History of the English Language
A short history of the origins and development of English

The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders - mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from Englaland and their language was called Englisc - from which the words England and English are derived.
rest of the article here

Then there's the map over here...

So we've got Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans by the 11th century. I've noticed that quite a few people I've met, that speak English as a second language, have trouble with the "th" sound. I'm not fluent in any other languages, perhaps one of you can help me out. Where did we get the "th" sound? Who else uses it?

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That's interesting. I would love to hear how English sounded before the Great Vowel Shift.
Too bad that image of Beowulf wasn't a bit clearer. The excerpt from the Chaucer poem seems to suggest a bit of a different pronunciation. I like that mordred = murdered
Dallas there is a great Documentary on the history of the English Language...

The Adventure of English

Melvyn Bragg travels through Britain to tell the story of how an insignificant German dialect, which only arrived in the country in the fifth century, evolved into a language which is now spoken and understood by more people than any other around the world. We trace English from its humble roots to its flowering in the writing of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. English is a global language.d
Thanks for posting the link. I thought it was interesting, that when the language expert demonstrated Old English pronunciations, the words sounded much closer to German. It looks like that Documentary answered my question about the "th" sound as well. I noticed that they started using it the second they started depicting speech from the Germanic tribes crossing over. I swear I heard it used during the Frisian weather forecast as well.
Thanks. I'll try to watch it online soon, or get the DVD and watch it at home.
That series is pretty good, but they made some mistakes on etymology; Bragg has discussed them elsewhere. But it's a fantastic series. Bragg also has a good BBC show called "In Our Time." It's geek crack.
I might be able to shed a little light on this (I had to learn Anglo-Saxon so I could study Beowulf in the original, so I could write a paper about Seamus Heaney's translation and incorporation of Hibernicisms... it takes all kinds...).

So: There were two "th" sounds, the "eth" and the "thorn." The eth looked like a bent lower-case d with a line through the stem -- ð -- and the thorn looked like a p with an extended stem -- þ. The easy way to tell the difference: ð is a soft "th", as in "weather," and þ is a heavy "th," as in "think."

As the language spread, often the ð shifted a regular "d" sound, as did a lot of "th" sounds in general (ask a Dubliner to say "thirty three and a third" and try not to giggle). Later, the þ often became a "y" sound -- ye olde whatever shoppe.

Why we had the two sounds is a different question. The þ came from a rune (the futhark), while the letter ð was introduced by Irish scribes; the ð is an Icelandic sound/letter, but the Welsh dd and some Irish dh sounds are pronounced the same way. So one "th" sound came from a Scandinavian source, and the other possibly from a Celtic/Icelandic source. (It's probably important to remember that the ancient Irish and Icelanders were visiting each others islands for centuries.)

I don't know why the sound is so rare and difficult; it may be the sound itself, or where it occurs in our words. I live in Virginia, but I'm originally from the land of the film Fargo, and my homies will often drop a "th" to a "d" more readily than the southern gentlemen of Ye Olde Dominion.

I believe that the Welsh 'dd', as in Gwynedd, is also pronounced ð (soft 'th').
true ðat, or ddat.




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