Nouns (2)

harbour, harbor
n. a place of refuge and comfort and security

Verbs (12)

nurse, entertain, hold, harbour, harbor
v. maintain (a theory, thoughts, or feelings); "bear a grudge"; "entertain interesting notions"; "harbor a resentment"
shield, harbour, harbor
v. hold back a thought or feeling about; "She is harboring a grudge against him"
harbour, harbor
v. keep in one's possession; of animals
harbour, harbor
v. secretly shelter (as of fugitives or criminals)

Adverbs (0)

There are no items for this category

Adjectives (0)

There are no items for this category

Fuzzynyms (55)

bay
n. a compartment on a ship between decks; often used as a hospital; "they put him in the sick bay"
bema, sanctuary, chancel
n. area around the altar of a church for the clergy and choir; often enclosed by a lattice or railing
retreat, hideaway
n. an area where you can be alone
shelter
n. temporary housing for homeless or displaced persons
oasis, haven
n. a shelter serving as a place of safety or sanctuary
moorage
n. a fee for mooring
retreat
n. a place of privacy; a place affording peace and quiet
refuge, safety
n. a safe place; "He ran to safety"
waterway
n. a navigable body of water
gulf
n. an arm of a sea or ocean partly enclosed by land; larger than a bay
lagune, laguna, lagoon
n. a body of water cut off from a larger body by a reef of sand or coral
recess, inlet
n. an arm off of a larger body of water (often between rocky headlands)
fiord, fjord
n. a long narrow inlet of the sea between steep cliffs; common in Norway
embayment, bay
n. an indentation of a shoreline larger than a cove but smaller than a gulf
channel
n. a deep and relatively narrow body of water (as in a river or a harbor or a strait linking two larger bodies) that allows the best passage for vessels; "the ship went aground in the channel"
sound, strait
n. a narrow channel of the sea joining two larger bodies of water
occupy, engage, engross, absorb
v. consume all of one's attention or time; "Her interest in butterflies absorbs her completely"
glory
v. rejoice proudly
chirk up, cheer up, cheer
v. become cheerful
sustain, nurture, nourish
v. provide with nourishment; "We sustained ourselves on bread and water"; "This kind of food is not nourishing for young children"
gladden
v. become glad or happy
jump for joy, be on cloud nine, walk on air, exult
v. feel extreme happiness or elation
please
v. give satisfaction; "The waiters around her aim to please"
embolden, recreate, hearten, cheer
v. give encouragement to
triumph, rejoice, wallow
v. be ecstatic with joy
cloak
v. cover with or as if with a cloak; "cloaked monks"
have got, hold, have
v. have or possess, either in a concrete or an abstract sense; "She has $1,000 in the bank"; "He has got two beautiful daughters"; "She holds a Master's degree from Harvard"

Synonyms (0)

There are no items for this category

Antonyms (0)

There are no items for this category

Research

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and is now a global lingua franca.[4][5] Named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Britain that would later take their name, England, both names ultimately deriving from the Anglia peninsula in the Baltic Sea. It is closely related to the Frisian languages, but its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse (a North Germanic language), as well as by Latin and French.[6]

English has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a set of Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century, are called Old English. Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman conquest of England and was a period in which the language was influenced by French.[7] Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London, the printing of the King James Bibleand the start of the Great Vowel Shift.[8]

Through the worldwide influence of the British Empire, Modern English spread around the world from the 17th to mid-20th centuries. Through all types of printed and electronic media, and spurred by the emergence of the United States as a global superpower, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and professional contexts such as science, navigation and law.[9]

English is the third most spoken native language in the world, after Standard Chinese and Spanish.[10] It is the most widely learned second language and is either the official language or one of the official languages in almost 60 sovereign states. There are more people who have learned it as a second language than there are native speakers. English is the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and it is widely spoken in some areas of the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia.[11] It is a co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other world and regional international organisations. It is the most widely spoken Germanic language, accounting for at least 70% of speakers of this Indo-European branch. English has a vast vocabulary, though counting how many words any language has is impossible.[12][13] English speakers are called "Anglophones".

