The origins of the English language.
The English language is everywhere these days, but most people don’t know where it first originated. In truth, though it’s now found all around the globe, it began as a humble dialect spoken by just a few million people on a small island off the coast of mainland Europe.
Where does spoken English come from?
English as a language first originated from various Anglo Frisian dialects that came to Great Britain between the mid-fifth and seventh centuries. Anglo-Saxon migrants coming from Germany, the Netherlands, and even southern Denmark settled in the British Isles and eventually mingled their language with the Old English dialects already present.
As a result, English is an interesting hodgepodge of different sounds, accents, and more. English was significantly influenced by North Germanic languages, like those spoken by the Vikings of old.
Over time, Old English became replaced by a mixed English and Saxon dialect that soon came to be the variation of English we know today. English has since spread all throughout the world and is even the international trade and flight language due to its ubiquity and versatility.
The alphabet has an even more remote origin, beginning in ancient Egypt thousands of years before the common era. The Egyptians had a 24 hieroglyph alphabet – each glyph represented different spoken syllables. It wasn’t until the Greeks developed their initial Euboean alphabet that the earliest inklings of English letters were written on old stone blocks or scripts.
The Greek alphabet gradually gave way to the Latin alphabet, which was used by the Roman Empire and then spread all throughout Europe. The Latin alphabet was eventually augmented and modified by inclusions from other written languages, such as Old English and Icelandic.
Today, we know the English alphabet as a collection of 26 symbols, each a letter with a lower and upper case form. English also includes a wide selection of digraphs, which are used to add accents to certain letters or dictate the pronunciation of certain words. Interestingly, our word for the written English language – the “alphabet” – comes from combining the first two letters of ancient Greek, alpha and beta.
The NATO phonetic alphabet and verbal communication.
English is one of the most widely known languages in part due to the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, which is used for radio communications. When speaking over crackling radio, it can be tough to know what letter a person is saying since many spoken letters sound pretty similar to one another (“d” and “e”, for example).
The NATO Phonetic Alphabet was fully finalized in 1956 and it includes spoken word replacements for every letter in the English alphabet. For instance, the letter “r” is replaced with “Romeo”, “e” with “echo”, and so on. It’s used by pilots, militaries, and people at sea.
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