A History of the English Language: Iron Ages to Middle Ages

Ref: C2527582

The English language is a real oddity - a Germanic language with very little Germanic grammar and only about 30 percent Germanic words. How did this happen? We'll start at the beginning, with the roots of Proto-Indo-European, before making our way past the Celts to a study of the Anglo-Saxon language and how playful the people were with it. We'll then consider how it was influenced by Scandinavian settlers, and how and why the battle between Norman invaders and English subjects - which logically should have led to us all speaking a version of French - was won by the adaptive "Middle English". Changes came with encounters with the Arabs and others, leading to the flowering of Late Middle English in works by Wycliffe and Chaucer, and on into the English of Tudor times. On the way, we'll look at the fascinating stories behind hundreds of individual words, and times when soon meant now, hazard was a dicing game and ideas about swearing were very different to our own. With lots of sources!

Course aim

This course will follow the development of the English language from earliest times to the fifteenth century, as it was formed by encounters between the Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Arabs, and more - and learn why it ends up so odd!

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Understand how English developed by taking in aspects of other languages
  • Describe some of the sources we can use to consider changes in the English language
  • Describe some aspects of the development of place names and surnames
  • Tell the stories of some individual words that are much changed in meaning over the years

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

Everything will be provided, there will also be additional resources listed if you want to pursue them further.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

A History of the English Language: Iron Ages to Middle Ages


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  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
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  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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