For information on the language and structure, go to Modern English.
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.
Stages of English
There are 3 primary stages of English. A fourth, is a brief period of transition time between Middle English and Modern English, known as Early Modern English. They are as follows:
Anglo-Saxon (also known as Old English)
Early Modern English
The Dates of the Changes
The Anglo-Saxon language formed from invading groups of Angles and Saxons from Northern Germany to England. It was also affected by the Celtic languages around it, and from a heavy Old Norse influx from invading Danish Vikings.
The start of the Middle English era is marked by the battle of Hastings in 1066. The French Normans (originally Vikings who were given land and gold in to protect France from other Vikings, Norman = North man) lead by William the Conqueror won the battle and took over the island from there. The Norman French version of Old French was not the "proper" French of the time, but much of the Old Norse influence was replaced by the French vocabulary. Quite a bit of it mixed with the Anglo-Saxon language and eventually Middle English emerged.
The Early Modern English period is marked by the Great Vowel Shift. This is the primary sound shift that separates the dialects of Modern English to those of the Middle and Old English eras. There were other sound shifts, but that was the primary and most important one. Shakespeare is one of the more well known writers in this era. This era also preserved forms such as the informal pronoun and many forms of the subjunctive.
English was spread via the colonisation of the British Empire. The British ruled colonies in the Americas, Australia, India, Africa and other locations that became primarily English speaking. The colonies in North America eventually became the United States and Canda; Australia, after many years of being a penal colony, had also gained independence. After many years, India also became an independent nation. Quebec was originally a French colony that was won during the French and Indian war by the British and became part of Canada; and while many residents of that province speak English, a traveller would do well to learn enough French to make himself understood! Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall, which were originally Celtic speaking were conquered by Anglo-Saxon or Norman French peoples and were eventually assimilated. Although there are still Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Cornish speakers today, almost all can speak a dialect of English. After the United States had been established as an International power (after World War II), the spread of English grew even more than it had before. Today, English is the most spoken first and Second language in the world, mostly because of China's teaching it to most children in schools. It has become the most commonly used Lingua Franca in the world.
Languages based on English
Creoles and natural descendants
- Volapük (with other sources)
Page written by Timothy Patrick Snyder.