Final Summary

Period Name: Old English (450 – 1150)

Grammar: Words can be marked by being the subject or object of the sentence and plural or possessive by inflectional markers (which are also called grammatical endings), this is indicative of it being a synthetic language. Four sounds changes – voicing and palatalization (effect consonants) – breaking and fronting (effect vowels). Verbs occur at the end of the sentence. It is a relatively free word order. The general rules are pronouns generally occur near the beginning of the sentence and verbs at the end.

Lexicon: The lexicon is very Germanic (~95%)

Spelling: Use of prefixes such as ge- or -ofer- and suffixes such as -ung.

Period Name: Middle English (1150 – 1500)

Grammar: Word order is still relatively free. However, grammaticalization of prepositions, demonstratives, and some verbs – which become indicators of case, definiteness, and tense – a stricter order is established.

Lexicon: Many borrowing and influences from other languages occurred in the change from Old to Middle English. The most significantly influential languages include Celtic (druid, story, clan), Latin (candel ‘candle’, camp ‘battle’, cest ‘chest’), French (government, royal, feat), and Scandinavian (anger, sky, and many place names)

Spelling: Many spelling changes occur such as: ᴂ becomes a respectively, ᵭ à th/p. Qu enters the language to replace cw in words like cwene (becoming queen, or queen), many u’s (like mus) changes to uo, hw changes to wh (hwat à what). V and W are both introduced.

Period Name: Early Modern English (1500 – 1800)

Period Name: Modern English (1800 – Present)

Grammar: Nouns and verbs are not marked for case agreement. Verbs occur in the middle of the sentence, separating the subject and the object. It is an analytic language, meaning much more emphasis is placed on word order and prepositions.

Authors and Texts

Old English Period            Caedmon-Caedmon’s Hymn

Beowulf- Anonmyous Anglo-Saxon poet

Peterborough Abbey(most recent)-Anglo-Saxon Chronicles

Middle English Period    Goeffrey Chaucer-Canterbury tales

John Wycliffe-Wycliffe’s Bible


Early Modern English      Robert Barker – King James Bible

Period                                   William Shakespeare-sonnets, plays

Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan

Modern English                J.R.R. Tolkien – Lord of the Rings

Michael Crichton – Jurassic Park


There are multiple contributing factors such as:

Great Vowel Shift

Loan words from other languages

Plural words changed in spelling over time

Stabilizing effect of the printing press on spelling

Old English had no silent letters, much different today

Latin Spelling

Royal Chancery in 15th century

Sociolinguistic/ Dialects: Mercia, Northumbrian, Kentish & West Saxon. Latin Influence; Anglo-Saxon’s are converted to Christianity and Latin speaking priests are widespread.  Danelaw
Extralinguistic Pressures: Anglo-Saxon invasion. Latin, Celtic, Scandinavian loan words, Norse Influence. Vowels from Germanic to OE.
Middle English
Sociolinguistic/Dialects: Language and rise of the Middle Class; Loss of inflections,  Lengthening and shortening.  Development of standard English.  Dialects= Kentish, Southern, Northern, East-Midland, West-Midland.
Extralinguistic Pressures: Norman conquest (Edward I). The beginning of social stratification. Middle English Literature. The beginning of French reigns in England. The loss of most inflectional endings.
Early Modern English
Sociolinguistic/Dialects: Progressive verb forms.
Extralinguistic Pressures: The Printing Press (caxon). The Renaisscance. Protestant Reformation. The Great Vowel Shift.
Modern English
Sociolinguisitic/ Dialects: The rise of the London Standard.  Dialects; British English. American English. Australian English. Canadian English. Carribean English. South Afrian English. New Zealand English. Nigerian English. Philippine English. Etc.
Extralinguistic pressures:  Colonialism. Urbanization. Industrialisation. Social stratification. The Age of Revolutions, War and Imperialism.



Work Division 2/15/2011

The group blog project was split up evenly between all 3 group members. We we all responsible for posting blogs in a rotational sequence. All members contributed equally and we didn’t designate special jobs to anyone. This seemed to work out pretty good.

Danielle Strom(specific): Going the way of English,  Language Capital, Response to Pullum, Sonnet 146 analysis, Early Modern English, The Origin of the OED.

