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in a series of articles on the English language and
500 AD: Origins
The English word father is vater in German and pater in Latin.
5001100 AD: Old English
Words like be, water and strong, for example, are derived from Old English terms.
11001600 AD: Middle English
From the Norman conquest of England in 1066, English starts to adopt French words, especially business and political terms and those related to power. Middle English emerged from this process.
The difference between beef, the veal eaten by Norman aristocrats and cow, the animal kept by English peasants stems from this period.
1600 ADtoday: Modern English
Modern English emerged around the time of William Shakespeare. There are a surprising number of set phrases in Shakespeare's works but we mustn't forget that they were first coined by him and they became fixed expressions later. With the arrival of the printing press in 1476, books became cheaper and more and more works got published which led to the need for grammatical and spelling rules to be developed.
The first English-language dictionary was published in 1604.
With the rise of technological advances, new words needed to be coined to describe new things. For this, English looked to Latin and Greek. It's not that terms like oxygen and protein already existed in classical languages but they provided the roots to form the new terms.
Cyberspace and microchip are good examples of very recent neologisms which have been formed in the same way.
Next in the series
In the next issue you can find out about some well-known UK and US cities.
A Spanish language version of the text above is available
in the 'Guía Cultural' section of Macmillan Diccionario Pocket,
a brand-new bilingual English-Spanish/Spanish-English dictionary.