Hi everyone,I am doing a bit of research about how the english language evolved to what it has became today. My mother tongue is German, and when I compare Old English to German, I see many similarities. For example, thou hast / du hast -or- thou willst and du wirst. Old English also have many inflections and uses a case system Nominative, Accusative, Datative, Genenitive, in addition to the infinitive word endings.

The word ending, cases, declension, as I think, are like wonderful pieces of art. Even most of the verb conjugations are removed. To this date most verbs are weak verbs like and not much conjugation is required: I walk, you walk, he walk; compared to something like "ich laufe, Sie laufen, er läuft". The most complex verb thats at the top of my head is "to be" e.g. I am, you are, he is etc.

-Why did English loose most of the inflections, verb ending, and strong verbs? One of my guess is that this complex grammatical system was too difficult to be learnt?
I remembered studying Shakespear and in his times they used to have the cases. The thing that popped out to me was the "thou/thee/thee/thy" cases. I asked my classmates about the differences and they can't even tell the difference between the usages of "thou" and "thee", since today its all "you, you, and you" even for the plural form of "you". The second thing that I noticed was the use of the phrase "I know not." which is still used in German today as "Ich weiß nicht." Much of the syntaxes of Shakespearean English is also like German, such as verb is the second element, and the infinitive goes at the end. Since I speak German, I had a slight advantage while studying Shakespear.
- Do you believe that it is important to learn the basic grammar of Old English before attempting to study it?
- Will going through the case system help one's ability to learn English? - With the case systems in place in Old English, did genders for nouns exist?
- Were the definite and indefinate articles inflected upon the genders of the noun and the case that they are in? E.g. der/den/dem/des (the/the/the/of the) and ein einen einem eines (a(n)/a(n)/a(n)/of a(n))

Something else that catched my attention was the perfect tense of Old English like "I have eaten." would be something like "I have geeaten." It takes a "ge-" prefix, which is "Ich habe gegessen." in German. Essen = infinitive form "to eat"
- Since English is a West-Germanic language, did German come before English, and did Old English evolve from German?
- Did people used to say "I have went." or "I am went."?

Any help with answering these questions that I have would be greately appreciated.
Thank You!
1 2
Hi everyone, I am doing a bit of research about how the english language evolved to wh=at

That's "English language."
it has became today. My mother tongue is German, and when I compare Old English to German, I see many ... ending, and strong verbs? One of my guess is that this complex grammatical system was too difficult to be learnt?

It would not have been too difficult to learn by children, who have no problem whatsoever in learning the grammar of their native language, whether it depends upon complicated inflections, numerous genders (noun classes), subtle differences in word order or whatever. See the book The Power of Babel by John McWhorter, which deals with how language changes, and complications which exist in natural languages.

It may be that English lost its inflections because of a mingling of various peoples whose grammar was different. It has even been argued that English is a creole language as a result of such mingling and grammatical simplification, but linguists don't seem to be very supportive of that interpretation.
I remembered studying Shakespear and in his times they used to have the cases. The thing that popped out to ... the differences and they can't even tell the difference between the usages of "thou" and "thee", since today its all

By Shakespeare's time, in any case, the uses of "thou" and "thee" had begun to be confused. The King James (or "Authorized") Version of the Bible used these terms consistently in the way they had been used in previous centuries, but this was a deliberate decision of the translators who had chosen to go with a deliberately archaic style. In later years, the Quakers in the US took to using "thee" where both "thou" and "thee" were used before, and instead of the second person singular for the verb they used the third person singular with "thee": "Thou art" thus became "thee is" and "thou hath" became "thee has."

Some dialects in the UK still use some form of the second person singular, but you'd have to ask members from there for more details about that.
"you, you, and you" even for the plural form of "you". The second thing t=hat I noticed was the use ... Do you believe that it is important to learn the basic grammar of Old English before attempting to study it?

Let's be clear what you mean by "Old English." To me, "Old English" is Anglo-Saxon, a language very different from both Shakespeare's English and today's English. If that's what you have in mind, then yes, learning the basic grammar is essential if you wish to study it.
- Will going through the case system help one's ability to learn English?

There are mixed opinions about this. For my part, I'd say no, it is pointless to learn the case system of Anglo-Saxon if your purpose is to learn modern English.
- With the case systems in place in Old English, did genders for nouns exist? - Were the definite and ... and did Old English evolve from German? - Did people used to say "I have went." or "I am went."?

