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The English Language - Changes and Influences - Tasks


  1. Which group and sub-group of languages does English belong to?
  2. From which language/languages come the most common conversational words in English?
  3. How is grammatical meaning expressed in English?
  4. What is the difference between an isolating language and an inflectional language?
  5. Give at least one example of a) an isolating language and b) an inflectional language.
  6. How has the form of English changed from Old English to modern English?
  7. What type of language is Jamaican Patois?
Suggested answers
  1. Indo-European, West Germanic
  2. Germanic (French, Latin and Scandinavian are also important)
  3. Word order and independent grammatical units
  4. In an isolating language the lexical and grammatical meaning is expressed through independent units. In an inflectional language, the lexical meaning is in the root of the word and the grammatical meaning in the word endings.
  5. a) Chinese, Vietnamese, English b) Old English, German, Latin, Norwegian
  6. It has changed from an inflectional language to an isolating language with some inflectional features.
  7. Isolating language


Fill in the correct word in the gaps in the text.

Vocabulary Fill In

Anglo-Saxon runes

Anglo-Saxon runes

Writing with Anglo-Saxon Runes

The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic tribes who invaded the south - eastern part of the British Isles beginning in the 5th Century AD. Here is an example of a runic alphabet used by the Anglo-Saxons.

Use the alphabet to write your first and last name.

Middle English

The Canterbury Tales, written at the end of the 14th Century by Geoffrey Chaucer, describes a group of pilgrims travelling to Canterbury to the shrine of Thomas à Becket. It was written in Middle English which was closer to modern English than Old English. Middle English lost most of the endings of words and the word order was more important. Click on this link to listen to the beginning of the poem read in Middle English, The Canterbury Tales. At this link you will find the text in Middle English and modern English The Canterbury Tales - text

Here is an excerpt describing one of the pilgrims, the Miller. Try to read it aloud. The e at the end of words is pronounced and all the consonants. Now try and make a rough translation into Standard English. Can you find any similarities to Scandinavian languages?

The millere was a stout carl for the nones;
Ful byg he was of brawn, and eek of bones.
That proved wel, for over al ther he cam,
At wrastlynge he wolde have alwey the ram*.
He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre;
Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and theron stood a toft of herys,
Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;
His nosethirles blake were and wyde.

*ram = prize

Suggested Translation

The miller was a stout fellow, be it known,
Heavily built and big of brawn and bone;
Which was well proved, for he could go
And win the ram* at any wrestling show.
He was a chunky fellow, broad of build;
He'd heave a door off its hinges if he willed,
Or take a run and break it with his head.
His beard, like any sow or fox, was red,
And was so broad it looked like a spade.
Upon the tip of his nose he had
A wart, on which there was a tuft of hairs,
Red as the bristles in a sow's ears;
His nostrils they were black and very wide.

ram = prize

Last updated 11/14/2018
Written by: Anne Scott Hagen and Eli M. Huseby

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