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15. Late Old English (899–1066)

Mechthild Gretsch

Subject History, Literature

Period 1 - 999 CE » 500 - 999 CE
1000 - 1999 » 1000-1099

Key-Topics language

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405129923.2008.00024.x


The outer limits of the period we are concerned with in this chapter are determined by two historical events: the death of King Alfred the Great and the Norman Conquest. It is not unusual to define periods in the history of a language by historical events, but it is less often the case that linguistic history, historical events, and the intellectual climate in which they unfolded are considered in their interactions. It is an approach which will be adopted here. The history of a language cannot be adequately written by describing exclusively its sound shifts, the development of its morphological and syntactical subsystems, and the changes which occurred in its lexicon – important as these aspects no doubt are when reviewing the history of English or of any other language. But we will have to bear in mind that language in its spoken and written form at a given time plays a crucial part in the culture of its speakers at that time, that feelings of group identity or national identity were often forged in a decisive way by the bond of a common language, and that, especially in the early periods, linguistic phenomena may relate to political situations, or to a scholarly and/or political interest taken in the state of a language, to a degree that these phenomena cannot be sufficiently understood in terms of purely linguistic criteria. We also have to bear in mind that English was not ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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