History of the English Language--An Overview [http://goo.gl/7jtmCM]


500 BCE-43 CE - The Celtic peoples (descendants of proto-Indo-European) engaged in widespread trade along the Atlantic coast and had expanded their occupation of Western Europe, and thus, a substantial part of Europe spoke varieties of Celtic language (Ostler, Nicholas, 2005, pp. 274-276; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 14).

200 BCE-200 CE - Germanic peoples move down from Scandinavia and spread over Central Europe in successive waves.

43 CE - Roman occupation of Britain. Roman colony of "Britannia" established. Culturally and linguistically, however, the Romans did not influence the population. Although, many Celtic Britons became Romanized, especially the local élites in urban towns, it did not happen in the countryside where old-time Celtic persisted. Brittones (or "Britons") continued to speak a variety of Celtic languages. Even though Britain was a Roman province for nearly 400 years and yet, with the departure of the Romans, nearly every trace of the Latin language on the island was wiped out (Dahl, Anne, Take Credit, 2015, Lesson 2; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 17; Solodow, Joseph B, 2010, p. 45; Ostler, Nicholas, 2005, p. 295).

406 CE – Bitterly cold winter freezes the Rhine river, allowing foreigner warriors (a combined ‘barbarian’ force) (Suevi, Alans, Vandals and Burgundians) to cross into Rome's continental holdings. Vandals and other foreigners (‘barbarians’) overrun the Roman province of Gaul (Solodow, Joseph B, 2010, p. 32)

In 410 the Roman emperor, Honorius (395-423 CE) –the first emperor of the Western Roman Empire–, told the local authorities in Britain that he could not send any reinforcements to help them defend the province against 'barbarian' attacks, and the Romans withdrew their arms and administration from Britain. Despite nearly 400 years in charge in Britain (from 43 CE to 410 CE), Latin did not replace the Celtic language; the Romans did not leave much of their Latin language behind, beyond the occasional place name (Solodow, Joseph B, 2010, p. 32; Lecomte, Louis, "Grande-Bretagne", 2002, p. 572; Baugh, Albert C. & Thomas Cable, 2002, pp. 40-41).

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Timeline of the English language from approximately the year 500 BCE until today

Old English: from 450 CE to 1150 CE - This is the period of full inflections, because during most of this period the endings of the grammatical category 'open class words' (the term we give it today), meaning the noun, the adjective, and the verb, are preserved more or less unimpaired (Baugh, Albert C. & Thomas Cable, 2002, p. 46). Old English is a synthetic rather than an analytic language. Languages that make extensive use of prepositions and auxiliary verbs and depend upon word order to show grammatical relationships are analytic. Languages that use inflections to indicate grammatical relationships are synthetic (Modern French, Italian, Spanish are examples of synthetic languages). Old English like Modern German (and unlike Modern English) is synthetic. In terms of grammar, Old English resembles Modern German more than it does Modern English. Old English nouns, pronouns, and adjectives had four inflectional cases, used according to the word's function in a sentence. The four inflectional cases are as follows: Nominative Case (Subject)-- The king is old. Accusative Case (Direct object)-- He lost the crown. Genitive Case (Possessive)-- This is Albert's throne. Dative Case (Indirect Object)-- He gave Elisif to Harald.

1st. event. Anglo Saxons, 449 CE - The war-like and pagan Germanic tribes, descendants of proto-Indo-European, Angles, Saxons, who were all from northern Germany, begin to arrive. By 500 CE, many of the invaders had settled (Thomas, Charles. 1981, p.271).

Angles, Saxons, and other Germanic tribes ( Friesians and Jutes (the latter from southern Denmark, Jutland) brought with them their language[s], which soon dominated the island. Although English did not yet exist, the peoples who had settled there would become the ancestors of a language whose evolution was just beginning: Anglo Saxon dialects form the basis of the language we now call Old English, also called the language of the Anglo-Saxons: 700 to 1100 (Dahl, Anne, Take Credit, 2015, Lesson 2; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 17-18; Lecomte, Louis, "Germains", 2002, p. 305; Heiberg, D., 2002, p. 630).

Anglo Saxon vocabulary.

