I spent last weekend at one of my favourite places, Madingley Hall in Cambridge. With fourteen other people I learned about the history of the English language from its proto-Indo-European roots, through the Germanic branch, via Old English and Middle English to early modern English. For all who love languages and who are interested in the English language it was a fascinating journey, taking in Grimm’s Law and the Great Vowel Shift, and revealing how some of the features of the language came into being.
I would love to be able to read Old English, although there are very few surviving examples of it. On previous courses I have looked at some Old English poetry including Beowulf of course. Old English is taught in very few places, which is a shame. There are some on-line courses however. To get a proper perspective on the origins of modern English I think it would be useful to learn Old Norse as well.
Having studied German and Norwegian I can’t help but make comparisons with both languages when looking at Old English. Over the ensuing centuries as the language developed it borrowed large numbers of French and Latin words as well. It is absolutely fascinating to discover where our words have come from and especially whose with common origins with other Indo-European languages ultimately take us back to parent language of our language family.