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The
English language has been shaped by different languages over the centuries. From
the earliest Viking invasion to the most recent wave of immigration, the
English language has continued to evolve. There are three main periods in the
history of English: Old, Middle and Modern English.

To
start with the Old English period, it is connected with the arrival of West
Germanic settlers, Angles, Saxons and Jutes, in southern Britain. They spoke a
variety of West Germanic dialects and the close proximity of the tribes led to
the evolution of a single language, which is known as Old English. We can see
the Germanic basis for English in everyday vocabulary. For example, compare
heart (OE heorte), come (OE cuman) and old (OE eald) with German Herz, kommen
and alt. Also irregular verbs such as drink ~ drank ~ drunk (OE drincan ~ dranc
~ (ge)druncen) parallel German trinken ~ trank ~ getrunken.

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There
is a widespread opinion that English evolved from Latin, but it does not seem
to be true. The Germanic languages evolved from ‘Proto-Germanic,’ which has
evolved from an ancient ‘Indo-European’ language. As Latin has its roots in
this same language it is technically an older cousin of English. By the time
Old English appeared, the West Germanic dialects had already absorbed many
Latin words. So English inherited these words and continued to borrow more. However,
the Latin influence was great. Before the end of the Old English period English
borrowed from Latin three times. As I have already mentioned the first
influence took place before the arrival of Germanic tribes, who absorbed
several hundred Latin words. Most of the words are related to trade, but there
are also words connected with domestic life, clothing, food, art. The second
influence, which took place during The Roman occupation of Britan was the
slightest. As for the last influence, it was the result of Christianizing of
Britain and it is estimated as the greatest influence of Latin on Old English.

The
Viking invasions of the 10th and 11th centuries is connected with the
first major change to the English language. Vikings conquered large parts
of England and they mixed with the Anglo-Saxons. They spoke Germanic dialects
known as Old Norse that had a profound influence on Old English. During this
period English grammar changed radically. The complex inflectional and gender
systems of Old English began to be simplified. For example, the Old English
word for woman (wif) , which was gender-neutral, became feminine, and the Old
English words for sun (sunne) and moon (môna), which were feminine and
masculine  became gender-neutral.

The
period between 1150-1500 is known as the Middle English period. The most
important historical event which took place in the beginning of  the Middle English period was the Norman
Conqust by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066. The Norman conquest is known as
the “final cataclysm that awaited the English language” and it  had a major impact on the life and language
of the English people. We can say that it completely changed the course of the
English language. In this context, I mean the great influence of French on
English.

At
first, French was the language of  the
courts, administration, and literature, while Latin was the language of the
church and English continued to be used by ordinary people and then it became
the language of peasants and the uneducated. English was rarely used in
writing, and started to change in many ways: the complex grammar which English
had before the conquest became much simpler, the language also lost its gender
system, that had been caused by the fact that French had a different gender
system and the same object which was masculine in English might have been
feminine in French. This change is known as the transformation from Old English
to Middle English. So, this is when the language of Shakespeare (Early Modern
English) emerged.

The
influence of French on English is so important that  about a third of  English vocabulary  are derived directly or indirectly from French
and it’s estimated that English speakers know 15,000 French words, before they
start learning the language. So, from about 10,000 French words (associated with government,
law, art, literature, food, and many other aspects of life) which
were incorporated into English during the Norman occupation, three-fourths are
still in use today. However, the French influence on the English language
didn’t occur immediately after the Conquest. The upper classes played an important
role in it. They carried over into English a large number of common French
words relating to government, administration, law, religion, army, fashion,
food, social life, art, learning and medicine. So, because of it, later, when
they were returning to the use of English a they often needed to help out with
French words in expressing themselves, because they did not know English
prfectly. During this period, half of the French words in English language came
in.

In
addition, it is necessary to mention the influence of the French literature
during this long period of time. From the beginning of the twelfth century a
big part of the literature written in French was produced in England and a
large number of the French words took the place of the forgotten English ones.
It should be noted that Chaucer, the greatest English poet of the Middle
Ages,  had an important influence as over
a thousand French words were first recorded in his work. 

The
differences developed among the words which the English language has borrowed
are also interesting. In their native country, some consonants have been
dropped and the sounds of some others have been changed. For example, English
retains the that the French lost in many words like beast and feast,
which are bête and fête in Modern French. 
The differences were also developed between the synonyms. The native
words are always nearer to the nation’s heart than the French words, which are more
formal and less emotional, such as amity that means formal friendly
relationship especially between nations or states and thus lacks the warmth of
friendship.

Under
the influence of French the pronunciation and spelling of English has also
changed. For exemple, the Old English spellings cw, sc and c became qu, sh and ch, so we now write queen rather than cwen, ship rather than scip, and should rather
than scolde. We can also see the
influence of French in the word order of expressions like secretary general and surgeon
general, where English has retained the noun + adjective word order typical
in French, rather than the usual adjective + noun.  In the English language we can found some
idioms which are used in their French forms (au contraire, vis à vis, RSVP (repondez s’il vous plait).

As I
already mentioned, French has given English a number of words in several
domains.  In this table below, there is
only one example of it. 

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