Language focus | 11.07.2009

History of English Part Two: Old English

We’ve previously seen how various Germanic tribes settled in what is now England and how, over time, their language started to take precedence. The Celtic languages remained in corners of the British Isles; in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall; but other than that, Old English was spoken – Old English being the name given to the dialects spoken by the Anglo-Saxons.

Old English was later influenced by Norse after the Vikings invaded. The influence was strongest in the North-East, where many features of local dialect still have Norse origins. Norse was also a Germanic language, but had evolved separately meaning it had a different grammatical structure. It is thought that interaction between these two languages led to a simplification of word structure.

Also during this period, monks and clerics were studying in Latin and many Latin words made their way into the language as a result of this.

The Old English period officially ended at the point of the Norman Conquest, when their language started having a great influence due to their status as rulers.

Old English was linguistically distinct from modern English and would be incredibly hard for a speaker of contemporary English to understand. Despite this, much of the English vocabulary still in use today derives from Old English, including many common words such as ‘be’, ‘strong’ and ‘water’.

Need help with a translation?
Get in touch with us

Whether you have a specific project you want to discuss, need a translation quote or simply want to discuss your requirements, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Get in Touch