Where did the English language come from, and why do we mostly speak English in the UK and the USA? I can’t answer the last question, but here is a brief summary of how English evolved from an unknown group of speakers living somewhere unspecified over 15,000 years ago.
Around 14-15,000 years ago, their language evolved into three: distinct versions: New Guinea; Sino-Tibetan (which gave rise to Chinese), and Nostratic. Nostratic carried on evolving in different regions and, about 10,000 years ago, became what have been termed Afro-Asiatic (Hebrew and Arabic), Dravidian, and Eurasiatic.
Fast (?) forward around another 5,000 years and we have Eurasiatic dividing into Altaic, Uralic (the source of the Hungarian language), and Indo-European.
From the first millennium BC, Indo-European evolved into the prime source of many of the languages we now recognise: Indo-Iranian, Hellenic (Greek), Italic (e.g. French), Celtic (e.g. Welsh), Balto-Slavic, and Germanic.
Still with me?
From Germanic, in around 450 – 1100 AD, we get German, Dutch and Anglo-Saxon. And from Anglo-Saxon (also known as Old English e.g. Beowulf) we gallop (?) through the changes:
Middle English (1100 – 1450), e.g. Chaucer.
Early Modern English (1450 – 1700) e.g. Shakespeare.
Modern English from 1700.
Language is still changing and we speak and write differently today from our ‘modern’ eighteenth century ancestors. However, we do not have much problem understanding what they wrote. It might be different the other way round, though. If some of them were tele-ported into 2018, what would they make of our text speak, computer terms used in everyday language, acronyms, office jargon and emoticons? Also our seeming preference to communicate via gadgets rather than directly?
Are we heading into the post-modern English era? Discuss!
Links to my books