Difference between revisions of "English"

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'''English''' is the [[language]] that [[TEFL]] teachers [[teach]]. There are many varieties of English, including, but not limited to, [[American English]] (AmE), Australian English (AuE), [[British English]] (BrE), Indian English, South African English, and so on. This wide-ranging reality has led to most specialists now preferring to use the term '''the English languages''' or '''Englishes'''.
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'''English''' is an [[Indo-European language|Indo-European]] [[Germanic language|Germanic]] language that is lightly [[Inflection | inflected]], [[stress-timed]] [[language]].
  
== History of English ==
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It is the subject that [[TEFL]] teachers [[teach]].  There are many varieties of English, including, but not limited to, [[American English]] (AmE), [[Australian English]] (AuE), [[British English]] (BrE), Indian English, South African English, [[Canadian English]], [[Chinese English]] and so on. This wide-ranging reality has led to most specialists now preferring to use the term '''the English languages''' or '''Englishes'''.
''See main article [[History of the English languages]]''
 
  
Notwithstanding its many varieties, English has a long and varied history which is, not unnaturally, bound up with the history of England, the British Isles and its peoples.
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Within the UK itself, regional varieties abound, such as [[Cockney]] and [[Estuary English]] in London or [[Scottish English]] (with variants such as Glaswegian) with major differences in the spoken language, and teachers must be aware of such differences when working on [[pronunciation]].
  
Modern English is the product of various Germanic invasions, the Norman conquest, the British Empire and much else.
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== Number of speakers of English ==
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''See main article [[Number of speakers of English]]''
  
== The structure of English ==
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For various reasons it is difficult to be exact about the total number of native speakers of English but estimates vary from three hundred and nine million to three hundred and forty one million. This would rank English fourth in number of native speakers after Mandarin Chinese, Hindi/Urdu and [[Spanish]].<ref>[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers wikipedia - languages by native speaker]</ref>
  
===Vocabulary===
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On the other hand, if one were to attempt to include the number of individuals who speak English as a second language then the number becomes something in the order of one thousand five hundred million people - a larger number than that of any other language. A 2012 article in ''[[English Today]]'' by Bolton and Graddol, quoting a ''China Daily'' article, states that around 400 million people in China, approximately a third of the population, are currently learning English.<ref>[http://cup.linguistlist.org/2012/09/the-great-china-english-puzzle/ Graddol, D. "The great China English puzzle"] [[Cambridge University Press]]. Retrieved 6th October 2012.</ref><ref>[http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=6&fid=8691693&jid=ENG&volumeId=28&issueId=03&aid=8691692&bodyId=&membershipNumber=&societyETOCSession=&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0266078412000223 Bolton, K. and Graddol, D. "English in China today" in ''English Today'' Volume 28, Issue 03, Sept. 2012, pp 3-9] ''[[English Today]]''. Retrieved 6th October 2012.</ref> A more precise figure, that of 390.16 million people who ''had learnt English'' i.e. studied it at school as a foreign language, is quoted by Wei and Su in the same issue.<ref>[http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=6&fid=8691696&jid=ENG&volumeId=28&issueId=03&aid=8691695&bodyId=&membershipNumber=&societyETOCSession=&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0266078412000235 Wei, R. and Su, J. "The statistics of English in China: An analysis of the best available data from government sources" in ''English Today '', Volume 28, Issue 03, Sept. 2012, pp 10-14] ''[[English Today]]''. Retrieved 6th October 2012. (Available free of charge until the 31st October 2012.)</ref>
As we saw above, by the end of the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) period the size of the lexicon was around 50,000 different words. By the end of the Middle English period (1100-1500), that figure had doubled and during the Early Modern English period (1500-1700) it doubled yet again to 200,000 lexemes. And just for the record, partly as a result of the Industrial Revolution which started in the late 18th century, and twentieth-century global expansion, it would double once more to the approximately 400,000 lexemes of [[Modern English]] (1700 to the present).
 
