English language

Native toUnited Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and other locations in the English-speaking world
Native speakers
L1: 372.9 million (2022)[2]
L2: 1.080 billion (2022)[2]
1.452 billion total speakers
Early forms
Manually coded English
(multiple systems)
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1en
ISO 639-2eng
ISO 639-3eng
English language distribution.svg
  Countries and territories where English or an English-based creole is the native language of the majority
  Countries and territories where English is an official or administrative language but not a majority native language
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English is a West Germanic language in the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabitants of early medieval England.[3][4][5] It is named after the Angles, one of the ancient Germanic peoples that migrated to the island of Great Britain. Existing on a dialect continuum with Scots and then most closely related to the Low Saxon and Frisian languages, Modern English is genealogically Germanic. Although its grammar and core vocabulary are mostly West Germanic, it has borrowed many words from French (about 28% of English words) and Latin (also about 28%),[6] as well as some grammar and core vocabulary from Old Norse (a North Germanic language).[7][8][9] Speakers of English are called Anglophones.

The earliest forms of English, collectively known as Old English or "Anglo-Saxon", evolved from a group of North Sea Germanic dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century; these dialects generally resisted influence from the then-local Common Brittonic and British Latin languages. However Old English dialects were later influenced by Old Norse-speaking Viking settlers and invaders starting in the 8th and 9th centuries. At the time, Old Norse even retained considerable mutual intelligibility with certain dialects of Old English (especially more northern dialects). Middle English began in the late 11th century after the Norman Conquest of England, when considerable Old French (especially Old Norman French) and Latin-derived vocabulary was incorporated into English over some three hundred years.[10][11] Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the start of the Great Vowel Shift and the Renaissance trend of borrowing further Latin and Greek words and roots into English, concurrent with the introduction of the printing press to London. This era notably culminated in the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare.[12][13] The printing press greatly standardized English spelling,[citation needed] which has remained largely unchanged since then, despite a wide variety of later sound shifts in different English dialects.

Modern English grammar is the result of a gradual change from a typical Indo-European dependent-marking pattern with a rich inflectional morphology and relatively free word order to a mostly analytic pattern with little inflection and a fairly fixed subject–verb–object word order.[14] Modern English relies more on auxiliary verbs and word order for the expression of complex tenses, aspects and moods, as well as passive constructions, interrogatives, and some negation.

Modern English has spread around the world since the 17th century as a consequence of the worldwide influence of the British Empire and the United States of America. Through all types of printed and electronic media in these countries, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and professional contexts such as science, navigation, and law.[3] English is the most spoken language in the world[15] and the third most spoken native language in the world, after Standard Chinese and Spanish.[16] It is the most widely learned second language and is either the official language or one of the official languages in 59 sovereign states. There are more people who have learned English as a second language than there are native speakers. As of 2005, it was estimated that there were over two billion speakers of English.[17] English is the majority native language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Republic of Ireland (see Anglosphere) and is widely spoken in some areas of the Caribbean, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.[18] It is a co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union, and many other international and regional organisations. English accounts for at least 70% of speakers of the Germanic language branch of the Indo-European family.

  1. ^ Oxford Learner's Dictionary 2015, Entry: English – Pronunciation.
  2. ^ a b "What are the top 200 most spoken languages?". Ethnologue. 2022. Retrieved 12 April 2023.
  3. ^ a b The Routes of English.
  4. ^ Crystal 2003a, p. 6.
  5. ^ Wardhaugh 2010, p. 55.
  6. ^ Burnley, David (1992). "LEXIS AND SEMANTICS". In N. Blake (Ed.), The Cambridge History of the English Language (The Cambridge History of the English Language, pp. 409-499). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521264754.006: "Latin and French each account for a little more than 28 per cent of the lexis recorded in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Finkenstaedt & Wolff 1973)".
  7. ^ Finkenstaedt, Thomas; Dieter Wolff (1973). Ordered profusion; studies in dictionaries and the English lexicon. C. Winter. ISBN 978-3-533-02253-4.
  8. ^ Bammesberger 1992, p. 30.
  9. ^ Svartvik & Leech 2006, p. 39.
  10. ^ Ian Short, A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World, "Language and Literature", Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2007. (p. 193)
  11. ^ Crystal 2003b, p. 30.
  12. ^ "How English evolved into a global language". BBC. 20 December 2010. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  13. ^ Crystal, David; Potter, Simeon (editors). "English language: Historical background". Encyclopædia Britannica. Dec. 2021.
  14. ^ König 1994, p. 539.
  15. ^ English at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019) closed access
  16. ^ Ethnologue 2010.
  17. ^ Crystal, David (2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. 24 (1): 3–6. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023. S2CID 145597019.
  18. ^ Crystal 2003b, pp. 108–109.

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