Type Of English language
English language, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family that is closely related to Frisian, German, and Dutch (in Belgium called Flemish) languages. English originated in England and is the dominant language of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and various island nations in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is also an official language of India, the Philippines, Singapore, and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa. English is the first choice of foreign language in most other countries of the world, and it is that status that has given it the position of a global lingua franca. It is estimated that about a third of the world’s population, some two billion persons, now use English.
English is known as a magpie language that picks up words from almost every other language and culture it comes in contact with, from Abenaki to Zulu. And although some languages have understandably widened the English vocabulary more than others, modern English dictionaries contain more of a geographical melting pot than ever before.
Listed here—in order by number of native speakers—are the world’s top 20 languages (according to Ethnologue, a global catalog of the 7000 languages currently in use worldwide). Alongside each entry on the list are just some of the words which English has borrowed from it.
The Jutes, Angles, and Saxons lived in Jutland, Schleswig, and Holstein, respectively, before settling in Britain. According to the Venerable Bede, the first historian of the English people, the first Jutes, Hengist and Horsa, landed at Ebbsfleet in the Isle of Thanet in 449; and the Jutes later settled in Kent, southern Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight. The Saxons occupied the rest of England south of the Thames, as well as modern Middlesex and Essex. The Angles eventually took the remainder of England as far north as the Firth of Forth, including the future Edinburgh and the Scottish Lowlands. In both Latin and Common Germanic the Angles’ name was Angli, later mutated in Old English to Engle(nominative) and Engla (genitive). Engla land designated the home of all three tribes collectively, and both King Alfred (known as Alfred the Great) and Abbot Aelfric, author and grammarian, subsequently referred to their speech as Englisc. Nevertheless, all the evidence indicates that Jutes, Angles, and Saxons retained their distinctive dialects.
The River Humber was an important boundary, and the Anglian-speaking region developed two speech groups: to the north of the river, Northumbrian, and, to the south, Southumbrian, usually referred to as Mercian. There were thus four dialects: Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon, and Kentish. In the 8th century, the Northumbrian speech group led in literature and culture, but that leadership was destroyed by the Viking invaders, who sacked Lindisfarne, an island near the Northumbrian mainland, in 793. They landed in strength in 865. The first raiders were Danes, but they were later joined by Norwegians from Ireland and the Western Isles who settled in modern Cumberland, Westmorland, northwest Yorkshire, Lancashire, north Cheshire, and the Isle of Man. In the 9th century, as a result of the Norwegian invasions, cultural leadership passed from Northumbria to Wessex. During King Alfred’s reign, in the last three decades of the 9th century, Winchester became the chief centre of learning. There the Parker Chronicle (a manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) was written; there the Latin works of the priest and historian Paulus Orosius, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, and the Venerable Bede were translated; and there the native poetry of Northumbria and Mercia was transcribed into the West Saxon dialect. This resulted in West Saxon’s becoming “standard Old English.” About a century later, when Aelfric wrote his lucid and mature prose at Winchester, Cerne Abbas, and Eynsham, the hegemony of Wessex was strengthened.
Verbs had two tenses only (present-future and past), three moods (indicative, subjunctive, and imperative), two numbers (singular and plural), and three persons (1st, 2nd, and 3rd). There were two classes of verb stems. (A verb stem is that part of a verb to which inflectional changes—changes indicating tense, mood, number, etc.
All new verbs, whether derived from existing verbs or from nouns, belonged to the consonantal type. Some verbs of great frequency (antecedents of the modern words be, shall, will, do, go, can, may, and so on) had their own peculiar patterns of inflections.
.This simplification of grammatical gender resulted from the fact that the gender of Old English substantives was not always indicated by the ending but rather by the terminations of the adjectives and demonstrative pronouns used with the substantives. When these endings were lost, all outward marks of gender disappeared with them. Thus, the weakening of inflections and loss of gender occurred together. In the North, where inflections weakened earlier, the marks of gender likewise disappeared first. They survived in the South as late as the 14th century.
One result of the Norman Conquest of 1066 was to place all four Old English dialects more or less on a level. West Saxon lost its supremacy, and the centre of culture and learning gradually shifted from Winchester to London. The old Northumbrian dialect became divided into Scottish and Northern, although little is known of either of these divisions before the end of the 13th century. The old Mercian dialect was split into East and West Midland. West Saxon became slightly diminished in area and was more appropriately named the South Western dialect. The Kentish dialect was considerably extended and was called South Eastern accordingly. All five Middle English dialects (Northern, West Midland, East Midland, South Western, and South Eastern) went their own ways and developed their own characteristics. The so-called Katherine Group of writings (c. 1180–1210), associated with Hereford, a town not far from the Welsh border, adhered most closely to native traditions, and there is something to be said for regarding this West Midland dialect, least disturbed by French and Scandinavian intrusions, as a kind of Standard English in the High Middle Ages.
Chaucer, who was born and died in London, spoke a dialect that was basically East Midland. Compared with his contemporaries, he was remarkably modern in his use of language. He was in his early 20s when the Statute of Pleading (1362) was passed, by the terms of which all court proceedings were henceforth to be conducted in English, though “enrolled in Latin.” Chaucer himself used four languages; he read Latin (Classical and Medieval) and spoke French and Italian on his travels. For his own literary work he deliberately chose English.