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Lecture 1 – The subject of the history of the English language

HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

 

1. The subject of History of the English.

2. The connection of History of English with other disciplines.

3. Intra and extralinguistic factors in the development of languages.

4. Diachronic and synchronic approaches to the study of language History.

5. Main method of studying the History of the English language.

6. Sources of language History.

7. Periodization of the History of the English language.

1. History of the English is a discipline, studying the origins, the phonetic system, grammatical structure and vocabulary of the English language at different stages of its development.

The purpose of history of the English is a systematic study of the language’s development from the earliest times to the present day. It enables the student to acquire a more profound understanding of the language of today. Besides, history of English is an important subsidiary discipline for history of England and of English literature.

2. History of the English language is connected with the other disciplines. It is based on the History of England, studying the development of the language in connection with the concrete conditions in which the English people lived in the several periods of their history. It is also connected with theoretical phonetics, theoretical grammar, and lexicology. It shows phonetic, grammatical, and lexical phenomena as they developed, and states the origins of the present day system.

3. In studying the history of a language we are faced with a number of problems concerning the forces or causes of changes in the language. These causes can be of two kinds: external and internal. In the first case, language is influenced by factors lying outside it, or extralinguistic factors (such historic events as social changes, wars, conquests, migrations, cultural contacts). On other hand, internal causes or intralinguisticcan be reason of changes within the language itself, its phonetics, grammar, etc.

4. There are two aspects of the study of the historical development of the language: synchronic and diachronic. When language is studied synchronically a certain period in history is taken – fixed time boundaries – (horizontal study), each level of language is studied (phonetics, grammar, vocabulary) with different functional varieties (dialects). When language is studied diachronically all periods in history are taken (vertical study), only one level of a language is studied with one functional variety (phonetics or grammar or lexicon) with only one functional variety (e.g. Standard English).



These two types of studying a language are closely interconnected and create a full picture of the development of a language.

5. The study of the history of any language is based on applying general principles of linguistics to the language. The basic method applied to the study of language history is comparative-historical. It enables us to study various phenomena of the language development from the point of view of evolution and in comparison with the phenomena of other languages. It can also be applied to determine which languages are related within families.

6. Every living language changes through time. The History of the English language has been reconstructed on the basis of written records of different periods. The earliest extant written texts in English are dated in the 7th c, the earliest records in other Germanic Languages go back to the 3rd or 4th c. A.D.

Certain information about the early stages of English and Germanic history is to be found in the works of ancient historians and geographers, especially Roman. They contain descriptions of Germanic tribes, personal names and place names. Some data are also provided by early borrowings from Germanic made by other languages. But the bulk of our knowledge comes from scientific study of extant texts.

7. The English language has a long and eventful history. Its development began in the 5th century of our era, when groups of West Germanic tribes settled in the British Isles.

Scholars have divided the history of English into three main periods:

1. Old English – (5th - end of the 11th)

2. Middle English – (12th - 15th)

3. Modern English – (15th till modern days)

Henry Sweet characterized OE as the period of full endings. It means that any vowel could be placed in an unstressed position: sunu. ME was called the period of leveling of endings. Any vowel in an unstressed position is reduced to neutral e: sone. MnE is a period of lost endings: son.

 

Lecture Glossary:

Apply – [ə'plaɪ] – применять, использовать

Bulk – [bʌlk] – основная масса, большая часть

Conquest – ['kɔŋkwest] – завоевание

Description – [dɪ'skrɪpʃ(ə)n] – описание

Discipline – ['dɪsəplɪn] – дисциплина (отрасль знания)

Extant – [ek'stænt] – сохранившийся, дошедший до наших дней

External – [ɪk'stɜːn(ə)l] – внешний, наружный

Internal – [ɪn'tɜːn(ə)l] – внутренний

Origin – ['ɔrɪʤɪn] – начало, источник, происхождение (syn. source)

Record – ['rekɔːd] – запись, исторический документ (written record)

Subsidiary – [səb'sɪdɪ(ə)rɪ] – второстепенный, вспомогательный

Time boundaries – временные рамки

To concern – [kən'sɜːn] – касаться, затрагивать, иметь отношение

To determine – [dɪ'tɜːmɪn] – определять, устанавливать

To influence – ['ɪnfluən(t)s] – оказывать влияние, воздействовать

Tribe – [traɪb] – племя

Variety – [və'raɪətɪ] – многообразие, разнообразие

Glossary of Terms:

Borrowing – ['bɔrəuɪŋ] – заимствование (syn. loan-word)

Diachronic – [ˌdʌɪəˈkrɒnɪk] – диахронический

Ending – ['endɪŋ] – окончание

Synchronic – [sɪŋˈkrɒnɪk] – синхронический

To reduce – [rɪ'djuːs] – сокращать, уменьшать; ослаблять, ослабевать (о звуке, фонеме)

Unstressed – [ʌn'strest] – безударный (звук, слог) (ant. stressed)

Vocabulary – [və'kæbjul(ə)rɪ] – лексика, словарный запас

Vowel – ['vauəl] – гласный звук

Questions for discussion:

1. What is the History of the English language as a discipline?

2. How is the History of the English language connected with the History of England? What other disciplines are connected with the History of the English language?

3. What is the difference between intralinguistic and extralinguistic factors? Give the examples.

4. What is the difference between synchronic and diachronic levels of studying the historical development of the language?

5. What is the main method applied to the study of language evolution? Why is it so called?

6. What are the sources of the History of the English language? What is the date of the first extant written records in English?

7. How many periods are in the History of the English language? Name them with the dates. How did Henry Sweet characterize these periods?

 

Find out: What is phonetics? What is grammar? What is lexicology? Who is Henry Sweet?

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