In an interesting interview on the “Center for the art of translation” webpage, Michael Matto, co-author of the book “The Word Exchange” talks about the evolution of the English language from “Old English” to today’s standards.
“Old English is the language of the Anglo-Saxons. It derives from members of a larger family of Germanic languages. Their poetry would have originally been composed orally and memorized for oral performance. Presumably these performances could vary in exact content, much like a contemporary folk or blues player might alter a song with each concert. However, which extant Old English poems were composed orally and which were written by literate poets remains a mystery, as do the specific circumstances of performance.”