Approximately one third of Anglo-Saxon words survive into modern English, including many of our most basic, everyday words: I, the, to, is, you, that, it, he, of, was, for, on, are, as, his, they, at, be, this, have, from, or, one, had, word, but, not, what, we, when, your, can, said, your, each, which, she, do, their, if.

By the 7th century Latin speakers refer to this country as Anglia - the land of the Angles - a name that will later develop into England (Baugh, Albert C. & Thomas Cable, 2002, p. 45).

2nd event. A monk named Augustine, 596 CE - Christian missionaries arrive from the Continent, led by a monk named Augustine. They move through the land, converting the Anglo-Saxons from their Pagan beliefs to a Catholic Christian faith. Throughout Europe, the language of the Church was Latin, and the missionaries inject hundreds of new Latin words into the English language, but it also went the other way, they accommodate Latin to these pagans’ language to explain their faith. They meet new cultural needs, i.e. godspell, ‘good news’ (gospel, euangelium); hlafweard, ‘guardian of the loaf’ (Lord, Dominus); Hell, ‘hidden place’ (Infernum) (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 19-21; Sherman, Charles P., 1914, p. 318).

Vocabulary - Latin words

Many of the new words derived from Latin refer to religion, such as altar, mass, school, monk, but others are more domestic and mundane such as fork, spade, spider, tower, rose, cheese, wine.

3rd event. Vikings, 793 CE – The first Viking/Danish attack on Britain. The Viking continue their incursions, stretching over some 250 years, beginning in the eighth century. There were sporadic raids, and subsequent establishment of a permanent army in England during the 9th century. The language scenario inevitably changed due to the Viking activities which took place across the British Isles during the 8th and 9th centuries: the first wave consisting of Danes, and the subsequent wave consisting of Norwegians entering England from Ireland and the Western Isles (Dahl, Anne, Take Credit, 2015, Lesson 2; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 22-23; Lecomte, Louis, "Grande-Bretagne", 2002, p. 572).

Vocabulary - Norse words

The Viking raiders and settlers spoke dialects of Old Norse (the parent language of modern Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic) and left permanent linguistic traces on the English vocabulary. By the middle of the 10th century, the Germanic dialects that originally arrived in Britain with the Germanic tribes of Jutes, Angles, and Saxons had developed far enough away from the Germanic languages on the mainland to count as a separate language, even though it was still relatively similar to the other Germanic languages, for example to Old Norse.

Although the Scandinavian impact on English was considerable, Norse did not survive much beyond the twelfth century in England. Compared with the effects of the Norman Conquest, which was to follow, the Scandinavian influence was less spectacular and revolutionary (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 25).

Words derived from Norse include anger, awkward, cake, die, egg, freckle, muggy, reindeer, silver, skirt, smile. Many Northern English dialect words still bear traces of Scandinavian languages, as do many place names such as Whitby and Grimsby (where “by” means "farm" or "town").

4th event. Normans, 1066 CE - The possibly most dramatic event for the further development of the English language took place in 1066. In that year the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada was defeated in what was to be the last major Scandinavian attack on Britain. However, only weeks later came a greater threat to the English king Harold; from the French duchy of Normandy came William the Conqueror, who defeated King Harold in the Battle of Hastings and became king of England.

William was French, and so were his family, friends and advisors; over the next centuries (over 300 years), French became the language of the ruling classes in England – royalty, aristocrats and high-powered officials – some of whom could not speak English at all. French was used in political documents, in administration, and in literature. Latin was still the language of the church and of scholars (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 35).

Was this the subjection of English? The answer is a simple ‘No’. English played a subordinate role, but an active role, nevertheless. England did not become an English-speaking country. How did the Old English survive?

French was a great influence on English vocabulary throughout this period. It is said that thousands of French words became embedded in the English vocabulary, but were these Central French words or was it Anglo-Norman vocabulary? Anyhow, they give a Romance flavor to the island language.

Most people in England did not start speaking French during this time; most of the general population spoke English in their everyday lives. The French language was, however, present enough in society to cause permanent changes to the English language. By the 13th century, over 20,000 words have entered English, mostly from Latin and French (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 34).

Perhaps 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) because the English underclass cooked for the Norman upper class (Scott, Sir Walter, 1820, section 45; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 39).

