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A brief history of the English Language

Finally, after several months of planning and even existing as 'secret pages' within the website, here is my guide to the history of the English language.

Of course you can see by the title that it clearly says 'brief' - but even so, it takes up a total of five pages (not including this one).

I have to thank some of my old University materials for reminding me a lot of the finer detail (Thanks David Graddol, Dick Leith and Joan Swann), but the last section is made up mainly of my own material.

Bits will be added over the next few weeks, particularly the images (when I get them sorted out) for each of the pages, so for the time being there's a lot of text and not many pretty pictures (apart from the first section).

If you're only interested in a particular period, then click on that period below.


English hasn't always been the language on the British Isles. 


Old English

This was brought over from the continent, and it's quite different to the English we know and love.


Middle English

Although still not too easy to understand, a lot of the rules that we know (as a result of influences from everywhere) are beginning to take shape.


Modern English

From William Shakespeare onwards to the present day.


World English and the Future

Where does it go from here? Will English take over the world? Will American English be the de facto language, or will the different varieties diverge? Will BREXIT change the way English is used in Europe and politics?

Introduction    Pre-English    Old English    Middle English    Modern English    World English and the Future

Home  Features  A Brief History of English  

BBC English: The rise and fall and plummy accents

English Spelling: A history

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