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история языка / OE Main Historical events.doc
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Verner’s Law or the second consonant shift (1875)

Certain apparent exceptions to Grimm’s Law were subsequently explained by the Danish linguist Karl Verner (1846-1896) and others. It was noted that between such a pair of words as Latin centum and English hundred the correspondence between the c and h was according to rule, but that between the t and d was not. The d in the English word should have been a voiceless fricative, that is, a þ. In 1875 Verner showed that when the Indo-European accent was not on the vowel immediately preceding, such voiceless fricatives became voiced in Germanic. In West Germanic the resulting ð became a d, and the word hundred is therefore quite regular in its correspondence with centum [baugh].

PIE f > Gmc v

PIE th > Gmc d

PIE k > Gmc g

PIE s > Gmc z > r in North and West Germanic) = rotacizm

  1. Periods in the History of English.

Traditionally the history of the English language is divided into 3 major periods:

Old English (Anglo-Saxon) (5 c.-1066) = the period of full inflexions;

Middle English (1066 – 1485) = of levelled inflexions;

Modern English (1485 - ...) = of lost inflexions.

The usual division into 3 major periods was first proposed by an English philologist, phonetician and grammarian, Henry Sweet, in a lecture on the history of sounds to the Philological society in 1873.

The reasons for this division are as much political as linguistic. Norman Conquest of 1066 introduced new settlers who spoke a variety of Old French and thus changed the nature of English. Middle English differs from Early Modern English, and the transition from one to the other is traditionally dated at 1485 when the Tudors replaced the Yorkists after the Battle of Bosworth. Both 1066 and 1485 are political dates [Blake N. F. pg. 4-6].

  1. The earliest inhabitants of the British Isles.

The earliest inhabitants of the British Isles, whose language we can reconstruct, were Celtic speakers. The Celts spoke languages that were part of the Celtic branch of Indo-European family. The Celts had been living in England until being invaded by the Romans in 43 AD and Latin never overtook the Celtic language.

In the summer of 55 B.C.Julius Caesar, having completed the conquest of Gaul (modern France, Belgium, the southern Netherlands, southwestern Germany, and northern Italy), decided upon an invasion of England. It was in A.D. 43 that the Emperor Claudius decided to undertake the actual conquest of the island. Subsequent campaigns soon brought almost all of what is now England under Roman rule. It was inevitable that the military conquest of Britain should have been followed by the Romanization of the province. Where the Romans lived and ruled, there Roman ways were found [cable]. Latin became the language of the military and the aristocracy in Roman Britain, where it dominated for approximately 400 years.

By the beginning of the fifth century the Roman Empire was under increasing pressure from advancing barbarians, and the Roman garrisons in Britain were being depleted as troops were withdrawn to face threats closer to home. In A.D. 410, the same year in which the Visigoths entered and sacked Rome, the last of the Roman troops were withdrawn and the Britons had to defend themselves. Facing hostile Picts and Scots in the north and Germanic raiders in the east, the Britons decided to hire one enemy to fight the other: they engaged Germanic mercenaries to fight the Picts and Scots.

It was during the reign of roman emperor Martian that the newly-hired mercenaries arrived. These were from three Germanic nations situated near the northern coasts of Europe: the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. According to the early medieval historian the Venerable Bede, the mercenaries succeeded quickly in defeating the Picts and Scots and then sent word to their homes of the fertility of the island and the cowardice of the Britons. They soon found a pretext to break with their employers, made an alliance with the Picts, and began to conquer the territory that would eventually be known as England—a slow-moving conquest that would take more than a century.

About the year 449 AD an event occurred that profoundly affected the course of history. In that year, as traditionally stated, began the invasion of Britain by certain Germanic tribes, the founders of the English nation. The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain mustn’t be thought of as the arrival of a unified invading army, but rather as the arrival and penetration of various uncoordinated bands of adventurers in different parts of the country, beginning in the mid 5th c. and going on all through the 6th c. the struggle with the Romano-Celtic population was a long one. We know little about this struggle. But by about 700, the Anglo-Saxons had occupied most of England and a considerable part of southern Scotland (the exceptions being Cornwall and an area in the North West). Wales remained a British stronghold [barber].

The language of Anglo-Saxons became the dominant one. The failure of Celtic to influence OE doesn’t mean that the Britons were all killed or driven out. The Britons were a defeated people whose language had no prestige compared with that of the conquerors.

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