A TO Z Literary Principles from History of English Literature: Note 89


A Set of 26 Objective Questions & Answers


Turning Points in English Language: Old English (AD 450-1100)
A. English Language can be developed through these phrases: Old English (AD 450-1100), Middle English (1100-1500), and Modern English (1500- until now). 

B. Indo-European family has sub-groups called Italic and Germanic. Germanic is also known as Teutonic. Latin and French developed from Italic at different times. The Germanic group has three branches namely North Germanic, East Germanic, and West Germanic.

C. English came to England only at about the middle of the 5th century, whereas men had inhabited Britain for thousands of years before then.  Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)    

D. The first people known to have inhabited the island that was later to become England were the Celts and they spoke ‘Celtic’. Celtic remained the predominant language of England until the occupation of the Romans when Latin was introduced.

E. The impact of Celtic on modern English   survived mainly on place-names. Names of cities like Belfast, York, London, Glasgow or Cardiff are Celtic. Names of rivers such as Avon, Clyde, Dee, Don, Forth or Usk also have the Celtic origin. Others are names of regions like Devon, Glasmorgan, Kent, Cumbria, and Argyll. The Celtic ‘cumb’ (i.e. a deep valley) is traceable in names like Dumcombe, Holcomb or Winchcombe. What the original Celtic meaning for these place names are cannot be said for sure. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

F. The Romans under Julius Caesar first invaded Britain in 55B.C, but the actual conquest was in AD 43 under Claudius when the Celtic warriors could no longer resist the much stronger Roman army.

G. The Roman occupation of Britain lasted from about AD 43 until 410. The Romans occupied Britain for more than 300 years.   Latin “casta” (camp) have some English place-names like Chester, Dorchester, Manchester and Lancaster. The Latin ‘portus’ (gate) gave English the following names: Newport, Port sea, Portsmouth; from Latin ‘mons’ (mountain) we have Larchmont, and Oakmont, while the Latin ‘turris’ (tower) gave rise to Torrington, Torbridge. So you can see that Latin contributed to the development of English. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

H. The Germanic tribes that invaded Britain at the close of the 6th century: the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. The Germanic warriors - the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes came in great numbers and at different times. The Germanic tribes had a lot of things in common: they were seminomadic (they moved from place to place) warlike, sea-faring but land Loving. The Angles and the Saxons were more in number than the Jutes, and were also more persistent. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)

I. During the seventh century the Latin name for the country was Angli or Anglia. This became “Engle” in Old English, while the name of the language was called “Englisc”. It was around the 10th century that the word“Englaland” or “Aegle-land”, (land of the Angles) appeared; this later became England.

J. The grammar of the Old English took after the Latin grammar. 1. Old English words are full of inflections   (affixes )  . That is why the Old English period is sometimes called the period of full inflection, because during this period, the endings of nouns, adjectives and verbs had inflections. 2. Old English vocabulary is almost entirely lifted from the Germanic languages.

Below is a sample from a West-Saxon version of the gospel, Saint John Chapter 1:1-3

Old English:“On frymthe waes Word, and thaet Word waes mid Gode and God waes thaet Word. That waes on fruman mid Gode. Ealle thing waeron geworhte thurh hyre; and nan thing naes geworht butan him.” Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

Modern English: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.

K. One of the first works of Literature in the Old English language is called “Beowulf.”

The author is one of the earliest converts (early Christian education received) who were educated in classical literature.  Another product of this early Christian education is a man by name

Bede - Venerable Bede. Bede, educated at the University of Warmouth, authored the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation; written in Latin.

L. Old English LATINIZED Words relating to religion were borrowed at the time of Christian evolution: canon, alms, chalice, altar, angel, anthem,epistle, hymn, litany, cleric, martyr, nun, minister, organ, pope, priest,psalm, provost, shift, shrine, deacon, synod, temple, noon, ark, candle etc. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)

Domestic life: cap, sock, silk, mat, sack, purple; words denoting food or food items such as

beef, cabbage, lentil, millet, pear, oyster, lobster, mussel were alsoadopted from religion.

Education: school, Latin, master, grammatic, verse, meter, rotary etc.

Names of trees, plant and herbs: lily, pine aloes, balsam, fennel, hyssop, mallow, myrrh and the general word “plant’.

