'The English language shows, in miniature, the history of England itself.' Discuss.

Essay by winged.feline August 2006

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VCE English Language Unit 2 Outcome 1: Assessment Task

The origins of the English language can be traced back as far as 5th Century AD, by Germanic tribes from across the Channel. They were followed by the Vikings from the late 8th Century, and once the Vikings had been assimilated into the Old English the French-Normans arrived in the historically famous battle of Hastings, in 1066. More development follows with advancing of technology and standardization of text, encouraged by the arrival of the printing press to England by William Caxton.

Old English belongs to the West Germanic family, brought to England (ca. 5th Century AD) by three Germanic tribes - the Saxons, the Angles and the Jutes - from across the Channel, displacing the Celtic peoples settled prior to the Germanic migrants pushing back the Celtic tongue to Wales, Cornwall and Scotland. The tribes, each of different numbers, dialects and arriving at different times, were first invited over to 'shore up the ruins from the departed Roman Empire,' Mr Bragg comments, 'stayed to share the spoils and then, dug in.'

(pg. 1, line 9). During the next few centuries, four main English dialects dominated in different parts of Britain - Northumbrian (Northumbria), Mercian (Kingdom of Mercia), West Saxon (Kingdom of Wessex) and Kentish (Kent). But though Northumbria's culture proved to be the leader in culture and language dominancy, the Viking invasion (ca. 8th Century AD) brought Northumbria's dominancy to an end, as well as the destruction of Mercia. Only Wessex survived as a kingdom separate to the Viking rule - brought about Ælfred the Great, who managed to defend and keep Wessex from becoming a part of Viking England, now Danelaw.

Old English had five grammatical cases - dative, genitive, accusative, nominative and instrumental - and allocated gender (feminine, masculine,