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‘to What Extent Is Modern-Day English the Same Language as That Introduced to the British Isles One and a Half Millennia Ago?’

  • Date Submitted: 12/30/2012 12:45 AM
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‘To what extent is modern-day English the same language as that introduced to the British Isles one and a half millennia ago?’



English is both a changed and an ever-changing language. Since its introduction to the British Isles the very nature of the language, its structure, appearance and uses have undergone remarkable transformations. Comparing transcripts from Old English and its contemporary counterparts, even listening to different generations in the same family, it is clear that English is changing in its written and spoken form. Yet there are clear connections from what we know as “Modern-day English” to the language spoken hundreds of years ago, allowing us to consider them as the same language rather than completely separate languages.



Originally, English was just one language among several spoken in the British Isles when a number of Germanic tribes arrived in Britain from Northern Europe in the fifth century AD. As the tribes became well-established and started spreading across the island over the centuries, the language gradually developed. However, it was still very much a local language spoken by a small section of a small island in Western Europe. (Seargent and Swann 2012)

      The earliest passages of written English, known as ‘Old English,’ present a significant number of differences in its form when compared to the language we are accustomed to reading today. Mitchell and Robinson assert Old English was a moderately inflected language, using an extensive case system similar to that of modern German (2001). Linguistic evidence suggests Middle and Modern English lost progressively more of the Old English inflectional system and today there are only eight common inflectional affixes in use. (North, 2012)

      Characters such as ȝ, known as ‘yogh’ which was used in place of a y, (Seargent and Swann 2012) we no longer use and the orthography of many words has altered somewhat. The word ‘film’ for example, was spelt...

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