Where did English come from? – Claire Bowern


When we talk about English,
we often think of it as a single language but what do the dialects spoken
in dozens of countries around the world have in common with each other, or with the writings of Chaucer? And how are any of them related
to the strange words in Beowulf? The answer is that like most languages, English has evolved
through generations of speakers, undergoing major changes over time. By undoing these changes, we can trace the language
from the present day back to its ancient roots. While modern English
shares many similar words with Latin-derived romance languages, like French and Spanish, most of those words
were not originally part of it. Instead, they started coming
into the language with the Norman invasion
of England in 1066. When the French-speaking Normans
conquered England and became its ruling class, they brought their speech with them, adding a massive amount
of French and Latin vocabulary to the English language
previously spoken there. Today, we call that language Old English. This is the language of Beowulf. It probably doesn’t look very familiar, but it might be more recognizable
if you know some German. That’s because Old English
belongs to the Germanic language family, first brought to the British Isles
in the 5th and 6th centuries by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The Germanic dialects they spoke would
become known as Anglo-Saxon. Viking invaders in the 8th
to 11th centuries added more borrowings
from Old Norse into the mix. It may be hard to see the roots
of modern English underneath all the words borrowed from French, Latin, Old Norse
and other languages. But comparative linguistics can help us
by focusing on grammatical structure, patterns of sound changes, and certain core vocabulary. For example, after the 6th century, German words starting with “p,”
systematically shifted to a “pf” sound while their Old English counterparts
kept the “p” unchanged. In another split, words
that have “sk” sounds in Swedish developed an “sh” sound in English. There are still some English
words with “sk,” like “skirt,” and “skull,” but they’re direct borrowings
from Old Norse that came after the “sk” to “sh” shift. These examples show us that just as the various Romance languages
descended from Latin, English, Swedish, German,
and many other languages descended from their own common ancestor
known as Proto-Germanic spoken around 500 B.C.E. Because this historical language
was never written down, we can only reconstruct it
by comparing its descendants, which is possible thanks
to the consistency of the changes. We can even use the same process
to go back one step further, and trace the origins of Proto-Germanic
to a language called Proto-Indo-European, spoken about 6000 years ago on the Pontic steppe
in modern day Ukraine and Russia. This is the reconstructed ancestor
of the Indo-European family that includes nearly all languages
historically spoken in Europe, as well as large parts of Southern
and Western Asia. And though it requires a bit more work, we can find the same systematic
similarities, or correspondences, between related words in different
Indo-European branches. Comparing English with Latin, we see that English has “t”
where Latin has “d”, and “f” where latin has “p”
at the start of words. Some of English’s more distant relatives
include Hindi, Persian and the Celtic languages it displaced
in what is now Britain. Proto-Indo-European itself descended
from an even more ancient language, but unfortunately, this is as far back
as historical and archeological evidence will allow us to go. Many mysteries remain just out of reach, such as whether there might be a link
between Indo-European and other major language families, and the nature of the languages spoken
in Europe prior to its arrival. But the amazing fact remains that nearly
3 billion people around the world, many of whom cannot understand each other, are nevertheless speaking the same words
shaped by 6000 years of history.

100 Replies to “Where did English come from? – Claire Bowern

  1. Bull 💩. English was 1st spoken in Soho in a little pub called Viking Horn & Balls. The 👑 arrived one night out of the blue for a quick 🍺. The 👑 instantly fell in love with this jolly lot😁😀🤣😄 and their strange language. After many more 🍻🍻🍻🍻🍻🍻he was carried out and put on his🐎. Sitting on his 🐎he declared that new language he heard in the pub that night will be the lingua franca of all of England and will be called English .
    All those present that night in the Viking Horn & Balls were elevated to the title of Lord. These Lords spent their days 🍻🍻🍻🍻🍻🍻 in a place called The House Of Lords .
    This story was told to me by my uncle Ernie.

  2. Years ago I was in Berlin and I was lonely so ended up seeking out a lady of the night, we went back to her flat and spent an hour doing everything imaginable…when we finished I got dressed and was halfway out of the door she said "hey, what about the marks?"
    I said "ten out of ten"

  3. English came from mesoamerica, with the feathered serpent or satan as you might know him.

    He migrated into Ireland and created the myths of Cuchuilain, setanta and his father Lugh.

    Hence kukulkan, satan and lucifer.

    Aztec is A – Z of tech, or technology.

  4. 完全瞎扯蛋….. 按这个视频里说的, 这些语言6000年前都是同一种语言… 这怎么可能.. 6000年前, 人类的语言肯定是有更多的多样性的. 不可能是同一种语言…….
    这种视频,就是在瞎扯蛋…. 俗话说10里改规矩, 语言更是邻近的村子都可能听不懂…怎么可能6000年前是同一种语言,我相信稍微有点生活经验就知道,这视频是在想当然, 相当于胡扯

  5. Long live Julius Gaius Caesar. Without the Romans English would have been just a poor dialect. Now English is a very rich and beautiful language easy to learn.

  6. Logic can never give you the answer, remember that God scarterd the languages of the people, Tower of Babel,,, Hebrews, is were it all began

  7. It has been my dream to be able to speak and understand every language in the world! I love learning how language evolved to form the languages spoken today

  8. All languages arose originally from Babel and have devolved over time. Originally there was one single language that came off the ark with Noah and his family around 6000 years ago.

