Evolution of Old English to Early Modern English

Early English

The English language has been evolving since Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, developed in Britain from the dialects spoken by the Germanic tribes called Angles and Saxons who arrived in the fifth and sixth centuries. Later invaders, such as Danes and Norman Frenchmen, added their vocabulary and also influenced the grammar of English.

Early Modern English

By the time Shakespeare was writing, the language had passed through the phase now known as Middle English (the language, for example, of such fourteenth century writers as Chaucer) and was entering the period we now call Early Modern English.

Further changes

 Inevitably languages continue to evolve in use:

  • Present-day English is still changing, for example because of the influence of America
  • For readers and audiences today, Shakespeare's language is broadly comprehensible, but different in key ways from our own.
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