great-britian

Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review has concluded.

Those papers that survived the purge were flown discreetly to Britain where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public, and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain.

The archive came to light last year when a group of Kenyans detained and allegedly tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion won the right to sue the British government. The Foreign Office promised to release the 8,800 files from 37 former colonies held at the highly-secure government communications centre at Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire.

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Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes | The Raw Story

Read the rest at the link. It’s really worth it.

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30 days - 30 languages
Our world is and has been home to thousands upon thousands of languages. This 30 days 30 languages blogpost project is to celebrate those languages that I personally find interesting, the commonplace ones and the more far-found, the extant and the extinct.

Day 22 – Old English
Linguonym: Ænglisc (ᚫᛝᛚᛁᛋᚳ)
Family: Indo-European, Anglo-Frisian Germanic Family
Location: Ancient Great Britain (main)
Status: Evolved into Middle English circa 1150 AD
Personal Knowledge: Beginner Level

Old English, a language oft confused with that of the works of Shakespeare and using words such as “thou, thy, and thine” “ye olde” and ending a verb in “-eth”, is actually the language of none of those people, works, or lexicon. Mixed up commonly with what is Middle English (Chaucer, Shakespeare, King James’ Bible, etc), Old English is the basis of the English language on the British Isles and the very beginnings of the modern English language. When the Germanic-language speaking tribes of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes arrived from the lower portion of the Danish peninsula and the northern German coast onto the island of Britain, they came bringing their separate dialects of the mainland European Germanic language of their collective area, known as the Ingvaeonic languages. However, due to the merger of these languages/dialects upon arrival in Britain around 400 AD, they formed to make the Old English language. While this post mentions Old English as one solid entity, the truth is that Old English was no monolithic as a language for a while, and these were the periods in which the language had little record, so this post is referring to the more standardized Old English language that arose around 650 AD.

The Old English language was originally written in Futhorc, a version of the ancient Germanic runic script Elder Futhark modified with nine additional runes for 33 altogether. Old English maintained runic writing but began to shift more toward using Latin script with the adoption of Christianity around 700 AD. The use of runes for Old English vanished altogether after the end of the reign of the Norman Conquerors in the 1200s, which is when Old English evolved into Middle English. When Old English began using Latin script as its prime form of writing, it too was modified to fit the language, developing 4 additional letters to the original 20-letter alphabet. These added letters helped to keep the Old English language properly graphically represented as it had sounds which the Latin language did not, the added letters were: thorn for the TH-sound in “throw” which came from the runic alphabet (Þ,þ), eth for the TH-sound in “there” which was a modification on the letter D (Ð,ð), wynn for the W-sound for which Latin originally used two U’s (Ƿ,ƿ), and ash for the A-sound in “apple” which was a merger of letters A and E (Æ,æ). Note that in these times, there was no Q, J, K, or Z in the Old English alphabet. The Old English Latin script also used unique digraph characters such as ‘cg’ for a J-sound, ‘sc’ for an SH-sound. Phonologically, Old English has 26 consonant sounds, and 8 vowel sounds, which while modern English has generally 20 consonant sounds and 11-12 vowels all depending on the dialect, there are still some sounds which occurred in Old English that are had in no largely-spoken modern Englishes. Such as voiced and voiceless palatal and velar fricatives [ç], [x], and [ɣ] (Scottish English being an exception with [x]), rounded mid front vowel [ø], and rounded high front vowel [y], and also some diphthongs like [æa] and [iy].

Morphologically, Old English was much more complex than its successive evolutions of Middle and Modern English. Old English was very much like the ancient Germanic languages containing strict grammatical adherence to case systems, gender, and number. While number is still evident in English today, Old English distinguished between 3 forms of number marking: singular, dual (for 2 of something), and plural for 3 or more. In terms of gender, Old English embodied 3 genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter, much like modern German. And for cases, Old English employed 5: nominative (subject), accusative (direct object), dative (indirect object), genitive (possession), and instrumentive (with/using something). Nouns and adjectives were inflected heavily on these three aspects, and thus word order was rather flexible, but typically subject-verb-object. Verbs in Old English were complex through weak and strong conjugations, weak verbs employed minimal and standard inflectionary forms, while strong verbs employed sound changes and spelling changes with sometimes different endings than the standard. For example a weak verb in modern English takes –ed in its past tense form and continues to use –ed for its past participle, so cook -> cooked -> cooked, but a strong verb in modern English is something more like write -> wrote -> written. Some verbs that were strong in Old English have weakened in modern English, for example, it may come as a surprise that the verb set help -> helped -> helped, used to be helpan (infinitive) -> healp (past tense) -> holpen (past participle).

The earliest attested Old English is in small inscriptions on graves, jewelry, and swords, but the largest literatures and written bodies of the language do not really exist before about 600 AD. Old English has quite a few texts and luckily the language has been able to be fully reconstructed through them. Perhaps the most notable, is the epic tale of Beowulf, a tale which recounts a legend from the original homelands of the Anglo-Saxons on mainland Europe. Old English literature signifies a culture whose literary stylings and presence were on the rise, but this was interrupted by the Norman Conquest of 1066 which usurped the rule of Anglo-Saxon descendant kings and uprooted the Old English language. Anglo-Saxon Britain had faced potential threats of invasion before, such as with the Norse who ultimately did not affect the land enough to reform the language completely, as the Norse ended up contributing only a small portion of vocabulary to Old English, but the Norman Invasion revolutionized the English language altogether.

