At the end of the 8th century, Western Europe saw its most powerful kings to date. That included Charlemagne in Francia and Offa in Britain. Those kings shared a close relationship which extended to their currency. The establishment of an official currency in both kingdoms spurred trade in northern Europe. And the remote beneficiaries of that trade were the Scandinavians. Meanwhile, Charlemagne’s reforms in Francia led to the emergence of the Carolingian Renaissance. In this episode, we explore the impact of these events on the English language.
The modern French language evolved from a Latin dialect spoken in Gaul during the period of the late Roman Empire. That language ultimately became mixed with Old English after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Approximately half of the words in conversational English come from French. So in this episode, we explore the ultimate origins of the early Romance dialect known as ‘Old French.’ We also examine the impact which the early French language had on English. And along the way, we look at the evolution of the Frankish kingdom from Clovis to Charlemagne.
Many Anglo-Saxons believed in a world inhabited by monsters and mythological creatures. They also believed in the power of sorcery and witchcraft. These ideas are reflected in the literature of the Anglo-Saxons, most notably the epic poem Beowulf. In this episode, we explore the monsters and mythological creatures of the Anglo-Saxons and their ancestors.
The Viking-era states of Denmark, Sweden and Norway emerged from several North Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. These tribes also included the Geats who were prominently featured in Beowulf. In this episode, we explore the early history of these tribes and discuss the historical context of Beowulf. We also explore how the Old Norse language of the Vikings impacted the Old English language of the Anglo-Saxons.
In this bonus episode we explore a few odds and ends which didn’t make into the earlier episodes. We examine the Old English words related to knowledge and wisdom. And we also look at the original terms for the fingers.
The Anglo-Saxons created new words within Old English through the use of compound words, as well as standard prefixes and suffixes. This process expanded the vocabulary of Old English and enabled the language to emerge as an important literary language. In this episode, we explore many of the words created in this manner during the period of Old English.
Long before the Normans arrived in England, the Anglo-Saxons were borrowing Latin words from the monastic culture which was emerging in the 7th and 8th centuries. In this episode, we explore the spread of monastic schools and scholarship in Anglo-Saxon Britain, and we examine many of the Latin words which were borrowed during the period of Old English.
The early Christian Church in Britain gradually embraced English as a way to spread to the message of the Church to the masses. This required the translation of Christian words and concepts from Latin into English. In this episode, we explore how English was used to represent the new religious ideas which were rapidly expanding across Britain. We also explore the many words and phrases which originated from this process and which still exist in Modern English. Check out the ‘Texts’ tab for the written version of Caedmon’s Hymn and the Ruthwell Cross inscription discussed in this episode.
The kingdom of Northumbria emerged as a center of scholarship and learning during the 7th century. We explore the political and religious events which led to the Northumbrian Renaissance. We also explore the importance of strategic marriages and marital terms in Old English. Lastly, we look at the first known poet in the English language – a cowherd named Caedmon.
Old English poets were ‘word weavers’ who often created new words to comply with the strict requirements of Germanic poetry. In this episode, we explore the role of the traveling minstrel in Anglo-Saxon culture. We also explore the etymology of many Modern English words related to travel.