English

English

English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Old Saxon language brought to Britain by Germanic settlers from various parts of northwest Germany. The original Old English language was subsequently influenced by two successive waves of invasion. The first was by speakers of languages in the Scandinavian branch of the Germanic family, who colonised parts of Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries. The second wave was of the Normans in the 11th century, who spoke a variety off French. These two invasions caused English to become “creolised” to some degree (though it was never a full creole in the linguistic sense of the word); creolisation arises from the cohabitation of speakers of different languages, who develop a hybrid tongue for basic communication. Cohabitation with the Scandinavians resulted in a significant grammatical simplification and lexical enrichment of the Anglo-Friesian core of English; the later Norman occupation led to the grafting onto that Germanic core a more elaborate layer off words from the Romance branch of European languages; this new layer entered English through use in the courts and government. Thus, English developed into a “borrowing” language of considerable suppleness and huge vocabulary.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, around the ye

ear 449, Vortigern, King of the British Isles, invited the “Angle kin” (Angles led by Hengest and Horsa) to help him against the Picts. In return, the Angles were granted lands in the southeast. Further aid was sought, and in response “came men of Ald Seaxum of Anglum of Iotum” (Saxons, Angles, and Jutes). The Chronicle talks of a subsequent influx of settlers who eventually established seven kingdoms, known as the heptarchy. Modern scholarship considers most of this story to be legendary and politically motivated.

These Germanic invaders dominated the original Celtic-speaking inhabitants, whose languages survived largely in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland. The dialects spoken by the invaders formed what would be called Old English, which resembled some coastal dialects in whhat are now the Netherlands and northwest Germany. Later, it was strongly influenced by the North Germanic language Norse, spoken by the Vikings who settled mainly in the north-east (see Jorvik). The new and the earlier settlers spoke languages from different branches of the Germanic family; many of their lexical roots were the same or similar, although their grammars were more distant, including the prefixes, suffixes and inflections of many of their words. The Germanic language of these Old English in

nhabitants of Britain would be partly creolised by the contact with Norse invaders. This resulted in a stripping away of much of the grammar of Old English, including gender and case, with the notable exception of the pronouns; thus, the language became simpler and plainer. The most famous work from the Old English period is the epic poem “Beowulf”, by an unknown poet.

For the 300 years following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the Norman kings and the high nobility spoke only a variety of French. A large number of Norman words were assimilated into Old English, with some words doubling for Old English words (for instance, ox/beef, sheep/mutton). The Norman influence reinforced the continual evolution of the language over the following centuries, resulting in what is now referred to as Middle English. Among the changes was a broadening in the use of a unique aspect of English grammar, the “continuous” tenses, with the suffix “-ing”. During the 15th century, the Great Vowel Shift, the spread of a standardised London-based dialect in government and administration, and the standardising effect of printing transformed Middle English. Modern English can be traced back to around the time of William Shakespeare. The most well known work from th

he Middle English period is Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

Classification and related languages

The English language belongs to the western subbranch of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The closest living relative of English is Scots (Lallans), a West Germanic language spoken mostly in Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland. Like English, Scots is a direct descendant of Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon.

After Scots, the next closest relative is Frisian—spoken in the Netherlands and Germany. Other less closely related living languages include Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Plattdüütsch and the Scandinavian languages. Many French words are also intelligible to an English speaker (pronunciations are not always identical, of course), because English absorbed a tremendous amount of vocabulary from French, via the Norman language after the Norman conquest and directly from French in further centuries; as a result, a substantial share of English vocabulary is quite close to the French, with some minor spelling differences (word endings, use of old French spellings, etc.), as well as occasional differences in meaning.

Geographic distribution

Distribution of native English speakers by region (1997)

English is the second or third most widely spoken language in the world today; a total of 600–700 million people use English regularly. About 37

77 million people use English as their mother tongue, and an equal number of people use it as their second or foreign language. It is used widely in either the public or private sphere in more than 100 countries all over the world. In addition, the language has occupied a primary place in international academic and business communities. The current status of the English language compares with that of Latin in the past.

English is the primary language in Antigua and Barbuda, Australia (Australian English), the Bahamas, Barbados (Caribbean English), Bermuda, Belize, Canada (Canadian English), the Cayman Islands, Dominica, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guernsey, Guyana, Ireland (Irish English), Isle of Man, Jamaica (Jamaican English), Jersey, Montserrat, New Zealand (New Zealand English), Saint Helena, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom (various forms of British English), the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the United States.

English is also an important minority language of South Africa (South African English), and in several other former colonies and current dependent territories of the United Kingdom and the United States, for example Guam and Mauritius.

