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How long ago did english as we know it exist?


GrandMasterK
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Well it's been a more or less continuous change from completely incomprehensible (ever try to read Beowulf?) to contemporary English, but if there has to be a cutoff, then I'd say the transition from Middle English to Modern English, which took place around 1450-1550 and was distinguished mainly by pronunciation of vowels changing roughly to how they are pronounced today.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Had no idea where to put this so here it is.

 

I know languages evolve so to aid the question' date=' how long has english existed in a form where I could carry out a conversation with these ancient fellows?[/quote']

 

English began after the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066. Basically, it comes from the attempt of Norman soldiers to seduce Saxon barmaids.

 

English is a blend of French of the time and the languages spoken by the native Saxon inhabitants of Britain.

 

In terms of a conversation you could work with, probably around 1500 or so.

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yeah, I think we had "old english" from about 500 to 1000. I don't think we would understand old english much more than we would understand german. After the Norman invasions, old english was mixed with a little french, which gave us middle english, which was used from 1000 to about 1500. During the renaissance, we got some new words from latin and greek which gave us modern english. I'd say that the only reason we can understand what shakespear wrote is because since then, english has become standardized. Before this, pronunciation and spelling varied widely from place to place and also changed rapidly.

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I thought it was after Chauser wrote (the Cantiberry tales?) that modern English was first really used by most of the people, as an importan piece of literature, being available widely, it kept the language relatively the same in different areas despite their distance from each other.

 

Chaucer isn't really "modern" English; it's "Middle" English. Most students read a translation of the original (with updated spelling, too). Reading the original requires quite a bit of study of the idioms and some of the words have different definitions than they have now. Notice the extensive glossary included in this online edition of Canterbury Tales: http://www.librarius.com/cantales.htm

 

So I doubt that the OPer would be able to easily have a conversation with Chaucer or people of his time.

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Chaucer isn't really "modern" English; it's "Middle" English. Most students read a translation of the original (with updated spelling' date=' too). Reading the original requires quite a bit of study of the idioms and some of the words have different definitions than they have now. Notice the extensive glossary included in this online edition of Canterbury Tales: http://www.librarius.com/cantales.htm

 

So I doubt that the OPer would be able to easily have a conversation with Chaucer or people of his time.[/quote']

 

 

Oh yeah, it was Middle English. The book standardized Middle English not Modern. My brain wasn't quite working before.

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