M. The Danes from Denmark (Also called the Vikings) or largely Vikings invaded from Scandinavian region (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) to the neighbours Anglo-Saxons started from the 8th century and continued to the beginning of the 11th century. By the time

Vikings became permanent settlers in England and gradually got absorbed in the native population and accepted the Anglo-Saxon religion and language. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)

Scandinavian Words: Grimsby, Wgitby, Derby, Rugby, Thoresby etc. Some 300 names end

with – pe. As in Althorp, Bishopsthorpe, Gawthorpe, etc. The Scandinavian ‘thrope’ means village. Some others contain the word ‘thwaite’ meaning ‘an isolated piece of land”. They include Applethwaite, Braithwaite, Cowperthwaite etc. About a hundred names bear the ending ‘toft’ (a piece of ground) e.g. Brimtoft, Eastoft Langtoft, Nortoft etc. Personal names ending with the suffix ‘son’ are also of Scandinavian origin e.g. Gibson, Jackson, Johnson, Watson, Wilson etc. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

Some common place nouns : bank, birth, bull, dirt, down, dregs, egg, fellow, gap, guess, kid, leg, loan, mire, root, scales, score, seat, sister, skin, sky, slaughter, thrift, tidings, trust etc. among adjectives we have awkward, flat, ill, brose, low, meek, rotten, rugged, tight, and weak. There are also some number of verbs, such as grave, call, crawl, die, gape, get, give, lift, nag, raise, scare,

take, thrive

N. The Normans were made up of the Danes and other settlers from Northern Europe that occupied Normandy ( a district on the Northern coast of France) in the 9th and 10th centuries. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)

O. The civilization of Normandy was essentially French, and the Normans were among the most progressive and advanced of the people of Europe at this time. William of Normandy was crowned king of England on the 25th December 1066 at the battle of Hastings. Following William of Normandy’s ascension of the English throne, French strictly became the language of government.

P. From 1204 a different political and economic climate emerged. King John of England lost his control of Normandy, because of a conflict he had with king Philip of France. Consequently the English nobility lost their estates in France and enmity grew between England and France. This led to about a hundred year war (1337-1453).

Aditional notes:

Q. Angles (Latin Angli), Germanic tribe that occupied the region still called Angeln in what is now the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

R. The earliest mention of the Saxons is by the Alexandrian mathematician and geographer Ptolemy in the 2nd century ad, at which time they appear to have dwelt in the south Jutland Peninsula in the north of what is now Germany.

S. Jutes were the inhabitants of Jutland which is, in physical geography, peninsula in northern Europe, extending northward from the Eider River, and bounded on the north by the Skagerrak strait, on the east by the Kattegat strait and the Lillebælt channel, and on the west by the North Sea. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

T. The four major dialects recognized in Old English are Kentish, originally the dialect spoken by the Jutes; West Saxon, a branch of the dialect spoken by the Saxons; and Northumbrian  and Mercian,   subdivisions of the dialects spoken by the Angles.

U. The name Britain comes from the Latin name Britannia, which the ancient Romans applied to the island.

V. Early Norman literature: Geoffrey Gaimar (fl. about 1099-1140), an Anglo-Norman poet and historiographer, wrote Estorie des Engles (History of the English), narrating the heroic achievements of the Anglo-Normans. Wace, another 12th-century Anglo-Norman chronicler, wrote Roman de brut, or La geste des bretons (Heroic Achievements of the Bretons). From 1160 to 1174, Wace produced La geste des normands (Heroic Achievements of the Normans), also called Roman de rou, comprising 17,000 decasyllabic and octosyllabic lines.

W. Early Norman literature:  Cumpoz (an ecclesiastical calendar) and Bestiaire of the Norman poet Philippe de Thaon or Thaün; the laws of William I the Conqueror; versions of the romances, including the Chanson de Roland (Song of Roland); and the Chançun de Guillelme (Song of William), which probably belongs to the end of the 11th century.Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)

X. Late Norman literature: Fantosme, who wrote a chronicle of the invasions of the Scots in 1173-74; Angier, author of a life of St. Gregory the Great; and Guillaume de Berneville, who wrote a life of St. Gilles. The English martyr Saint Thomas à Becket, the legendary English knight Bevis of Hampton (Boeve de Haumtone), St. Auban, and others are the subjects of anonymous poems. Also of interest are versions of the Pèlerinage de Charlemagne (Pilgrimage of Charlemagne), and the mystery play of Adam, as well as a Fabliau du Héron. Contes moralisées (Moral Tales) by the Anglo-Norman author Nicole Bozon and versions of biblical legends. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

Y. Proto-Indo-European seems to have been highly inflected, as are ancient languages such as Sanskrit, Avestan, and classical Greek; in contrast, comparatively modern languages, such as English, French, and Persian, have moved toward an analytic system using prepositional phrases and auxiliary verbs. Read More A to Z (Objective Questions)     

Z. For the English language, the greatest source of Etymological information is the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (reprinted as the Oxford English Dictionary, 13 volumes, 1933), which illustrates the development of words by quotations that demonstrate their earliest use in various senses.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert     

2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature


4. Baugh, A.C and Cable T (2001). A History of the English Language. 5th ed. London: Routledge


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