The Growth and Importance of English as a Global Language - How English developed from its origins until today. Discusses why it is now the most widely-learned language in the world.

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 1539
  • Published: February 10, 2004
Read full document
Text Preview
The definition of a global language, is a language which has been given a specific place within countries and communities around the world, even in places where there are very few native speakers of this language. Although English is not the most widely spoken language in the world in terms of the number of native speakers - there are many more native Chinese speakers than native English speakers - it is described as a 'global language' and Chinese is not. This is because there are few other communities in the world that give Chinese, be it Mandarin or Cantonese, a particular use or function, probably due to the fact that its alphabet is so different from that which is used in the majority of the rest of the world.

It is impossible to know exactly how many English speakers there are in the world, but according to estimates, there are more than 350 million native English speakers and more than 400 million speakers of English as a second, or foreign, language. These figures are especially impressive considering the fact that this mass popularity only came about in approximately the last three centuries.

The English language's influence spans across the globe and is more influential in the world of media, communication, business and government than any other, even in certain countries where English is used, or regarded, as a minority language. It is the language of maritime communication and international air traffic control and is acknowledged as the language of popular culture primarily in the entertainment fields of cinema and music.

The English language's earliest origins are from the Germanic language group. This group began as a common language about 3,000 years ago. Many different European languages developed from this Germanic group, depending on which part of this sector - the region of the Elbe river - they were closer to. For example, North Germanic evolved into the modern Scandinavian languages of Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic; and East Germanic, which was adopted by Southeast European countries. West Germanic, however, is the language from which English developed, along with German, Dutch and Flemish.

This West Germanic 'language' first came over to Britain in the 5th Century when Germanic peoples from Jutland (the Jutes) and Denmark (the Saxons) invaded. They forced the original inhabitants - the Celts - to the outskirts of Britain - Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland. It is for this reason that the a lot of the original Celtic language still remains in the Scottish, Irish and Welsh languages.

The Germanic invaders' language was almost identical to Modern Frisian, the language which is now referred to as Old English. Depending on where in Britain the Jutes and the Saxons settled, new dialects emerged. The most prominent of these being Northumbrian in the North of England, Mercian in the Midlands, West Saxon in the South and West, and Kentish in the Southeast.

Around two hundred years later, during the 8th Century, the Vikings invaded Britain from Scandinavia. As with the original Germanic invaders, they brought with them a new language dimension - Old Norse. This language however, was itself descended from North Germanic and so was very similar to the Old English which was being spoken in England. As the language spoken throughout Scandinavia at the time was mostly understandable by the Anglo-Saxons, they brought, with relative ease, many new words to the language of England, especially to the Northern regions.

In 1066, the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, did as name suggests, and invaded and conquered England, and its Anglo-Saxon inhabitants. As with the Viking invasion two hundred and fifty years previously, the new rulers of England brought with them a specific addition to the language. However, also like the Vikings, the language spoken by the Normans had descended from the Germanic group and was called Anglo-Norman. However, it was in fact a French dialect which...
tracking img