The History of Engiish in 10 Minutes by the Open University

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

I love the English language, one of the truly great ones in the world. It’s not spoken by as many people as Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, but more students worldwide are learning English as a foreign language than any other language today.

English is the language of aviation and most scientific papers as well as a lot of business purposes. Europe loves English too, as a lingua franca that puts all those for whom it is their second language on an even playing field. It is rich with great literature — drama, poetry, fiction, and essays.

I love words: vulgar ones (you know one when you see or hear it), precise ones (and especially just the right word for the moment, whether it comforts or disturbs your audience), vague ones, especially those used to create the atmosphere and tone of fiction (misty, dour, wretched, jolly), short ones that sound Anglo-Saxon whether they are or not, and long ones (that make a person stumble trying to pronounce them and usually feel a little bit Latinate, linking the languages of the Indo-European family). It’s a tool for communicating, and for obscuring meaning as well.

Language in general is what separates Homo sapiens from other species with whom we share Planet Earth, isn’t it?

3 Comments

  1. Wade says:

    I look forward to watching more of this video when I can find the time. I’ve been reading “History in English Words” by Owen Barfield, a British philosopher who was a friend of C. S. Lewis and an influence on Tolkien as well.
    Thanks for reviving the blog. It’s been one of my favorites for a long time.

  2. Bill Chapman says:

    Hello, Elizabeth

    You’re right that “English … as a lingua franca … puts all those for whom it is their second language on an even playing field”. At the same time it puts those who have it as a mother tongue in an advantaged position. A case for Esperanto, perhaps.

  3. Dan Gollub says:

    “Language in general is what separates Homo sapiens from other species…”
    I published an article in Psychology and Education, Vol 46, #2 in 2009 suggesting, in part, that thinking in words before falling asleep could lead to more intelligent dreams.