Germanic invasion
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Germanic invasion

l The beginnings of English can be traced back to 449, when two German leaders, Hengist and Horsa, helping their Celtic ally brought their tribes to the Isles.

l Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

l Bede in Ecclesiastical History of the English People: The Jutes, Saxons, Angles invaded the island after 449. Angles occupied the eastern coast and in 547 established the Anglian kingdom

l When the invaders arrived in England, they did not bring with them three ‘pure’ Germanic dialects –

Anglian, Saxon, Jutish

– but a whole range of spoken varieties, displaying different kinds of mutual influence. They had a common oral literary heritage and a common set of religious beliefs, probably the dialects were mutually comprehensible, for the most part, with some difficulty in pronunciation and vocabulary.

l Anglo-Saxons were relatively uncultured, they were pagan and preserved the names of their gods for weekdays: Tiw, Woden, Thor, Woden ‘s wife –Frig → Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Saturday, Sunday and Monday take their names from Saturn, the Sun and the Moon.

l West Saxon Kings were able to maintain their claim to be the kings of all the English, under Alfred (871-889). Wessex attained a high degree of prosperity though the formation could be hardly called a united kingdom.

l Why England, not Saxonland, Saxland? Latin writers used the words Saxones and Saxonia referring to all Germanic tribes. But soon Angli / Anglia appeared with reference to all West Germanic tribes. Angli Saxones to mean English Saxons (Britain, since the 8th century) opposed the Old Saxons (of the Continent).

l The name English is older than England. Englisc is used to define the language <<< derived from OE. Engle ( Angles)

l AEthelbert, king of Kent, is styled as rex Anglorum by Pope Gregory in 601. Possibly a desire to avoid confusion with Saxons and predominance of early Anglian kingdoms were predominant in usage.

l The land and the people are called Angelcynn (Angle-kin or race of Angles). From about 1000 Englaland ( the land of Angles) begins to appear in the texts.

l The spelling England no longer represents the pronunciation of the word. Under the influence of nasal –ng the e has undergone the regular change to i. The spelling Ingland occurs in Middle English and the vowel is acurately represented in Spanish Inglaterra and Italian Inghilterra.


Old English dialects:

Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon, Kentish. West Saxon is represented in texts of the period. Nearly all Old English literature survived in manuscripts written in that area. With the ascendancy of West-Saxon kingdom and due to abundance of texts West –Saxon dialect was becoming a literary standard – the progress was interrupted by the Norman conquest. When standard English began to arise in the LATE Middle English period it was on the basis of another dialect – that of the East Midlands.

l Adoption of the strong stress accent on the first root syllable what is responsible for the progressive decay of inflections. English did not experience modification of consonants known as The Second or High German sound-shift.

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