Old English came from Germanic and northern tribes who overpowered the Celts in Britain (around the 5th or 7th century). It’s virtually unrecognizable, save a few common words: he, him and of, and its nouns, adjectives, and definitive articles were gender specific.
Middle English (12th-15th centuries) had large French influences due to the invasion of England by William the Conqueror. It bore a closer resemblance to current English than that of the Anglo-Saxons; however, it has a foreign sound thanks to different vowel phonemes. It looks recognizable, but the vowel pronunciation is shorter today.
Modern English (16th century) was greatly influenced by Latin and Greek. It was also stabilized by the invention of printing and distribution of books. This is the English of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Romeo.
Modern English: “Look here upon this picture and on this, The counterfeit presentment of two brothers. See, what a grace was seated on this brow?” – Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4, Lines 54-56
Late Modern English: “Look at this picture here, and that one there, the painted images of two brothers. Look how kind and gentlemanly this one is…” – Sparknotes translation
Late Modern English (specifically American English) mixes older variants, terminology born from the industrial and technological revolutions, and foreign languages thanks to imperialism and globalization. By no means; however, is it a stagnant language. As English speakers know; words, phrases, and pronunciations vary geographically (just speak with a Texan and a Bostonian) and evolve constantly with new slang, sentence structures, and sub-languages like Spanglish.
The variance between “proper” English and that of the young millennial, one littered with odd slang (fleek anyone) and unnecessary abbreviations (yolo isn't a word...) is enough to make us wonder what the next major evolution of English will look like...
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