In fact, this period of around 300 years was such an active and energetic phase for the language that it would be very difficult to summarise its achievements and misfortunes in a single chapter, let alone one article. So, this month I’ll just try and limit myself to giving the outline of what I hope to look at over the coming few weeks. For those of you who will be hanging around the UAE for the coming few months, I hope to be able to provide you with something edifying to digest, and perhaps even teach you something you didn’t know about the language you speak.
So, where to begin? Many linguistic historians like to draw a line between the internal changes that a language undergoes, and the external forces that help to forge other transformations. Examples of the former would be the so-called Great Vowel Shift, which occurred in
External forces are truly the man-made ones, such as the colonisation mentioned above. Often, it is these phenomena that go on to cause unforeseen changes and developments in the linguistic process. For example, to continue the theme of colonisation, the slave trade carried black speakers of African tongues to the Caribbean and
Then again, there is the ‘Great Men’ approach to linguistic history, which argues that the efforts of the great and (perhaps not so) good have done most to forge long-standing changes in the language. The names which immediately spring to mind during this period are those two distinguished Williams, Caxton and Shakespeare. So renowned are they held to be, that I feel no need to mention their achievements.
So this is what I promise for the coming few blog entries: a peek at some of the direct linguistic achievements of some of our most celebrated Englishmen, a glimpse at the changes our language experienced as it came to resemble the English that we recognise today, and also a look at the social and economic circumstances which influenced our tongue’s progress.
Can you possibly wait...?