History of English: its Subject, Object, Aim, and Problems

September 9th, 20117:26 am

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History of English: its Subject, Object, Aim, and Problems

It is well known that language, whether it is English, Russian or any other, is a historical phenomenon. As such it does not stay unchanged for any considerable period of time, or for any lime at all, but it is constantly changing throughout its history.

The changes affect all the spheres of the language: grammar and vocabulary, phonetics and spelling. The changes that any language undergoes are gradual and very slow but pronounced enough if you compare the stages of its development within a century or even half a century. You can imagine that with the passage of time the difference between different stages of the development of the language grows and you will easily deduce that if you speak of such a language as English the history of which embraces over fifteen centuries you will have to analyze and explain a great number of linguistic data characterizing the language at different stages of its history.
The aims set before a student of the history of the English language are as follows:

1. to speak of the characteristics of the language at the earlier stages of its development;
2. to trace the language from the Old English period up to modern times;
3. to explain the principal features in the development of modern language historically.
To achieve those aims a student will have to know the theoretical basis of the subject and to work with the text to apply the theoretical knowledge to the practical analysis of English texts at different periods of the language development.

Thus the main purpose of studying the history of the English language is to account for the present-day stage of the language to enable a student of English to read books and speak the language with understanding and due knowledge of the intricate and complicates “mechanism” they use.

We said that the history of any language is an unbroken chain of changes more or less rapid. But though the linguistic tradition is unbroken it is impossible to study the language of over 15 centuries long without subdividing it into smaller periods. Thus the history of the English language is generally subdivided conventionally into Old English (5th—11th century), Middle English (11th— 15th century) and New English (15th century—till now).

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