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.

One result of the Norman Conquest of 1066 was to place all four Old English dialects more or less on a level. But it was also the influence of English linguistic tendencies that gradually developed the French language ( Norman dialect) into something quite different from any of the continental dialects. Word order became increasingly important in conveying the meaning of a sentence, rather than the traditional use of special word endings.

Clever new constructions enter the language, such as the auxiliary verbs ‘had' and 'shall' ['had made', 'shall go']. Spelling and pronunciation begin to shift too, as Norman scribes spell words using their own conventions, such as qu- instead of cw-. Slowly but surely, distinctive Old English characters begin to die out.

Moreover, three generations after the Norman invasion, the French-speaking élite in England begin to lose the umbilical tie with the Continent. They begin to look upon England and the English language as their first concern; they were not so intimately connected to France by ties of language, blood, and property interests anymore (Heiberg, D., 2002, p. 660; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 35).

By about 1200 CE, England and France had split. English changed a lot, because it was mostly being spoken instead of written for about 300 years. The use of Old English came back, but with many French words added and it was practically a collection of dialects. This language is called Middle English (from 1150 to 1500). Meanwhile, it seemed that England had its own political and economic ends and that these were not the same as those of France (Dahl, Anne, Take Credit, 2015, Lesson 3; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 34-35, 40-41).

Middle English: from 1150 to 1500 - Some of the developments which distinguish Middle English began as early as the tenth century (900 CE). During this period the inflections, which had begun to break down toward the end of the Old English period, as mentioned above, became greatly reduced, and it is consequently known as the period of leveled inflections (Baugh, Albert C. & Thomas Cable, 2002, p. 46; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 29-30). What does this mean? It means that endings of (open class words) nouns, verbs, and adjectives which indicated distinctions in number, case and gender were altered to in pronunciation to such an extent that they lost their distinctive forms. When these endings begin to sound the same, they become useless and are dropped.

5th event. Middle English, 1100-1450 – a language in between - on its way from Old English to modern English.

There was a widespread increase in literacy; universities are established at Oxford and Cambridge. There was an important influx of French words into the vocabulary. In grammar, the inflectional system of grammatical ending is reduced and simplified (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 29-30).

6th event. 100 Years' War, 1337-1450 - 100 Years’ War fought between England and France. The background of this bloody conflict was whether many of the nobility in England owed their allegiance to England or to France.

The French king, Charles VI, had ordered all English nobles who had estates in France, to surrender their land in England and return to France, or to forfeit their French holdings. Any noble who had given up his French lands, for the sake of his English possessions, would naturally now consider himself to be English.

The great victories of the English fanned English patriotism to a white heat. Following the “100 Years’ War”, feelings of English national identity emerges. The notion of being an “Englishman” was, of course, linked to the vernacular spoken within the island kingdom. Within England, French became known as the “language of the enemy,” thus leading to its gradual abandonment.

There were rumors in England that the French meant to invade and destroy the English language. It was the fall of the French language in England. French is spoken only at court, by the aristocracy and by the well-educated clergy. Meanwhile, the dominance of spoken English became further entrenched within society. Children of the nobility, who formerly spoke English as a second language, begin to adopt it as their mother tongue (Baugh, Albert C. & Thomas Cable, 2002, pp. 129-130).

By the time Henry IV came to the throne in 1399, English had become so customary that no-one was surprised when he became the first king to take his Coronation Oath in English. In so doing, he settled the fate of French in England. The French language withered and died and English became the norm.

Vocabulary - New Latin words

Despite the war against France, many thousands of Latin words came into the language, most of which were connected to religion, medicine, law or literature. These words included scripture, collect, immortal, history, library, solar, recipe, genius.

7th event. English in the Law Courts, 1362 – As early as the late Middle English period, the language goes through a cultural and literary renaissance. English was becoming the language of government. Edward III ordered, ironically in French, that English should be used in the law courts and Parliament, ‘because the French tongue is much unknown.’ (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 41).

