The history of the English language, 1500 BCE – 100 CE

In the last post, we looked at the very Proto-European language, today we continue our story from where we left off.

In around 1500 BCE The Greeks were inventing the alphabet – it wasn’t the first written language of course, but it was the first that used the system of consonants and vowel sounds that we use today. The word alphabet actually comes from Alpha Beta – the first two letters of the Greek alphabet.

So, Proto-Indo-European has spread around Europe and Indian and formed distinct languages; the earliest of the Germanic languages is dubbed ‘proto-Germanic’ it was spoken in around 500 BCE and came to England with the Celts as they expanded from their German origins during the iron age – Britain was mostly local tribes at this point ruled by local strongmen.

Here we come across one of my favourite languages – Ogham, Ogham is often called ‘old Irish’ and was the language of the druids in around 100 CE, one of the ways the druids maintained power – as in seen throughout history religion created a hierarchy of power which intertwined with and paralleled the main system of government – was by being the keepers of knowledge, it was their understanding of this secret language that allowed them to record and read information about religion, medicine and farming practices. So if you were suffering from a poor harvest, the druidic leaders could help you out with what to plant and how so that you would have a better harvest next year, must have seemed pretty impressive huh? That’s not the reason I love Ogham though, the reason I love Ogham is because it was written along trees, starting on the main trunk and following the growth pattern of the tree. Also, because agriculture was so important to the farming society at the time, instead of letters, Ogham had symbols which represented trees; cedar, beech etc, rather than A, B etc.

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