Modern English

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English is a Germanic language, serving basically as the lingua franca over much of the world; the most notable English-speaking countries are the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

English
Modern English
Spoken in: Great Britian, Ireland, United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand amongst others.
Conworld: Real world
Total speakers: 350-400 million native.
Genealogical classification: Indo-European
Germanic
West Germanic
     Anglo-Frisian
       Anglic
English
Basic word order: SVO,
Morphological type: Isolating (mostly)
Morphosyntactic alignment: nominative-accusative
Created by:
unknown Great Vowel Shift-Present C.E.

Stages

English has had 4 primary stages:

The separation of Anglo-Saxon from Middle English is marked by The Battle of Hastings in 1066. The separation of Middle English and the Modern English stages is the Great Vowel Shift.

Modern English words have many different origins, but a majority come from Anglo-Saxon, Old Norman French, and a little Old Norse. However in the global world today, many words from many other languages have entered the English language.

Phonology

Consonants


Consonants
Bilabial Labiod. Inter-dental Alveolar Post-alv. Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p b t d k g ʔ
Fricative f v θ ð s z ʃ (ʒ) ç (x) h
Affricate (ʦ) (ʣ) ʧ ʤ
Approximants & glides ʍ w ɹ j
Trill (r)
Flap (ɾ)
Lateral Approximant l/ɫ
  • The glottal stop /ʔ/ is used in some British and Scottish accents instead of an unstressed intervocalic alveolar stop. In many American and some Australian dialects it rather becomes an alveolar flap /ɾ/ . Between a fricative and a syllabic sonorant /t/ is often dropped altogether: soften, often, castle, fasten. In open forms it is preserved : oft, soft, fast.
  • In most dialects /h/ + /j/ results in /ç/.
  • Voiceless plosives and affricates are aspirated when not preceded by /s/.
  • The voiceless labio-velar glide /ʍ/ was descended from Anglo-Saxon hw and Middle English wh, although it has been replaced in most dialects with /w/, in some dialects (particularly Scottish and some Midwestern American dialects) have preserved this sound.
  • The orthographic diagraph gh has many pronunciations in English, historically it was /x/ or /ç/ and this sound is still preserved in some Scottish dialects.
  • The nasal sound /ŋ/ occurs before a velar stop and morpheme-finally, so /ŋk/, /ŋg/, and /ŋ/ are common. The orthographic combination ng usually represents /ŋ/, the /g/ having been dropped. In standard English words such as sing, sin, and sink are minimal pairs as such /sɪŋ/, /sɪn/, and /sɪŋk/. There are exceptions such as singer /sɪŋəɹ/ vs. finger /fɪŋgəɹ/ which obviously don't rhyme.
  • The inter-dental sounds are spelt th for both voicings, although it is always devoiced before /ɹ/.
  • The sound /ʒ/ occurs in French loanwords (written as j) or is represented by an inter-vocal orthographic s, with examples such such as measure or Asia.
  • The sound /ʤ/ occurs from an orthographic j, or the g in the combinations gi and ge, although the latter two sometimes retain hard /g/ pronunciations from Old English, such as give /gɪv/ and get /gɛt/.
  • The alveolar affricates usually occur as clusters /t d/ + /s z/, but can be occasionally found in loanwords, or dialectally for /s z/ before /n/.
  • The c in the spellings ci and ce has the sound /s/, unless it is from an Old English root, such as celt /kɜlt/.
  • * The inter-dentals are replaced by several other pairings in many dialects, some of the replacing sounds are: /d, t/, /f, v/ /s, z/.
  • The Standard American value of the rhotic consonant /r/ is the approximate [ɹ] which also involves a bit of lip rounding, leading to some children substituting /w/ for /ɹ/ in early stages of development. The trill [r] is preserved in a few British and Scottish dialects.

Vowels


Vowels
Front Central Back
Unround Unrounded Rounded
High iː - ɪ uː - ʊ
Mid eː - ɛ ə/ʌ oː - ɔ
Low æ aː/a
All entries are: Tense - Lax
  • ee is most often pronounced /iː/.
  • i is /ɪ/ or /aj/ (with S.e).
  • y is pronounced /aj/ most of the time, occasionally /ɪ/, and when in the final position it's pronounced /i/.
  • ai or a (with S.e) is often pronounced /eː/ or /ei/.
  • a in a words (without S.e) is pronounced /æ/ in most American dialects and sometimes /a/ in British ones.
  • o is pronounced /a/ in Standard American and /ɔ/ in British RP.
  • In words which do have S.e, the letter o have a pronunciation of /oː/.
  • oo is either pronounced /uː/ or /ʊ/.
  • u is pronounced /uː/ (with S.e) or /ʌ/.
  • /ə/ is used for most unstressed syllables.

