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  • I am going to start with a challenge.

  • I want you to imagine each of these two scenes in as much detail as you can.

  • Scene number one: "They gave us a hearty welcome."

  • Well, who are the people who are giving a hearty welcome?

  • What are they wearing?

  • What are they drinking?

  • OK, scene two: "They gave us a cordial reception."

  • How are these people standing?

  • What expressions are on their faces?

  • What are they wearing and drinking?

  • Fix these pictures in your mind's eye and then jot down a sentence or two to describe them.

  • We'll come back to them later.

  • Now on to our story.

  • In the year 400 C.E., the Celts in Britain were ruled by Romans.

  • This had one benefit for the Celts: the Romans protected them from the barbarian Saxon tribes of Northern Europe.

  • But then the Roman Empire began to crumble, and the Romans withdrew from Britain.

  • With the Romans gone, the Germanic tribes, the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians quickly sailed across the water, did away with the Celts, and formed kingdoms in the British Isles.

  • For several centuries, these tribes lived in Britain, and their Germanic language, Anglo Saxon, became the common language, what we call Old English.

  • Although modern English speakers may think Old English sounds like a different language, if you look and listen closely, you'll find many words that are recognizable.

  • For example, here is what the Lord's Prayer looks like in Old English.

  • At first glance, it may look unfamiliar, but update the spelling a bit, and you'll see many common English words.

  • So the centuries passed, with Britains happily speaking Old English, but in the 700's, a series of Viking invasions began, which continued until a treaty split the island in half.

  • On one side were the Saxons.

  • On the other side were the Danes who spoke a language called Old Norse.

  • As Saxons fell in love with their cute Danish neighbors and marriages blurred the boundaries, Old Norse mixed with Old English

  • And many Old Norse words like freckle, leg, root, skin, and want are still a part of our language.

  • 300 years later, in 1066, the Norman conquest brought war again to the British Isles.

  • The Normans were Vikings who settled in France.

  • They had abandoned the Viking language and culture in favor of a French lifestyle, but they still fought like Vikings.

  • They placed a Norman king on the English throne and for three centuries, French was the language of the British royalty.

  • Society in Britain came to have two levels: French-speaking aristocracy and Old English-speaking peasants.

  • The French also brought many Roman Catholic clergymen with them who added Latin words to the mix.

  • Old English adapted and grew as thousands of words flowed in, many having to do with government, law, and aristocracy.

  • Words like council, marriage, sovereign, govern, damage, and parliament.

  • As the language expanded, English speakers quickly realized what to do if they wanted to sound sophisticated.

  • They would use words that had come from French or Latin.

  • Anglo Saxon words seemed so plain like the Anglo Saxon peasants who spoke them.

  • Let's go back to the two sentences you thought about earlier.

  • When you pictured the hearty welcome, did you see an earthy scene with relatives hugging and talking loudly?

  • Were they drinking beer?

  • Were they wearing lumberjack shirts and jeans?

  • And what about the cordial reception?

  • I bet you pictured a far more classy and refined crowd.

  • Blazers and skirts, wine and caviar.

  • Why is this?

  • How is it that phrases that are considered just about synonymous by the dictionary can evoke such different pictures and feelings?

  • "Hearty" and "welcome" are both Saxon words.

  • "Cordial" and "reception" come from French.

  • The connotation of nobility and authority has persisted around words of French origin.

  • And the connotation of peasantry, real people, salt of the Earth, has persisted around Saxon words.

  • Even if you never heard this history before, the memory of it persists in the feelings evoked by the words you speak.

  • On some level, it's a story you already knew because whether we realize it consciously or only subconsciously, our history lives in the words we speak and hear.

I am going to start with a challenge.

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B1 TED-Ed saxon language french hearty norse

【TED-Ed】How did English evolve? - Kate Gardoqui

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    VoiceTube posted on 2020/12/05
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