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Language timeline

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Language timeline

BCE

40,000-8000 – Linguistic and pictorial representation well-established
3000 – First writing: Sumerian cuneiform, passing to Akkadia and the Assyrians
2900 – Egyptian hieroglyphics
1350 – Chinese pictograms
1000 – Celtic Goedelic (Gaelic) languages spread to Western Britain from Spain and Portugal
800-700 – Origin of the Greek alphabet; Homer writes the Greek epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey which become a national narrative
600   – Latin alphabet
449   – Germanic Angles and Saxons arrive in eastern Britain diplacing native Goedelic with Germanic Brythonic
323   – Greek koine used as language of administration in E Mediterranean
300   – Latin spreads from Italy to SW Europe
220   – Standardisation of written Chinese
100   – Standardisation of Latin
29 to 19 – Poet Virgil writes the Latin Aeneid which becomes a Roman national narrative

CE

550   – Arabic alphabet
597   – Roman prelate Augustine arrives in Britain bringing from Pope Gregory the Christian faith and Latin (ignored after the departure of Roman soldiers) becomes first Archbishop of Canterbury
603-616 – Law of Ethelbert, the first Engish text written in the Latin alphabet
700   – Latin the administrative language in western Europe; Greek in the east
800   – Charlemagne (c.742-814) forms western empire uniting most of France, Germany and neighbouring countries and introduces education for the clergy based on classical Latin. He was king of the Franks and first Holy Roman Emperor uniting much of Western Europe after the collapse of the Roman empire
871   – King Alfred the Great begins the process of translating important Latin texts into English
879   – Standard written English based on West Saxon dialect
1000 – Japanese with Chinese kanji characters & syllabic scripts katakana and hiragana
1066 – Norman invasion of Britain with replacement of English for legal an administrative purposes by French and Latin
1350 – Italian written language. Nôm script in Vietnam
1390 – Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales launches an English literary tradition
1417 – Henry V changes from French to English in his correspondence
1450 – Korean hangul syllabic script
1476 – William Caxton’s printing office opens in London facilitating the transition from written dialect to standard English
1500-1700 – Gradual replacement of Latin as the official written language of international political relations. Rise of the nation-state, national languages and cultural traditions, periods of regional linguistic dominance in economics and politics as with French in the reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715)
1604 – Publication of the first English dictionary
1652 – Arrival of Dutch in Cape Town and initiation of Afrikaans
1815-1945 – British Empire establishes English in colonies across the world
1990 -> – English the leading international language following British Empire at its height in the early 20th century, and American political, economic, and cultural influence

First published on the internet – 1 March 2019

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