Diphthongs

  • oy and oi are pronounced /oj/.
  • ie, y, igh, and i or y with the Silent e are pronounced /aj/.
  • ow or ou is pronounced /aw/.
  • ei is often pronounced /ei/ and sometimes /aj/.
  • ow is sometimes pronounced /ow/ rather than /aw/.

It should be noted that these vary greatly across dialects. This is a simplified version based on British RP and Standard American.

The Silent e

Vowels in an English word are often affected by The Silent e abbreviated here as S.e, or a final -e at the end of a word. The e used to pronounced as a schwa /ə/ in Middle English, but was affectively dropped in most cases by the Early Modern English era. However, sometimes the S.e itself does not have to be present in order for its effects to be seen. Sometimes a whole syllable can replace S.e. Take a word like realize /rilajz/, when you change the -e to -ation you have realization /rilajzeʃjən/ or in not careful speech /riləzeʃjən/.

Grammar

Articles

There are two articles in the English language, one definite and one indefinite. They are used in specific ways, sometimes unique to English, sometimes they are used in the generic meaning of definite and indefinite. The definite article is the and the indefinite article is a or an before a word starting with a vowel sound. This means that it must be a vowel sound, not orthographic vowel. Examples that might seem strange would be : An honest decision, An hour, BUT: a universe, a unicorn, a use (many uni- words in English are pronounced /juni-/ with a consonantal /j/ not an initial vowel.

Nouns

English nouns have four forms, descended from the Anglo-Saxon declension system. There are two numbers, singular and plural, and there is one case which distinguishes itself from the other forms. That would be the Genitive which has the ending -'s and sometimes -' in the singular and -' in the plural.

The common way to form the plural in English is addition of -s or -es (if the word ends with -sh, -ch, -s, -z or -x. If the word ends with a -y the plural is usually -ies.

A common noun such as ship or glass might look as follows:

Sing. Plur. Sing. Plur.
Nom. ship ships glass glasses
Gen. ship's ships' glass's glasses'

There are many irregular nouns in English, most of which come from Old English, although a few come from Latin and French. Some require stem changes, such as man to men, mouse to mice, or foot to feet. There are some patterns, and a few are rooted in Germanic words such as child to children and ox to oxen. Many animal nouns have plural forms which are the same as the singular forms, such as sheep, deer, and fish. Some nouns are completely irregular and have to memorized, such as die and dice. It should be noted that with words like Woman versus Women the difference in pronunciation is in the first vowel, not the second.

Latin based nouns often have Latin plurals or two plurals (one Latin ending, and another Standard English ending). There are also many group nouns which are always plural. There are some plural nouns which have plural forms, group & groups, people & peoples.

Gender

English does not have Grammatical Gender like many other languages, but some of the nouns do reflect a system of endings which indicate gender. The common masculine ending is -er or -or, although these often can indicate either gender in modern society. The common feminine ending is to add -ess to the end of the masculine form. Examples include: waiter vs. waitress, actor vs. actress, lion vs. lioness, duke vs. duchess, prince vs. princess.

Other pairings are different because they may come from different stems. These include: king vs. queen, brother vs. sister, father' vs. mother, husband vs. wife, (brides)groom vs. bride, uncle vs. aunt, son vs. daughter.

It should be noted that words ending with the suffix -man do NOT reflect a masculine person, but rather the Germanic root which means one. So a Spokesman is not a man who speaks, but one who speaks, etc.

Personal Pronouns

There are two major cases for Personal Pronouns in English, Subjective and Objective (Nominative and Accusative). There is a possessive form, similar to an Genitive form, as well as an adjective form of that. There is only one second person form in Modern English, although all previous stages had a second person form, leading to thou in Early Modern English. The third person singular pronoun does separate out by gender.

Case First Person Second Person Third Person
Sing. Plur. Sing. & Plur. Sing. Masc. Sing. Fem. Sing. Neut. Plur.
Subjective I we you he she it they
Objective me us you him her it them
Possessive mine, my ours, our yours, your his, his hers, her its, its theirs, their

Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives in English occur before the noun they describe, with a few specific French examples, or in poetic terms it can occur afterwards if the word so is inserted between the noun and the adjective: Maiden so fair.

Adjectives do not take any endings, unlike the adjectives of Anglo-Saxon, Old French, Latin, Old Norse.

To form the Adverb form of an Adjective is created by adding the ending -ly. An example might be: Happy, Happily. Adverbs can be placed at different locations in a sentence. Prescriptive grammar says that a verb infinitive cannot be split by an adverb, but most speaker do it and Descriptive grammar allows it.

