The Origins of English

In your most recent Writing Burst, some of you expressed a desire to know more about English- how it originated, why the grammar is the way it is, why the spelling is so weird, how it became so widely used and so on. Of course I could give you a crash course on all this- minus actual names and dates I have most of the information at my fingertips- but we don’t have much time in class and I don’t know if this stuff is equally interesting to everyone. Having said that, though, if you are learning any language, it is always useful to find out as much as you can about it. This not only makes it more interesting for you, it also explains what you perceive as inconsistencies. For example, one student asked why the word “knight” is spelled with a “k” that is not pronounced. The answer is that the “k” used to be pronounced, but became silent after a while, and while the pronounciation changed, the spelling did not because once a language starts to be written down, it gets standardized, and thus becomes harder to change. This is especially so once mass printing comes into the picture.

For this reason, I have included a link to a good website that explains all this in a reader-friendly format. There are many such sites, and my hope is that from this link you may start your own journey towards enjoying the English language.



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