Mark Christy (specific) My blogs were as follows: Introduction, Jay Walker-English Manias, Shakespeare’s Sonnets V analysis, Timeline of Lexical Borrowings (blog post, helped with poster), Reaction to Beowulf the Movie vs. the poem, Beowulf post and link, Annotated Bibliography (my blogs).

Nicholas Bowlin (Specific): Linguistic “Survival of the Fittest,” On Google’s NGram Viewer Project, Influence of the Canterbury Tales, and Response to “Language that dare not speak its name.” I also posted on Colleen Barnes’ post “Dialects as a Reflection of Intelligence” and Mike Calarco’s post “Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge.”

We all worked together to create the “Final Summary” post and the image seen in the “Timeline of Lexical Borrowings” post.  We also all filled out the annotated bibliography with the specific references we used in our posts.

Going the Way of English

Is English still ours to police?

Seen in Beijing:  “If you are stolen, call the police at once” , ” Please omnivorously put the waste in garbage can”, and ” Deformed man lavatory” (this last one being my personal favorite, meaning “handicapped bathroom”).
This evidence suggests that the English language is leading an alternative life without us. By 2020 there will be over 2 billion people speaking the English language. Already, most conversations that happen in English occur between two non-native speakers using the language as a lingua franca.

In most countries where English is taught, citizens learn to read and write English but since it is not spoken at home and because English-speaking teachers are not overly abundant, they do not get enough quality speaking experience. This results in adapting English to fit the structure of their native language.

It is not surprising that a language spread so wide begins to fracture and create unusual products.  I believe that it is certainly not our right nor responsibility to force standards on other English speaking cultures when it may not be solely ours any longer. And really when it comes down to it, even if the language is tweaked from people to people creating barriers here and there, we’re all speaking the same language.

Jay Walker English Manias

I found this short clip to be extremely interesting, to see that children in China are learning English in the third grade…by law. That is a very powerful insight to the English language. I found it to be amazing that more people in China speak English than people in the United States, this is mainly because children are required to learn the language and the amount of people in China dwarfs the population in the U.S. To see thousands of people in China chanting English phrases to help learn the language was a capturing scene.

Language Capital

Language skills are a key element in the social and economic assimilation of immigrants. There exists a strong correlation between language proficiency and economic earnings. When considering potential barriers facing immigrants, language is always cited as the principle barrier. The paper Intergenerational Transmission of Language Capital and Economic Outcomes by Teresa Casey and Christian Dustmann considers the significance of language comprehension and asks how the language proficiency of immigrant parents is transmitted to future generations.

Casey and Dustmann cite several reasons to believe that the proficiency of the second generation is related to the parents:
“Children of immigrants may experience a monolingual environment..” the mono-language being  their native tongue, thus hindering contact with the language of the country in which they reside and limiting potential for fluency.
Language is more easily absorbed at a young age and lack of exposure can devastate the second generation’s educational chain and “accumulation of human capital”. Therefore if the parents lack proficiency in the child’s formative years this will translate to the child.
Parental proficiency also translates in transmission of ability and cultural attitudes.

Language deficiencies in the children of immigrants correlates with poorer labor market outcomes, fascinatingly the date collected by Casey and Dustmann supports the claim that this deficiency more strongly affects female children of immigrants. The authors maintain that for children born in the host country language proficiency is higher in males, this fact being reversed for children born abroad.

Response to Pullum-Strom

There is no question in my mind that Ebonics should not be classified as a separate language from English, a strong adherence only strengthened by the fact that where the two do not blend is in the slang sector; many subsets or groups of people develop slang personal to them. Pullum makes a strong point with the anecdote about “Hebonics”. Where it gets difficult is when two speakers of the same language are trying to communicate through different dialects; not impossible but also not all together grounds for dismissal of one or the other. Ex. French spoken in Quebec and French spoken in Paris. The same words tweaked to fit varying grammatical rules does not qualify as a language of it’s own. A similar but more difficult argument is the one surrounding ASL.

Response to “Language that dare not speak its name”

In 1997, the Oakland Unified School District of California proposed to recognize Ebonics, the dialect used by the majority of its students, in its classrooms. This created an uproar among the media, condemning the school board for a proposal that encourages a bastardization of the English language. But is it truly a bastardization?

