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Theoretical aspects of the history of the English language.

Theoretical aspects of the history of the English language. - раздел Лингвистика, ВВЕДЕНИЕ В СПЕЦФИЛОЛОГИЮ   Plan: 1. Subject And Aims Of The History Of The Engl...



1. Subject and aims of the history of the English language.

2. Inner and outer history of the language.



The history covers the main events in the development of the language. The main of them are internal and external. Internal events happened in phonetic level, grammatical level, and vocabulary. External events – these were the events happened in the history of English community.

The language can be studied from two angles:

Diachronically – means to study language in its development.

Synchronically – means to study the fixed present day state in the language.

Different scholars set up the main problems to solve during their investigation:

- To observe the changes

- To explain the changes

- To study the present day state

- To distinguish periods

- To find correlations between inner and outer history

There are some aims from the pragmatic point of view:

- Theoretical:

1) To study relationships between statics and dynamics.

2) To study the role of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors.

- Practical:

1) To explain the discrepancy between a letter and a sound of the English language because the pronunciation changes quicker than spelling. Many modern spellings show how the words were pronounced 400-500 years ago.

2) To supply the explanations both of regular features and peculiarities.

3) To solve all these problems of investigation to methods of it were discovered.

Method of:

comparative analysis

linguistic reconstruction



The outer history of the language is the history of people reflected in their language. The inner history of the language is the description of the changes of the language itself (grammar, phonetics, vocabulary, and spelling).


The Indo-European Family of Languages


It is well-known that the English language belongs to the Germanic subdivision of the Indo-European Family of Languages.



North Germanic – Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish, Gothlandic

Germanic – East Germanic - Gothic

West Germanic – High Germanic: Germanic, Yiddish // Low Germanic: English




At the beginning of A.D. Germanic tribes occupied vast territories in western, northern, and central Europe. The tribes and the dialects they spoke at the time were generally very much alike. But the degree of similarity varied. It’s common to speak about East Germanic (EG) group of dialects, mainly spoken in central Europe the dialects were: Gothic, Vandalic, Burgundian.

North Germanic: Old Danish, Old Swedish, Old Norwegian, Old Icelandic.

West Germanic: Angles, Saxons, Judes and others.


The principal EG language is Gothic. At the beginning of our era the Goths lived on their territory from Vistula to the shores of the Black Sea. The knowledge of Gothic came due to a translation of their Gospels and other parts of the New Testament made by Ufilas, a missionary who Christianized the gothic tribes. For a time te Goths played a prominent part in European history, making extensive conquests in Italy and Spain. In these districts their language soon gave place to Latin. Gothic survived longest in Crimea.

North Germanic is found in Scandinavia and Denmark. Runic inscriptions from the 3rd century preserve the earliest traces of the language. From about 11th century the Scandinavian languages fall into 2 groups:

- An Eastern group (Swedish and Danish)

- A Western group (Norwegian and Icelandic)

Of early Scandinavian languages Old Icelandic is the most important. Iceland was colonized by settlers from Norway about 874 A.D.


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