It should be noted that not all adverbs have an -ly ending, such as: very, tomorrow, yesterday, fast, today, well, etc. There are some cases when the adjective can become an adverb without the ending, usually when the adverb is at the end of the sentence, such as: He hit me very hard.

Prepositions and Conjunctions

There are many Prepositions in English, and because English does not have a case system, the prepositions often take the place of the case system. English is an Isolating language partly in this way. Prepositions describe loction (under, on, in) direction (into, towards, to) time (after, during, before) and other things.

However, many idiomatic phrases are constructed using prepositions and many of these must be memorized and do not have a pattern or reason. Expressions like: On TV, In your head, Out of (outta) my mind, etc.

There are also Verbal expressions which have prepositionals added to them. This is common amongst many Germanic languages. English separates these phrases and the meanings are different for these expressions from the solo verb. An example such as: to make vs. to make up vs. to make out. or to find vs. to find out.

Conjunctions have several generic types.
The first type is the Coordinating Conjunctions. These include and, yet, so, for or, nor and but. It is used for lists and to connect two phrases or sentences.

The next type is the Correlative Conjunctions. These come in pairing such as Neither...nor or Either...or.

The last type is Subordinating Conjunctions. These are the conjunctions which combine independent and dependent clauses. Often the clauses can be transported to other parts of the sentence for emphasis. Some of these include because, if, although, after, and once.

Verbs

Main Page: Modern English Verbs

Present Tense

The Present tense is useful for describing different parts of events that are currently happening. However, the rules are rather tricky and often confusing for non-native speakers. The conjugation of almost any verb in English has the pattern of being the same in all numbers and person, except the third person singular, which adds -s or -es to the stem. The ending -es occurs if the verb stem ends with -sh, -ch, -s, -z or -x. If the verb ends with a -y the third person singular usually ends with -ies. The Modals do not take this ending, and a few other verbs have vowel or consonant stem changes in this tense, such as do /du/ to does /dʌz/, say /se/ to says /sɜz/ or have /hæv/ to has /hæz/.

Present tense
Infinitive to learn to guess to sing to go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person learn learn guess guess sing sing go go
2nd person learn learn guess guess sing sing go go
3rd person learns learn guesses guess sings sing goes go

Progressive

The progressive tense in English is used to describe things that are happening at the moment of the speech act. This is formed by using a form of the verb to be and adding -ing to the verb stem. A few verbs which end with the /aj/ sound replace the orthographic vowel for -y- at the end of the verb stem (lie vs. lying, die vs. dying). The examples in the Progressive form are as follows:

Progressive tense
Infinitive to learn to guess to sing to go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person am learning are learning am guessing are guessing am singing are singing am going are going
2nd person are learning are learning are guessing are guessing are singing are singing are going are going
3rd person is learning are learning is guessing are guessing is singing are singing is going are going

Emphatic

The Emphatic part of the present tense is used for emphasis, negation, questions and in some British dialects it is used a lot in the imperative. It is formed with the verb to do. An example might be:
Present tense: I sing in the chorus.
Emphatic Present: I do sing in the chorus.

Negation and Questions

In English, negative statements and yes or no questions also get the verb to do and are put into this category as well. Take these:
Question: Do you sing in the chorus?
Negation: I don't sing in the chorus. (or) I do not sing in the chorus.
Both: Don't you sing in the chorus?
In Early Modern English and archaic sounding Modern English, the adverb not could be placed after the main acting verb. This would lead to:
Archaic: I sing not in the chorus.
In response to questions which use the emphatic form, usually a yes or no comes, but an emphatic answer is allowed:
Question: Do you sing in the chorus?
Answer: (yes,) I do.

Emphatic Imperatives

In most forms of English, General American amongst them, the only emphatic form which comes into the imperative is the negative. This leads to expressions like:
Don't sing right now.
Don't go into the forest.
In some British dialects, the positive emphatic is used in the imperative. Take examples such as:
Do have yourself something to eat.
Do come in.
Do sit down.

Future Tense

There are three basic ways to talk about future events in English. The first is the present tense and an adverb of time (such as I leave tomorrow.). The second is using the verb to be with a verb infinitive (such as I am to leave.). The last way is to use the verb shall or will. Although in Middle English and Anglo-Saxon there was a distinction between these two verbs, now they mean the same thing. The verb shall has become more archaic, although its more acceptable to use with the first person (I shall, we shall), and in America the negative form shan't is rarely heard. The examples will have the mix with the first person having shall although it is common to have both used in general.

