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History of English


English is the language that is majorly spoken in Britain and most of the world. It is also the language of the Commonwealth countries that is made up of those countries that were colonized by Britain. There is a long history of how this language came to b known and how it was adopted by Britons and other English speaking nations. There are several stories that it originated from West Germany and then moved to England when Germanic tribes migrated to England, and there are those that say otherwise.  This paper, through a research study, will explore the history of English. 

Literature review

Nevalainen and Elizabeth (2012) argued in their work titled “The Oxford handbook of the history of English” that English started from Germanic tribes who lived in what is now North West Germany before moving to ancient England. They also claimed that artist and poets like Shakespeare facilitated the adoption of English language as people liked their work but they had to learn English to understand them.

Similarly, Crystal (2012) asserted in his book “English as a global language” that English as a global language was enhanced by British who forced their colonies to learn English as it was the only language they would understand each other. The early schools that were set up British made the English language as a compulsory subject and the only language of instruction thus making it go global. Also, the international community adopted it as one of the languages that can be used at conferences such as United Nations among other international meetings. English was used beside French and Germany. This made many countries around the world that were not English speaking to learn it.


This study involved a qualitative research method in collection and analysis of data. The sample population for the study was the literature dons at various Universities in Europe and United States of America.

In the sampling procedure, eighty university lecturers that are involved in teaching English literature, as well as historians, were sampled to participate in the study.  The final sample was randomly done where these dons were given forty tiny papers with hidden number and another forty without numbers. The professors were then asked to randomly pick a paper and unfold it. Those who picked papers with the number were the ones to participate in the study.  The advantage of this system is that it helped avoid biases in the sampling method.

Data collection process was mainly through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Given that these participants were professors from various higher learning institutions, they were engaged in discussions on the history of English where everyone contributed according to their sources of information on how this language emerged and became one of the world’s most spoken languages currently. 

 The in-depth interviews were also done by professors of history who gave their opinions and facts on how the English language came about. After the interviews and discussions, the collected data was then analyzed qualitatively.


According to these dons, English as a language can be traced back to 15th century and spoken by Norman Conquest.  It is believed that it is a mixture of North Germanic languages that were used by the Scandinavians (Cable 12).  These group colonized part of Britain between 8th and 9th century. Through this colonization, there was a lot of borrowing of words as well as grammar simplification.

The professors argued that the English were made up of Scandinavian languages and that of local olden day Britain which they conquered during the 8th century. The development of English language is also attributed to various ancient artists and poets like Shakespeare through their work of literature (Roberts 15). Modern English, on the other hand, was spread through colonization by Britain.


English originated from Anglo-Frisian vernacular and was brought to Britain around 8th century AD by the Germanic settlers who invaded olden day Britain currently England. Germanic people lived in what are now West Denmark, Netherlands and Northwest Germany. More influence of this language was shaped by the interaction of people with the Scandinavians, and it was known as the North Germanic language. Another influence came from conquering Normans whose main language was a form of French known as Old Norman.  British developed this language into Anglo-Norman (Roberts 17). Some of the French words entered the English language at this period. The borrowing of words was facilitated through the churches, government, and even courts.  The English language also borrowed some words from Latin and other foreign languages such as German, Dutch, and French.

Modern English developed in the period of a 17th century and it was marked by significant changes in vowels a period that was known as Great Vowel Shift. It was then spread to other parts of the world through British colonization.

Currently English is the main language in England, United States of America, and Australia, Canada as well as New Zealand and former colonies of British(Cable 14). The olden day English was made up of diverse dialects that were reflecting varied genesis of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms that were established in different parts of Britain (Nevalainen and Elizabeth 18).


To conclude, English can be said to have roots or originated from languages that were spoken by Germanic people that lived in the northern part of Europe. The language was spread to British through the settlement of these Germanic in British land. English that is spoken today was developed from the old English that was mainly a collection of various languages of Scandinavians and Germanic people. It’s spread to other parts of the world was mainly through colonization of countries by British which they would make it compulsory in their colonies. Another tool for the spread of English language was the ancient English artist and writers such as Shakespeare. They wrote interesting pieces of literature in English which made many people like the language. The introduction of Christianity also enhanced the spread of English and mostly let to a lot of borrowing of Latin words into the English language. This history makes it clear that English was not the original language of British.

Work Cited

Cable, Thomas. A Companion to Baugh and Cable’s A History of the English Language. Routledge, 2013.

Crystal, David. English as a global language. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Nevalainen, Terttu, and Elizabeth Closs Traugott. The Oxford handbook of the history of English. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Roberts, Ian G. Verbs and diachronic syntax: A comparative history of English and French. Vol. 28. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.

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