An Untrue History of English

All history, all narration, all description, all analysis, is simplification.
Simplification is a form of falsification.
This course is thus an Untrue History of English.

English has been changing day by day for as long as it has been spoken. How long has English been spoken? Let's falsify, and say that English was first spoken in the fifth century. In the fourth century, nobody spoke English, and then some time in the fifth century, in the year 449 to be exact, probably about half-past two on the thirteenth of July, a lot of Anglo-Saxons who had recently arrived in the British Isles all suddenly started speaking English. And so for the 1550 years since that time English has been gradually changing, day by day, and this course deals with that gradual change.

Unfortunately, however, the course is only 13 weeks long, not 1550 years, so that it has to be a simplification. And this is the problem - a largely uncontrolled, widely spread, highly complicated phenomenon such as the English language doesn't evolve in an orderly way: it changes day by day in response to a very large number of very complicated factors, most of which we do not fully understand, most of which we very likely don't even know about, and my job is to make this complex progress sound simple enough for us to to get our heads round it in thirteen weeks. And so the tremendous amount of simplification I am going to have to resort to is bound to cause inconsistencies and even contradictions in the story.

This is the problem with nearly all learning. You have to start with simplifications. Simplifications result in inconsistencies and contradictions. Later, you attempt to clear up these inconsistencies and contradictions by going into more detail, by trying to lessen the amount of simplification - and you find that instead of clearing up the inconsistencies and contradictions you are simply dealing with a finer mesh of more detailed simplification, resulting in a greater number of inconsistencies and simplifications.

This process goes on for ever. It's called learning, and it always gets worse. But once you get used to it, you're hooked.
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