TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Educator Claire Bowern and Director Patrick Smith have produced a great little film that explains the origins of English. As they explain, when we talk about ‘English’, we often think of it as a single language. But what do the dialects spoken in dozens of countries around the world have in common with each other, or with the writings of Chaucer? The Origins Of English traces the language from the present day back to its ancient roots, showing how English has evolved through generations of speakers.
Going Further Back
However, illustrator Minna Sundberg went even further back. She has captured in an elegant infographic a linguistic tree which reveals some fascinating links between different tongues, illustrating how most of the different languages we speak today can actually be placed in only a couple of groups by their origin (the illustration has been shared by both Bored Panda and io9).
Using the research data from Ethnologue, Minna has used a tree metaphor to illustrate how all major European, and even plenty of Eastern languages can be grouped into Indo-European and Uralic “families”.
Bigger leaves represent more people using the language as their native tongue
A Three-part Split
The European branch splits in three: Slavic, Romance, and Germanic. A rather complicated relationship between the Slavic languages is visible.
The Germanic roots of English
For anyone wanting to delve deeper into this infographic (or print it out), a high-resolution version of these images is available on Bored Panda.