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Lecture Summary (10/26/06)

The topic of the second lecture of this class was named "History of English".

We started with the homework for this week (see last summary).

After that a graphic displaying the development of English was shown to us. There have been several important influences on the English language in the course of the centuries. In most cases these are closely connected with invasions of the British Isles. It started with the Celts (1000 BC) followed by the Romans. The result was a certain influence on English by Celtic respectively Latin. The next events of this kind was a series of invasions by Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Frisians (between the first and fourth century) which brought elements of Anglo-Saxon and Danish into the English language. The invading Vikings brought Old Norse to Britain. In 1066 the Normans (led by William the Conqueror) entered Britain and with them the Norman French language. The next major influence was not connected to an invading people but to a cultural movement or age: the Renaissance (beginning in the 15th century). The main idea of this epoch was the rivival (in fact Renaissance means rebirth) of the Antic which affected the language, too. Many words of latin or greek origin sprang from this period.

Subsequently we had a look at the Etymology, the history of words. There are two categories of historical changes of words: sound changes and semantic changes.

First we dealed with the most important sound changes that occured in the past. First of all Grimm's Law: Proto-Indo-European voiceless stops became Proto-Germanic voiceless fricatives, Proto-Indo-European voiced stops became Proto-Germanic voiceless stops and Proto-Indo-European voiced aspirated stops became Proto-Germanic voiced fricatives. Another one is the so called Verner's Law which is not of great importance to us. The High German Soundshift affected especially the consonants p, t and k. They were shifted depending on the position within the word: p to pf or f, t to ts or s, k to kx or x/c) The last major aspect in this respect is the Great Vowel Shift, a change in pronunciation of the long vowels of Middle English that began in the 15th century and continued into the 16th century in which the high vowels were diphthongized and the other vowels were raised.

Semantic changes on the other hand are created by certain mechanisms: generalisation, specialisation and metaphor. As an example we looked at the german word Schürze and the english words shirt and skirt. All three spring from the same origin but have developed very different meanings since then which means they have specialized.

14.11.06 18:33

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