Belongs to the Anglo-Frisian group within
the West Germanic
branch of the Indo-European
is closely related to Frisian,
The abbreviation RP
(Received Pronunciation) denotes the speech of educated people living in
London and the southeast of England and of other people elsewhere who speak
in this way.
is based on the type of speech cultivated at such schools as Eton and Harrow
and at such universities as Oxford and Cambridge.
Within the US three
dialects can be defined: Northern, Midland, and Southern.
English is the second
most popular "first" language (native speakers), with around 402 million
people in 2002. It is the most widely used "second" and "learning" 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 theorise that there are limits to how far English can go in suiting
everyone for communication purposes.
Linguistically, English is divided into three broad stages: Old English
(also known as Anglo-Saxon), the language spoken by the Germanic tribes in
England prior to the Norman Conquest; Middle English, generally, the
language of the commoners in England after the Norman Conquest and before
the development of the printing press; and Modern English, the language from
the 16th century onwards. Modern English native speakers can usually
understand Middle English with some difficulty, but Old English is much
Icelandic than to Modern English.
lingua franca status, due to the military, economic, scientific, political
and cultural influence of the United Kingdom and later the United States.
Where possible, virtually all students worldwide are required to learn some
English, and knowledge of English is virtually a prerequisite for working in
many fields and occupations. Higher academic institutions, for example,
require a working command of English.
Almost without exception, Germanic words (which include all the basics such
as pronouns and conjunctions) are shorter, and more informal. Latinate words
are often regarded as more elegant or educated. However, the excessive use
of Latinate words is often a sign of either pretentiousness (as in the
stereotypical policeman's talk of "apprehending the suspect") or obfuscation
(as in a military document which says "neutralize" when it means "kill").
English-speaker is often able to choose between Germanic and Latinate
synonyms: "come" or "arrive"; "sight" or "vision"; "freedom" or "liberty".
The richness of the language is that such synonyms have slightly different
meanings, enabling the language to be used in a very flexible way to express
fine variations or shades of thought.
In everyday speech the majority of words will normally be Germanic. If
one wishes to make a forceful point in an argument in a very blunt
way, Germanic words will invariably be chosen. A majority of Latinate
words (or at least a majority of content words) will normally be used
in more serious speech and writing, such as a courtroom or an
- English is noted for the vast size of its active vocabulary and
its fluidity. English easily accepts technical terms into common usage
and imports new words which often come into common usage. In addition,
slang provides new meanings for old words. In fact this fluidity is so
pronounced that a distinction often needs to be made between formal
forms of English and contemporary usage.
- James D. Nicoll made the oft-quoted observation: "The problem
with defending the purity of the English language is that English is
about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on
occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat
them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."
AskOxford.com: Global English
BBC - Radio 4 - Routes
British National Corpus (BNC)
- a 100 million word collection of samples of
written and spoken language from a wide range of sources, designed to
represent a wide cross-section of current British English, both spoken
Development of English
Top Language Jobs
- Europe's leading specialist language recruitment website
for language jobs in the UK, London and Europe.
Top Language Community
- a site for bilingual and multilingual people living
in London, UK, and Ireland with language services
including Language Jobs, Dating, Flat Share, Classifieds, Directory,
Events and Forums.
of English and the OED