By Sharifah Widad binti Syed Nazmi
GOMBAK, 15 May 2023: The Secretariat of English Language and Literature (ELITS) and the Department of English Language and Literature (DELL) will be hosting an Exhibition on the History of English Culture during the Beowulf to Johnson era on 18th May 2023 from 11.00am until 4.00pm.
This is a project for the course ENGL 2090 English Literature Beowulf to Johnson that will encompass an open exhibition at the Human Sciences Square in the Human Sciences Building of IIUM Gombak.
Beowulf and Johnson are two important figures in English language and literature. Beowulf is the title character of an epic poem written in Old English during the early Middle Ages, around the 8th century. The poem tells the story of Beowulf, a hero who battles monsters and dragons to defend his people. The poem is one of the earliest examples of English literature and is considered a masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon literature.
Johnson refers to Samuel Johnson, an 18th-century English writer, lexicographer, and literary critic. He is best known for his monumental work, A Dictionary of the English Language, which was published in 1755. The dictionary was important in the development of the English language,
It was the first comprehensive English dictionary that standardized many aspects of the language, such as spelling and definitions. Johnson was also an influential literary critic and wrote extensively on topics such as Shakespeare and the English language. He is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the development of English literature and language.
The Beowulf era, also known as the Old English period, is characterised by its highly inflected and complex grammar. During this era, the language was heavily influenced by Germanic languages, specifically by the Anglo-Saxons who had migrated to England. Words were often formed by combining two or more root words, and the language was largely spoken rather than written.
However, over time, the language began to evolve, leading to the Middle English period, which saw the introduction of the Norman Conquest in 1066. During this period, the language underwent significant changes, including a simplification of grammar, an increase in the use of the English language in writing, and the introduction of many French and Latin words.
In the Renaissance period, which began in the 15th century, the English language underwent further transformation. The printing press was invented, and the increased availability of printed materials led to the standardisation of spelling and grammar. The language also saw an increase in the use of Latin and Greek words, which were used to describe scientific and philosophical concepts.
Finally, in the 18th century, during the Johnson era, the language underwent yet another transformation. The era saw the publication of the first English dictionary, which standardized the spelling and meaning of English words. This period also witnessed the development of more formalised grammar and syntax, as well as an increase in the use of English as literary language.
The development of the English language from the Beowulf era to the Johnson era is a fascinating study in linguistic evolution. The language has undergone significant changes over the centuries, from its heavily inflected roots in Old English to the standardized grammar and syntax of Modern English. This research highlights the ongoing evolution of the English language and its importance as a tool for communication and cultural exchange.
(Sr. Sharifah Widad is the Head of Sports, Arts, & Culture Bureau for the Secretariat of English Language and Literature (ELITS) and the programme manager of the Exhibition on the History of English Culture)