Geoffrey Chaucer, "The father of English literature", was there in the king's service when Edward III ordered that English should be used instead of French, in the fourteenth century. Chaucer had an impact on the English language. He decided to write in the vernacular even though he was born to a French speaking royal attendant and on those days, French was the language of the ruling class, aristocrats being descended from the Normans who had conquered England in 1066. The 100 Years’ War had started just three decades ago. The young Chaucer, whose original family name was Chaussier, shoemaker, was to reverse the decline of English.

In 1397, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the famous “ The Canterbury Tales”, a series of concise yarns, narrated by a variety of individuals from different walks of life (Chaucer, Geoffrey, 1397).

Fourteenth-century English was spoken (and written) in a variety of dialects. This unusual situation, in which the common people spoke one language, and the aristocrats another, was due to the Norman Invasion in 1066. The English language needed a standardization (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 60-62).

By the later fourteenth century a demand for English had developed, and literary works in English were wanted not because their audience had no French but because they preferred English.

The English language was at this point on the eve of Modern era.

There were three big developments in the world at the beginning of Modern English period: the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and the British Colonialism.
Modern English can be divided as follows:
• ✔ Early Modern English: 1500 to 1750
• ✔ Late Modern English: 1750–1800 to the 20th Century
• ✔ Contemporary English: the 21th Century

8th event. Renaissance, 1476-1650 – The dominant cultural development in Europe.

This is a time of great cultural and intellectual development in studies relating to medicine, science and the arts. People want to expand their knowledge inspired by Columbus' 'Discovery' of the New World (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 47).

Over the next 200 years wonderful discoveries and innovations are made in the fields of art, theater and science. There is a fresh interest among scholars in classical languages. The first folio of Shakespeare’s plays is published in 1623.

There is an immense proliferation of terms from different foreign languages into the English vocabulary. In addition to this influx of foreign terms, many new words are created within the category of open class words by the addition of prefixes (uncomfortable, forename, underground); suffixes (delightfulness, laughable, investment); and by cobbling together compounds (heaven-sent, commander-in-chief).

Vocabulary - New words

With these fresh findings come new words from across the globe, including atmosphere, explain, enthusiasm, skeleton, utopian (from Latin); bizarre, chocolate, explore, moustache, vogue (from French); carnival, macaroni, violin (from Italian); harem, jar, magazine, sherbet (from Arabic); coffee, yoghurt, kiosk (from Turkish); tomato, potato, tobacco (from Spanish ['tomate', 'patata', 'tabaco'])

1476 – The printing press

The merchant, writer, diplomat, and printer William Caxton greatly influenced what is now Standard Written English.

In 1476, William Caxton introduces the printing press to England. The arrival of the printing press is a major step towards a standard writing system – and initiates an enormous boom in the production of printed resources in English.

The English language was changing rapidly in Caxton's time and the works he was given to print were in a variety of styles and dialects.

William Caxton prints all kinds of texts: mythic tales, popular stories, poems, phrasebooks, devotional pieces & grammars.

William Caxton often faced dilemmas concerning language standardization in the books he printed. Caxton's concern about variation in English is expressed in the preface (Caxton's Prologue) to his Eneydos ("Prologue to Virgil's Eneydos") (The FRENCH ENEYDES) on June 22nd, 1490.
And certaynly our langage now vsed varyeth ferre from that whiche was vsed and spoken whan I was borne / For we englysshe men / ben borne vnder the domynacyon of the mone, whiche is neuer stedfaste / but euer wauerynge / wexynge one season / and waneth & dyscreaseth another season / And that comyn englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a nother. And so moche that in my dayes happened that certayn merchauntes were in a shippe in tamyse, for to haue sayled ouer the see into zelande / and for lacke of wynde , they taryed atte forlond, and wente to lande for to refreshe them; and one of theym named sheffelde, a mercer, cam in-to an hows and axed for mete; and specyally he axyd after eggys; And the goode wyf answerde that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry, for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wolde haue hadde egges / and she vnderstode hym not / And thenne at laste a nother sayd that he wolde haue eyren / Then the good wyf sayd that she vnderstood hym wel / Loo, what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, egges or eyren / certaynly it is harde to playse euery man / by caue of diuersite & chaunge of langage (Caxton, William, 1490, Caxton's Prologue: pag. 2, line 16; pag. 3, line 6),
William Caxton is credited with standardising the English language through printing. In 1470, at the command of his patroness, Margaret of Burgundy, he completed a translation into English of the French "The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye" of Raoul Lefevre, 'Recueil des Histoires de Troie' (i.e., collection of the stories of Troy). This was the first book printed in the English language, 856 pages, printed in Bruges, Belgium, around 1475.