Modern English grammar is the result of a gradual change from a typical Indo-European dependent marking pattern with a rich inflectional morphology and relatively free word order to a mostly analytic pattern with little inflection, a fairly fixed SVO word order and a complex syntax.[14] Modern English relies more on auxiliary verbs and word order for the expression of complex tenses, aspect and mood, as well as passive constructions, interrogatives and some negation. Despite noticeable variation among the accents and dialects of English used in different countries and regions—in terms of phonetics and phonology, and sometimes also vocabulary, grammar and spelling—English-speakers from around the world are able to communicate with one another with relative ease.

Classification

 
Anglic languages
  English
  Scots
Anglo-Frisian languages
Anglic and
  Frisian
North Sea Germanic languagesAnglo-Frisian and
  Low German/Low Saxon
West Germanic languages
North Sea Germanic and
  Dutch
  German
 
Phylogenetic tree showing the historical relations between the languages of the West Germanic branch of the Germanic languages

English is an Indo-European language and belongs to the West Germanic group of the Germanic languages.[15] Old Englishoriginated from a Germanic tribal and linguistic continuum along the coast of the North Sea, whose languages are now known as the Anglo-Frisian subgroup within West Germanic. As such, the modern Frisian languages are the closest living relatives of Modern English. Low German/Low Saxon is also closely related, and sometimes English, the Frisian languages, and Low German are grouped together as the Ingvaeonic (North Sea Germanic) languages, though this grouping remains debated.[16] Old English evolved into Middle English, which in turn evolved into Modern English.[17] Particular dialects of Old and Middle English also developed into a number of other Anglic languages, including Scots[18] and the extinct Fingallian and Forth and Bargy (Yola) dialects of Ireland.[19]

Like Icelandic and Faroese, the development of English on the British Isles isolated it from the continental Germanic languages and influences, and has since undergone substantial evolution. English is thus not mutually intelligible with any continental Germanic language, differing in vocabulary, syntax, and phonology, although some, such as Dutch or Frisian, do show strong affinities with English, especially with its earlier stages.[20]

Unlike Icelandic or Faroese, the long history of invasions of the British Isles by other peoples and languages, particularly Old Norse and Norman French, left a profound mark of their own on the language, such that English shares substantial vocabulary and grammar similarities with many languages outside its linguistic clades, while also being unintelligible with any of those languages. Some scholars have even argued that English can be considered a mixed language or a creole—a theory called the Middle English creole hypothesis. Although the high degree of influence from these languages on the vocabulary and grammar of Modern English is widely acknowledged, most specialists in language contact do not consider English to be a true mixed language.[21][22]

English is classified as a Germanic language because it shares innovations with other Germanic languages such as Dutch, German, and Swedish.[23] These shared innovations show that the languages have descended from a single common ancestor called Proto-Germanic. Some shared features of Germanic languages include the use of modal verbs, the division of verbs into strong and weak classes, and the sound changes affecting Proto-Indo-European consonants, known as Grimm's and Verner's laws. English is classified as an Anglo-Frisian language because Frisian and English share other features, such as the palatalisation of consonants that were velar consonants in Proto-Germanic (see Phonological history of Old English § Palatalization).[24]

  • English singsangsung; Dutch zingenzonggezongen; German singensanggesungen (strong verb)
  • English laughlaughed; Dutch and German lachenlachte (weak verb)
  • English foot, Dutch voet, German Fuß, Norwegian and Swedish fot (initial /f/ derived from Proto-Indo-European *p through Grimm's law)
(Compare Latin pes, stem ped-; Modern Greek πόδι pódi; Russian под pod; Sanskrit पद् pád)
  • English cheese, Frisian tsiis (ch and ts from palatalisation); German Käse and Dutch kaas (k without palatalisation)

History

Proto-Germanic to Old English

 
The opening to the Old English epic poem Beowulf, handwritten in half-uncial script:
Hƿæt ƿē Gārde/na ingēar dagum þēod cyninga / þrym ge frunon...
"Listen! We of the Spear-Danes from days of yore have heard of the glory of the folk-kings..."

