Old English Period

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Old English (450-1100 AD)

Old English was the language the invading Germanic Tribes spoke in Britain. Old English did not sound or look like English today. Nevertheless, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English were derived from Old English words. Some example of words taken from Old English are be, strong and water. Old English was popular until around 1100. When the Romans withdrew from England in the early 5th century, they left a political vacuum. The Celts of the south were attacked by tribes from the north and with no more hope asked help from others. There are moments like this at other points in the history of the British Isles. Thus in the case of Ireland, help was sought by Irish chieftains from their Anglo-Norman neighbors in Wales in the late 12th century in their internal squabbles. This heralded the invasion of Ireland by the English. Equally with the Celts of the 5th century the help which they imagined would solve their internal difficulties turned out to be a boomerang which turned on them. The dialects of Old English are more or less co-terminus with the regional kingdoms. The different Germanic tribes brought their unique dialects which were then continued in England. Thus we have a Northumbrian dialect (Anglian in origin), a Kentish dialect (Jutish in origin), etc. The question as to what degree of cohesion already existed between the Germanic dialects when they were still spoken on the continent is unclear. Scholars of the 19th century favored a theory whereby English and Frisian formed an approximate linguistic unity. This postulated linguistic entity is variously called Anglo-Frisian and Ingvaeonic, after the name which Tacitus (c 55-120) in his Germania gave to the Germanic population settled on the North Sea coast. Towards the end of the Old English period the dialectal position becomes complicated by the fact that the West Saxon dialect achieved prominence as an inter-dialectal means of...
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