The answer is no. If looked at from a linguistic point of view, the language follows a strict set of rules. In fact, it follows a set of rules similar to many forms of major languages around the world, such as Russian, Hungarian, even Italian has similar concepts. The reason it sounds so odd to English speakers is because of the multiple negation of words. It does not mean that it is inferior or for the uneducated, it just means that we as a culture are not used to hearing phrases like “ain’t nobody” or “not none.”

Do I believe that it is different enough to warrant schools actually teaching the language, no, it seems similar enough to be considered a separate dialect of the English (like British English vs. American English) rather than a totally new language . However, they weren’t proposing to teach the language, they were proposing to recognize the language, which simply means that teachers may use it to help get their points across. Studies have shown that this technique has actually proven to be quite helpful for a students ability to learn, which in the end isn’t that the ultimate goal? The outcry that occurred seems completely unjustified.


Influence of The Canterbury Tales

When I think of Middle English I think of three things: slightly mispronounced words, the 14th century, and Geoffrey Chaucer. The last item, Chaucer, being very significant for the English language as well as for our understanding of the time period itself. This is mainly because of his most well known work of literature, The Canterbury Tales.

The Canterbury Tales is a somewhat satirical frame narrative of English Society at the time of its creation. Chaucer is believed to have taken inspiration from The Decameron, a medieval allegorical piece of literature, however, an important distinction is that Chaucer uses the depiction of “sondry folk,” or everyday people, rather than more respected nobles. He outlines a day in the life of many professions such as The Knight, The Monk, The Merchant, The Shipman and many others (23 in total). Although much of his work is considered unfinished, these descriptions give us a much better understanding of what each profession entailed as well as how they were looked upon by the other people of the day. The collection acts as our window into that time period.

Another important aspect of the story is that it was written in Middle English. This is significant because during this time English was looked down upon. Society was diglossic, French being reserved for the high code of the Nobility. English was viewed an incapable language that lacked beauty and flow and as such was suitable only for the insignificant. However, Chaucer’s writing was elegant, it was poetic, and it demonstrated just what English was capable of. It showed the people, at a time when French and Latin were the only languages used for ‘art’ that English had significant power as well.


Sonnet 146 analysis – Danielle Strom

Danielle Strom


Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
These rebel powers that thee array;
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
This sonnet addresses issues of mortality and existence. It juxtaposes the spiritual and the physical as well as the transitory and the permanent. This work acknowledges the fact that the body returns to the earth after death to nourish the soil and feed the worms, thus perpetuating the life cycle.
Line 13, “So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,” encourages us to evaluate and re-evaluate Death as a concept; it is human nature that we analyze our own mortality. But, this sonnet poses another concept when read another way; why do we let Death feed on our mortality? Why do we not turn and feed on death? The concluding line, “And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then” is an answer to that impossible concept – that whether we hand ourselves over without a fight or feel ourselves immortal and out of the plane of Death’s grip, we will never the less meet the same end.
We invest in things that are temporary because it is our nature, line 5 addresses this by asking  “Why so large cost, having so short a lease?” The human soul is trapped between the heavens and the “ rebel powers” of the “sinful earth”. It is these rebel powers that soil our perfect souls by probing us to questioning, doubt, and the nature of sin and death.  To this Shakespeare asks “Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth?” when we know where it leads us.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets Quick Write (Sonnet V, Mark Christy)

For Shakespeare’s sonnets I choose sonnet #5.  This particular sonnet seemed very fitting for the current weather situation in Rochester, NY. Basically the sonnet is about winter and the change of seasons. It is written in an ABAB….AA rhyming pattern with the last word in each stanza rhyming every other line. I like in particular line 7 of this sonnet, “Sap checked with frost and lusty leaves quite gone” It is a very visual line and really gives you the feeling of winter.  The last two lines of the sonnet are also very interesting to me. “But flowers distill’d, though they with winter meet, Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.” The feeling I received from these two lines were like a little glimmer of hope, In spite of the cold harsh winter that is upon us there is still beauty to be seen. The flowers are faced with the doom of winter, but their substance is still sweet. I thought that this was a great way to end the sonnet.