Chronological divisions in the history of English. Short survey of periods

The historical development of a language is a continuous unin-terrupled process without sudden breaks or rapid transformation . There fore any periodisation imporsed on language history by linguists , with precise dates , might appear artificial , if not arbitrary .Yet in all language histories divisions into perlonds and cross-sections of a certain length , are used for teaching and research purposes. The commonly accepted, traditional periodisation divides English history into three periods: old English (OE), middle English (ME) and new English (NE), with boundaries attached to definite dates and historical events effecting the language. OE begins with the Germanic settlement of Britain(5th c.) or with the beginning of writing(7th c.) andends with the Norman Conquest (1066); which is the start of the modern or new English period. The new period lasts to the present day. The amendments proposed to the traditional periodisation shift the boundery lines or envisage other subdivisions within the main periods: it has been suggested that ME really began at a later date, c. 1150 to…


The history of English language begins with the anvasion f the British Isles by Germanic tribes in the 5th c. of our era. Before describing these events it is essential to recall a few preceding facts of history relevant to the development of English. Prior to the Germanic invasion the british isles must have been inhabited for at least fifty thousand years. Archeological research has uncovered many layers of prehistoric population. the earliest inhabitants whose linguistic affiliation has been established are the Celts. The celts came to Britain in three waves and immediately preceded the Teutons. The first millenium B.C was the period of celtic migrations and expansion. Traces of their civilization are still found all over Europe. Celtic languages were spoken over extensive parts of Europe before our era: later they were absorbed by other IE languages and left very few vestiges behind.

Вопрос. Old english vocabulary

Preliminary Remarks

The full exent of the OE vocabulary is not know to present day scholars .There is no dout that many words have not been recorded in the extant texts at all.The evidence of the record has been supplemented fromother sources:fromthe study of the words of closely related OG languages and from later ,more extensive ME texts.

Modern estimated of the total vocabularyof OE rang from about thirty thousand words to almost one hundred thousand -the latter ligure being probably too high and unrealistic.(Among other courses the differences in the estimates depend on thebtreatment of playsemy and hononymy .But even the lowest estimated show that OE had already developed about as many words as usedby a present-daycultured Englishspeaker)Despite the gaps in the accesible dets ,philological studies in the last centuries have given us a fairly complete outline of the OE vocabulary as regards itsetymology,word stucture ,word-building and stylistic differentiation.

Etymologycal survey of the old english vocabuary

Examinetion of the origin of words is of great interest in establishingbetween languages and linguistic groups.Word etymology throws light on the history of the speaking community and on its contacts with other peaples.

The OE vocabulary was almost purely Germanic:except from PG or formedfrom native roots and affixes.

Preliminary Remarks .Types and Soursces of Changes

According to the estimates made by modern philologists,in the courseof the thounsand year -from OE to modern times -the English vocabulary has multiplied tenfold .Perhaps ,if in different historical periods ,the figure wouldbe much higher.

Among the changes in the vocabulary we can distinguish losses of words ortheir meanings ,replacements and additions.

Like many other lexical changes losses were connected withevents in external history;with the changing conditions of life and the obsolescennce of many medieval concepts and customs .

Some regulations and instilutions of OE kingdoms were cancelledor forgotten in the ME period

The English vocabulary suiferd considereble losses when a whole stylistic stratum of words .the specific OE poetic vacabulary ,went out of usetogether with the genre of OEpoetry ;those were numerous poetic synonyms of ordinary ,neutral words stock metaphors and traditional ,,kennings,,

Вопрос. Devolopment of the national literary english language .

The formation of the national literary English language covers the Early NEperiod .Henceforth we can speak of the evolution of a single literary language instead of the similar or different devolopment of the dialecls .

There were at least two major exlernal factors which favoured the rise of the national language and the literary standarts ;the unification of the country and the progress of cuilure .Other historical events ,such as increased foreign contacts ,affected the language in a general way:they influened the growth of the vacabulary

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