In Hong Kong, English is an official language and is widely used in business activities. It is taught from kindergarten, and is the medium of instruction for a few primary schools, many secondary schools and all universities. Substantial numbers of students acquire native-speaker level. It is so widely used and spoken that it is inadequate to say it is merely a second or foreign language, though there are still many people in Hong Kong with poor or no command of English.

The majority of English native speakers (67 to 70 per cent) live in the United States. Although the U.S. federal government has no official languages, it has been given official status by 27 of the 50 state governments, most of which have declared English their sole official language. Hawaii, Louisiana, and New Mexico have also designated Hawaiian, French, and Spanish, respectively, as official languages in conjunction with English.

In many other countries where English is not a major first language, it is an official language; these countries include Cameroon, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Ghana, Gambia, India, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Rwanda, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

English is the most widely learned and used foreign language in the world, and as such, many linguists believe it is no longer the exclusive cultural emblem of “native English speakers”, but rather a language that is absorbing aspects of cultures worldwide as it grows in use. Others believe that there are limits to how far English can go in suiting everyone for communication purposes. It is the language most often studied as a foreign language in Europe (32.6 per cent), followed by French, German, and Spanish. It is also the most studied in Japan, South Korea and in the Republic of China (Taiwan), where it is compulsory for most high school students. See English as an additional language.

Because English is so widely spoken, it has been referred to as a “global language”. While English is not the official language in many countries, it is the language most often taught as a second language around the world. It is also, by international treaty, the official language for aircraft/airport communication. Its widespread acceptance as a first or second language is the main indication of its global status.

There are numerous arguments for and against English as a global language. On one hand, having a global language aids in communication and in pooling information (for example, in the scientific community). On the other hand, it excludes those who, for one reason or another, are not fluent. It can also marginalize populations whose first language is not the global language, and lead to a cultural hegemony of the populations speaking the global language as a first language. Most of these arguments hold for any candidate for a global language, though the last two counter-arguments do not hold for languages not belonging to any ethnic group (like Esperanto).

A secondary concern with respect to the spread of global languages (English, Spanish, etc.) is the resulting disappearance of minority languages, often along with the cultures and religions that are primarily transmitted in those languages. English has been implicated in a number of historical and ongoing so-called “language deaths” and “linguicides” around the world, many of which have also led to the loss of cultural heritage. In the Americas, Native American nations have been most strongly affected by this phenomenon.

Dialects and regional variants
Main article: List of dialects of the English language
English dialects
British Isles
English English
Highland English
Mid Ulster English
Scottish English
Welsh English
Manx English
Irish English
United States
AAVE (Ebonics)
American English
California English
Hawaiian English
Southern American English
Spanglish
Chicano English
Canada
Canadian English
Newfoundland English
Quebec English
Oceania
Australian English
New Zealand English
Asia
Hong Kong English
Indian English
Malaysian English
Philippine English
Singaporean English
Sri Lankan English
Other countries
Bermudian English
Caribbean English
Jamaican English
Liberian English
Malawian English
South African English
Miscellaneous
Basic English
Commonwealth English
Globish
International English
Plain English
Simplified English
Special English
Standard English

The expansiveness of the British and the Americans has spread English throughout the globe. Because of its global spread, it has bred a variety of English dialects and English-based creoles and pidgins.

The major varieties of English in most cases contain several sub varieties, such as Cockney within British English, Newfoundland English within Canadian English, and African American Vernacular English (“Ebonics”) within American English. English is considered a pluricentric language, with no variety being clearly considered the only standard.

Some consider Scots as an English dialect. Pronunciation, grammar and lexis differ, sometimes substantially. The Scottish dialect retains many German aspects including guttural pronunciations.

Because of English’s wide use as a second language, English speakers can have many different accents, which may identify the speaker’s native dialect or language. For more distinctive characteristics of regional accents, see Regional accents of English speakers. For more distinctive characteristics of regional dialects, see List of dialects of the English language.

Many countries around the world have blended English words and phrases into their everyday speech and refer to the result by a colloquial name that implies its bilingual origins, which parallels the English languages own addiction to loan words and borrowings. Named examples of these ad-hoc constructions, distinct from pidgin and Creole languages, include English, Wasei-eigo, Franglais and Spanglish. (See List of dialects of the English language for a complete list.) Europanto combines many languages but has an English core.

