Britain.
The original inhabitants of England were the Celts who spoke Celtic. The Roman Empire under Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 54 BC. Over the next 500 years, Rome occupied much of Britain which they named Britannia. Latin became the language. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the Romans retreated from Britain in 449 AD.
The name English comes from the early German settlers of Britain who arrived in the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Angles (Angle-ish = English) and Saxons (Anglo-Saxons) brought their own language (West German) which replaced Latin.
Vikings also invaded and occupied much of Britain – which is why in English the days of the week are named after Norse gods such as Odin (Wednesday) and Thor (Thursday), while in French, Spanish and Italian they continued to be named after Roman gods.
In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded England from Normandy (a region in what is now France). He defeated King Harald at the Battle of Hastings and crowned himself King, beginning a line of British monarchs that stretches all the way down to Queen Elizabeth II.
With the Norman invasion of Britain, Norman French became the official language. French itself had its roots in Latin when Ancient Gaul was part of the Roman Empire.
Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London and the printing of the King James Bible.
Through the expansion of the British Empire and then the emergence of the United States as a global superpower, English became the leading international language of communication.
As the world has shrunk (in a good way!), English has absorbed words from many other languages such as origami, sushi and tsunami (Japanese), dim sim and tofu (Chinese), chutney (Hindi) and biryani (Urdu). It’s no surprise that so many words are to do with food!
The English language continues to grow and evolve, incorporating words as new ideas and technologies emerge. Take for example, malware which is a portmanteau word for mal(icious) + (soft)ware that emerged only in the 1990s.
This makes English such a living, breathing language, and etymology such a fascinating field of study – as our Rise Writing students know!