The English Language Evolution
All languages evolve and change over time and none more so than the English language. Not only did it evolve orally, it evolved in the written form as well.
In the beginning the English language consisted mainly of tribal dialects, but it was not until around 878, the later Anglo-Saxon period, that the English language was fused together into what is now known as ‘Old English’.
The four main dialects, Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish and West Saxon, evolved inside four independent kingdoms. Each time England was conquered by another nation, the language evolved even more.
The language was further altered as scholars moved away from the old ‘runic’ alphabet to the Latin, (also called Roman) alphabet that we use today.
When man first began to write, around 4000 BC he carved his message on the surface of moist clay tablets with a bronze or bone tool. By 600-1800 AD, man was writing on parchment with a quill pen, (made from a feather) and ink. It was not until the late 1700s that the pencil first appeared and a metal pen arrived between 1800 and 1850. Finally the wonder of the ball point pen arrived in the late 1800s.
The history of Old English can be broken into six clear divisions:
- Prehistoric Old English (450 -650 AD)
- Early Old English (650 – 900 AD)
- Late Old English (900- 1066 AD)
- Middle English (12 – 15th centuries)
- Early Modern English (1480 – 1650 AD)
- Modern English (1650 on).
Not only was Old English very difficult and labour intensive to write, it was written with quill and ink.
Quills were made from different birds for different purposes: a raven or crow feather was chosen for fine work. Turkey, swan and goose feathers made the most reliable and the sturdiest quills. Left hand writers used feathers from the left wing and right hand writers used feathers from the right wing!
The modern day pocket knife originated from pen knives. A special knife (pen knife) was always kept close by, so the writer could cut the quill into a point to use as a pen.