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Old English: Different Periods of Development



A history of 700 years of Old English had passed in contact with different languages like; Celts, the Latin, and the Danish. The old English history has started from 450-1066 AD.

Zero periods Influence on Old English

Zero period had started during the Roman era that was started in 43 AD and ended in 410 AD, when Emperor Claudius was ordering the invasion of Britain under the command of Aulus Plautius. It is a zero period because the history of the English had not started. Anglo-Saxon had not come to UK.  English was the language of the Germanic tribes, and they had little contact to Romans initially, that little contact had made through trade and army jobs, impressed them, but that kind of contact was of master and employees. So there were very little contribution in old English, therefore, it is called zero periods. Anglo-Saxon and Jutes appeared in 3rd century. Now the question is why the local native people (Celts) were in zero periods but still they had not any influence on old English? The answer is simple; Celts almost have no influence on English because they were slave, poor, inferior and were not as prestigious as were Romans or Scandinavians. It is fact that colonized people cannot possess influence, because the Celts were not in a position to make notable contribution to Anglo-Saxon civilization. Therefore, their influence on Old English was almost negligible. Romans were the masters of Celts and had great civilization so Germanic tribes indulged in trade with the Romans.

Words Contribution:

Not more than 60 of Latin words credited in Old English in zero period. These words include ceap (bargain), mangian (to trade), pund (pound) and seam (burden,loan), mynet (coin) .Some trade words were also there because Germanic people had wine trade so the words related to that are; win(wine), must (new wune), eced (vineger), and flasce (flask, bottle). Some domestic words ; pyle (pilow), cuppa (cup), sigel (brooch), sucler (spoon), pise (pea), minte (mint) etc. In zero period the contact with the Germanic tribes were only trade and that trade was happened rarely. That is why it is called zero period because there is almost zero contribution to the old English.

 Reasons for Zero Period:

  1. Old English history had not started yet.
  2. The Britons (Celts) were slaves, poor, inferior and uncivilized, so no considerable contribution in old English.
  3. In zero period Germanic tribes had very minor contact with the highly civilized and powerful Roman Empire.
  4. In the middle of zero period era Germanic tribes started trade and induction in army.
  5. Hardly 60 words have been reported in zero period in old English.

The first period of Latin Influence on Old English

First period of the Latin Influence upon Old English is also negligible. People own only few words almost five words outside of few elements found in place names. And it is because the Romans had not contacted extensively the Germanic tribes. The Celts adopted more than 600 words but could not pass because they did not have good relation with the Germanic tribes. The Romans were the superior in tradition, civilization, trade, education, power and social life. Celts’ maids were used by the army of the Romans. Though Romans had trade relation with Anglo-Saxon but still there is not so much influence on English as the colonizer had had in first period. The Germanic tribes were inducted in the army of Romans because they were brave, barbaric and poor. Therefore, old English is full of war poetry, gallantry. According to the above-mentioned factors Anglo-Saxon knew some Latin language words which we have seen in old English and even in modern English. i.e.

Place names: Dorchester, Manchester, Lancaster, and many others.

Port: (harbor, munt (mountain), torr (tower), wic (village)

The first period of Romans on Old English is slightly high.

Second Period of Latin Influence on Old English

The influential period of Latin upon Old English is the second period, which was started in 597 AD after the Christianization of Great Britain during the Augustine appearance. Great Britain was pagan before. Augustine entered into a Great Britain on request of Pop with forty monks. Germanic tribes and the Celts were pagan, they were rigid, served one leader or family elder, no concept of life after death, but the devotion and hard work of Augustine and his monk changed the table totally in their favor. One glaring example of their devotion is that in Kent kingdom there was only one christen but after seven years of Augustine death, the whole Kent kingdom became christen. Romans were the rulers so the monks had great freedom of movement, which change the whole Great Britain’s religion to Christianity in only hundred years.

From 597 to 1100 years of Old English period, Latin language gradually making its way into English language.

The following are the Latin words that have been used even in modern English: abbot, ark, angel, anthem, mass, organ, lily, meter, gloss, pine, anchor, millet, pear, radish, box, cup, pitcher, jug, blanket, pop, palm, nun, noon, minister, candle, disciple, rule etc.

Anglo-Saxon people soon amalgamated into a new religion and started using Latin words. The words are so blended in the English language that they cannot be distinguishable from the native language, i.e. the Latin word planta, now plant, plantation, planting etc. fully assimilated in the English language.

Viking age influence on Old English source Pinterest
Viking age influence on Old English source Pinterest

Third Period of the Scandinavian influence or The Viking Age on Old English

Scandinavian countries right now are; the Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland were famous for its valor, strength and Navel power. They were also called Vikings because they raided the coastal areas of its near borders especially the UK between 8 to 10th centuries. Norsemen, the people of Scandinavia travelled to Great Britain and Ireland decided to use three options that’s are; settle, trade or raid. Their trade was in gold, silver, bronze and spices. The areas captured by Anglo, Saxon and Jutes were becoming weak because of conflicts among; that of trade, political and economic. When the Scandinavian saw their weak position they sent almost 350 ships and attacked Great Britain. Initially they attacked coastal areas and looted even the churches and missionaries. Due to barbaric nature, navel strength and valor soon they captured the whole Great Britain. The native, Celts were slave or discarded people in all three periods of colonization.

Three stages of Scandinavian Attacks on England:

  1. Early raids: it was beginning in 787 and ended in 850. During this stage they just looted, plunders the churches, monasteries and coastal areas of English people. Gold, silvers, costly robes and valuable things had been carried by these small bands.
  2. This stage is more extensive and systematic because regular and large army participated in the invasion. Around 350 ships had attacked and they settled there for a larger interest. Roughly Eastern part of England had fallen in the hand of Danes. King Alfred (871-899) entered into a treaty with Danes by which they withdrew from his territory but stay in England’s other parts called Danish area and ruled by Danelaw. Later the Danes accepted Christianity and this pave the way of amalgamation of two civilizations.
  3. This stage is considered the peaceful stage because from 878 to1042, covers the period of political adjustment and assimilation. In this stage the two peoples mixed and a fusion had taken place with peace and ease.

Effects of Scandinavian Influence:

The following are the effects of the Scandinavian influence.

Language Influence:                                                                                                                                                      

The Scandinavian language Norse had 15% influenced on English. Old Norse language resembled that of the Anglo-Saxon invaders and almost 900 vocabularies were absorbed.

Place Names:

Grimsby, Whitby, Rugby, by-law (town law) and Thorsby, thorp (village) syllables is used in Gawthorp, Linthorp, toft (a piece of ground) has made so many words like Brimtoft, Eastoft, Lowestoft etc.

War-related words: barda (beaked ship), Stegmann (pirate), dreng (warrior), lip (fleet), ran (robbery) and orrest (battle).

Law and social words: law, mal (action at law), hold (freeholder), wapentake (an administrative districts), and husting (assembly).

Danish Nouns words: bank, birth, booth, bull, calf, gap, gait, race, rift, root etc.

Danish Adjectives words: flat, ill, loose, low, rotten, scant, tight, call, die, gape, egg, cow etc.

Danish Pronouns words: they, their, them, both and same.

Social Influence:

Scandinavian social life is not far different from English people. Their tradition, language structures and living styles accepted by the English because they did not feel the huge difference as with the case of Romans.

Economic Influence:

Danish people were very brave as Anglo-Saxon, warriors and lovers of Agri. After the Danish invasion, England’s economic condition improved because both wise peoples together made England great.

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