English language

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{{Infobox Language |name=English |familycolor=Indo-European |pronunciation=ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ |states= Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States and other countries
(used as international language) |speakers=First language: about 380 million
Second language: 150 million-1 billion |rank=#3 or #4 as a native language (near-tie with Spanish);
#2 in overall speakers |fam2=Germanic |fam3=West Germanic |fam4=Anglo-Frisian |fam5=Anglic |script=Latin alphabet |nation=De jure, exclusive: Australia, New Zealand, Liberia, Belize, most Commonwealth countries;
De jure, non‐exclusive: Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, South Africa, India,Philippines, European Union
De facto: United Kingdom, United States |iso1=en|iso2=eng|iso3=eng|map=Image:Anglospeak.png

Countries of the world where English
is an official or de facto official language.</center>
}} English is a West Germanic language which is the dominant language in the United Kingdom, the United States, many Commonwealth nations including Australia, Canada, Malta, New Zealand and other former British colonies. It is also a dominant or official language in many countries formerly under British rule.

English is currently one of the most widely spoken and written languages worldwide, with some 380 million native speakers. Only Chinese and Hindi have more native speakers while Spanish is similar in number. English is also the dominant member of the Germanic languages. It has lingua franca status in many parts of the world, due to the military, economic, scientific, political and cultural influence of the British Empire in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries and that of the United States from the early 20th century to the present.

Through the global influence of native English speakers in cinema, music, broadcasting, science, and the Internet in recent decades, English is now the most widely learned second language in the world, although other colonial languages such as French and Spanish retain much importance worldwide.

Because a working knowledge of English is required in many fields and occupations, education ministries around the world mandate the teaching of English to at least a basic level (see English as an additional language) .



Template:Main English is an Anglo-Frisian language brought to Britain in the 5th Century AD by Germanic settlers from various parts of northwest Germany. The original Old English language was subsequently influenced by two successive waves of invasion. The first was by speakers of languages in the Scandinavian branch of the Germanic family, who colonised parts of Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries. The second wave was of the Normans in the 11th century, who spoke Norman (an oïl language closely related to French).

While modern scholarship considers most of the story to be legendary and politically motivated, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reported that around the year 449, Vortigern, King of the British Isles, invited the Angles to help him against the Picts. In return, the Angles were granted lands in the south-east. Further aid was sought, and in response came Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. The Chronicle talks of a subsequent influx of settlers who eventually established seven kingdoms.

These Germanic invaders dominated the original Celtic-speaking inhabitants, whose languages survived largely in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland. The dialects spoken by the invaders formed what would be called Old English, which resembled some coastal dialects in what are now north-west Germany and the Netherlands. Later, it was strongly influenced by the North Germanic language Norse, spoken by the Vikings who settled mainly in the north-east (see Jórvík).

For the 300 years following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the Norman kings and the high nobility spoke only Anglo-Norman. A large number of Norman words were assimilated into Old English. The Norman influence reinforced the continual evolution of the language over the following centuries, resulting in what is now referred to as Middle English.

During the 15th century, Middle English was transformed by the Great Vowel Shift, the spread of a standardised London-based dialect in government and administration, and the standardising effect of printing. Modern English can be traced back to around the time of William Shakespeare.

Classification and related languages

The English language belongs to the western subbranch of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Apart from English-lexified creole languages such as Tok Pisin and Bislama, the nearest living relative of English is Scots (Lallans), spoken mostly in Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland. Like English, Scots is a direct descendant of Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon.

After Scots, the next closest relative is Frisian—spoken in Germany and the Netherlands. Other less closely related living languages include German, Low German, Dutch, Scandinavian languages and Afrikaans. Many French words are also intelligible to an English speaker (pronunciations are not always identical, of course) because English absorbed a tremendous amount of vocabulary from French, via the Norman language after the Norman conquest and directly from French in further centuries; as a result, a substantial share of English vocabulary is quite close to the French, with some minor spelling differences (word endings, use of old French spellings etc.), as well as occasional differences in meaning.

Geographic distribution

Image:English dialects1997.png English is the third or fourth most widely spoken as first language in the world today, after Mandarin, Hindi, and probably Spanish (see the ranking). A total of 600-700 million people use the various dialects of English regularly. About 377 million people use one of the versions of English as their mother tongue, and an equal number of people use them as their second or foreign language. English is used widely in either the public or private sphere in more than 100 countries all over the world. In addition, the language has occupied a primary place in international academic and business communities. The current status of the English language at the start of the new millennium compares with that of Latin in the past. English is also the most widely used language for young backpackers who travel across continents, regardless of whether it is their mother tongue or a secondary language.

