Power of Language & Literature - Evana Ojeleye, Townley Grammar School
English Language & Literature that people know and indulge in today has evolved into what we know now for over a thousand years, and continues to expand to this day, now a subject studied in universities by professionals. So, how did it come to be, and why is literature considered such a profound art form?
Old English (450-1100’s) was most influenced by the Anglo-Saxons, who invaded England in the 5th and 6th Centuries. It is the earliest form of English known to date and was mainly influenced by the Germanic languages, characterised by inflectional grammar.
Following Old English was Middle English (1100-1500s), vastly influenced by the French and Latin, due to the Norman Conquest in 1066. This era of the language saw the creation of vowels and the article “the”. In this period of time, many variations and significant changes to the language were main and introduced other words from the French, with writers such as “Gawain Poet”, William Langland and Geoffrey Chaucer.
English grammar and syntax were developed in the period following this - Early Modern English (1500-1800s), as well as a further introduction of words from Latin and Greek. Famous writers and playwrights who were prevalent during this era include William Shakespeare, the famous playwright of works including Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet, Aphra Behn, one of the first female playwrights, and Ben Jonson, writer of “The Alchemist”.
This led to the progression of the English language we understand today, Modern English (1800-Present), with this current version mostly being influenced by modern technology and cultural exchange. Some of the most famous writers known to date created their works in the Modern English period, including and not limited to Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf. All writers listed have made a vast literary contribution to the world as we see and know it today.
The development of the English language over time has led to writers expressing their emotions and experiences through this language, whether through novels, plays or poems. This art form has transcended into media, like music, TV and film. These media forms are not only prevalent in English but in languages around the world. These media forms have the power of connecting communities of people. The writing of a singular person can convey such a powerful story, from any given point in time. Without reflecting on the past experiences of the world, we wouldn’t be able to learn from our past and move forward.
The genres of media are almost limitless, spanning from dystopia to romance, science-fiction, psychological thrillers, horrors, mystery, historical fiction and many more. They have the power to tell us messages about our own societies and the social constructs that we so heavily rely on, for example, “1984”, “Animal Farm” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Literature has the power to give those a voice when they once weren’t heard, and the power to shape reality by a higher authority. Through their stories, we learn much more about people’s suffering and their life experiences.
The reading, whether academic or casual, and analysing of literature breaks apart the perspectives of those before our time, or those during, helping to develop our understanding of the world around us as we know it. The literature and structures of works in other languages tell so many other stories, with the power of language and literature allowing humans to showcase their intersectional identities and diversity. The impact of this doesn’t have to be tangible, but can simply be an emotional reflection after consuming something inspiring, that changes the trajectory of one’s mindset.
"Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary." - Boris Pasternak