  
Different studies use differing criteria when counting the number of "[[words]]", [[lexeme]]s or vocabulary items in a language. Estimates for English vary between 500,000 and 2 million words. A medium-sized [[dictionary]] may contain some 100,000 entries. ''The New Oxford Dictionary of English'', published in 1998, is the biggest single-volume dictionary and contains 350,000 words, of which 52,000 are scientific and technical words, although it avoids over-technical terminology. On the other hand, the 20-volume ''OED'', the definitive dictionary of the English language, contains over half a million lexemes.
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Additionally English is used in international trade and industry to a greater extent than other languages. English is the only language for international air transport communications.
  
A constant debate is whether concepts such as facts – the names of people or places and other proper names be considered as forming part of one’s personal [[lexicon]] when calculating its size. Undoubtedly, the name, or fact, ''Shakespeare'', is as much a part of the English language as the word ''literature'' or ''drama''. And the fact/word ''London'' is probably used more often than the word ''village'' or ''town''. Thus, given the overlapping of criteria, calculating the size of one’s own vocabulary is complicated and must vary according to many different factors.
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== History of English ==
 
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''See main article [[History of the English languages]]''
Likewise, terms such as UNESCO and NATO, both well-known [[acronym]]s even on an international level, must undeniably count as being part of an educated person’s vocabulary.
 
 
 
If a word has two spellings, does that count as one word or two? Or two past participles like "lighted" and "lit" or "dived" and "dove"? Does "dove" as a bird count as a separate word?
 
 
 
Furthermore, given that over eighty per cent of all words in English have more than one meaning – ''water'' as a verb and noun; ''lock'' as a verb and noun related to keys, or as a construction on a canal or river to regulate the ascent or descent of boats, or as a hold in wrestling or judo, or as in a lock of hair – should one count each meaning of the same word – the same combination of letters – as a different item? Surely if a person knows five meanings of the same word, he or she has a more extensive vocabulary than another person who knows only one meaning?
 
 
 
How would one count [[conjugation]]s or [[past participle]]s used as [[adjective]]s? Species names for flowers and insects which are common to all languages? Chemical names? (With these you can dwarf the number of "normal" words in any language.)
 
 
 
Equally difficult is the question of whether a word is actually used - it may exist but be so obsolete that it isn't used any more. Do we count it or not? Do we count [[slang]]? Do we count regional words? Do we count a word if it is used in the UK but not in the US or in all international varieties of English (including Indian English, which has a large selection of words from native languages.)
 
 
 
===Get===
 
Take one of the most frequently used verbs in English – ''get''. Should we consider the [[phrasal verb]]s ''get at, get away, get back, get by, get in, get off, get on, get over, get through, get up'' and a dozen other uses of ''get'' plus one other word, such as ''get home'' or ''get fat'' or ''get fatter'' or even more additions, such as ''get away with'', ''get rid of'', ''get over something'', ''get your own back on somebody'', as one [[lexeme]] -– ''get'' -– or an expression, a [[set phrase]], an [[idiom]]? In a dictionary, these, and many others, might all be included under the entry ''get''. And what about the inflections: ''gets, got/gotten, getting''? Unlike other European languages, Modern English has very few inflections and contrary to what many people think, is surprisingly regular, despite its many exceptions.
 
  
Or words beginning with prefixes such as ''un''-, as in ''unhappy, untidy, unlikely'', many of which are not included in dictionaries because of their apparent obviousness. The same occurs with adverbs ending in -''ly'', or inflections of nouns (singular and plural), adjectives (comparison) and, as we saw above, the [[past tense]]s of most verbs unless they are so irregular as to cause possible confusion. Thus, ''bad'', ''worse'' and ''[the] worst'' would probably be included as three separate entries, whereas in the case of more regular adjectives such as ''cold,'' its regular comparative and superlative – ''colder'', ''[the] coldest'' – would probably be included under one single entry: ''cold''.  
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Notwithstanding its many varieties, English has a long and varied history which is, not unnaturally, bound up with the history of [[Britain]], the British Isles and its peoples.
  