  9. The Northern hemisphere has always been dominated and mixed up, the specific thing is the English language is only 50% Northern and 50% middle Eastern.

  10. 80% of the English is just barbarised Greek. The rest it doesn't even matter.
    However the English language despite the fact historical and cultural circumstances made it the most popular language it is destine to disappear as it is a language which looks somebody put together in a hurry. Not an ideal vehicle for high thinking or communication.

  11. Origin of germanic languages is praslavic language. Polish and croatian is most similar to the praslavic language. Learn people history, not propaganda.

  12. Sanskrit is the mother of all languages. The Hindus also invented numbers and most maths long, long before the Greeks and Chinese- who studied old Hindu math poems.

  13. The video is good except of the indoeuropean chapter. The indoeuropean (IE ) language theory is just a myth! There are not archeological evidences of the existence of the indoeuropeans. We have not found any archaeological sites about them. And despite this the IE theory started from British governmental employees in India, in order to justify the linguistic similarities between the Indian, Persian and the rest European Languages like the Greek and the Latin. In the other hand the German Scholars of the 17th-18th century called that theory IndoGerman…..so as can be seen even the name of the theory is not sth steady and stable…..But the biggesst mistake in the theory is that there are not any archeological finds about IE and also they are comparing languages that they are completely anachronistic in the time/centuries….Of course the truth and the reality is that there are really similarities in the ancient languages of Europe up to the area of Iran/Persia and India. But those similarities not caused from the legendary and fairytailed IE language. There is another ancient language very rich with very deep time existence in history that has affected all the languages of that greater area!!

  14. It's amazing how even with Bulgarian, which is totally different east European language you can feel the common roots:

    day – den, small – malak, beer – bira, sister – sestra, lie – leja, lie – laja.

    I believe we all people on the planet speak the same language. They are just tremendous forms of dialects due to the distance and the past years.

  15. if the whole world spoke spanish and mandarin at one time than how can you facts be true ,? only explanation is all languages came from spanish and mandarin, hebrew languages.

  16. its called Greek my friend. This is the mother language. The only word you said is Father = Pater in Greek from Homer and before . And just for fun you say Kiss and Homer said Kisso . According to linguists English has 140.000 words and 50.000 of them are Greek. And Latin are all clearly Greek. Many Kisses and stop the bs theories with IndoEuropean… no proof after 70 years of trying and there will never be. Just show us one… not two but one solid proof of what you are saying about IE.

  17. Don`t forget the Danish (Jutish) tongue. It has been influential. After all Danish kings ruled England (Knud, Svend). The Danes settled in the 9th century A.D. (Dane lage or lagh, i.d. law, and Dane geld). Many, many English words (like horse among others) originate from this language. 🇩🇰🇬🇧

  18. You forgot to mention that Greek is the oldest written Indo-European language: "It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_language

  19. Top secret and not allowed to be known. Early groups who came to England took words with them, those words are Slavic ( Sorbs , means Serbian, that is West Slavic group I think). There are many names for them like Sorbian and Wendish people, Sorbs, Serbs, Lusatian Sorbs, they live now in Germany. But are not Germans. How can I explain this? Take word sister, that is in Serbian language in Serbia sestra, brother is brat, water is voda, stone is stena, snow is sneg and other words. Regards from the Netherlands, see you next year with Eurovision in Rotterdam!
    (Eindelijk)

  20. Short, sweet, right to point. You need to teach other Youtubers how to make videos.

  21. Wrong . English (as with all other languages) are derivatives of Latin, Sumerian , Babylonian, Akkadian , Greek. After the Tower Of Babylon was destroyed, we were spread out , and other languages were developed . Which is how you have modern day lingual. Do NOT try to rewrite HIS-story.

  22. They are the covenant people of God ..Brit ..ish .. Bal berith.. means idol of the covenant ish .. Hebrew means man .. Hense British ..they are Israelites from Egypt that left with Moses

  23. Frisian is closely related to Dutch andEnglish, because these languages are also Germanic languages. For example, the word 'door' is 'doar' in Frisian. The Frisian word 'dei' means 'day' in english and the Frisian word 'bean' also means 'bean' in English.

  24. it was a marriage between mathilde of flanders(dutch) and william of normandie(French)
    so i stil say its a germanic language since mathilde was the mother

  25. Y is it always no credit for slavs. They ocupy area from France to Italy throughout nth Greece to syberia so most of Europe. Germania was slavic trybes so called by romans. Deutsch o r Germans as u call them today as well as Dutch and others only appeared 1000 years ago or so. Slavic language is one of the oldest known languages.

  26. The Norman invaders probably didn't speak standard French, if there was such a thing, but a hybrid of French and Norse. Also, the grammatical structure of English is much closer to Danish that German. I don't claim any expertise, but I think that the influence of scandinavian languages is underestimated.

  27. I was enjoying this video until it said B.C.E. Instead of just BC. I’m sorry to be a bit picky but they describe the exact same period of history based on the same historical event. So why bother to change BC to BCE at all? Simple, it’s to remove any reference to God.
    I’ll stop now, that should be enough to get all the trolls living in their parents basement or spare room all worked up lol. 2019 A.D.
    Cheers all

  28. I read Beowulf in 8th grade! It was amazing to me! Always interested in foreign languages since I was four, I ended up taking almost 1 year of Latin then a little French. After that 1 year of Spanish then two years of German. Twelve years later I moved to Germany (military). It was so easy for me to speak and read. I also speak a lot of SpA

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