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BEFORE ENGLISH

PREHISTORY TO c. 500 AD

By Jacky Smith
FOUR LANGUAGE GROUPS

• Indo-European (or Proto Indo-Europeans)

• Celts

• Germanic Tribes

• Romans
Indo-Europeans

• Neolithic (late Stone Age people)


• Lived in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
• Dates from 5000 BC on
• No known writings exist
• Knowledge based on conjecture, theory, and
reconstruction
• Modern Lithuanian believed to be closest to
Indo-European https://youtu.be/q_EJdzfnPSg http://www.thehistoryofenglish.com/history_before.html

• The largest language family of many


Many branches of Indo-European

• Anatolian • Indic

• Baltic • Iranian

• Celtic • Romance

• Germanic • Slavonic

• Greek • Tocharian

http://www.thehistoryofenglish.com/history_before.html
https://www.ancient.eu/Indo-European_Languages/
https://www.ancient.eu/Indo-European_Languages/
Cognates

Father Vater Pater Fadir Pitr


English German Latin/Greek Old Norse Vedic Sanskrit

Brother Broeer Brüder Braithair Bróðr Bhratar


English Dutch German Gaelic Old Norse Sanskrit
Celts

Continental and Insular


CONTINENTAL CELTIC INSULAR CELTIC
600 BC- Celtic Tribes had 600 BC- Celtic Tribes enter
spread to southern Germany, British Isles and Ireland,
Austria, and Western Czech isolation of Ireland and
Republic, France, Belgium, Scotland keeps language
Spain, British Isles relatively safe from Roman
400 BC- Moved southward to and Anglo-Saxon invasions
Northern Italy, southeast into
Balkans and beyond INSULAR CELTIC LANGUAGES
50-55 BC- Julius Caesar SPOKEN TODAY:
conquers Gaul, Britain Irish Gaelic
conquered 100 years later, Scottish Gaelic
Latin becomes dominant Welsh
language in cities/suburbs http://www.thehistoryofenglish.com/history_before.html Breton
Romans

• Enter Britain in 55 BC, permanent occupation 43 BC


• Latin adopted primarily by upper echelons of society and urban/suburban
dwellers
• Less than 200 “loanwords” made their way into the English language
• Latin would have greater impact on English in later years through Christian
missionaries
Germanic Tribes

• East Germanic- Extinct


• North Germanic- Old Norse- ancestor of all modern Scandinavian
languages
• Danish, Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish
• West Germanic- Old English, Old Saxon, Old High German
• Dutch, English, Frisian, and Yiddish
• Origins in Neolithic (stone age) Period
• Overlap with Finnic and Balto-Slavic Tribes
• Most Vikings spoke varieties of Old Norse
http://www.thehistoryofenglish.com/history_before.html
SOURCES

https://www.ancient.eu/Indo-European_Languages/

http://www.thehistoryofenglish.com/history_before.html