From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Modern English is sometimes described as the global lingua franca.
English phonology of the English language differ from one dialect to another, usually without interfering with mutual communication. Phonological variation affects the inventory of phonemes (i.e. speech sounds that distinguish meaning), and phonetic variation consists in differences in pronunciation of the phonemes.
English is a West Germanic language that originated from Ingvaeonic languages brought to Britain in the mid 5th to 7th centuries AD by Anglo-Saxon migrants from what is now northwest Germany, southern Denmark and the Netherlands. The Anglo-Saxons settled in the British Isles from the mid-5th century and came to dominate the bulk of southern Great Britain. Their language originated as a group of Ingvaeonic languages which were spoken by the settlers in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages, displacing the Celtic languages (and, possibly, British Latin) that had previously been dominant. Old English reflected the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms established in different parts of Britain. The Late West Saxon dialect eventually became dominant. A significant subsequent influence on the shaping of Old English came from contact with the North Germanic languages spoken by the Scandinavian Vikings who conquered and colonized parts of Britain during the 8th and 9th centuries, which led to much lexical borrowing and grammatical simplification. The Anglian dialects had a greater influence on Middle English.
After the Norman conquest in 1066, Old English was replaced, for a time, by Anglo-Norman (also known as Anglo-Norman French) as the language of the upper classes. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English or Anglo-Saxon era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English. The conquering Normans spoke a Romance langue d'oïl called Old Norman, which in Britain developed into Anglo-Norman. Many Norman and French loanwords entered the local language in this period, especially in vocabulary related to the church, the court system and the government. As Normans are descendants of Vikings who invaded France, Norman French was influenced by Old Norse, and many Norse loanwords in English came directly from French. Middle English was spoken to the late 15th century. The system of orthography that was established during the Middle English period is largely still in use today. Later changes in pronunciation, however, combined with the adoption of various foreign spellings, mean that the spelling of modern English words appears highly irregular.
Early Modern English – the language used by William Shakespeare – is dated from around 1500. It incorporated many Renaissance-era loans from Latin and Ancient Greek, as well as borrowings from other European languages, including French, German and Dutch. Significant pronunciation changes in this period included the ongoing Great Vowel Shift, which affected the qualities of most long vowels. Modern English proper, similar in most respects to that spoken today, was in place by the late 17th century.
English as we know it today came to be exported to other parts of the world through British colonisation, and is now the dominant language in Britain and Ireland, the United States and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many smaller former colonies, as well as being widely spoken in India, parts of Africa, and elsewhere. Partially due to influence of the United States and its globalized efforts of commerce and technology, English took on the status of a global lingua franca in the second half of the 20th century. This is especially true in Europe, where English has largely taken over the former roles of French and (much earlier) Latin as a common language used to conduct business and diplomacy, share scientific and technological information, and otherwise communicate across national boundaries. The efforts of English-speaking Christian missionaries have resulted in English becoming a second language for many other groups.
- See also
- Influence of French on English
- Phonological history of the English language
- Comparison of American and British English
- English phonology
- English studies
- Inkhorn debate
- Languages in the United Kingdom
- Middle English creole hypothesis
- Middle English declension
- History of the Scots language
- Changes to Old English vocabulary
- English jokes
- English literature
- English proverbs
- English orthography