When was the English language invented?

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cj:
Hi there!

Anyone know how long was the time period over which the English language was invented?

Thanx!! CYA
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Mike Stevens:
[nq:1]Hi there! Anyone know how long was the time period over which the English language was invented?[/nq]
Perhaps someone will be able to tell you when they've finished inventing it!

My point is that languages are continually evolving and their separateness from one another is a very blurred issue.

As to when we could say that a language recognisable as English came into being, that begs a lot of definitions (including that of "recognisable"). Many people use the phrase "Old English" to mean what others describe as "Anglo-Saxon", which others yet again would say wasn't a single language but a family of related languages. But if you accept that in some way this was the earliest form of English, it pushes the origins of the language back to about the 7th century.

Another view would be regard "English" as evolving in about the 11th and 12th centuries, when Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Norman-French elements merged into something that was recognisably distinct from any of them.

It seems pretty well established that the language of Chaucer (who died c1400) should be called "Middle English", implying that it wasn't the earliest form. The language of Shakespeare is often described as "Early Modern English".

So my answer to your question is that the "invention" of English has taken something between 900 and 1500 years, so far.

-- Mike Stevens, narrowboat Felis Catus II Web site www.mike-stevens.co.uk No man is an island. So is Man.
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Mike Stevens:
[nq:1]Perhaps "invented" isn't quite the right word, but every written language has gone through a stage where a formal literary ... so, as you suggest, the period Shakespeare-KJV Bible does represent a fairly rapid establishment of what has become the standard.[/nq]
I suspect that your last point in an illusion caused by the fact that most people (even many quite literate people) never read anything that predates Shakespeare & the AV. There are reasons for that - it was (and had been for a time) a period when a high level of literacy was fashionable, so that nobody was surprised at Phlip Sidney being important simultaneously in the literary and military fields of endeavour. The result was probably the greatest collection of really good writers in English that have ever been alive at one time. I think that the effects lasted will into the 17th century.

But if you do look at earlier translations of the Bible, for example those of Tyndale and Coverdale, both about a generation before Shakespeare, then ther English doesn't appear much different, which is hardly surprising as the AV took over whole chunks of them as they stood (and, even later, the Book of Common Prayer of the 1660s adopted Coverdale's translation of the Psalms in its entirety). Nor is the English of More's "Utopia" (the only work of his that I've read) noticeably different - More died 29 years before Shakespeare was born. So I don't think there was any sudden change over that period. There was, of course, a great bout of invention of new vocabulary, much of it by Shakespeare himself. But all of that comes within the flourishing of the Tudor literary age, when Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were themselves important role-models and writers of the first importance.

Looking earlier, the works of Chaucer look very different, but that's very largely a matter of orthography. If you hear them read, they sound much the same as stuff of the Shakespearean period, which would probably not be the case for Anglo-Saxon texts. That's a personal subjective judgement of how difficult I find it to understand these writers on the page and in speech - others may differ.

The work of Thomas Malory, at a date between the two, is also not far-distant from Shakespearean English. There were changes to English in the two centuries between Chaucer and Shakespeare, but they had been gradual and seem to have affected the written language more than the spoken one. Perhaps the biggest change was the fading out of inflected word endings - or was that even earlier?

If there is a period when (written) English did suddenly become much more unified and formalised, it's in the 18th century, through the work of Samuel Johnson and his contemporaries, which brought the idea of "correct" spelling into being. Before then people, even highly literate people, felt free to spell a word as they felt suitable to its context. Think how many ways Shagsberd / Shakeshaft had of spelling his own surname!

-- Mike Stevens, narrowboat Felis Catus II Web site www.mike-stevens.co.uk No man is an island. So is Man.
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David:
[nq:2] Okay, they're different ways of spelling the same thing, then.[/nq]
[nq:1] his name this way. He did did however use "Shagsberd", "Shakeshaft" and several other variants at various times.[/nq]
That might have been your point but it was in response to an observation of mine in reply to Mike Stevens that the variations on Shakespeare's name were not simply different ways of spelling the same word in an age when spelling had not yet been standardised but were in fact word plays on the name or its component parts.
[nq:1]And a "shag" is definitely not the same thing as a "shake" either. ;-)[/nq]
No, it isn't. Now put it away and stop playing with red herrings.

-- http://www.dacha.freeuk.com / How to make people and influence fiends
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ALL REPLIES
Einde O'Callaghan:
[nq:1]Hi there! Anyone know how long was the time period over which the English language was invented? Languages aren't invented, ... major changes in grammar and vocabulary since then. The language is still developing and changing (as all living languages do).[/nq]
Regards, Einde O'Callaghan
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Dave Fawthrop:
[nq:1]Hi there! Anyone know how long was the time period over which the English language was invented?[/nq]
Bits were invented by the Celts, Romans, Anglo Saxons, Vikings, Norman French, etc. etc. There are numerous loan words from Chinese, and Indian languages. Some words were only invented this year, but I am to old to know them. Spelling is being drastically changed by the advent of mobile phone, Toys R us etc.

English is an IndoEuropean language, so the basics are many thousands of years old.

-- Dave Fawthrop (Email Removed) Sick of Direct Marketing telephone calls and silent calls? They use a computer which phones many numbers, but talk to only one. Register your: real name, tel number, snail mail address, with Telephone Preference Service, (Email Removed)
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Matthew Huntbach:
[nq:1]Languages aren't invented, tehy develop over long periods form earlier forms, often under the influence of other languages. Crudely speaking, ... major changes in grammar and vocabulary since then. The language is still developing and changing (as all living languages do).[/nq]
Perhaps "invented" isn't quite the right word, but every written language has gone through a stage where a formal literary standard was established for it, and in many cases that involved a fair degree of invention. Italian can be said, for example, to have been invented in the 19th century on the unification of Italy when the Florentine form was established as the norm and the huge variety of other very different forms downgraded to "dialects". English is rather unusual in not having gone through a really formal stage of bringing together a variety of dialects into one somewhat artificial standard. Even so, as you suggest, the period Shakespeare-KJV Bible does represent a fairly rapid establishment of what has become the standard.

Matthew Huntbach
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David:
(Snip)
[nq:1]Think how many ways Shagsberd / Shakeshaft had of spelling his own surname![/nq]
Shagsberd / Shakeshaft are not different ways of spelling Shakespeare.

-- Through the Valley of Despair they came; an innumerable surge of gross humanity...
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Einde O'Callaghan:
[nq:1] (Snip)[/nq]
[nq:2]Think how many ways Shagsberd / Shakeshaft had of spelling his own surname![/nq]
[nq:1]Shagsberd / Shakeshaft are not different ways of spelling Shakespeare. But they are different ways of writing his name used ... to remember reqading once that one form of his name that he never used when writing his name was "Shakespeare".[/nq]
Regards, Einde O'Callaghan
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David:
[nq:2] (Snip) Shagsberd / Shakeshaft are not different ways of spelling Shakespeare.[/nq]
[nq:1]But they are different ways of writing his name used by the man we call William Shakespeare - actually I seem to remember reqading once that one form of his name that he never used when writing his name was "Shakespeare".[/nq]
That's as may be. Presumably Will -- whover he/she was//they were -- had reason to use a variety of names but they are not simply different spellings used at a time before spelling became standardised. Today, poor spelling "Smiths" might just spell their name "Smyth" in error but I should think they intended the difference were they to call themselves "Cobblers".

-- "Apsu, apsu, every where, nor any mead to drink..." sighed Noah, as he gazed across the unfathomable face of the deep.
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