The earliest form of English is called Old English or Anglo-Saxon (c. 550–1066 CE). Old English developed from a set of North Sea Germanic dialects originally spoken along the coasts of Frisia, Lower Saxony, Jutland, and Southern Sweden by Germanic tribes known as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. In the fifth century, the Anglo-Saxons settled Britainas the Roman economy and administration collapsed. By the seventh century, the Germanic language of the Anglo-Saxons became dominant in Britain, replacing the languages of Roman Britain (43–409 CE): Common Brittonic, a Celtic language, and Latin, brought to Britain by the Roman occupation.[25][26][27] England and English (originally Ænglaland and Ænglisc) are named after the Angles.[28]

Old English was divided into four dialects: the Anglian dialects, Mercian and Northumbrian, and the Saxon dialects, Kentish and West Saxon.[29] Through the educational reforms of King Alfred in the ninth century and the influence of the kingdom of Wessex, the West Saxon dialect became the standard written variety.[30] The epic poem Beowulf is written in West Saxon, and the earliest English poem, Cædmon's Hymn, is written in Northumbrian.[31] Modern English developed mainly from Mercian, but the Scots language developed from Northumbrian. A few short inscriptions from the early period of Old English were written using a runic script.[32] By the sixth century, a Latin alphabet was adopted, written with half-uncial letterforms. It included the runic letters wynn ⟨ƿ⟩ and thorn ⟨þ⟩, and the modified Latin letters eth ⟨ð⟩, and ash ⟨æ⟩.[32][33]

Old English is very different from Modern English and difficult for 21st-century English speakers to understand. Its grammar was similar to that of modern German, and its closest relative is Old Frisian. Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs had many more inflectional endings and forms, and word order was much freer than in Modern English. Modern English has case forms in pronouns (hehimhis) and a few verb endings (I havehe has), but Old English had case endings in nouns as well, and verbs had more person and number endings.[34][35][36]

The translation of Matthew 8:20 from 1000 CE shows examples of case endings (nominative plural, accusative plural, genitive singular) and a verb ending (present plural):

Foxas habbað holu and heofonan fuglas nest
Fox-as habb-að hol-u and heofon-an fugl-as nest-∅
fox-nom.pl have-prs.pl hole-acc.pl and heaven-gen.sg bird-nom.pl nest-acc.pl
"Foxes have holes and the birds of heaven nests"[37]

Middle English

Englischmen þeyz hy hadde fram þe bygynnyng þre manner speche, Souþeron, Northeron, and Myddel speche in þe myddel of þe lond, … Noþeles by comyxstion and mellyng, furst wiþ Danes, and afterward wiþ Normans, in menye þe contray longage ys asperyed, and som vseþ strange wlaffyng, chyteryng, harryng, and garryng grisbytting.

Although, from the beginning, Englishmen had three manners of speaking, southern, northern and midlands speech in the middle of the country, … Nevertheless, through intermingling and mixing, first with Danes and then with Normans, amongst many the country language has arisen, and some use strange stammering, chattering, snarling, and grating gnashing.

John of Trevisa, ca. 1385[38]

In the period from the 8th to the 12th century, Old English gradually transformed through language contact into Middle English. Middle English is often arbitrarily defined as beginning with the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066, but it developed further in the period from 1200–1450.

First, the waves of Norse colonisation of northern parts of the British Isles in the 8th and 9th centuries put Old English into intense contact with Old Norse, a North Germanic language. Norse influence was strongest in the Northeastern varieties of Old English spoken in the Danelaw area around York, which was the centre of Norse colonisation; today these features are still particularly present in Scots and Northern English. However the centre of norsified English seems to have been in the Midlands around Lindsey, and after 920 CE when Lindsey was reincorporated into the Anglo-Saxon polity, Norse features spread from there into English varieties that had not been in intense contact with Norse speakers. Some elements of Norse influence that persist in all English varieties today are the pronouns beginning with th-(they, them, their) which replaced the Anglo-Saxon pronouns with h- (hie, him, hera).[39]

With the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the now norsified Old English language was subject to contact with the Old Norman language, a Romance languageclosely related to Modern French. The Norman language in England eventually developed into Anglo-Norman. Because Norman was spoken primarily by the elites and nobles, while the lower classes continued speaking Anglo-Saxon, the influence of Norman consisted of introducing a wide range of loanwords related to politics, legislation and prestigious social domains.[40] Middle English also greatly simplified the inflectional system, probably in order to reconcile Old Norse and Old English, which were inflectionally different but morphologically similar. The distinction between nominative and accusative case was lost except in personal pronouns, the instrumental case was dropped, and the use of the genitive case was limited to describing possession. The inflectional system regularised many irregular inflectional forms,[41] and gradually simplified the system of agreement, making word order less flexible.[42] By the Wycliffe Bible of the 1380s, the passage Matthew 8:20 was written

Foxis han dennes, and briddis of heuene han nestis[43]

Here the plural suffix -n on the verb have is still retained, but none of the case endings on the nouns are present.

