English (that is, modern English) the way we know it has its origins from German, Scandinavian, Celtic, Greek and Latin. Every time a new dictionary is published there are more words added to it, because more words are assimilated from other languages. One would think that our English language came from England, and that England always spoke English, right? Well not so, English evolved as German settlers and Scandinavian settlers came to the British Isles.
It seems when there is a war and another country invades a country, the language of the country intermingles until there is a whole new language. English is a language derived from the Anglo-Saxons and the Friscans (different Germanic tribes) from north-western coasts of Europe, colonizing in with the Celtics in the British Isles. The Anglos were also known as Angles, and then the term evolved to Engles, from where the word English comes from. The Friscans were from three different Germanic tribes that came to settle in present day England.
The invasion of the Anglos and the Friscans happened in the 5th century AD. In the 8th and 9th centuries there was an invasion of Scandinavian/Germanic people who brought their language with them. In the 11th century there was another wave of Scandinavian people, called the Normans that came to the British Isles. Prior to the English language coming to the British Isles the people there spoke Celtic, but most of the Celtics moved to Wales, Cornwall and Scotland when they were pushed out by the invasion of Anglo-Friscans.
This Anglo-Friscan language was what we call Old English, which was also influenced by the Vikings that invaded, which is where the Scandinavian roots come from. The period of the Old English language ended with the Vikings in the Norman Conquest. The language of the Normans was a mixture of Old French and Latin; many of their words assimilated Old English over time. For example, the words servant, juggler, baron, dame, noble, feast, story, and lay come from the Norse influence on Old English.
Our modern English comes from the 15th century English. During the period between 1200 and 1600 the English language came about a major change, which was much later to be called the Great Vowel Shift, coined by the Danish liguist, Otto Jespersen who lived from 1860 to 1943. Let's look at the word "date". In modern English we pronounce the word with a long "a" sound, but in middle English the word date would sound more like the word dot. The"a" in the middle English word date had an "a" that sounded like the "a" in dart, so there was more of an "ah" sound. During this great vowel shift period the vowel change assimilated naturally into the language.
Not only are there differences in the written language, but there are difference in the spoken language, the phonics are not the same from dialect to dialect. An English speaking person from England will speak in a different dialect than an English speaking person in America. When I watched American Idol, the British judge, Simon Cowell, could not pronounce the new judge's name, which is Kara, in the American dialect. The correct pronunciation of Kara's name is with an "a" sound that has an "a" as in cat sound, and Simon always pronounces that "a" with an "ah" sound, making her name sound like Car-a. Different regions of the world employ different phonics. In summary, English as we know it did not exist even a thousand years ago.
Our language has so many different rules that have been adapted from the language where the root word originated. For instance, the rule "I before E except after C" is true in most cases but not all. The word "science" and "deity" are examples of the exclusions of that rule. As more words come in from different languages the rules may not apply, if there is a phonetic sound such as an "ay" sound as in "way". The words neighbor and weigh and weight are such words that don't follow the rule. The word "ain't" was used in the 18th century as a contraction for "am not" or "are not," but some time later the word "aren't" came into being and the two words got confused. The word "ain't" was thrown out as bad language, and "aren't" became the norm. The only people who used the word "ain't" were folks that were considered uneducated. It is still considered a sin to use the word "ain't."
The use of double negatives was thrown out of the English language at some point in time and it was declared that two negatives in a sentence does the same thing as they do in mathematics, and that is double negatives destroy each other, or they make a positive. You might say "I don't have no pencil to write with." The double negatives are "don't and "no." That's not the only thing wrong with that sentence. It's ended with a preposition. Prepositions are for starting prespositional phrases, as in to the bridge, across the bridge, before the bridge, etc. The object of a preposition should come after the prepositon, but this rule is often ignored by everyone but teachers.
There are so many rules and regulations in the English language that I couldn't include them all in this article. It is one amazing mystery to me how the English language evolved from German, French, Norse, Celtic, Latin and Greek, and it is quite another mystery as to how the rules of spelling, grammar, and pronunciation came into being. I would love to be able to find all the information on the Internet to answer every single question concerning the English language, but I think that is an impossible task. Some of the questions that come to my mind are: Why is there no "r" in colonel, and why is it woman and not "womans" and why is it men and not "mans", and last of all why is it geese and not "gooses"?