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The history of English

English Language

Every language has a deep and fascinating history. The development of any language into its various dialects and sub scripts is a historian’s dream study. One among such a language is the most widely spoken language if modern times, English. Originally a West Germanic language, English saw its birth in early medieval England.  It is considered as the first language of many countries , including the United States, the United Kingdom , Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada,  and a hand full of Caribbean nations. Interestingly it is not the number 1 but third most commonly spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. It is the official language of many Commonwealth countries, the European Union as well as the United Nations and other world organizations.

‘English’ is said to be a derivation from the name of the Angles. The history of the English language originates from the region what is now called Scotland, after which it spread across the Kingdom of Britain and later into The Americas.  Now collectively termed as Old English, the language was originally just a fusion of many dialects brought to the eastern coast of Great Britain by Germanic settlers.

Many of the words used in the Old English language were derived from the language of Latin. In modern times, this usage of Latin script in the English language can still be observed. In the 8th and 9th centuries the language continued to be influenced by the Old Norse language. This was due to the Viking invasions during that period. Furthermore, in the 11th century the Norman conquest of England gave rise to large borrowings of vocabulary from Norman-French. This period saw the emergence of what was known as Middle English where spelling and vocabulary conventions appeared to have a close relationship with the Romance languages.

The 15th century played host to many historic changes that took place to the language. One of the most important ones among them is ‘The Great Vowel Shift’ which marked the emergence of Modern English from Middle English. Modern English has a large and extensive vocabulary mainly because of the various words borrowed from many other languages. Some of the most common words used in day to day speech of the English Language are all derived from languages such as Latin, French and even the Indian scriptures of Sanskrit.

Although the English language has a single name, there are many dialects as well as what is known as ‘slangs’. Slang is a common way of speaking the language among a set of people that has its own terminologies restricted to their groups. While considered an easily understandable language most commonly used all over the world, the English Language is known for its complex and irregular spelling especially in vowels. The accent of speech also varies from country to country. In the United States alone, there are more than 10 different accents. The Oxford English Dictionary  has listed over 250,000 distinct words, without the inclusion of many scientific, technical and slang terms.



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