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History of English

The English language is arguably the most influential in the modern world. As the language of the only modern military and economic superpower, the United States, it has become the de facto language of international trade. But though English is spoken now by over 300 million people ( British Council ), few of them would be able to understand the English of the 1300’s, and far fewer still the English of the 500’s. As nations were conquered and cultures assimilated, English grew in both popularity and diversity, but also changed dramatically. As a member of the Indo-European family of languages, English bares a strong resemblance to many modern languages across the world, but it has developed on a path all its own (Watkins 2002). This development of Old English in and around the British Isles is discussed, as well as its transition through Middle to Modern English and finally the (relatively) recent emersion of the American dialect. English is one of more than 150 members of the Indo-European (IE) family of languages. Named for the early prevalence of its speakers in and between India and Europe, the Indo-European family can now claim approximately half of the Earth’s population and its relative languages are spoken on every continent. Languages that can be claimed by the Indo-European family include the Romance, Germanic, Slavic, and Celtic languages, Greek, Hindi, Sanskrit, Latvian, Latin, and, of course, English (Watkins 2002). A table of all Indo-European languages has been included as a supplement ( So similar, in fact, are the Indo-European languages, than many linguists believe that all are descendent of one language, called Proto-Indo-European, spoken more than five-thousand years ago. Four-thousand years ago, however, the language split into three subgroups: East, the only surviving derivative language of which is Gothic; West, the ancestor of Modern German, English and Dutch; and North German...

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History of English. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 05:04, September 02, 2014, from