Printers Wynkyn de Worde and Richard Pynson were William Caxton's successors. Wynkyn de Worde faced similar problems, but it was Richard Pynson, who started printing in London in 1491, consequently pushed the English language further toward standardisation. In the following 150 years around 20,000 books are printed. Books become cheaper and are therefore increasingly popular. As the urban population increased, so too did the rate of literacy. The actual rate of literacy in fifteenth and early sixteenth-century England is subject to debate.

Printers (among them William Caxton, Wynkyn de Worde, and Richard Pynson) have to make a choice about which words, grammar and spellings to use. The choices they make help to set and spread a standard language. They base their decisions on the dialects of the South East - the most socially and economically influential region. But these rules are not set in stone, and people continue to speak in different accents and dialects, and to write with different spellings (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 62).

Late 1400s-early 1500s – The Great Vowel Shift

Another language change was taking place from in the Early Modern English period which is important for the English language today. This change affected spoken language: " The Great Vowel Shift", which accounts for the greatest difference between Modern English and Chaucer's English, the Pronunciation of the "long vowels."

Beginning in the twelfth century and continuing until the eighteenth century (but with its main effects in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries) the sounds of the long stressed vowels in English changed their places of articulation (i.e., how the sounds are made).

The result is the numerous set of "silent letters" that learners find so maddening (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, p. 61).

Late 1400s –Standardization

With increased contact between speakers of English from different dialect areas and, not least, with the increased use of written English came the need for standardization (that is, homogenising regional dialects). The standardization process took place over several centuries, and affected especially spelling and grammar (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 60-61).

By the fifteenth century, London English was firmly established as the dialect spoken by the denizens of power. The literary language that Chaucer fashioned become the standard written language of elegant writers and the language of London became the written standard for all formal English (Fisher, John H., 1977, pp. 870-89; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 43, 48).

1500s –Modern English

By the time of Shakespeare's writings (1592-1616), the language had become clearly recognizable as Modern English. However, at the time of Shakespeare, pronunciation was beginning to be standardized. His pronunciation was probably similar to present-day Irish or American English. But spelling was not codified in the English language, and people more or less spelled words in the way that seemed most logical there and then. However, by approximately the year 1800, standard spellings had been adopted for most words, although there were still plenty of alternative spellings around (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 43-44, 56-57, 60, 74).

9th event. Dictionaries, grammars, rules and regulations, 1700s; Industrial Revolution, 1760-1830s – Human knowledge continues to stretch into new areas, with discoveries in the fields of medicine, astrology, botany and engineering.

The English language continues to undergo great changes. Many scholars believe that the English language is chaotic, and in desperate need of some firm rules. Standard English emerged slowly over a period of some three-and-a-half centuries (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 46, 62).

At this time, books teaching 'correct' grammar, pronunciation and spelling are increasingly popular. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) publishes his famous dictionary in 1755: A dictionary of the English language : in which the words are deduced from their originals, and illustrated in their different significations by examples from the best writers : to which are prefixed, a history of the language, and an English grammar. In The United States of America, the need to define the identity of the new nation results in Noah Webster's famous ' American Dictionary of the English Language' appearing in 1828, or "An American dictionary of the English language: intended to exhibit, I. The origin, affinities and primary signification of English words, as far as they have been ascertained. II. The genuine orthography and pronunciation of words, according to general usage, or to just principles of analogy. III. Accurate and discriminating definitions, with numerous authorities and illustrations. To which are prefixed, an introductory dissertation on the origin, history and connection of the languages of Western Asia and of Europe, and a concise grammar of the English language" (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 64-65, 67, 53-54).

The Industrial Revolution. The transformation of the western world

England began the Industrial Revolution (18th century) and this had also an effect on the development of the language as new words had to be invented or existing ones modified to cope with the rapid changes in technology. New technical words were added to the vocabulary as inventors designed various products and machinery. These words were named after the inventor or given the name of their choice (trains, engine, pulleys, combustion, electricity, telephone, telegraph, camera etc.).