By the 12th century Middle English was fully developed, integrating both Norse and Norman features; it continued to be spoken until the transition to early Modern English around 1500. Middle English literature includes Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, and Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. In the Middle English period, the use of regional dialects in writing proliferated, and dialect traits were even used for effect by authors such as Chaucer.

Early Modern English

 
Graphic representation of the Great Vowel Shift, showing how the pronunciation of the long vowels gradually shifted, with the high vowels i: and u: breaking into diphthongs and the lower vowels each shifting their pronunciation up one level

The next period in the history of English was Early Modern English (1500–1700). Early Modern English was characterised by the Great Vowel Shift (1350–1700), inflectional simplification, and linguistic standardisation.

The Great Vowel Shift affected the stressed long vowels of Middle English. It was a chain shift, meaning that each shift triggered a subsequent shift in the vowel system. Mid and open vowels were raised, and close vowels were broken into diphthongs. For example, the word bite was originally pronounced as the word beet is today, and the second vowel in the word about was pronounced as the word boot is today. The Great Vowel Shift explains many irregularities in spelling since English retains many spellings from Middle English, and it also explains why English vowel letters have very different pronunciations from the same letters in other languages.[44][45]

English began to rise in prestige, relative to Norman French, during the reign of Henry V. Around 1430, the Court of Chancery in Westminster began using English in its official documents, and a new standard form of Middle English, known as Chancery Standard, developed from the dialects of London and the East Midlands. In 1476, William Caxton introduced the printing press to England and began publishing the first printed books in London, expanding the influence of this form of English.[46] Literature from the Early Modern period includes the works of William Shakespeare and the translation of the Bible commissioned by King James I. Even after the vowel shift the language still sounded different from Modern English: for example, the consonant clusters /kn ɡn sw/ in knightgnat, and sword were still pronounced. Many of the grammatical features that a modern reader of Shakespeare might find quaint or archaic represent the distinct characteristics of Early Modern English.[47]

In the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, written in Early Modern English, Matthew 8:20 says:

The Foxes haue holes and the birds of the ayre haue nests[37]

This exemplifies the loss of case and its effects on sentence structure (replacement with Subject-Verb-Object word order, and the use of of instead of the non-possessive genitive), and the introduction of loanwords from French (ayre) and word replacements (bird originally meaning "nestling" had replaced OE fugol).

Spread of Modern English

By the late 18th century, the British Empire had facilitated the spread of English through its colonies and geopolitical dominance. Commerce, science and technology, diplomacy, art, and formal education all contributed to English becoming the first truly global language. English also facilitated worldwide international communication.[48][9] As England continued to form new colonies, these, in turn, became independent and developed their own norms for how to speak and write the language. English was adopted in North America, India, parts of Africa, Australasia, and many other regions. In the post-colonial period, some of the newly created nations that had multiple indigenous languages opted to continue using English as the official language to avoid the political difficulties inherent in promoting any one indigenous language above the others.[49][50][51] In the 20th century the growing economic and cultural influence of the United States and its status as a superpower following the Second World War has, along with worldwide broadcasting in English by the BBC[52] and other broadcasters, significantly accelerated the spread of the language across the planet.[53][54] By the 21st century, English was more widely spoken and written than any language has ever been.[55]

A major feature in the early development of Modern English was the codification of explicit norms for standard usage, and their dissemination through official media such as public education and state-sponsored publications. In 1755 Samuel Johnson published his A Dictionary of the English Language which introduced a standard set of spelling conventions and usage norms. In 1828, Noah Webster published the American Dictionary of the English language in an effort to establish a norm for speaking and writing American English that was independent from the British standard. Within Britain, non-standard or lower class dialect features were increasingly stigmatised, leading to the quick spread of the prestige varieties among the middle classes.[56]

