Friday, August 24, 2012

Old English

     If you have any interest in language, knowing its origins can be a fun way to understand and use it better. Are you at all curious about how our modern-day English developed?
     I'll just give a little history about the earliest form of English, in this post, because I have a cool video to show you. If you enjoy it, and want to learn more about the development, leave a comment below. Then I'll know, and I'll continue the summarized history lesson :)
     In the 5th century A.D., the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain, bringing an early form of Old English along with them. This language sounded very similar to other Germanic languages of the time.
     You've probably heard that the word English is derived from the word "Angles," as in Englo-Saxons. Now you understand where that came from! You've also probably hear of the epic poem Beowulf; it was composed somewhere between the early 8th century and the late 10th century. (If you want to read Beowulf, I highly recommend the translation by Seamus Heaney).
     At this time, the language was not recognized as English at all. That recognition didn't come until the late 14th century, when Geoffrey Chaucer decided to write in English, rather than French. This gave prestige to the language (Greenblatt).
     Now, if you'd like an example of what the language actually sounded like, I have a treat for you! Below is a video of the Lord's Prayer in Old English and it's AWESOME.
     Even if you don't care much about Christianity, reading this prayer can be an interesting insight. Hearing it in Old English gets you bonus points!
     Here's a link to the Prayer in the King James Version, if you want to read along. About one word in every line is recognizably comparable to our modern-day English!
     I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did!

     Thanks to my Professor Carrie White of Regent University for presenting the video!
     Also thanks to The Norton Anthology of English Literature, from which I summarized much of this history lesson.

Photo Credit
"Part of Caroline Townshend and Joan Howson window at St Nectan's Church" by Weglinde.
Works Cited:
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. New York, NY: W.W. 
     Norton &, 2006. Print.

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