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The English language, like all languages, traces its ultimate ancestry to a time predating the written word. Since history relies heavily on written documents as records of the past, it follows logically that the roots of language must be prehistoric. This fact makes it much more difficult to pin down the development of English's earliest linguistic ancestors. However, thanks to some stunning work by philologists and linguists, we can actually trace the history of languages in Europe far into the remote past--possibly as far back as 5,000 BCE. This background will lead to the growth of what we call "Anglo-Saxon English" in the fifth-century CE, which in turn will become Middle English after the Norman Invasion of 1066, and then give us Modern English in the Renaissance. For the purpose of simplicity, I will divide our discussion into several parts:

I will also be adding a series of links to historical timelines for each century with a particular focus on literary events. The first sections I will post will deal with the medieval period, and from there I will gradually expand forward and backward chronologically.

 

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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2016. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated May 2, 2016. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.