The adventure of English : 500 AD to 2000 AD / written and presented by Melvyn Bragg London Weekend Television (Firm)

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London Weekend Television (Firm)
English language - History.; History.; English language.
Episode 1. The origins of English are traced to the tribes from the wetlands of northern Holland who in the fifth century invaded Southern England and wiped out the language of the existing Celtic inhabitants. In the north-east, the languages of the Latin church and Viking invaders enriched English, and King Alfred the Great turned Winchester into the centre of a great flowering of English writing. With the end of the Anglo-Saxon kings at Hastings, the Normans swamped the Old English tongue with new French words - thousands are still part of our modern language. Episode 2. For three centuries after the Conquest by a French-speaking king and court, Latin was used for official business. English was the language of the peasants, the third-class tongue in its own country. It took two centuries of bloody war with France, and the death of a third of the population in the greatest plague in history to bring about the resurgence of English. Bragg visits the site of the Tabard Inn in Southwark and the Pilgrims Route to Canterbury, where Geoffrey Chaucer gave England and English a vivid new literature that could stand proudly alongside the best that the continent could boast. Episode 3. English became the battleground in the fight for men's souls. The medieval church establishment kept the Bible in Latin only whilst those possessing an English translation risked death. Henry VIII brought the English Bible out of hiding and William Tyndale's translation brought dozens of familiar phrases - from "Let there be light" to "Ye of little faith" - into everyday use, and fixed for centuries our idea of how God speaks. The development of the printing process had a big impact on the language and embedded many of the anomalies of spelling and grammar that still make English so difficult for students to learn. Episode 4. Naval enterprise and foreign trade encouraged by Queen Elizabeth the First brought scores of new words into the language - anchovy from Spain, ketchup form Malay, and knapsack from Dutch are just three familiar exports from this time. Scholars were also bringing new Latin terms into the language, but there was a movement to stop this and keep English 'pure'. If it had succeeded, we might now say 'ungothroughsome' instead of 'impenetrable'. Shakespeare combined the languages of the common people and the aristocracy, to take English to new heights. Episode 5 - America. Bragg follows the spread of English across the ocean to America, exploring how the language of one empire became the language of another. The colonists claimed to speak English better than the English and the King's English became the Peoples̕ English. But as the language went west, it went wild; America invented new ways of talking, and new words and phrases - a rambunctious and splendiferous new voice for the country. In the south, tens of thousands of black slaves who were excluded from the American dream developed their own voice; the Gullah language, an African-English hybrid, still survives as a testament to oppression and dispossession. Episode 6 - Speaking Proper. In eighteenth-century Britain, Jonathan Swift led a movement to fix and regulate the language and the first English dictionary was produced. A cohort of grammarians imposed new rules on the language and an Irish actor, Thomas Sheridan took it upon himself to teach the whole country how to speak properly. Robert Burns, William Wordsworth and Jane Austen all contributed to the story of the language. English continued to change and develop and the way that people talked and the words that they used became a badge of class and breeding, and social death could result from dropping an 'h' or using an inappropriate word. Episode 7 - The Language Of Empire. This programme travels to parts of the former British Empire, to see how English met other cultures and other languages, and was enriched by them. In India, the language of the Raj developed into the florid "Babu" expression common today. The islands of the Caribbean have developed a conglomeration of dialects influenced by European and African languages. In Australia, a confident and robust national language grew out of the slang of 18th century London criminals. However as English prospers, other native languages suffer. Episode 8 - Many Englishes, One World Language. The rise of America as an industrial power has been the driving force behind the global spread of English. The cinema, the American GI, the Cold War and modern consumerism have also helped. The language is now used by more people ever before in history, but will this result in the development of a series of mutually unintelligible dialects around the world? English is changing today, as cultural influences affect the way people use English and new words come into everyday use. How does the Oxford English Dictionary - the greatest repository of the language - keep up with these developments?
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