How old is English?

 

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language zones in Britain

Proto-English expanded to the
west before the Roman conquest.

 




[1] Maglemosian was a 3000 years older version of PIE (Proto-Indo-European language) which had independently evolved.  Azelian could have been related to the non-PIE Basque language.
Both languages were hunter-gatherers' languages.

 

 








 

 

 

 

 

[2] Caesar used only the word Brittanni in his report about his campaign in Britain. Caesar visited only the southeast of Britain. He previously had justified this campaign by pretending a Celtic presence on the isle. He was then probably referring to the southwest of Britain. This southwest would at the time of emperor Claudius' conquest be dominated by proto-English lords (Durotriges).

[3] "Origins of the British" (2006)

[4] Gildas: a Welsh abbot or bishop who published what is in fact a sermon. He wrote about the events of the 5th century around 544 AD, some 100 years later. He is the most important direct source for what happened during the 5th century. But he never intended to write history, so he gave no dates. His text in Latin is very tendentious anti-Anglo-Saxon and vague .

 

 

 

[5] 95% of the population was landless. Most foreign raiders were probably as desperate.

 

 

[6] Some regions close the language border like Wessex were apparently ruled by a Welsh family. This meant that they too applied 'Saxon rule' => civil power + military power.

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Summary

 

The Anglo-Saxons never imported English

 

The currently prevailing interpretation of events in the 5th century creates more problems than it solves. Where is the proof that:

Celtic culture is linked with Celtic language?
There was such a thing as 'a Celtic language'
?
Anglo-Saxons changed the language?

In reality, none of those statements have been ever proved. They are all assumptions. Continental sources confirmed that 'Angles' took power in Britain around the early 440's AD. But there is a major difference between obtaining power and a full scale conquest. The conquest or takeover of eastern Britain by Anglo-Saxons is a modern assumption, which sounds logical, but the reality was different. Remarkably, even early British sources (Gildas, Bede), although condemning the Anglo-Saxons (especially Gildas), never spoke of a classic conquest. Something else happened. The linked assumption (that the whole of Britain spoke a 'Celtic' language before, and that the population in the east was forced to learn English) is even worse: it is completely false.

This website explains that Britain always had two languages: proto-Welsh in the west and proto-English in the east.

Immediately after the last Ice Age (about 8000 BC) , there were two language families in Britain: Maglemosian east of the Pennines and Azelian in the west [1].  They were the result of swift immigration from two very different regions, respectively Bulgaria/east Romania and Northern Spain, just after the Big Melting.

When agriculture arrived in Britain (about 4500 BC) from two different origins, (Flanders and Brittany) the two languages gradually creolised into the ancestors of proto-English and proto-Brythonic respectively .

The proto-Germanic zone became split into two regions:
the old Northern Maglemosian language heavily influenced the creolisation in the Midlands and Northeast. This language evolved into Scandi-proto-English.  In the South and Southeast  proto-Germanic creolised over the existing Azelian language and became Coastal proto-English.

The proto-Brythonic language family zone gradually creolised into proto-Cornish (up to Wiltshire), proto-Welsh (including the valley of the Severn) and proto-Gaelic (west Scotland + Cumbria), this according to the origin of the proto-Brythonic farmers. 
(more ...)

Thus, 'Celtic' was not imported by 'Celts', simply because there were no 'Celts' as a people. The language, which is wrongly called 'Celtic', was present in Britain long before any Celtic art popped up in south Germany.

map_engl
This is the language situation map at the time of Julius Caesar. [2]

According to Stephen Oppenheimer [3], there is almost no genetic proof for an Anglo-Saxon presence or immigration in Britain. In fact, what was found is insignificant. There is certainly no genetic proof of a widespread wipe-out or genocide. Everything points in the opposite direction: continuation. Archaeological findings support that.

The language of the Anglo-Saxons was similar to the language of the eastern Britons. That's why Gildas [4] wrote: "The first order they received was to stay in the eastern part of the isle." (more ...) The Anglo-Saxons soldiers never had any difficulties to integrate themselves. They were merely catalysts, instruments of power for the local politicians and rich land owners. They never changed the local language. But their presence changed the local political system.

Even before the fall of the Roman Empire, Britain had been in turmoil. Gildas reported that the Romans came several times to restore law and order. Civil power and military power were strictly kept separate during the Roman Empire.

Britain had legions during the Empire, but used them on two occasions to fulfill Continental imperial ambitions (Maximus Clemens Magnus in AD 383 and Constantine III in AD 406). Those adventures failed and each time Britain lost its legal army. The island remained unprotected and raids and internal rebellions caused havoc each time. (more ... )

The reaction of the east-British (land)lords was to form their own guards illegally with local people. This happened occasionally in the 4th century. When Britain was declared 'independent' by emperor Honorius (AD 410), the trend increased dramatically. Eventually, many eastern British lords had their own small personal armies. To lead those guardsmen, a limited number of professional and experienced Anglo-Saxon soldiers were called in. Anglo-Saxons were chosen because they had an excellent reputation for absolute loyalty towards their lord. Today, we would say that they came as military advisers. At the time they were called housecarls. They had to organize, train and lead the fyrd, the militia.

In 428, Vortigern, chairman of the British senate, legalized the 'housecarl system'. Having Anglo-Saxons at your service had become highly fashionable. Soon, those loyal security servants would help to realize the personal ambitions of their lords. Most likely they were never more than a few thousand (German) Anglo-Saxons present in Britain. (more ... )

When landless British people rebelled (probably as a reaction to a famine which was worsen by raids [5] ), around AD 441, it became clear that the local lords with Anglo-Saxons at their service had the real power. The rebellion was eventually crushed. This gave a number of Anglo-Saxons the opportunity to become a part of the east British upper class. They had become a hype. It heralded the beginning of the aristocratic age: civil and military power gradually became one.

After the rebellion, eastern England was reorganized into military provinces (such as Kent). This was in fact a copy of the old Roman system but often redrawn along ancient tribal boundaries. Influential and prestigious Anglo-Saxon captains were appointed by local British upper class representatives as military governors or managers of those provinces (e.g. Hengest 'the Jute' in Kent). From those regions would later emerge the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Hengest's son Oisc (Aesc) took over his father's office and became the first king of Kent. Not all military provinces were ruled by genuine Anglo-Saxons. Some regions were ruled by powerful local British families, although they too would later claim to be of Anglo-Saxon descend [6].

There never was a brutal takeover of eastern Britain.

Conservative southwestern lords (proto-English speaking) rebuffed this 'Anglo-Saxon system' or 'Saxon rule'. The Welsh joined the alliance. The latter feared e.g. that the lords of the Midlands would expand their territory at their expense. However, the southwest alliance considered the Welsh lords as unreliable. This alliance rebelled against the London senate. The proto-English lords in the southwest had seen their income (out of trade and transport to the Empire) diminish greatly. A civil war broke out (battle of Wallop, battle of Bath). This western-based pro-Roman party managed to stall the expansionist ambitions of the eastern 'Anglo-Saxon' lords for almost a century (until 577AD- battle of Dyrrham). They hoped that the Empire (and their export markets) would eventually come back. As the eastern Roman Empire still flourished, this idea was not so preposterous.

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