Much of it is guess work, although there are a number of factors and outcomes that experts seem to agree on, but nothing is set in stone, unlike the history of our intricate tongue. !
Over the 1200 or so years since it’s origin, English, or Old English as it was back then, has managed to survive numerous attacks on its structure and use. Stemming from an Indo-European background, this West Germanic language flourished across England and Eastern Scotland as the result of the 5th century’s invasion of mainland England. However the language was subject to immense foreign influence, most notably that of the French, Scandinavian and Arabic cultures.
Many would argue that the Norman invasion of 1066 was the most significant event to shape the
English language, opening up the doors to the French population and their mode of communication. The Norman armies won the war and “the language that prevailed was that of the victors”. The Normans took every position of power, forcing their language upon the defeated
English population. French eventually became the native language of the region but “despite being officially ignored, English would continue to evolve and change, and would endure, resisting and absorbing the invader’s language until the time came for it to resume centre stage as the nation’s language”. Empowered in the aftermath of bubonic plague it eventually resumed it’s reign as the dominant language, emerging much stronger than it once was. The French language indeed had been defeated but its influence was far from obsolete. Over its time as the language of the elite,
French revolutionised the English language, providing synonyms through their entirely foreign vocabulary and creating a significantly more rigid syntactical structure of the language. Thousands of French words are still used today; ‘salmon’, ‘soldier’, ‘servant’, ‘beef’, ‘veil’ and ‘pork’ just to name a few. However through trade and political interactions with distant countries the language continued to thrive and expand. For example ‘alcohol’, ‘average’, ‘tariff’ and ‘tuna’, all words originating from Arabic that had great relevance to the merchants and trade of the time. But all this was hundreds, almost thousands, of years ago, what relevance does it have to today? Emerging from Old English was the Middle English of esteemed writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer and
William Langland, but more importantly the next phase of English’s evolution came around the year
It was around this time that English would have started to become recognisable by the general population today; hence the birth of Modern English. With the standardisation of grammar and spelling due to the adoption of the printing press during the Industrial Revolution, the written mode of English now had a fixed structure in regard to all of the inherent language subsystems. However it seems as though in recent years these “laws of language” have started to become more fluid.
Over only a matter of 600 or so years, there has been a great shift in the semantic field of words due to the sociocultural and religious influences