Timelines to Visualize History

A Project by the Department of Medieval English Literature and Historical Linguistics, University of Düsseldorf

Overview for "Language Contact"

Begin End Event Description Keywords
410 -

Romans leave Britain

In 410, the Romans left Britain after centuries of occupation. Few remnants of this era in the history of the British Isles can be found, among them several place names that are of Latin origin (e.g. Dubris = Dover, Glevum Colonia = Gloucester, Leodis = Leeds, Londinium = London).
Language Contact, Political, History
600 800


As a result of Christianisation, a language contact situation with Latin occurred. Latin was the lingua franca of the church, therefore all texts and sermons were in Latin. It was primarily written, therefore the influence was on a higher register and in the areas of education and religion.
Linguistics, Language Contact, Religious, Old English Period
793 900

The First Viking Age

The sacking on the monastry of Lindisfarne marked only the beginning of the Viking Age. In the second half of the 9th century the threat became even more serious, as the Danes started regular raids and only eventually the kingdom of Wessex, under the reign of King Alfred, offered resistance.
History, Old English Period, Political, Vikings, Language Contact
793 1042

Old Norse

From Viking invasions up until the end of the reign of the Danish Kings, Old English was influenced by Old Norse. This influence began several decades after the first Viking attack on Lindisfarne, when the Vikings returned for new raids and eventually decided to settle in England. Eventually, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings were in such close contact that the Old Norse language had a significant impact on Old English.
Linguistics, Language Contact, Vikings, Old English Period
900 1300

Typological Change

In the typological change, English changed from a synthetic, highly inflectional, to an analytic language that relies on a stricter word order. The change was likely caused as a result of language contact with Old Norse, as Old English and Old Norse had similar roots but different inflections.
Linguistics, Language Contact, Middle English Period, Old English Period
980 1042

The Second Viking Age

After Æthelred fled to Normandy into exile, the Danish king Swein was acknowledged as king of all England in 1014. He was succeeded by his son Cnut (1016-1035), whom the English preferred over Æthelred's son Edmund. Both of his sons, Harold (1035-1040) and Harthacnut (1040-1042) became king after him, but with Harthacnut the male line of the Danish dynasty ended and Edward the Confessor, son of Æthelred the Unread and Emma of Normandy, became the last Anglo-Saxon king.
History, Language Contact, Old English Period, Political, Vikings
1066 1154

Norman French

As a result of the Norman Conquest, French became the official language of government. Though English survived, it was heavily influenced and adopted a large amount of French vocabulary. The influence happened on a higher register, in the language of government, medicine, fashion, aristocracy, art and education.
Linguistics, Language Contact, Middle English Period, Norman Conquest
1154 1413

Central French

With the reign of the Plantagenets, English came into contact with Central French. Though English was previously influenced by another variety of French, there are a few lexical doublets that resulted from this contact situation. See also Norman French to learn more.
Linguistics, Language Contact, Middle English Period
1500 1600

Latin, Greek, Italian

The English Renaissance caused a renewed interest in classical languages and a flourish in culture, but it also caused another wave of language contact for the English language. Again, Latin was a popular source for new words, particularly in the field of religion and science. But many words were also adopted from Greek (also in the field of science) and from Italian (primarily in the field of architecture).
Linguistics, Early Modern English Period, Language Contact
1500 1750

The Early Modern English Period

The Early Modern English Period describes a linguistic, historical and literary period. By 1500, English had already evolved to resemble Modern English more closely, though is still retained some inflections that were lost in Modern English. The period is marked by standardisation as a result of the printing press, renewed Latin influence during the Renaissance and the ongoing process of the Great Vowel Shift.
Linguistics, Standardisation, Early Modern English Period, Language Contact