During the Norman Conquest which lasted roughly 200 years, Old English was ousted as the governmental and official language and replaced in the upper echelons of society by Norman French. All of the government ran in Norman French, noble houses spoke it, courts resided with it, and churches held sermons in it and Latin, but Old English still saw use in the lower classes and laypeople of society. This is why such strata exist in words like pig for the animal, but pork for the meat eaten from the animal, as the Anglo-Saxon Old English speakers tended the animals, while the rich and high-status Normans ate the meat of said animals. Many words in modern English show this schism of prestige, with native Anglo-Saxon based words as having shorter syllables and seen as less prestigious than the flowy, longer-syllable words incorporated from Latin and Norman French, for example, the word “meeting” tends to refer to the simple action of people gathering together for discussion, but while conference regales the same idea, it embodies poeticism and prestige and is more likely to be seen in official governmental language. In the end, the mixing of the prestigious Norman French with the blue-collar Old English, created a creole language of sorts which eventually merged as Middle English when the Normans assimilated into English society fully around the 1200s AD. Old English was infused with Gallo-Romance vocabulary, spelling was reformed to fit this and Old English lost its previous letters of eth (ð) and wynn (ƿ), thorn (þ) and ash (æ) however continued to stay on for some time after, with thorn eventually being replaced with ”th” and ash being separated, though the combined letter is still seen often enough. With this merging of languages, Anglo-Saxon culture and language transformed into a hybrid culture and an evolved language mutually intelligible with the modern English we know of today, while leaving its ancestor Old English to be largely mutually unintelligible to us and requiring of more extensive study to understand.

Some words in Old English, denoted for gender with definite articles in parentheses, masculine (se), feminine (sēo), neuter (þæt), note that “cf” means this word relates to a modern English word…
ēalā - hello
(sēo) burg – city
(sēo) ƿisdōmbōc – encyclopedia (cf. wisdom + book)
(sēo) sprǣc – language (cf. speech)
(se) wesend – bison
(se) wer – man (cf. werewolf)
(þæt) wif – woman (cf. wife)
(þæt) hūs – house
(þæt) treow – tree
(se) hopa – hope
(sēo) mægþ – family/clan
(se) weald - forest
(se) swēg – sound
(se) Hærfest – Autumn (cf. harvest)
(þæt) rice – nation
(sēo) Ænglisce sprǣc – English language
Englaland – England
ic sprice Ænglisc – I speak (Old) English
mīn nama is~ - my name is~
ānblissian – please
ic lufie þē – I love you

Old English is a wonder of a language, so unique in that it is almost indeterminable from its modern equivalent. Old English musters an ancient ambiance of power, pride, and valour owing to its roots of Germanic lore, and a people who valued strength, ambition, and simpler life. A virtuous language differing from the fanciful witticisms and poeticisms of Middle English playwrights, and from the innovative and straight-forward yet embellished Modern English, Old English paints itself in battle songs, spiritual hymns, and glorious sagas worthy of a passionate, hardworking, and cunning people, if you’re interested, check it out sometime
As always, check here for more…

Be sure to check out the 30 Days 30 Languages Masterpost to catch all of the languages and the updates for future ones in this series.

[Day 21 - Sumerian] - 30 Days, 30 Languages - [Day 23: Swahili]

Twilight at Tower Bridge

Mark-Spokes.com | Twitter

Perhaps one of the most famous bridges in the world, certainly in England; Tower Bridge. Tower Bridge was completed in 1894 after nearly 12 years of construction and allowed tall masted ships to dock at the Pool of London, whilst simultaneously provided a new river crossing made necessary due to the increase commercial development in London’s East End. It simultaneously a suspension bridge and a bascule bridge, a rare occurence - even in the late Victorian era, if 244 meters (801 feet) long and links the districts of Tower Hamlets to the North with Southwark in the south. Such is it’s Iconic nature if featured heavily in the promotion of the recently London 2012 Summer Olympic Games - to the point where the logos of both the Olympics and Paralympics where suspended from the second tier.

The bridge consists of two towers tied together at the upper level by means of two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical component of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. The bridge’s present colour scheme dates from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for the Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee. Originally it was painted a mid greenish-blue colour

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December 28, 1065: Westminster Abbey is consecrated.

Construction on Westminster Abbey (or properly, the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster) began during the reign of Edward the Confessor, so called because of his apparent piety. It was built in the Romanesque style, and it was completed twenty-five years after its consecration, although Edward himself was buried there in 1066, and the coronation of his successor William the Conqueror was the first to take place there. In 1245 Henry III sought to expand the building and rebuild it in the Gothic style to rival the great churches at Canterbury, Amiens, and Reims. Work continued until the early-16th century, and a great shrine to (now Saint) Edward was also built during this renovation.

Since 1065 sixteen royal weddings took place at Westminster Abbey. Until 1760 most of England’s kings and queens were also buried at the abbey, along with such luminaries and national icons as Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, and others. Lord Byron’s remains were sent to Westminster Abbey for burial, but he was refused (and the Abbey refused to enact a memorial to him until 1969). Coronations of English and British monarchs are traditionally held in the Abbey as well.