English is a Germanic Language of the Indo-European Family. It is the second most spoken language in the world.
It is estimated that there are 300 million native speakers and 300 million who use English as a second language and a further 100 million use it as a foreign language. It is the language of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy, and tourism. It is listed as the official or co-official language of over 45 countries and is spoken extensively in other countries where it has no official status.
Half of all business deals are conducted in English. Two thirds of all scientific papers are written in English. Over 70% of all post / mail is written and addressed in English. Most international tourism and aviation is conducted in English.
The history of the language can be traced back to the arrival of three Germanic tribes to the British Isles during the 5th Century AD. Angles, Saxons and Jutes crossed the North Sea from what is the present day Denmark and northern Germany. The inhabitants of Britain previously spoke a Celtic language. This was quickly displaced. Most of the Celtic speakers were pushed into Wales, Cornwall and Scotland. One group migrated to the Brittany Coast of France where their descendants still speak the Celtic Language of Breton today. The Angles were named from Engle, their land of origin. Their language was called Englisc from which the word, English derives.
An Anglo-Saxon inscription dated between 450 and 480AD is the oldest sample of the English language.
During the next few centuries four dialects of English developed:
Northumbrian in Northumbria, north of the Humber
Mercian in the Kingdom of Mercia
West Saxon in the Kingdom of Wessex
Kentish in Kent
During the 7th and 8th Centuries, Northumbria’s culture and language dominated Britain. The Viking invasions of the 9th Century brought this domination to an end (along with the destruction of Mercia). Only Wessex remained as an independent kingdom. By the 10th Century, the West Saxon dialect became the official language of Britain. Written Old English is mainly known from this period. It was written in an alphabet called Runic, derived from the Scandinavian languages. The Latin Alphabet was brought over from Ireland by Christian missionaries. This has remained the writing system of English.
At this time, the vocabulary of Old English consisted of an Anglo Saxon base with borrowed words from the Scandinavian languages (Danish and Norse) and Latin. Latin gave English words like street, kitchen, kettle, cup, cheese, wine, angel, bishop, martyr, candle. The Vikings added many Norse words: sky, egg, cake, skin, leg, window (wind eye), husband, fellow, skill, anger, flat, odd, ugly, get, give, take, raise, call, die, they, their, them. Celtic words also survived mainly in place and river names (Devon, Dover, Kent, Trent, Severn, Avon, Thames).
In 1066 the Normans conquered Britain. French became the language of the Norman aristocracy and added more vocabulary to English.
Because the English underclass cooked for the Norman upper class, the words for most domestic animals are English (ox, cow, calf, sheep, swine, deer) while the words for the meats derived from them are French (beef, veal, mutton, pork, bacon, venison).
The Germanic form of plurals (house, housen; shoe, shoen) was eventually displaced by the French method of making plurals: adding an s (house, houses; shoe, shoes). Only a few words have retained their Germanic plurals: men, oxen, feet, teeth, children.
French also affected spelling so that the cw sound came to be written as qu (eg. cween became queen).
It wasn’t till the 14th Century that English became dominant in Britain again. In 1399, King Henry IV became the first king of England since the Norman Conquest whose mother tongue was English. By the end of the 14th Century, the dialect of London had emerged as the standard dialect of what we now call Middle English. Chaucer wrote in this language.
Modern English began around the 16th Century and, like all languages, is still changing. One change occurred when the th of some verb forms became s (loveth, loves: hath, has). Auxillary verbs also changed (he is risen, he has risen).
The historical influence of language in the British Isles can best be seen in place names and their derivations.
Examples include ac (as in Acton, Oakwood) which is Anglo-Saxon for oak; by (as in Whitby) is Old Norse for farm or village; pwll (as in Liverpool) is Welsh for anchorage; baile (as in Balmoral) is Gaelic for farm or village; ceaster (as in Lancaster) is Latin for fort.
