There is Old English, and there is the English we speak now. When did exactly did the British (or Americans) change from speaking Old English to speaking the current form of English?
closed as general reference by simchona, Kit Z. Fox♦, Thursagen, waiwai933♦ Aug 15 '11 at 4:34
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There are considered to be three major eras of English: Old English, Middle English, and Modern English. Old English is a very different language, complete with a different alphabet. Middle English emerged after the Norman conquest of England with influence from French and other continental languages. Modern English emerged a few hundred years later with the Great Vowel Shift. The first few hundred years of Modern English are referred to as Early Modern English, which is well represented in the works of Shakespeare. The current version of English started to coalesce around 1700.
I could go on, but: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_English_language
I am just adding some dates for those not familiar with English history.
Old English (before 1066AD) is almost unreadable, with a different grammar and a few extra characters. It is closer to Danish or Dutch.
Fæder úre, ðú ðe eart on heofonum,
Sí ðín nama gehálgod.
Tó becume ðín rice.
Gewurde ðín willa
On eorþan swá swá on heofonum.
Urne dægwhamlícan hlaf syle ús tódæg.
And forgyf ús úre gyltas,
Swá swá wé forgyfaþ úrum gyltendum.
And ne gelæd ðu ús on costnunge,
Ac álýs ús of yfele. Sóþlice.
Middle English (1100-1500AD) is almost readable, but the pronunciation is very different.
Oure fadir that art in heuenes,
halewid be thi name;
thi kyngdoom come to;
be thi wille don, in erthe as in heuene.
Yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce,
and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris;
and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.
Then, Early Modern English starts around 1600; this still sounds old fashioned, but is recognisable if you read the King James bible or Shakespeare.
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.