Sergei Mikhailovich Mezenin a history of English

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Sergei Mikhailovich Mezenin

A History of English


Introduction. Why Study the History of the English Language? 2


Chapter 1. The Origin of the English Language 3

1. English among Other Languages of the World. The Germanic Languages 3

2. Beginnings of English 9

3. Periods of the History of the English Language 12

4. Old English Literary Documents 14

Chapter 2. The Phonetic Structure and Spelling in the Old English Language 16

1. The Phonetic Structure of Old English 16

2. Ablaut 17

3. Phonetic Changes of the Old English Period 18

4. Old English Spelling 20

Chapter 3. Lexicon and Word-building in the Old English Language 22

1. Classification of the Old English Lexicon 22

2. Indo-European Vocabulary in the Old English Language 23

3. Words of the Germanic Vocabulary and Specific Old English Words 23

4. Borrowed Words 24

5. Word-building. Derivative Words . 26

Chapter 4. Grammar of the Old English Language 29

1. Grammatical Structure of the Old English Language 29

2. Noun 30

3. Adjective 35

4. Pronoun 36

5. Verb 38

6. Adverb 45

Chapter 5. Old English Dialects 48

1. General Information about the Old English Dialects. 48

2. The Wessex Dialect 48

3. The Northumbrian Dialect. 49

4. The Mercian Dialect. 49

5. The Kentish Dialect 49


Introduction. The Medieval Period in the History of the English Language 50

Chapter 1. Phonetic Structure and Spelling in the Middle English Language 52

1. Changes in the System of Vowel Monophthongs in Middle English 52

2. Changes in Diphthongs 54

3. Changes in the System of Consonants 55

Meaning of Letters in the Middle English Language 57

Meanings of Letter Combinations in the Middle English Language 58

Chapter 2. Middle English Lexicon and Word-Building 60

1. Words of the Scandinavian Origin 60

2. Words of French Origin 61

3. Development of Original Words 63

4. Word-Building. Derivative and Complex Words 63

Chapter 3. Middle English Grammar 67

1. General Features of the Development of Middle English Grammar. 67

2. Noun. Development of Articles. 67

3. Middle English Adjective 69

4. Middle English Pronoun 70

5. Middle English Verb 71

6. Middle English Adverb 72

7. Numerals in Middle English 72

8. Middle English Syntax 73

Chapter 4. Middle English Dialects 75

1. Northern Dialects 75

2. The Central Dialects 75

3. The Southern Dialects 75

4. The London Dialect and The Rise of the National English Language 76



1. The Wars of the Roses 77

2. The Great Invention of Guttenberg 77

3. The Functional Universality of New English 78

4. Expansion of English 79

Chapter 2. Phonetic Changes in the New English Language 80

1. Changes in the System of Vowels 80

2. Changes in the System of Consonants 84

Chapter 3. New English Grammar 89

1. Changes in Morphology: Noun 89

2. Changes in Morphology: Personal Pronoun 89

3. Changes in Morphology: Verb 90

4. Changes in Morphology: Adjective 92

History of Word Order 93

Chapter 4. Enrichment of Lexicon in the New English Period. 95

1. Development of the Original Vocabulary. 95

2. Borrowings from French 97

3. Borrowings from Latin 97

4. Borrowings from Greek 98

5. Borrowings from Italian 99

6. Borrowings from Spanish 100

7. Borrowings from Arab 100

8. Borrowings from German 101

9. Borrowings from Russian 102

10. Borrowings from Dutch 102

11. Borrowings from Turkish 103

12. Words from the Languages of American Indians and Other Borrowings 104


Introduction. Why Study the History of the English Language?

Languages, like nations, have their own history. Studying the rise and growth of the language is no less exciting than studying the world history. But the university curriculum includes the History of the English language not only with the purpose of satisfying our curiosity; if you are going to become a translator, a linguist, a language teacher - in a word you study English professionally - you cannot do without firm and regular knowledge in this subject, because one cannot explain the structure and peculiarities of the contemporary English language without knowing the main lines of its centuries-old development.

Every student of English knows what extreme difficulties one has to face while mastering the English spelling. According to the popular proverb, they write in English ‘Manchester’ but read ‘Liverpool’. How can it be explained that one and the same sound, like for example [i:], is denoted in different ways in the words ‘mete’, ‘meat’, ‘meet’? Why does the same combination of letters designate different sounds as in the words ‘trouble’, ‘south’, ‘bouquet’? Why are there six letters in the word ‘knight’ while only three sounds are pronounced: [n] - [ai] - [t]? You will be able to answer all these questions when you get acquainted with the history of the English language.

One should not think , though, than the course of the history of English pursues only a pragmatic aim. While doing this subject you will learn how the language develops and enriches itself, how it accumulates means for subtle semantic distinctions, how it absorbs and assimilates elements from other languages. Studying the history of English will help you understand how the language lives and grows, it will help you form your own linguistic outlook.

The History of the English language is closely connected with the life of the people who use it - the English nation, and - later - other English speaking nations. That is why when we discuss this or that linguistic phenomenon we should keep in mind the social and historic situation in which the language rises and develops.

Studying the history of the English language will help you master deeply such special linguistic disciplines as phonetics, lexicology and grammar of modern English. In the course of the history of English you will get acquainted with the most interesting monuments of English literature - the epic poem “Beowulf”, works by G.Chaucer and William Shakespeare, early English versions of the Holy Bible.

Knowledge in the history of the English language will be helpful to you when you begin to learn another foreign language - German or French.

The students who are going to learn German will find many parallels in the English and German lexicon. It is natural, as English and German are close relatives, both the languages belonging to the same West Germanic subgroup of the Germanic group of the Indo-European family of languages.

The students who are going to study French will also find out that many words in the

English and French lexicon are similar. This fact may be explained by the powerful influence of French which the English language was subjected to in the 11th - 12th centuries.

In this course there will be outlines of the Old, Middle and New periods in the history of the English language, you will read and translate texts belonging to different periods and dialects.

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