English speakers did indeed use "be" as an auxiliary verb at one time, so that they said things such as "I am become.." In the King James version of the Bible, for example, you find:
Job 30:19 He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like dust and
ashes.
Psalms 69:8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my
mother's children.
In a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Charles McPherson on February 25, 1773, which can be seen at
http://wikisource.org/wiki/Letter to Charles McPherson - February 25%2C 1773

or
http://tinyurl.com/8zlob

Merely for the pleasure of reading his works, I am become desirous of
learning the language in which he sung, and of possessing his songs in their
original form.
Any help with answering these questions that I have would be greately appreciated. Thank You!

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA=20
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
Hi everyone, I am doing a bit of research about how the english language evolved to what

That's "English language."

In the trade we call this L1 interference. I was talking to a group of Austrian students last week about how in German all nouns are capitalised. Makes life confusing for German speakers to know which ones are and which aren't in English.
it has became today. My mother tongue is German, and ... this complex grammatical system was too difficult to be learnt?

It would not have been too difficult to learn by children, who have no problem whatsoever in learning the grammar ... The Power of Babel by John McWhorter, which deals with how language changes, and complications which exist in natural languages.

Quite. People don't get taught their first language at school, they acquire it as part of the maturation process. And language 'difficulty' is relative; learning English is a piece of *** for Dutch speakers, slightly harder for German speakers and a nightmare for Chinese speakers. I'd hazard a guess that Chinese speakers would find learning Japanese or Thai easier than English, but it's not just about geography.
It may be that English lost its inflections because of a mingling of various peoples whose grammar was different. It ... as a result of such mingling and grammatical simplification, but linguists don't seem to be very supportive of that interpretation.

I think I've read it was about choosing the easiest of a set of alternatives and following the line of least variation in features such as declension. Going back to verzoegerung's query, don't forget that German remains for historical reasons a hugely dialect-based language where a Hamburger speaking their native dialect won't be understood by someone from Vienna. That was the situation in England around the time Modern English emerged, which was also about the time Shakespeare was writing; Bill the Shake's was one of many available dialects. It's mainly the London of his audience but with a lot of Midlands stuff in there as well. Language consolidation often goes with nation-building; and much of what's now Germany consisted of independent states up until Bismarck.
There's a story about Caxton, the 13th century printer, taking a boat down the Thames. They stop off a few miles into Kent to buy eggs and the lady who's selling them can't understand them because the word for eggs has changed - now it's 'eyen'. Mutual intelligibility between English speakers is a pretty rare thing now, though I've had my moments in Newcastle and Glasgow.
I remembered studying Shakespear and in his times they used ... the usages of "thou" and "thee", since today its all

By Shakespeare's time, in any case, the uses of "thou" and "thee" had begun to be confused. The King James ... some form of the second person singular, but you'd have to ask members from there for more details about that.

Tha's reet there Ray. And as I've wrote before, in many parts round here folk'll have nowt to do wit' nancy southern past participles.

Somebody actually called me 'Master' the other day, saying to her little boy something like "say 'thank you' to that master", and no it wasn't anything to do with me being a teacher, more like 'the gentleman'. I thought we were in a Mrs Gaskell novel...
"you, you, and you" even for the plural form of ... basic grammar of Old English before attempting to study it?

Let's be clear what you mean by "Old English." To me, "Old English" is Anglo-Saxon, a language very different from ... that's what you have in mind, then yes, learning the basic grammar is essential if you wish to study it.

Absolutely. But if verzoegerung is talking about enjoying Shakespeare, then no, you don't need to make a special study of the grammar and as you've noticed your knowledge of German will give you an advantage. I did three years German at school (it's my weakest language now, but I still understand a reasonable amount of what I hear) and it definitely helped with understanding some of the stuff in Middle and Early Modern English that's since dropped off the back of the wagon. Do be aware of those 'false friend' pitfalls for German speakers though - 'when' vs. 'if' is a common one.
- Will going through the case system help one's ability to learn English?

There are mixed opinions about this. For my part, I'd say no, it is pointless to learn the case system of Anglo-Saxon if your purpose is to learn modern English.

