Monday, March 4, 2013

The English Language

      English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in England and is now the most widely used language in the world. It is spoken as a first language by a majority of the inhabitants of several nations, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and a number of Caribbean nations. It is the third most common native language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. It is widely learned as a second language and is an official language of the European Union, many Commonwealth countries and the United Nations, as well as in many world organizations. 
       English arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and what is now south-east Scotland, but was then under the control of the kingdom of Northumbria. Following the extensive influence of Great Britain and the United Kingdom from the 17th century to the mid-20th century, via the British Empire, and of the United States since the mid-20th century, it has been widely propagated around the world, becoming the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions.
       Historically, English originated from the fusion of closely related dialects, now collectively termed Old English, which were brought to the eastern coast of Great Britain by Germanic (Anglo-Saxons) settlers by the 5th century – with the word English being derived from the name of the Angles, and ultimately from their ancestral region of Angeln (in what is now Schleswig-Holstein). A significant number of English words are constructed based on roots from Latin, because Latin in some form was the lingua franca of the Christian Church and of European intellectual life. The language was further influenced by the Old Norse language due to Viking invasions in the 8th and 9th centuries. 
      The Norman conquest of England in the 11th century gave rise to heavy borrowings from Norman-French, and vocabulary and spelling conventions began to give the appearance of a close relationship with Romance languages to what had then become Middle English. The Great Vowel Shift that began in the south of England in the 15th century is one of the historical events that mark the emergence of Modern English from Middle English. 
      Owing to the assimilation of words from many other languages throughout history, modern English contains a very large vocabulary, with complex and irregular spelling, particularly of vowels. Modern English has not only assimilated words from other European languages but also from all over the world, including words of Hindi and African origin. The Oxford English Dictionary lists over 250,000 distinct words, not including many technical, scientific, and slang terms.
      Modern English, which includes the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, is generally dated from about 1550, and when the United Kingdom became a colonial power, English served as the lingua franca of the colonies of the British Empire. In the post-colonial period, some of the newly created nations which had multiple indigenous languages opted to continue using English as the lingua franca to avoid the political difficulties inherent in promoting any one indigenous language above the others. As a result of the growth of the British Empire, English was adopted in North America, India, Africa, Australia and many other regions, a trend extended with the emergence of the United States as a superpower in the mid-20th century.


'The History of English', no really. Very cute films; 
these also come as individual little clips for those of you who would
 like to show only one during a classroom presentation.

'The Adventure of English' set of films:
More Links to The English Language:

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