The History of Languages

1/19/2013

To learn a new language, you should perhaps first know the developmental history behind the language, here are a few brief introductions:


a) English Language History


English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers from various parts of what is now northwest Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. The names 'England' (“Land of the Angles") and English ( "Englisc" in Old English) are derived from the name of this tribe—but Saxons, Jutes and a range of Germanic peoples from the coasts of Frisia, Lower Saxony, Jutland and Southern Sweden also moved to Britain in this era.    

English Language History

Old English was later transformed by two waves of invasion. The first was by speakers of the North Germanic language branch when Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless started the conquering and colonisation of northern parts of the British Isles in the 8th and 9th centuries. The second was by speakers of the Romance language, Old Norman, in the 11th century with the Norman Conquest of England. Norman developed into Anglo-Norman, and then Anglo-French, and introduced a layer of words especially via the courts and government.

Modern English, which includes the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, generally dates back to around 1550, and when the United Kingdom became a colonial power, English served as the lingua franca of the colonies of the British Empire. In the post-colonial period, some of the newly created nations which had multiple indigenous languages opted to continue using English as the lingua franca to avoid the political difficulties inherent in promoting any one indigenous language above the others. As a result of the growth of the British Empire, English was adopted in North America, India, Africa, Australia and many other regions, a trend extended with the emergence of the United States as a superpower in the mid-20th century. More…

b) French Language History


The French language was originally called "Latin". When Julius Caesar invaded Europe, he was so successful at coming, seeing and conquering, that everyone there started to speak Latin. The French then started to get so sloppy with their Latin, as well as allowing Gaulish words to sneak into their vocabulary that they started to speak a dialect of Latin called "French". The reason most Francophiles get annoyed when French is referred to as "A degenerate form of Latin" is therefore because it is true.

Chinese Language HistoryNot everyone in France actually spoke French. There were a significant number of non-Latin descended languages in France, and the South of France spoke a similar language referred to as the langue d'oc, or Occitan. In fact it was mostly those in Paris who spoke French as we know it, but when the French Revolution came, a law was passed forcing everyone in France to suffer the language of the Parisians. Ever since then, bodies such as the "Acadamie Francaise" have ensured that French does not get infected by English words (such as television), and to retain the "purity" of the French language.

The relationship between French and the other native languages of France is interesting. Up until the early part of the twentieth century, the official response of the French government to anybody trying to speak another native French language, such as Breton or Occitan, was to charge them with treason, and signs were erected in fishing villages in Brittany warning "No spitting or speaking Breton". Some people may find this attitude hard to reconcile with French complaints of the dominance of the English language, but it must be realized that the reason French governments have done this is because they are certain that their language is superior.More…


c) Chinese Language History

            

Chinese is a language with a rich history that dates back to 1122 BCE. While today over one billion people worldwide speak some variation of Chinese, the history of this language stems from a more primitive, simpler language known as Proto-Sino-Tibetan. Modern linguists classify Chinese as part of the Sino-Tibetan group of languages. Old Chinese, also referred to as "Archaic Chinese", was an early version of the language that was primarily spoken during the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BCE to 256 BCE). While this early form of Chinese incorporated a variety of rich sounds, it lacked any tonal elements – meaning that there were no specific notes or particular pitches around which the language was centered.

Chinese Language History

In the 6th Century, the Suí, Táng, and Sòng dynasties inaugurated the era of Middle Chinese. Among the differences between Old and Middle Chinese was that the language had significantly evolved and began taking on various forms in the same way that the growth and movement of the population triggered the development of early Chinese dialects.

Modern Chinese, as more centuries passed and Chinese populations continued to grow and spread across the continent, more and more distinct Chinese dialects were formed. Dialects are variations of a language that include specific vocabulary and/or pronunciation nuances related to the particular region and culture. This growing number of dialects led to the need for a "Standard Mandarin," which, by the mid-1900s, had become a compulsory part of the educational system. Today, Chinese is the most popularly spoken language in the world. More…


d) Germany Language History


The German language, now spoken in Germany, Austria, parts of Switzerland, and some adjacent areas has gone through a long evolutionary process and shows many regional variations (dialects, the “local” speech). Basically, today's German is part of what one calls the “Indo-European Family of Languages” (IE), related fairly closely to other “Germanic” Languages, such as English, Dutch, the Scandinavian languages, and more remotely to other European languages, such as Latin, Greek, and the Slavic languages. Even Sanscrit, Persian, and Urdu are distant relatives.

Germany Language HistoryAll Germanic languages differ from other Indo-European languages through the so-called “first consonant shift”. We don't know exactly when that happened, but it may have begun before 500 BC. Among the early Germanic languages are Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Gothic, Old Franconian, etc. Now, none of these Germanic languages are yet “German.” German evolves through a “second consonant shift,” which began before the seventh century AD and moved gradually from the mountainous area of the south to the low lands of the north and never quite reached the coastal line. And, “low” and “high” are not “class-distinctions”.

Modern German has gone through many phases of development. Basically, one speaks of Old High German (from about 700 AD to the eleventh century), Middle High German (from about 1050 to 1350), Early New High German (1350 to 1600), and New High German (from about 1600 to the present). Vocabulary has changed with social conditions. Contacts with other countries through wars, trade, migrations, developing technologies, etc., have over the centuries introduced many loan words.

Since Germany did not become a united country until 1871, it had no cultural center, and regional dialects remained dominant. By the end of the Middle Ages, however, serious attempts were made to create a “standard” German language, so that the regions could more easily communicate with each other and that laws and directives passed by local princes could be understood throughout their jurisdiction. The Protestant Reformation and especially Martin Luther's bible translation were paramount in spreading a standard language, based largely on the chancel-lery language in use at the Saxon court in Meissen. This is the language that formed the basis for today's standard German, often referred to as “Hochdeutsch.” More…

For More Language History, Please Check Wikipedia.

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