Since the 16th Century, because of the contact that the British had with many peoples from around the world, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, many words have entered the language either directly or indirectly. New words were created at an increasing rate. Shakespare coined over 1600 words. This process has grown exponentially in the modern era.
Borrowed words include names of animals (giraffe, tiger, zebra), clothing (pyjama, turban, shawl), food (spinach, chocolate, orange), scientific and mathematical terms (algebra, geography, species), drinks (tea, coffee, cider), religious terms (Jesus, Islam, nirvana), sports (checkmate, golf, billiards), vehicles (chariot, car, coach), music and art (piano, theatre, easel), weapons (pistol, trigger, rifle), political and military terms (commando, admiral, parliament), and astronomical names (Saturn, Leo, Uranus).
Languages that have contributed words to English include Latin, Greek, French, German, Arabic, Hindi (from India), Italian, Malay, Dutch, Farsi (from Iran and Afganistan), Nahuatl (the Aztec language), Sanskrit (from ancient India), Portuguese, Spanish, Tupi (from South America) and Ewe (from Africa).
The list of borrowed words is enormous. The vocabulary of English is the largest of any language.
Even with all these borrowings the heart of the language remains the Anglo-Saxon of Old English. Only about 5000 or so words from this period have remained unchanged but they include the basic building blocks of the language: household words, parts of the body, common animals, natural elements, most pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs. Grafted onto this basic stock was a wealth of contributions to produce, what many people believe, is the richest of the world’s languages.
Great Britain, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are English speaking countries. They are situated in different parts of the world and differ in many ways. The nature of these countries, their weather and climate and way of life of their people differ. Each coutry has it’s own history customs, traditions, its own national holidays. But they all have a common language. English, the language of the people who left England to make their names in new countries. The United Kindom of Great Britain and North Ireland consist of 4 parts: England, Scotland, Wales, Northen Ireland. The British Isles are group of islands lying off the noth-west coast of the continent of Europe. There are no high mountains, no very long river, no great forest in U.K. The population of the U.K. is almost fifty-six million. Great Britain is a capitalists country. The USA is situated in the central part of the North American continent. The population of the USA is more then 236 million people. The USA is a highly develoed industrial country. In the USA there are two main political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Canada has area of nearly 10 million square kilometres. It’s westen coast is washed by the Pacific Ocean and its eastern coast by the Atlantic Ocean. The population of Canada is over 26 million people. Canada is a capitalist federal state and a member of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth of Australia territories are the continent of Australia, the island of Tasmania and number of smaller islands. Australia has an area of nearly eight million square kilometres. The population of Australia is over sixteen million people. The Commonwealth of Australia is a capitalist self- governing federal state. New Zealand is situated south-east of Australia. The country consists of the large islands called North Island, South Island and Stewart Island and also many small islands. The population of New Zealand is over three million people. New Zealand is a capitalist self-governing state and a meember of the Commonwealth.
Foreign Languages in Our Life
Learning a foreign language is not an easy thing. It is a long and slow process that takes a lot of time and efforts. Nowadays it is especially important to know foreign languages. Some people learn languages because they need them for their work, others travel abroad, for the third studying languages is a hobby. Everyone, who knows foreign languages can speak to people from other countries, read foreign writers in the original, which makes your outlook wider. It is not surprising that many intellectuals and well-educated people are polyglots. I study English. Nowadays English has become the world’s most important language in politics, science, trade and cultural relations. Over 300 million people speak it as a mother tongue. The native speakers of English live in Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand. English is one of the official languages in the Irish Republic, Canada, the South Africa Republic. English is one of the official languages of the United Nations Organization and other political organizations. Half of the world’s scientific literature is in English. It is the language of computer technology. To know English today is absolutely necessary for every educated person, for every good specialist. The English language is a wonderful language. It is the language of the great literature. It is the language of William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Walter Scott, Charles Dickens. The great German poet Goethe once said, “He, who knows no foreign language, does not know his own one.” That is why in order to understand oneself and environment one has to study foreign languages.