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History of the English Language

About the film

Acting as an excellent layman's introduction to the origins of one of the most common languages on the planet, 'History of the English Language' demonstrates how language changes over time, and presents England as being multicultural right down to its roots.


Release year
Mary Field
Production company
G.B. Instructional
Frank North
Running time (minutes)
14 mins 20 secs
Diagram Films Ltd

Original Description

'English was brought to Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries. Already it contained words taken from other languages, and it has never ceased to borrow. Its rich vocabulary, now totalling about half a million words, included additions from all the chief languages of the world, though most come from Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Dutch. Maps and diagrams show the growth of this mother-tongue of millions.(Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1946-47)


  • Originally entitled 'Origin of the English Language', Dr Harold Orton of the University of Sheffield was asked to write a treatment and script for the film. Expecting a five-page work, they received over thirty pages of notes.
  • Originally there was much more focus on the Germanic aspect of English. However, it being wartime, much of this was eventually cut out, citing time constraints.