The Mother tongue

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  • The making of English is the story of three great invasions and a cultural revolution. This classic PBS program shows how an early form of English was carried to Britain by invading Anglo-Saxons, how that language was all but obliterated by waves of Viking settlers, and how it was reshaped by the French-speaking Normans. The fact that English survived on the lips of people who left no written records is made clear in the program; however, the nascent literary history of the language is also presented-how it emerged in the first English plays, developed in the printing achievements of William Caxton, and flowered in the poetry of the first great English writer, Geoffrey Chaucer.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on May 17, 2007.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.
  • Closed-captioned.


  • Indo-European Languages (2:05) -- Frisian Language in Holland (1:46) -- Anglo-Saxon Invasions in Britain (1:56) -- English Spoken by the Welsh (3:31) -- Celtic Languages (2:10) -- Old English: Dutch, English, and German Influences (3:17) -- Evidence of Old English in Modern English (3:16) -- "Beowulf" in Old English (1:25) -- Christianity's Influence on Language and Danish Invasions (2:43) -- Viking Remnants in England and English Language (4:02) -- Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon English (4:37) -- England Falls to France: French Language Prevails (4:24) -- Proliferation of English Among Norman Invaders (3:18) -- Norman Conquest: Linguistic Blessing (2:07) -- Norman Influence on English Language Structure (1:11) -- Geoffrey Chaucer's Influence on English (3:41) -- William Caxton: First English Language Press (4:09) -- Fifteenth-Century English (3:43)
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