English language, term for a Germanic language (with Romance enforcement) which, spreading from the British Isles, is spoken on all five continents; the language with the largest number of speakers after Chinese.
According to vaultedwatches.com, the English language is the mother tongue of the Anglo-Saxon language community with around 573 million speakers (including around 337 million primary speakers and around 236 million second speakers), of which around 215 million are in the USA and around 60 million in the British Isles, the remaining in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of South Africa, and other former British colonies. In addition, English is the official second language in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and other countries (“English as a second and / or additional language”, ESL) and is often the only supraregional means of communication. Furthermore, with an estimated 1 billion speakers, English is the most widely spoken foreign language on earth (“English as a foreign language”, EFL). B. as one of the main languages of international traffic, business, technology, science and the Internet and, since 1919, diplomacy in addition to French. After all, the English language plays a special role in the international entertainment industry, advertising and youth culture.
History and idiosyncrasy
A distinction is made between three major periods in the development of the English language: Old English (from around 450 to 1100, with written tradition not beginning until the 7th century), Middle English (from around 1100 to 1500) and New English (from around 1500).
After the Romans left the province of Britannia at the beginning of the 5th century AD, Angling, Saxons and Jutes conquered the island. They spoke Germanic language variants that were closely related to Dutch, Frisian and Low German at the time. They pushed the Celtic indigenous population back to Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. The Jutes settled in the extreme southeast. The Saxons took possession of the land south and west of the Thames, and the Angles settled north of the Thames. The dialects were distributed accordingly: Kentish, West Saxon and Anglish. The differences were probably never very pronounced. The vast majority of the surviving Old English language monuments have been handed down in the West Saxon dialect, as the written evidence of the other areas of the island almost completely fell victim to the Viking invasions of the 9th century. Only the West Saxon Empire was able to maintain its independence, so that from around 900 West Saxon became the standard literary language of the whole country. With the Christianization by the Irish monk church, the Anglo-Saxons adopted the slightly modified Latin alphabet. Between 650 and 900, both runes and Latin script were used in England. Old English (in contrast to New English) is a language with a highly structured inflection and relatively free word order. A not inconsiderable proportion of the Old English verbosity is of Latin origin. But it became evident in loan translations and word creations, who resorted to their own stock of forms to form new terms, the lively independence of language. Celtic linguistic material can hardly be proven except in geographical proper names, and Scandinavian forms are only increasingly appearing in Middle English sources. How great the influence of Scandinavian must have been in Old English, however, is shown by the fact that, in addition to many lexical elements, important frequently used grammatical structural elements such as the pronominal forms »they«, »their«, »them« have penetrated.
The conquest of England by the Normans (1066) was to have a lasting impact on the development of the English language. The traditional vernacular lost its generally binding character; henceforth French was the language of the court, law, church and universities, while the general population continued to cling to their own language. However, there has never been a single, generally binding form of Middle English, but there has been a large number of dialects that are grouped together to form larger dialect areas based on similarities. After London had developed into the political and cultural center of the country in the 14th century, the dialect of this language area gained supraregional importance. The New English language emerged from the language of the London offices. A typical feature of this period was the inclusion of foreign vocabulary. A large percentage of today’s vocabulary is of French origin. There are also numerous borrowings from Latin and Greek. In addition, there were loans from Dutch, Spanish and German. The structure of emphasis has been largely adapted to the Germanic pattern over time. The development of sounds can be seen in the writing of the French scribes: They reproduced the sounds unknown to them such as [x], [θ], [ʃ] and [w] using digraphs (gh, th, sh, wh). For the sake of clearer spelling, there were now seemingly arbitrary spelling variants in grapheme combinations; so z. B. in the vicinity of n, m or w the vowel [u] is often written as o (compare New English “to come”). In pronunciation, there were strong qualitative and quantitative changes in the development of Old English, some of which were spontaneous, i. H. be explained in part combinatorially without the influence of the sound environment; they were largely reflected in spelling and grammar (e.g. in the irregularity of many New English verb forms). After all, all long vowels were profoundly changed by the “great vowel shift”. Middle English [iː], [eː], [aː], [ɔː], [oː] and [uː] evolved into New English [aɪ], [iː], [eɪ], [əʊ], [uː] and [aʊ ]; with the exception of [u], which became [ʌ], the short vowels remained unchanged. Many other phonetic changes are detectable; However, just like the “great vowel shift”, they were not taken into account in the orthography.