The Old English language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons

The British Council held an English Effect exhibition to chronicle the development of the English language. Some of the words which had their origins exposed included the words ‘booze’ and ‘dollar’. The word ‘dollar’ originated from Germany in 1519. It was a shortened version of the word Joachimstaler, which was the first coin that was minted in Joachimsthal. The word ‘dollar’ has become quite popular due to its association with America’s economic growth. The English language borrowed many words from other languages around the world. These are mainly languages that it came into contact with through trade, colonialism and slavery. Arabic words were picked up during Medieval times, while words for drinks and food were picked up during the Vikings era.

Old English was used by the Anglo-Saxons in various areas in Scotland and England, mainly between the 5th and 12th century. Old English is classified as a West Germanic language. Some of the languages that it is close to include Old Saxon and Old Frisian. Old English is considered to be more similar to Germany and Icelandic in comparison to similarities with modern English. This means that modern English speakers may have a hard time understanding Old English, even though half the words used in modern English were derived from Old English. Its grammar system is almost similar to Classical Latin. Old English had 4 main dialects. These included the Northumbrian, West Saxon, Kentish and Mercian dialects. There were variations in these dialects. Each dialect was spoken within a certain region and represented 4 independent kingdoms that existed at that time. Runes was the first writing system used in Old English. This was later changed to half-uncial script and later on the Latin script was introduced by Christian missionaries.

It took time for Old English to develop. It did not just suddenly emerge. The language was created by mixing various languages and dialects. The history of Old English is divided into various stages. Old English was preceded by early Old English and late Old English. It was followed by the middle Old English period. Old English came to an end during 1066 after the Norman conquest.

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