English dialects
British Isles
English English
Highland English
Mid Ulster English
Scottish English
Welsh English
Manx English
Irish English
United States
AAVE (Ebonics)
American English
California English
Hawaiian English
Southern American English
Spanglish
Chicano English
Canada
Canadian English
Newfoundland English
Quebec English
Oceania
Australian English
New Zealand English
Asia
Hong Kong English
Indian English
Malaysian English
Philippine English
Singaporean English
Sri Lankan English
Other countries
Bermudian English
Caribbean English
Jamaican English
Liberian English
Malawian English
South African English
Miscellaneous
Basic English
Commonwealth English
Globish
International English
Plain English
Simplified English
Special English
Standard English

What people use English for

The British Council says “English is the main language of books, newspapers, airports and air-traffic control, international business and academic conferences, science, technology, diplomacy, sport, international competitions, pop music and advertising.

Over two-thirds of the world’s scientists read in English. Three quarters of the world’s mail is written in English. Eighty per cent of the world’s electronically stored information is in English. Of the estimated forty million users of the Internet, some eighty per cent communicate in English, but this is expected to decrease to forty per cent as speakers of other languages get online.”

What our students say about English

“English is an easy language. There are no accents, the tenses of verbs are simplified and the adjectives are invariable”, says Gustavo O. after three years studying it at school. Anaelle S. agrees with him but she finds the many different ways words are pronounced and the spelling difficult to cope with. Nicolas de F. finds it interesting and cool because through it he can understand many films and songs. “You need English to travel around the world – it’s a language almost everybody understands – so it’s easier to communicate with people from different cultures”, says Daniela K. . According to Aldebaran D., “you must speak English if you want a good job especially if you want to work with computers”.

The Growth and Expansion of English

English is part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. By year 1000, the English language consisted of approximately 40 000 words. Nowadays, the number has grown to more than 500 000. If we calculate the average of words created per century, this comes to 46 000. A great number of words found in the English vocabulary was borrowed from Latin, French, Low German, and the Scandinavian languages. We also know that some periods were more fertile than others: invasions, contact with other cultures, inventions, technological progress, music, fashion are some of the factors, which have helped to enrich the language.

British colonialism in the 19th century and American capitalism and technological progress in the 20th century were undoubtedly the main causes for the spread of English throughout the world.

From around 1750 to 1950 the British Empire covered about a quarter of the globe. It was one of the most powerful empires the world has ever known. The colonies gradually freed themselves but about fifty countries chose to keep a connection with Britain by belonging to the British Commonwealth. English is spoken all over the Commonwealth either as a native or an official language, and the British monarch is the symbolic head of the association.

The USA has played a leading role in most domains for the last hundred years. At the end of the 19th century and first quarter of the 20th, it welcomed millions of European immigrants who had fled their countries ravaged by war, poverty or famine. This lab our force strenghtened American industries and development. The Hollywood film industry also attracted many foreign artists in quest of fame and fortune and the number of American films produced every year soon flooded the market. Before the Treaty of Versailles (1919), which ended the First World War between Germany and the Allies, diplomacy was conducted in French. However, President Wilson succeeded in having the treaty in English as well. Since then, English started being used in diplomacy and gradually in economic relations and the media. During the II World War, America intervened both militarily and economically to save Europe from chaos. From then onwards, the United States have consolidated their cultural, economical and technological power: inventions, rock and roll, the first man on the moon, the revolution of the Internet, the country’s growing prosperity and commercial aggressiveness have contributed to the further expansion and importance of English in the world today.

Influences

The Oxford English Dictionary’s new edition will come out in 2010.The Chief Editor of OED, John Simpson, has issued an appeal for new words: ‘There is no longer one English – there are many Englishness. Words are flooding into the language from all corners of the world’.

The “internationalization” of English may bring new possibilities for native speakers of the language:
In his MA thesis, “The Spread of English and Its Appropriation”, Daniel Spichtinger quotes MCabe “.whereas for two centuries we exported our language and our customs in hot pursuit of.fresh markets, we now find that our language and our customs are returned to us but altered so that they can be used by others.so that our own language and culture discover new possibilities, fresh contradictions.” This may refer to writers from Africa, Asia and former colonies who have used and appropriated the English language for their own purposes but whose usage of English has also made their works accessible to a wider audience. For Kachru, “once English a quires a new identity through creative writing, the language is liberated from its colonial past.”

Rita Raley from the Department of English of the University of California gives us a list of terms coined to describe international dialects with ties to English. (What Is Global English?)
Anglikaans/Anglicaans, Anglonorsk, Arablish, Benglish, Chinglish, Deutschlish/Gerlish, Dutchlish, Eurolish, Franglais/Frenglish, Hindlish/Hinglish, Indonglish, English, Italglish, Japlish/Janglish, Manglish, Minglish, Punglish, Russlish, Singlish, Spanglish, Swedlish, Taglish, Tamlish, Tinglish, Wenglish, Yinglish

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