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The English Language

In the 5th century (AD) three Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) left southern Denmark and northern Germany, crossed the North Sea, and invaded modern day England. The Celtic speaking inhabitants of modern day England fled to Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland leaving only a few Celtic words behind. 

Old English (450AD-1100AD): The three Germanic tribes spoke very similar languages, which became known as Old English. Nearly half of all Modern English words have Old English roots. The Angles came from “Englaland” (England) and spoke “Englisc” (English).

Middle English (1100AD-1500AD): The Normans lead by William the Conqueror (The Duke of Normandy) invaded and conquered England in 1066AD. The Normans spoke Anglo-Norman which was a dialect of Old French. After the invasion the upper class inhabitants spoke French and lower class spoke English. In the 14th century the English language became the dominant language again but had many French words added which became known as Middle English. 

Early Modern English (1500-1800): The two major factors that influenced the English language and separated Middle English and Early Modern English were the Great Vowel Shift and William Caxton bringing the printing press to England in 1476. The majority of the Great Vowel Shift happened within a century starting around 1400. Vowels were getting pronounced shorter and shorter. The shift is still happening but at a considerably slower rate. The introduction of the printing press in England brought standardization to the English language. More people began to read due to the books becoming more affordable. Spelling and grammar became fixed and in 1604 the first English Dictionary was published. 

Late Modern English (1800-Present): Vocabulary is the main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English. There was a need for new words due to Technology and the Industrial Revolution. The English language also adopted words from several different countries. In the year 1000AC, the English language had approximately 40,000 words. Presently, there are more than 500,000 words with an average of 46,000 being created each century.

English is spoken as a first language of approximately 375 million people. It is spoken as a second language of anywhere from 470 million to over a billion people. One fourth of the world’s population is believed to speak English to some extent. English is thought to be the third largest language of native speakers with Mandarin Chinese taking first and Spanish taking second. English is often referred to as a “world language” because it is so widely spoken. It is the number one language taught as a foreign language. 57.3% of the U.S. speaks English as their native language, followed by UK (16.3%), Canada (4.9%), Australia (4.1%), Nigeria (1.1%), Ireland (1%), South Africa (1%), New Zealand (1%), and Other (13.3%).

English is an official language of more than fifty countries. Among these are: Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada (except Quebec), Cayman Islands, Dominica, England, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom, Wales, and Zimbabwe.

The United States does not have an official national language. Thirty-one of the fifty state governments in the U.S. have adopted some of their own official English laws. These states include: Alabama (1990), Alaska (1998), Arizona (2006), Arkansas (1987), California (1986), Colorado (1988), Florida (1988), Georgia (1996), Hawaii (1978), Idaho (2007), Illinois (1969), Indiana (1984), Iowa (2002), Kansas (2007), Kentucky (1984), Louisiana (1811), Massachusetts (1975), Mississippi (1987), Missouri (2008), Montana (1995), Nebraska (1920), New Hampshire (1995), North Carolina (1987), North Dakota (1987), Oklahoma (2010), South Carolina (1987), South Dakota (1995), Tennessee (1984), Utah (2000), Virginia (1996), and Wyoming (1996).

We hope this English language assists, but please contact Axis Translations if you require an English language translation in combination with over 200 languages.