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The English Language: Statistics and Facts
English is the second most common language in the world after Chinese. 400 million people claim it as their native language. It is recognised as an official language in the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Malta, Australia and New Zealand, and is also used as an official language in more than 70 territories.
The influence of the English language in the fields of music, film, science, broadcasting and the Internet over the past decades has made it not just the most wide-spread language in the world, but also the second most popular to learn.
Because of the need for English language proficiency in many areas of science, industry and business, Ministries of Education in many countries have introduced the English language into the school curriculum, at least at a basic level.
English is used for writing and speaking more than in any other language. More than 700 million people speak English as a foreign language.
Of the more than 2,700 languages in the world, the English language has the richest vocabulary. The Oxford English Dictionary lists about 500 000 words, and that is not counting about half a million technical and scientific terms.
English belongs to the Germanic family of the Indo-European languages.
History of the English Language
The native people of the British Isles, the Celts, communicated in their native Celtic language until about the 5th century, until the English language was brought in by the Germanic tribes Angles, Saxons and Jutes, formerly inhabiting the Jutland peninsula (modern territory of Denmark and Germany). Currently, Celtic speakers live only in the outlying areas of Britain - Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. The name for the language that was established in the British Isles is derived from one the Germanic tribes by the same name - the Angles, which in turn were named after their homeland, Engle.
The formation of the English language happened in spurts as a result of two major historical events in the history of Britain. Starting in the 8th century, the British coast was subject to regular attacks by the Vikings, who spoke a Scandinavian language, and by the 9th century the Vikings had conquered almost all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. In the 11th century, the island was invaded by the Normans, speakers of the French language speakers. In this regard, the history of the English language can be divided into several periods:
The Old English period of the language (Anglo-Saxon) lasted from the 5th to the 11th century. The basis of the Old English language was the dialects of Germanic peoples, such as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. Later, the English language was enriched by the Scandinavian tongue of their new conquerors, the Vikings. Since the languages of German and Scandinavian tribes belonged to different branches of the same Germanic group of the language tree, no particular difficulties arose when they were mixed. The resulting influence of Scandinavian languages on the English language was only a slight simplification of morphology and grammar.
The historical period of use of Old English coincided with the adoption of Christianity in Britain. Because of this, English acquired a lot of Latin and Greek words. The conquest of Britain by the Normans changed the entire political and cultural life of the region and has had the greatest influence on the English language in its history.
The medieval period stretched from the 11th to the 16th century. At this time, the Norman kings and nobles spoke an Anglo-Norman language, a version of French, while the common people continued to speak Old English. Literary writings in those days were created in Old French, while religious ceremonies were conducted in Latin. Thus, Middle English was formed.
The modern period of English came next. The end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century marked the final establishment of the Modern English language, the complete formation of which was accomplished by the beginning of the 18th century. Present-day English is distinguished from the eighteenth century language in pronunciation only.
- The motto on the coat of arms of Great Britain is written in French: «Dieu et mon droit» ("God and my right").
- "Moment" was the name of a Middle English measure of time - equal to one-and-a-half minutes.
- The first Roman settlement in the area of modern London was established about 2,000 years ago.
- Punctuation in the English language only appeared in the 15th century.
- In Illinois, according to state law, it is illegal to speak English, as the only official language is "American".
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