- With the case systems in place in Old English, ... ein einen einem eines (a(n)/a(n)/a(n)/of a(n)) Something else that catched

oops!
my attention was the perfect tense of Old English like ... habe gegessen." in German. Essen = infinitive form "to eat"

As Ray says don't get 'Old English', a language that's as close to Modern German as it is to Modern English, mixed up with Middle English, which is the language of Chaucer, hard going for a modern reader, but recognisably English. That's also a perfect example of what I was saying above about German being helpful for a Middle English reader. By the time I came to read Chaucer for 'A' level (about age 17) I'd done my three years German and would have thought 'oh, right, past participles with ge-. Seen that before'.
- Since English is a West-Germanic language, did German come ... used to say "I have went." or "I am went."?

English speakers did indeed use "be" as an auxiliary verb at one time,

Still do in parts of the West Country and South:-
"Be I 'Ampshire? Be I buggery, I comes up from Wareham. All the girls wear calico knickers, and I knows how to tear 'em."

What I don't know is if the fixed distinction between 'to be' verbs and 'to have' verbs that exists in French and, I think, German, where many 'to be' verbs are involved with concepts of motion, has ever existed in English. It's easy to think of an example like 'He is gone', but that's just really a passive, like 'he is covered in Nutella'.

DC. Apologies for reply drift.
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- Since English is a West-Germanic language, did German come before English, and did Old English evolve from German?

Briefly, "No" to both questions.
Old English (which means Anglo-Saxon before it absorbed Norman French elements and became Middle English) and German were separate developments within the West Germanic group. German belongs to the High German group, of which it seems that Luxemburgish is the only other living representative. Old English belongs to the Low German group, and its nearest modern relative is Frisian. I believe that there are Old English texts earlier than any German texts.
You probably know already that Old English absorbed Scandinavian material from the Danish invasions and settlement in the 10th century, including even such basic words as "sister" (though "brother" is Anglo-Saxon). Much later, during the Renaissance and onwards to the present day, came the major part of our vocabulary derived from Latin and Greek. The grammatical features you mention were already becoming less significant by about 1200, with (as Ray has told you) "thou" and "thee" not always correctly used even in Shakespeare's time and disappearing by, say, 1650, except from local dialects and in deliberately archaic uses.
Alan Jones
My mother tongue is German, and when I compare Old English to German, I see many similarities.

You should compare old English with old German. Compare the German of Luther with old English. German has evolved just as much as English.
Yes, English is a Germanic language. English even has two subjunctive forms, as does German. And English speakers use daily use both forms, though most do not recognize them as subjunctive.
GFH
It may be that English lost its inflections because of ... linguists don't seem to be very supportive of that interpretation.

I think I've read it was about choosing the easiest of a set of alternatives and following the line of ... Mutual intelligibility between English speakers is a pretty rare thing now, though I've had my moments in Newcastle and Glasgow.

Well, If you say so ... Emotion: wink
What would be the reaction if it was said that English is in fact German with a French varnish? Emotion: wink
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Hi everyone, I am doing a bit of research about how the english language evolved to what it has became today.

Not something that can be dealt with by short posts. People here will recommend books that deal with the subject and you will find others in the aue FAQ. Personally, I think David Crystal's "Stories of English" is an interesting starting point. I find the style of the book somewhat irritating but he knows his subject. And it's particularly important to point out he calls it "Stories" not "Story". That's because he doesn't see one simple chronological line of development but rather various strands that have come together to make English what it became.
John Dean
Oxford
- Do you believe that it is important to learn the basic grammar of Old English before attempting to study it? - Will going through the case system help one's ability to learn English?

Hast du sie noch alle? Emotion: big smile
It would only help if you learned Old High German as well, and after this year with the only Middle High German "Poor Henry", I can only wish you luck with that.
And Anglo-Saxon is not easy either, I can tell you, although I can heartily recommend it - it was great fun learning it. You seem to think of Early New English, since that was what dearest Shakespeare wrote in as people have already said.
As for the case system - nope. Only if you attempt to learn Middle English or Old English, but not with Early New English. What for?
I think I've read it was about choosing the easiest ... now, though I've had my moments in Newcastle and Glasgow.

Well, If you say so ... Emotion: wink What would be the reaction if it was said that English is in fact German with a French varnish? Emotion: wink

Dunno. Sounds fair enough.
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