In an age of inventions and contraptions, of science and industry, of expanding cities and smog-gurgling factories the language must swell to accommodate new ideas.

Vocabulary - New words

Newly coined words include biology, taxonomy, caffeine, cityscape, centigrade, watt, bacterium, chromosome, claustrophobia. In the world of burgeoning capitalism, "money" can suddenly 'slump', 'inflate', 'boom' and 'cause depressions'. Victorian writers pen over 60,000 novels.

10th event. ‘Discovery’ and the Colonization of the New World, 1584-1900s - A time for Modern conquest.

It was during the Elizabethan period, in the late 16th century, when Walter Raleigh’s expeditions lead to the first settlement in America. Raleigh was a poet and an adventurer. He did not establish lasting colonies in the New World, but popularized to American products tobacco and the potato (Raleigh, Walter, Sir, 1614; Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 50, 72).

Britain was an Empire for centuries and English language continued to change as the British Empire moved across the world - to the USA (1620), Australia, New Zealand, India, Asia and Africa.

They sent people to settle and live in their conquered places and as settlers interacted with natives, new words were added to the English vocabulary. Immigrants from across the world rapidly follow, flooding the language with new words from a variety of nationalities.

In 1604, Robert Cawdrey's ‘A Table Alphabeticall’, listing the meanings of over 2,500 'hard words', is published. It is the first (monolingual) dictionary of the English language.

Robert Cawdrey's ‘A Table Alphabeticall’ Cawdrey's primary audience was unskilfull female readers. The 1604 title page states that the Table Alphabeticall has been:

... gathered for the benefit & helpe of Ladies, Gentlewomen, or any other vnskilfull persons. Whereby they may the more easilie and better vnderstand many hard English wordes, which they shall heare or read in Scriptures, Sermons, or elswhere, and also be made able to vse the same aptly themselues.

...gathered for the benefit & helpe of Ladies, Gentlewomen, or any other unskilfull persons. Whereby they may the more easilie and better understand many hard English wordes, which they shall heare or read in Scriptures, Sermons, or elswhere, and also be made able to use the same aptly themselves.

During the 18th century, British colonial are established in India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa.

During the 19th century, in Africa and South East Asia, colonial expansion continues unabated. Sierra Leone, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Gold Coast (Ghana) are among the many places added to the long list of British acquisitions.

This is also the age of great discoveries in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, biology, chemistry, botany, geography and engineering. Thinkers such as Newton and Wren are key players in the quest for explanations and promotion of knowledge. Many so-called ‘Americanisms’ today are actually remnants of Middle English that crossed the Atlantic at this time: for example, 'I guess' for 'I think', 'gotten' for 'got', 'mad' for 'angry', 'fall' for 'autumn'.

11th event. ‘Global English, today – All Empires fall.

The 20th century sees the British Empire slowly fall apart; today, the days of the British Empire are only a distant memory.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is established in 1922, broadcasting first to the Empire, then the Commonwealth from 1931.

In 1972 the electronic revolution begins with the sending of the first network email. The creation of the World Wide Web (WWW), in 1991, diversifies communication – much of it in English - on an unprecedented scale.

When Elizabeth I, in 1558, was crowned, there were in the world approximately less than five million English speakers, and all of them lived in the British Isles. In 1953, however, when Elizabeth II came to the throne, 250 million people spoke English around the world, and what is more surprisingly, four out of five did not live in the British Isles. At the time of the American Revolution, in 1776, most of the English speakers in the world still live in the British Isles, but by the late 19th century, the largest English-speaking population lived in North America. In the 21st century, two out of three English-speaking people speak English with an American accent (Svartvik & Leech, 2006, pp. 50, 80-81).


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"The Adventure of English" is a British television series (ITV) on the history of the English language presented by Melvyn Bragg. The series ran in 2003. "Birth of a Language", "English Goes Underground", "The Battle for the Language of the Bible", This Earth, This Realm, This England", "English in America", "Speaking Proper", "The Language of Empire", "Many Tongues Called English, One World Language" ::

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