By David Crystal
Last updated 2011-02-17
Unsurprisingly, barbarian invaders, such as the Picts and Scots, are already clamouring at the borders, and the beleaguered Britons turn to a variety of Germanic tribes for 'protection'. From 449AD, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes begin to arrive and aggressively set up home. Many native Britons take to their heels and retreat west to Cornwall, Wales and Cumbria.
Cornish, Welsh and Cumbric languages develop, but the Celtic culture of central, southern and north eastern England doesn't stand a chance in a land ruled by Anglo Saxons.
There is no standard system of spelling, so scribes spell words the way they are sounded in their part of the country. As a result, we have evidence of Old English dialects.
Four major dialects emerge in England: Northumbrian in the north; Mercian in the midlands; West Saxon in the south and west; and Kentish in the south east. Most Old English documents are written in West Saxon, the dialect of the politically prestigious area of Wessex, where Alfred the Great would rule in the 9th century.
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