Over the years, the English Language has constantly evolved, and it is still in process. But there are people that did not accept the change well. One instance from the past is when the punctuation was introduced. The famous Roman orator Cicero noted that it was not the punctuation that will decide how long the pause will be, it is the rhythm of the sentence. It is amazing how the English language has evolved over the years.
When we read Shakespeare today, we see how ‘Art’ has become ‘Are’. History also shows instances where word spacing was not considered, but with time it became important. In the 7th and 8th centuries, the word spacing was considered. Also around the 8th century, Charlemagne helped introduce the masses with lowercase letters.
The evolution in the language is never-ending, and so with a prescriptive mindset, Betty Birner of the LSA (Linguistic Society of America) states and notes that the speech patterns of the younger generation are unfamiliar to the ears of adults. They might make and follow new slangs and informal words, they might not be appropriate, but that does not mean they are worse. In his perspective, they are just new words and phrases used by today’s teenagers.
Will you be able to communicate effectively if sent back in time:
Considering all the above if you had a time machine and were offered to sent back in time, what do you think how many decades would you have gone back and still be able to effectively communicate in their English speaking world?
England being a small area, have a number of dialects in English. These dialects are difficult for a modern English speaker to understand. It is important to know who you are talking to if they are ready to modify their speech a little, it will be great for understanding them. Otherwise, going back in time and understanding the older version of the same language is going to get more and more difficult.
Still, if we consider going back in time, we should know that the old English, as well as modern English, has been derived from other languages. It would have been better if you spoke German or Dutch. With the invasions to the land of America, the language was developed. Notably, German tribes that invaded around the 5th and 6th centuries brought a major change in the old English.
Consider this Anglo-Saxon Chronicle from the late 9th century:
Brytene igland is ehta hund mila lang and twa hund mila brad, and her synd on þam iglande fif geþeodu, Ænglisc, Brytwylsc, Scottysc, Pihttisc and Boclæden.
In today’s English, it translates to:
The island of Britain is 800 miles long, and 200 miles broad. And on the island, there are five nations; English, Welsh, Scottish, Pictish, and Latin.
The old English has been purely the derivation of the German and/or Dutch. Most of the modern English is the substance of old English. About 50% of modern English is derived from Old English.