Move back one step  Move forward one step 
Larger font Smaller font Default font

   Varieties of English

Northern hemisphere
Southern hemisphere
Movements within the Anglophone world

I Within Britain

Mid 5th century onwards
Germanic invaders start a concerted attempt to settle in English. Three indentifiable groups emerge: Jutes in the area of Kent, Saxon elsewhere south of the Thames, Anglians in the midlands and north. The area of the latter group can be subdivided into Mercia (central England) and Northumbria (northern England).

8th century onwards
Northern forms of Old English (Anglian) spread to lowland Scotland approx. from this time onwards.

Middle English period
Anglo-Norman and English become established in the southern coast of Wales, out as far as Pembrokeshire.

Late 12th century
As of 1169, Anglo-Norman and English gain a foothold in the south-east of Ireland, extending up to Dublin and to various points along the coast of Ireland through the late 12th and 13th centuries.

II Northern hemisphere

Late 15th century
John Cabot discovers Newfoundland in 1497 but for the following century virtually nothing happens in north America. Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland for the British in 1583 at the behest of Elizabeth I (Newfoundland was England’s first colony, self-governing since 1855 and a part of Canada since 1949).

Late 16th century
Sir Walter Raleigh led the ill-fated expedition to Roanoke Island in 1584. In 1607 the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia is founded and is successful. In the 1620’s New England is settled (area around Boston) with the Plymouth colony and the Maryland colony of 1634.

Early 17th century
In 1627 the first English settlers arrive on Barbados and so establish a bridgehead for England in this part of the world.

Mid 17th century
Colonisation of North and South Carolina began in 1663. The English later establish their presence in New York, obtaining the then New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664.

Late 17th century
Pennsylvania is founded by the Quaker William Penn in 1681; here other European ethnic groups were given refuge from religious persecution in the Old World, e.g the German-speaking Amish.

Early 18th century onwards
After the founder communities had been established on the east and south-east coast of the USA, mass emigration begins from Ulster. Later on in the 18th century emigration is found from Scotland. Eastern Canada is also settled, particularly in the later 18th century.

18th century/early 19th century
Seasonal migration of fishermen from the south-west of England and the south-east of Ireland to Newfoundland for the summer months. This leads in time to more permanent settlement.

19th century
This century sees large-scale emigration for reasons of economic necessity from various European countries like Ireland, Poland, Italy and Germany. The English-speaking members of these groups do not, however, play a significant role in forming American English as this had already attained its specific linguistic profile by the turn of the 19th century.

III Southern hemisphere

Late 18th century
In 1770 James Cook seized the east coast of Australia which was subsequently called New South Wales. White settlement of Australia begins in 1788 in the area around Sydney.

Turn of 19th century
In 1795 the first English settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. 1820’s Second larger settlement at long the Eastern Cape region (roughly the area around Port Elizabeth)

Mid 19th century
In 1769 James Cook also visited New Zealand and formally claimed the island for England. But settlement only began in earnest after 1840 when the Maori ceded sovereignty to the British with the Treaty of Waitangi.

Later 19th century
Various English-speaking settlements are established on islands in the south-west Pacific, especially on Papua New Guinea. The form of English there develops into an expanded pidgin and later creole, Tok Pisin, which is present to this day.

IV Movements within the Anglophone world

Late 16th century onwards The slave trade; transportation of native Africans from West Africa to the Caribbean, later to the southern United States from the late 16th to the 19th century. This was based on the infamous Middle Passage, the journey from West Africa across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The ships then took on raw materials (sugar cane, tobacco, hard woods) for the homeward journey to England (chief port was then Bristol, only later Liverpool and London).

17th century onwards
Internal migration within the Caribbean, especially from smaller Anglophone islands — above all Barbados (first settled by the British in 1627) and Montserrat — to larger ones, e.g. Jamaica, and to some coastal points on the Caribbean rim, Miskito Coast in Nicaragua, Suriname (then British Guyana) where Sranan (an English-based creole) arose. In these cases local creolised forms of English thus spread to other regions, e.g. Bajan (Barbadian Creole) was transported off the small island of Barbados and very likely formed an input to Gullah, a creolised form of English in the United States still spoken by small isolated communities on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.

Early 19th century
Freed slaves (in the 1820's) move to Nova Scotia, Samaná peninsula (Dominican Republic, north-east Isla Hispaniola) and to Liberia (West Africa) and take their distinctive forms of English to these locations.

Later 19th century
Movements of labour forces after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834, e.g. to Natal in eastern South Africa from India between 1860 and 1911. Furthermore, there were movements of Indian speakers from India to the Caribbean in the 19th century, e.g. to Trinidad and Tobago (southern Caribbean).