In terms of grammatical evolution, Modern English has now reached a stage where the loss of case is almost complete (case is now only found in pronouns, such as he and himshe and herwho and whom), and where SVO word-order is mostly fixed.[56] Some changes, such as the use of do-support have become universalised. (Earlier English did not use the word "do" as a general auxiliary as Modern English does; at first it was only used in question constructions where it was not obligatory.[57] Now, do-support with the verb have is becoming increasingly standardised.) The use of progressive forms in -ing, appears to be spreading to new constructions, and forms such as had been being built are becoming more common. Regularisation of irregular forms also slowly continues (e.g. dreamed instead of dreamt), and analytical alternatives to inflectional forms are becoming more common (e.g. more polite instead of politer). British English is also undergoing change under the influence of American English, fuelled by the strong presence of American English in the media and the prestige associated with the US as a world power. [58][59][60]

Geographical distribution

 

 
Percentage of English native speakers.
 
 
Percentage of English speakers by country.
  80–100%
  60–80%
  40–60%
  20–40%
  0–20%
  Not available

As of 2016, 400 million people spoke English as their first language, and 1.1 billion spoke it as a secondary language.[61] English is probably the third largest language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin and Spanish.[10] However, when combining native and non-native speakers it may, depending on the estimate used, be the most commonly spoken language in the world.[55][62][63][64] English is spoken by communities on every continent and on oceanic islands in all the major oceans.[65]

The countries in which English is spoken can be grouped into different categories by how English is used in each country. The "inner circle"[66] countries with many native speakers of English share an international standard of written English and jointly influence speech norms of English around the world. English does not belong to just one country, and it does not belong solely to descendants of English settlers. English is an official language of countries populated by few descendants of native speakers of English. It has also become by far the most important language of international communication when people who share no native language meet anywhere in the world.

Three circles of English-speaking countries

Braj Kachru distinguishes countries where English is spoken with a three circles model.[66] In his model, the "inner circle" countries are countries with large communities of native speakers of English, "outer circle" countries have small communities of native speakers of English but widespread use of English as a second language in education or broadcasting or for local official purposes, and "expanding circle" countries are countries where many learners learn English as a foreign language. Kachru bases his model on the history of how English spread in different countries, how users acquire English, and the range of uses English has in each country. The three circles change membership over time.[67]

Braj Kachru's Three Circles of English
 
Braj Kachru's Three Circles of English.

Countries with large communities of native speakers of English (the inner circle) include Britain, the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand, where the majority speaks English, and South Africa, where a significant minority speaks English. The countries with the most native English speakers are, in descending order, the United States (at least 231 million),[68] the United Kingdom (60 million),[69][70][71] Canada (19 million),[72] Australia (at least 17 million),[73] South Africa (4.8 million),[74]Ireland (4.2 million), and New Zealand (3.7 million).[75] In these countries, children of native speakers learn English from their parents, and local people who speak other languages or new immigrants learn English to communicate in their neighbourhoods and workplaces.[76] The inner-circle countries provide the base from which English spreads to other countries in the world.[67]

Estimates of the number of English speakers who are second language and foreign-language speakers vary greatly from 470 million to more than 1,000 million depending on how proficiency is defined.[11] Linguist David Crystal estimates that non-native speakers now outnumber native speakers by a ratio of 3 to 1.[62] In Kachru's three-circles model, the "outer circle" countries are countries such as the Philippines,[77] Jamaica,[78] India, Pakistan, Singapore,[79] and Nigeria[80][81] with a much smaller proportion of native speakers of English but much use of English as a second language for education, government, or domestic business, and where English is routinely used for school instruction and official interactions with the government.[82]

Those countries have millions of native speakers of dialect continua ranging from an English-based creole to a more standard version of English. They have many more speakers of English who acquire English in the process of growing up through day by day use and listening to broadcasting, especially if they attend schools where English is the medium of instruction. Varieties of English learned by speakers who are not native speakers born to English-speaking parents may be influenced, especially in their grammar, by the other languages spoken by those learners.[76] Most of those varieties of English include words little used by native speakers of English in the inner-circle countries,[76] and they may have grammatical and phonological differences from inner-circle varieties as well. The standard English of the inner-circle countries is often taken as a norm for use of English in the outer-circle countries.[76]

