Segments in this Video

Indo-European Languages (02:05)


English today resembles words from Sanskrit. Researchers study the "Parent" of Indo-European languages, reaching out as far as India and the Hebrides.

Frisian Language in Holland (01:46)

This segment visits a Frisian speaker in northern Holland where there are 300,000 Frisian speakers. The language is close to Old English as the speaker demonstrates. English arrived in Britain in 49 A.D.

Anglo-Saxon Invasions in Britain (01:56)

Invading Frisians, Saxons, Angles, and Jutes spoke closely related languages--which came to be known as Anglo-Saxon. The Romans had recently abandoned Britain. Native Britons were driven into the forests and hills by the invaders, the language all but disappearing from history.

English Spoken by the Welsh (03:31)

Echoes of the ancient Celtic language can be heard today in modern Welsh. Celts who fled to France named their new land Breton. Characteristics of the English spoken by the Welsh include the rolled-R, clear vowels, hesitant consonants, and lilting inflections.

Celtic Languages (02:10)

Celtic Wales was united with Anglo-Saxon England in the 16th century and is today officially bi-lingual. Fro generations, the Celtic languages have been fighting for survival in France, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Old English: Dutch, English, and German Influences (03:17)

The language of Wessex, the kingdom of the West Saxons is still studied today. Students study the language that is strangely familiar to English, with its overtones of Dutch, English, and German. Old English, an inflected language, shares basic principles with German.

Evidence of Old English in Modern English (03:16)

Much of modern English comes from the Anglo-Saxon invaders. A story spoken and translated demonstrates that Old English heavily influenced English. About 90% of the most common words of English come from Old English.

"Beowulf" in Old English (01:25)

"Beowulf" in Old English contains many metaphors and alliterative passages. The Anglo-Saxons were "almost obsessed" with being heroes, with being dignified in the face of defeat

Christianity's Influence on Language and Danish Invasions (02:43)

The conversion of England to Christianity was a cultural revolution which gave the language richness and power. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the invasions of the Danes that drove the English into a small corner in the Southwest, their language threatened with extinction.

Viking Remnants in England and English Language (04:02)

England was divided along lines that exist today. Alfred the Great ruled in the south and the Vikings settled in the north. Today, fishing huts on Holy Island recall the shape of Viking longships. A Yorkshire speaker's accent is reminiscent of Old Norse.

Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon English (04:37)

Many place names in England come from Anglo-Saxon and remain the same today. Both Viking and Anglo-Saxon place names have traveled around the world, e.g., Scarborough, Derby, and Boston. Where Norse and Anglo-Saxon met, the language shows strong influences from both.

England Falls to France: French Language Prevails (04:24)

The power of English to stand up to invasion, war, and social upheaval faced its most extreme test in 1066. Norman knights in English strongholds spoke only French after the defeat of King Harold Godwinson and for the next 300 years.

Proliferation of English Among Norman Invaders (03:18)

Research shows that the Normans became quickly integrated into English society. Intermarriages resulted in the proliferation of English among Norman knights and their families. By 1190, French was learned as a foreign language.

Norman Conquest: Linguistic Blessing (02:07)

The Norman masters in England added a wealth of synonyms to the English language. This added the capacity for English to make fine distinctions, a hallmark of English today. The Normans added 10,000 words to English social institutions such as law and medicine.

Norman Influence on English Language Structure (01:11)

A major difference between Old English and the emerging Middle English is in the use of prepositions, and thus the importance of word order. The royal court, having adopted this English, gave status to the beginnings of Standard English.

Geoffrey Chaucer's Influence on English (03:41)

Writing about all classes of men and women, Chaucer gave to English the possibility of imaginative breakthroughs. A genius writer, Chaucer consciously chose to write in English instead of Latin or French. Excerpts heard from Chaucer's English.

William Caxton: First English Language Press (04:09)

Chaucer, the father of English literature, is head of a great tradition, which includes John Dryden and William Shakespeare. William Caxton publishes and prints the very first book in the English language. Variant spellings existed for nearly every English word.

Fifteenth-Century English (03:43)

By the late 15th century, actors spoke in a variety of English that would be almost completely recognizable today. Excerpts from the 15th-century play "Mankind," a colloquial masterpiece, are featured in this segment.

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The Mother Tongue

Part of the Series : The Story of English
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The making of English is the story of three great invasions and a cultural revolution. This classic PBS program shows how an early form of English was carried to Britain by invading Anglo-Saxons, how that language was all but obliterated by waves of Viking settlers, and how it was reshaped by the French-speaking Normans. The fact that English survived on the lips of people who left no written records is made clear in the program; however, the nascent literary history of the language is also presented—how it emerged in the first English plays, developed in the printing achievements of William Caxton, and flowered in the poetry of the first great English writer, Geoffrey Chaucer. (58 minutes)

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL36924

ISBN: 978-1-4213-6088-1

Copyright date: ©1986

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.