Websites such as TheHistoryOfEnglish.com, Merriam-Webster.com and EnglishClub.com provide resources for learning about the history of the English language. Each site features a short overview describing its origins, major influences on it and distinct phases of the language.
The English language originates as a variant of Germanic speech of the fifth century A.D. The Angles, a people from what is now Denmark, emigrated to Britain at the time, driving the native Celtic-speaking people of the island west to Wales and Ireland and north to Scotland. Settling in the central regions of England, they spoke what contemporary scholars consider Old English from the invasion until approximately 1100 A.D.
In 1066, the Normans of northern France successfully invaded England under the rule of William the Conqueror, bringing their language with them. The aristocracy of Norman England spoke French, while the peasantry continued to use Old English. From the 11th to the 14th centuries, the latter changed, adding many French and Latin terms. This period is considered the Middle English phase of the language.
The Great Vowel Shift of the late 15th century, roughly coinciding with the rise of the Welsh Tudor dynasty of English royalty, swiftly and distinctly altered the pronunciation of Middle English. The result is now considered Early Modern English, which over the next several centuries was standardized and codified.