In the three-circles model, countries such as Poland, China, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, Egypt, and other countries where English is taught as a foreign language make up the "expanding circle".[83] The distinctions between English as a first language, as a second language, and as a foreign language are often debatable and may change in particular countries over time.[82] For example, in the Netherlands and some other countries of Europe, knowledge of English as a second language is nearly universal, with over 80 percent of the population able to use it,[84] and thus English is routinely used to communicate with foreigners and often in higher education. In these countries, although English is not used for government business, its widespread use puts them at the boundary between the "outer circle" and "expanding circle". English is unusual among world languages in how many of its users are not native speakers but speakers of English as a second or foreign language.[85]

Many users of English in the expanding circle use it to communicate with other people from the expanding circle, so that interaction with native speakers of English plays no part in their decision to use English.[86] Non-native varieties of English are widely used for international communication, and speakers of one such variety often encounter features of other varieties.[87] Very often today a conversation in English anywhere in the world may include no native speakers of English at all, even while including speakers from several different countries.[88]

 

Pie chart showing the percentage of native English speakers living in "inner circle" English-speaking countries. Native speakers are now substantially outnumbered worldwide by second-language speakers of English (not counted in this chart).

  US (64.3%)
  UK (16.7%)
  Canada (5.3%)
  Australia (4.7%)
  South Africa (1.3%)
  Ireland (1.1%)
  New Zealand (1%)
  Other (5.6%)

Pluricentric English

English is a pluricentric language, which means that no one national authority sets the standard for use of the language.[89][90][91][92] But English is not a divided language,[93] despite a long-standing joke originally attributed to George Bernard Shaw that the United Kingdom and the United States are "two countries separated by a common language".[94] Spoken English, for example English used in broadcasting, generally follows national pronunciation standards that are also established by custom rather than by regulation. International broadcasters are usually identifiable as coming from one country rather than another through their accents,[95] but newsreader scripts are also composed largely in international standard written English. The norms of standard written English are maintained purely by the consensus of educated English-speakers around the world, without any oversight by any government or international organisation.[96]

American listeners generally readily understand most British broadcasting, and British listeners readily understand most American broadcasting. Most English speakers around the world can understand radio programmes, television programmes, and films from many parts of the English-speaking world.[97] Both standard and non-standard varieties of English can include both formal or informal styles, distinguished by word choice and syntax and use both technical and non-technical registers.[98]

The settlement history of the English-speaking inner circle countries outside Britain helped level dialect distinctions and produce koineised forms of English in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.[99] The majority of immigrants to the United States without British ancestry rapidly adopted English after arrival. Now the majority of the United States population are monolingual English speakers,[100][68] although English has been given official status by only 30 of the 50 state governments of the US.[101][102]

English as a global language

English has ceased to be an "English language" in the sense of belonging only to people who are ethnically English.[103][104] Use of English is growing country-by-country internally and for international communication. Most people learn English for practical rather than ideological reasons.[105] Many speakers of English in Africa have become part of an "Afro-Saxon" language community that unites Africans from different countries.[106]

As decolonisation proceeded throughout the British Empire in the 1950s and 1960s, former colonies often did not reject English but rather continued to use it as independent countries setting their own language policies.[50][51][107] For example, the view of the English language among many Indians has gone from associating it with colonialism to associating it with economic progress, and English continues to be an official language of India.[108] English is also widely used in media and literature, and the number of English language books published annually in India is the third largest in the world after the US and UK.[109] However English is rarely spoken as a first language, numbering only around a couple hundred-thousand people, and less than 5% of the population speak fluent English in India.[110][111] David Crystal claimed in 2004 that, combining native and non-native speakers, India now has more people who speak or understand English than any other country in the world,[112] but the number of English speakers in India is very uncertain, with most scholars concluding that the United States still has more speakers of English than India.[113]

Modern English, sometimes described as the first global lingua franca,[53][114] is also regarded as the first world language.[115][116] English is the world's most widely used language in newspaper publishing, book publishing, international telecommunications, scientific publishing, international trade, mass entertainment, and diplomacy.[116] English is, by international treaty, the basis for the required controlled natural languages[117]Seaspeak and Airspeak, used as international languages of seafaring[118] and aviation.[119] English used to have parity with French and German in scientific research, but now it dominates that field.[120] It achieved parity with French as a language of diplomacy at the Treaty of Versailles negotiations in 1919.[121] By the time of the foundation of the United Nations at the end of World War II, English had become pre-eminent [122] and is now the main worldwide language of diplomacy and international relations.[123] It is one of six official languages of the United Nations.[124] Many other worldwide international organisations, including the International Olympic Committee, specify English as a working language or official language of the organisation.

