Danish invasions

In his Ecclesiastical History, the Venerable Bede writes about contacts made between the English language and other languages. When looking to define or explain the English language, it helps to consider the implications of these contacts. One implication, for example, is that foreign words, or borrowings, were introduced to the English lexicon. From written histories, […]


Borrowing is the introduction of a word from one language or dialect into another. Borrowings are sometimes called loan words. Many French words, for example, where introduced into the Middle English lexicon. And during the Renaissance, many Latin and Greek loan words were brought in. In his book, The Horse The Wheel And Language: How […]


Scholars believe that English emerged as a distinct language some time around CE 500 (Svartvik 7). This language was primitive, and we can think of it as a sort of proto-English whose ancestors were the languages of various Germanic tribes that settled in the British Isles, languages that belong to a family of languages known […]

Sound change

In his book, The Horse The Wheel And Language: How Bronze-Age Riders From The Eurasian Steppes Shapped The Modern World, author David W. Anthony notes, “If we are exposed to a number of different ways of speaking, our own way of speaking is likely to change more rapidly” (Anthony).

Grimm’s Law

An analysis of sound change is a way to show relationships between languages. Grimm’s Law, named after Jacob Grimm and Rasmus Rask, lays out the observation that certain Germanic languages share a common sound change progression that aren’t observed in other non-Germanic languages; in particular stops. This sound change can be observed in certain Germanic […]


Will there ever be a global language? And if so, might that language be English? In an 1852 lecture, German philologist Jakob Grimm, suggested, “Of all modern languages, not one has acquired such great strength and vigour as the English” and that it “may be called justly a language of the world” (Crystal 120). Was […]

Prestige language

During the Old English period, Latin remained the prestige language until the 1066 Norman Conquest. From here, French becomes the prestige language and the “most powerful positions in Church and State were filled by French-speakers” (Svartvik 35). By the late Middle English period.


Prescriptivism is an attempt to dictate rules for the correct use of language; particularly as regards spelling, vocabulary, sytax, pronunciation, and the like. Historical prescriptivism might be regarded as somewhat authoritarian, or a “statement about the correctness of a particular use of language” (Crystal 520). As an example, in The Plan of a Dictionary of […]


Codification is the process of breaking a language down to a set of systematic rules; in particular, where grammar and vocabulary are concerned. There are two primary ways that a language is codified: Prescriptively Descriptively A language is codified prescriptively by way of dictionaries and grammars (Svartvik 67).