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Some Important Dates in the History of the English Language

55 BCE Julius Caesar in Britain
43 CE Romans settle in Britain (Claudius. Hadrian’s Wall constructed–boundary)
410 Roman troops leave Britain (Gmc. tribes already invading…)
449 Gmc. (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) “invited” invasions begin (for c. 100 yrs., vs. Celts)
597 Pop Gregory sends Benedictine missionaries to Brit.
787 Viking/Danish invasions of England begin
830 W. Saxon King Egbert declared king of all England
871-899 Reign of King Alfred the Great
878 Danelaw established between Alfred and Guthrum: Treaty of Wedmore
1014-1042 Danish monarch on English throne
1066 Norman Invasion (French predominates for about 3 centuries)
1204 King John loses Normandy
1244 Kings Louis IX (Fr.) & Henry III (Eng.): “Choose! Can’t serve 2 masters.”
1362 Statute of Pleading. Also, Parliament opens in English.
1337-1453 Hundred Years’ War (Eng. vs. Fr.)
1348-49 Black Plague
1381 Peasants’ Revolt
1387 Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
1476 Caxton: moveable print in England
1558-1603 Reign of Elizabeth I
1582 Mulcaster’s Elementarie (custom, usage)
1564-1616 Shakespeare
1712 Jonathan Swift’s Proposal (for an English language Academy)
1721 Bailey’s Dictionary (first real one)
1755 Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
1761 Joseph Priestley’s The Rudiments of English Grammar (emph. on usage, custom)
1762 Robert Lowth’s Short Introduction to English Grammar (prescriptive. 22 editions!)
1776 George Campbell, Philosophy of Rhetoric (usage)
1780 John Adams proposes an American [language] Academy
1786 Sir William Jones: Sanskrit is Indo-European language
1822 Grimm’s Law
1828 Nathaniel Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language
1928 OED: Oxford English Dictionary (took 70 yrs.! Re-edited 1933, 1972…)
1961 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (controversial—bec. not prescriptive)

450-1150 OLD ENGLISH (“Period of full inflections”)
1150-1500 MIDDLE ENGLISH (“Period of lost inflections”)
1650-1800 “AGE OF REASON”

Engraving of Noah Webster, from the frontispie...

Engraving of Noah Webster, from the frontispiece of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, Revised and Enlarged (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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