Tag Archives: English language

Babble talk!

1 Jul

July 2010 

A fly on the wall could get a well-rounded education around our house.  If we aren’t hooked on a brainless show like American Idol or Pawn Stars, we can find ourselves doing something totally dorky like reading a book (together!) or getting involved in some type of really deep discussion.   Lately we have been talking a lot about the history of the English language, which is one of my main interests anyway, and something that J2 has become interested in as well.  (Wait!  Don’t leave! 😉 ) 

J2 finds it amazing that he can read a letter or text from 300 years ago and it sounds almost just like we speak today, but everything before that is almost like it is a different language.  However, language is really a social phenomenon.  It follows the development of land and exploration of the world.  As the world grew bigger to the settlers, our language evolved too.  

Way back when England was barely even a country (it was called Angle-land because it was inhabited primarily by tribes called Angles) the language was more germanic and tribal. It was Old English, and barely recognizable to us today.  The letters are different, the pronunciations are not the same, and to tell you the truth, even the different tribes could barely communicate with one another, which may be why they were so quarrelsome!  

Do you recognize this text? 

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;
Si þin nama gehalgod
to becume þin rice
gewurþe ðin willa
on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.
urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum
and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge
ac alys us of yfele soþlice

Later, when life moved into a more castle-like lifestyle, due to the influence of the Norman invasion in 1066, our language took on more French and Norman influence.  It became Middle English.  The influence of outside trade with other countries took effect also, and our language grew more mature.  But, with some of the Old English letters still mixed in, and many French words borrowed into the vocabulary, it still isn’t very recognizable to us today.  In fact they did not even pronounce their vowels the same way we pronounce ours today. 

What about this one? 

Oure fadir that art in heuenes,
halewid be thi name;
thi kyngdoom come to;
be thi wille don, in erthe as in heuene.
Yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce,
and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris;
and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel.

Still later, a movement called the Great Vowel Shift happened.  This was due to the breakdown of feudalism and the move from castle life to city life and the inter-mingling of people living among each other from many villages within cities, and heavy trading among these cities across a much more organized country.   Suddenly the vowels started sounding like we pronounce them today. And then the letters started looking like the ones we use today.  Even some of the letters started being differentiated so that a 26-letter alphabet was finally formed.  Sound familiar?  First it was Early Modern English, which is more familiar as it evolves into more familiar spelling over time, but still uncomfortable with its thees and thous.   

More familiar yet? 

O oure father which art in heven,
halowed be thy name.
Let thy kingdom come.
Thy wyll be fulfilled, as well in eth
as hit ys in heven.
Geve vs this daye our dayly breade,
And forgeve vs oure treaspases
euen as we forgeve them which treaspas vs.
Leede vs not into temptation,
but delyvre vs from yvell. Amen.

Later, once the country was fully realized, we evolved to Modern English, which is what we we’ve used for the past 300 years or so, even still today. 

Here it is! 

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.


As the globe became fully realized, our language became fully evolved. Language did not magically change over time, but changed as a result of societies forming more structured lifestyles and realizing the world around them.  As life became more organized, so did language.   

I hope you’ve enjoyed being a fly on the wall in our house this day! 


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