Clio Edition 4 - page 33

33
E
nglish today is one of the most widespread and important
languages in the world with an estimated 1.5 billion total
speakers worldwide. It serves a role as an international
common language, being the official language of the UN, EU
and many other major organisations. English can be found
all over the world, in use in all areas of life, and with near
unlimited reach and scope. However, this was not always
the case. Only through a remarkable history of resilience,
adaptation and absorption has English managed to spread
beyond our tiny isle and into use as the global language of the
modern age.
The origins of English can be traced back to the 5th century
AD with the invasion of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes
from Europe, who spoke similar Germanic languages and
Part of the poem
Beowulf on a page
from the Nowell
Codex written in
the11th century.
subsequently put in place
the foundations of Old
English. The invading tribes
drove out the native Celts
to the remote areas of the
island and the new language
soon became dominant.
The next major step in the
evolution of the language
occurred in the 6th century,
when Pope Gregory sent
missionaries to reconvert
the British to Christianity,
which had been replaced
by polytheism after the
fall of the Roman Empire.
These missionaries replaced
the previously used rune
system and incorporated
the Latin alphabet into the
language, marking the birth
of written English. Over
the following centuries the
language split into 4 major
dialects: Northumbrian,
West Saxon, Kentish and
Mercian.
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