And whilst on the subject of [[antonym]]s, what’s the difference between learning single words – ''big'' and ''small'' – and [[binomial]] expressions like ''black and white'', ''thick and thin'', ''boys and girls'', ''ladies and gentlemen'', ''eggs and bacon'', ''fish and chips'', ''socks and shoes''?
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Modern English is the product of various Germanic invasions, the Norman conquest, the British Empire and much else.
  
One solution might to try to estimate the [[vocabulary]] of the average [[native speaker]], but even this presents difficulties. Partly because we all have an active and a passive vocabulary and partly because we can often "know" words we have never seen before, either because of their [[context]] or because they are made up of other parts of words we already know.
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==Vocabulary==
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''See main article [[Number of words in English]]''
  
== Spelling ==
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English has always freely absorbed words from other languages giving it the ability express a wide number of [[nuance]]s.  Nevertheless establishing the exact number of [[word]]s is not as exact a science as one might suppose.  
One of the consequences of this long and varied history is that English [[spelling]] no longer corresponds particularly well with English [[pronunciation]], giving rise to calls for [[spelling reform]].  
 
  
 
== See also ==
 
== See also ==
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*[[Learning English conversation questions]]
 
*[[Learning English conversation questions]]
 
*[[Standard English]]
 
*[[Standard English]]
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*[[World English]]
  
 
== References ==
 
== References ==
 
<references/>
 
<references/>
  
{{Stub}}
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==External links==
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*[http://www.macmillandictionaryblog.com/which-english David Crystal on English as a Global Language] [[David Crystal]] (interview on video)
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*[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZI1EjxxXKw&feature=channel Global English with David Crystal] [[David Crystal]] (interview on video)
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*[http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/ar-eng1.htm "English is difficult"] [[World Wide Words]]
  
  
[[Category:definitions]]
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[[Category:Definitions]]

Revision as of 01:51, 5 July 2019

English is an Indo-European Germanic language that is lightly inflected, stress-timed language.

It is the subject that TEFL teachers teach. There are many varieties of English, including, but not limited to, American English (AmE), Australian English (AuE), British English (BrE), Indian English, South African English, Canadian English, Chinese English and so on. This wide-ranging reality has led to most specialists now preferring to use the term the English languages or Englishes.

Within the UK itself, regional varieties abound, such as Cockney and Estuary English in London or Scottish English (with variants such as Glaswegian) with major differences in the spoken language, and teachers must be aware of such differences when working on pronunciation.

Number of speakers of English

See main article Number of speakers of English

For various reasons it is difficult to be exact about the total number of native speakers of English but estimates vary from three hundred and nine million to three hundred and forty one million. This would rank English fourth in number of native speakers after Mandarin Chinese, Hindi/Urdu and Spanish.[1]

On the other hand, if one were to attempt to include the number of individuals who speak English as a second language then the number becomes something in the order of one thousand five hundred million people - a larger number than that of any other language. A 2012 article in English Today by Bolton and Graddol, quoting a China Daily article, states that around 400 million people in China, approximately a third of the population, are currently learning English.[2][3] A more precise figure, that of 390.16 million people who had learnt English i.e. studied it at school as a foreign language, is quoted by Wei and Su in the same issue.[4]

Additionally English is used in international trade and industry to a greater extent than other languages. English is the only language for international air transport communications.

History of English

See main article History of the English languages

Notwithstanding its many varieties, English has a long and varied history which is, not unnaturally, bound up with the history of Britain, the British Isles and its peoples.

Modern English is the product of various Germanic invasions, the Norman conquest, the British Empire and much else.

Vocabulary

See main article Number of words in English

English has always freely absorbed words from other languages giving it the ability express a wide number of nuances. Nevertheless establishing the exact number of words is not as exact a science as one might suppose.

See also

References

External links