Many regional international organisations such as the European Free Trade Association, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),[54] and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) set English as their organisation's sole working language even though most members are not countries with a majority of native English speakers. While the European Union (EU) allows member states to designate any of the national languages as an official language of the Union, in practice English is the main working language of EU organisations.[125]

Although in most countries English is not an official language, it is currently the language most often taught as a foreign language.[53][54] In the countries of the EU, English is the most widely spoken foreign language in nineteen of the twenty-five member states where it is not an official language (that is, the countries other than the UK, Ireland and Malta). In a 2012 official Eurobarometer poll, 38 percent of the EU respondents outside the countries where English is an official language said they could speak English well enough to have a conversation in that language. The next most commonly mentioned foreign language, French (which is the most widely known foreign language in the UK and Ireland), could be used in conversation by 12 percent of respondents.[126]

A working knowledge of English has become a requirement in a number of occupations and professions such as medicine[127] and computing. English has become so important in scientific publishing that more than 80 percent of all scientific journal articles indexed by Chemical Abstracts in 1998 were written in English, as were 90 percent of all articles in natural science publications by 1996 and 82 percent of articles in humanities publications by 1995.[128]

Specialised subsets of English arise spontaneously in international communities, for example, among international business people, as an auxiliary language. This has led some scholars to develop the study of English as an auxiliary language. Globish uses a relatively small subset of English vocabulary (about 1500 words with highest use in international business English) in combination with the standard English grammar. Other examples include Simple English.

The increased use of the English language globally has had an effect on other languages, leading to some English words being assimilated into the vocabularies of other languages. This influence of English has led to concerns about language death,[129] and to claims of linguistic imperialism,[130] and has provoked resistance to the spread of English; however the number of speakers continues to increase because many people around the world think that English provides them with opportunities for better employment and improved lives.[131]

Although some scholars mention a possibility of future divergence of English dialects into mutually unintelligible languages, most think a more likely outcome is that English will continue to function as a koineisedlanguage in which the standard form unifies speakers from around the world.[132] English is used as the language for wider communication in countries around the world.[133] Thus English has grown in worldwide use much more than any constructed language proposed as an international auxiliary language, including Esperanto.[134][135]

Phonology

The phonetics and phonology of the English language differ from one dialect to another, usually without interfering with mutual communication. Phonological variation affects the inventory of phonemes (i.e. speech sounds that distinguish meaning), and phonetic variation consists in differences in pronunciation of the phonemes. [136] This overview mainly describes the standard pronunciations of the United Kingdom and the United States: Received Pronunciation (RP) and General American (GA). (See § Dialects, accents, and varieties, below.)

The phonetic symbols used below are from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).[137][138][139]

Consonants

Most English dialects share the same 24 consonant phonemes. The consonant inventory shown below is valid for Californian American English,[140] and for RP.[141]

Consonant phonemes
  Labial Dental Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal   m     n       ŋ  
Stop p b   t d   k ɡ  
Fricative f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ     h  
Approximant       l   ɹ*   j   w  

* Conventionally transcribed /r/.

In the table, when obstruents (stops, affricates, and fricatives) appear in pairs, such as /p b//tʃ dʒ/, and /s z/, the first is fortis (strong) and the second is lenis (weak). Fortis obstruents, such as /p tʃ s/ are pronounced with more muscular tension and breath force than lenis consonants, such as /b dʒ z/, and are always voiceless. Lenis consonants are partly voiced at the beginning and end of utterances, and fully voiced between vowels. Fortis stops such as /p/ have additional articulatory or acoustic features in most dialects: they are aspirated [pʰ] when they occur alone at the beginning of a stressed syllable, often unaspirated in other cases, and often unreleased [p̚] or pre-glottalised [ʔp] at the end of a syllable. In a single-syllable word, a vowel before a fortis stop is shortened: thus nip has a noticeably shorter vowel (phonetically, but not phonemically) than nib [nɪˑb̥](see below).