Future tense
Infinitive to learn to guess to sing to go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person shall learn shall learn shall guess shall guess shall sing shall sing shall go shall go
2nd person will learn will learn will guess will guess will sing will sing will go will go
3rd person will learn will learn will guess will guess will sing will sing will go will go

Simple Past

For regular verbs, the simple past is formed by adding -ed to the root. If the root already ends in e then the ending is only -d. For irregular verbs, there are several possible ways to form this tense. Some involve vowel changes, and others change forms completely. Some irregulars could be drive-drove or think-thought. Two of the sample verbs are irregular:

Future tense
Infinitive to learn to guess to sing to go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person learned learned guessed guessed sang sang went¤ went
2nd person learned learned guessed guessed sang sang went went
3rd person learned learned guessed guessed sang sang went went

¤The past tense of the verb to go is went because in older forms of English there were two verbs that meant to go: goon and wenden. Eventually they merged and the forms from wenden became part of the past tense.

Perfect Tense

The Perfect tense is formed in regular verbs in a way that is very similar to the Passive Voice and the Simple Past. For irregular verbs it can be various different things from a vowel stem change to a complete change in form. For all verbs in the Perfect tense (either Present Perfect or Past Perfect) there must be form of the verb to have. Some irregulars take the Germanic -(e)n ending that is in High German as well as older forms of English. These include take-taken, prove-proven. steal-stolen, know-known, see-seen, break-broken, amongst many others. Here are the samples (of which sing and go are irregular) in this tense:

Future tense
Infinitive to learn to guess to sing to go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person have learned have learned have guessed have guessed have sung have sung have gone have gone
2nd person have learned have learned have guessed have guessed have sung have sung have gone have gone
3rd person has learned have learned has guessed have guessed has sung have sung has gone have gone

Subjunctive and Imperative

The subjunctive in English is nearly dead, though a few dialects still preserve it. The subjunctive has often been replaced by the conditional case. Some expressions still have the subjunctive, such as:
If I were president, I would fix this economy. (instead of was)
He wishes it were different than it is. (instead of was)
It is imperative that he be read to leave when they get here. (instead of is)

Because the subjunctive uses the simple past tense of the verb, it is often impossible to show the difference between them. The verb to be which has an irregular past tense is where the subjunctive can still be seen.

The Imperative in English is formed simply by using the root of the verb, or the verb formed used in the infinitive. The uses of the negative imperative are mentioned above (don't). There is no difference in number for the imperative. The first person plural form of the imperative is always formed by adding let's at the beginning. This is the example using the verb to go:
Go to the store and get me something to eat.
Don't go into that field.
Let's go to the movies tonight.

Passive

The passive voice is also formed with the verb to be. Unlike of the progressive, the passive uses Present Perfect form of the verb. It is not usually preferred and often is changed into the active voice. A pairing might be:
The man hit the ball. (active)
The ball was hit by the man. (passive)
The sample verbs are as follows:

Future tense
Infinitive to learn to guess to sing to go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person am learned are learned am guessed are guessed am sung are sung am gone are gone
2nd person are learned are learned are guessed are guessed are sung are sung are gone are gone
3rd person is learned are learned is guessed are guessed is sung are sung is gone are gone

The Verb to be & to have

Present tense
Infinitive to be to have
sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person am are have have
2nd person are are have have
3rd person is are has have
Simple Past
sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person was were had had
2nd person were were had had
3rd person was were had had
Perfect Form
sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person have been have been have had have had
2nd person have been have been have had have had
3rd person has been have been has had have had

Modals

Modals are important in English. However, there are no standard infinitive forms and are often replaced with other expressions. Here is a listing of them that has been over simplified:

Infinitive to be allowed to be able to have to to be supposed to to possibly be to want
Modal may can must, ought should could, might would
  • Might is a form of may.
  • Would is a form of will.
  • Should is a form of shall.
  • Could is a form of can.
  • The expression would like is similar to to want.

Languages based on English

Creoles and natural descendants

Constructed languages


Alternative Scripts for Modern English

Tower Orthography
Krisauka

Sources

Page written by Timothy Patrick Snyder.

Translations

This article is one of quite a few pages about Natlangs.

Indo-european natlangs:

Balto-Slavic Natlangs: Czech * Russian
Celtic Natlangs: Revived Middle Cornish * Pictish
Germanic Natlangs:
North Germanic Natlangs: Norwegian
West Germanic Natlangs: Anglo-Saxon * Dutch * English (Old English * Middle English * Modern English * Scots) * German (High German * Low German)
Indo-Iranian Natlangs: Pahlavi
Italic Natlangs: French * Italian * Latin * Spanish
Debated: Cimmerian

Uralic Natlangs: Finnish * Khanty * Mansi * Mordvinic * Proto-Uralic
Altaic (controversial): Japanese
Sino-Tibetan Natlangs:
Uto-Aztecan Natlangs: Nahuatl

-

Isolate Natlangs: Basque * *
Hypothetical/debated Natlangs and Natlang families: Danubian * Europic (obsolete)