English is the primary language in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia (Australian English), the Bahamas, Barbados (Caribbean English), Bermuda, Belize, the British Indian Ocean Territory, the British Virgin Islands, Canada (Canadian English), the Cayman Islands, Dominica, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guernsey, Guyana, Isle of Man, Jamaica (Jamaican English), Jersey, Montserrat, New Zealand (New Zealand English), Ireland (Hiberno-English), Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom (various forms of British English), the U.S. Virgin Islands and the United States (American English)

English is also an important minority language of South Africa (South African English), and in several other former colonies and current dependent territories of the United Kingdom and the United States, for example Mauritius.

In Hong Kong, English is co-official with Chinese, and is widely used in business activities. It is taught from infant school and kindergarten, and is the medium of instruction for a few primary schools, many secondary schools and all universities. Substantial numbers of students acquire native-speaker level. It is so widely used that it is inadequate to say that it is merely a second or foreign language, though there are still many people in Hong Kong with poor or no command of English.

The majority of English native speakers (67 to 70 per cent) live in the United States (Crystal, 1997). Although the U.S. federal government has no official languages, it has been given official status by 27 of the 50 state governments, most of which have declared English their sole official language. Hawaii, Louisiana, and New Mexico have also designated Hawaiian, French, and Spanish, respectively, as official languages in conjunction with English.

In many other countries, where English is not a major first language, it is an official language; these countries include Cameroon, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Ghana, Gambia, India, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Rwanda, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

English is the most widely learned and used foreign language in the world, and as such, some linguists believe that it is no longer the exclusive cultural emblem of 'native English speakers', but rather a language that is absorbing aspects of cultures world-wide as it grows in use. Others believe that there are limits to how far English can go in suiting everyone for communication purposes. English is the language most often studied as a foreign language in the European Union (by 89% of schoolchildren), followed by French (32%), German (18%), and Spanish (8%).[1] It is also the most studied in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. English is also compulsory for most secondary school students in China and Taiwan. See English as an additional language.

English as a global language

See also: English on the Internet

Because English is so widely spoken, it has been referred to as a "global language". While English is not an official language in many countries, it is the language most often taught as a second language around the world. It is also, by international treaty, the official language for aircraft/airport communication. Its widespread acceptance as a first or second language is the main indication of its worldwide status.

There are numerous arguments for and against English as a global language. On one hand, having a global language aids in communication and in pooling information (for example, in the scientific community). On the other hand, it leaves out those who, for one reason or another, are not fluent in the global language. It can also marginalise populations whose first language is not the global language, and lead to a cultural hegemony of the populations speaking the global language as a first language. Most of these arguments hold for any candidate for a global language, though the last two counter-arguments do not hold for languages not belonging to any ethnic group (like Esperanto).

A secondary concern with respect to the spread of global languages (including major languages other than English such as Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, etc) is the resulting disappearance of minority languages, often along with the cultures and religions that are primarily transmitted in those languages. English has been implicated in a number of historical and ongoing so-called 'language deaths' and 'linguicides' around the world, many of which have also led to the loss of cultural heritage. Language death caused by English has been particularly pronounced in areas such as Australia and North America where speakers of indigenous languages have been displaced or absorbed by speakers of English in the process of colonisation.

Dialects and Regional Varieties


English dialects
British Isles
British English
East Anglian English
English English
Estuary English
Hiberno-English (Ireland)
Highland English
Manx English
Mid Ulster English
Midlands English
Northern English
Received Pronunciation
Scottish English
Welsh English
West Country dialects
United States
American English
African American Vernacular English
Appalachian English
Boston English
California English
Chicano English
General American
Hawaiian English
Mid-Atlantic English
New York-New Jersey English
North Central American English
Pacific Northwest English
Southern American English
Canadian English
Newfoundland English
Quebec English
Australian English
New Zealand English
Hong Kong English
Indian English
Malaysian English
Burmese English
Philippine English
Singaporean English
Sri Lankan English
Other countries
Bermudian English
Caribbean English
Jamaican English
Liberian English
Malawian English
South African English
Basic English
Commonwealth English
International English
Llanito (Gibraltar)
North American English
Plain English
Simplified English
Special English
Standard English

The expansiveness of the British and the Americans has spread English throughout the globe. Because of its global spread, it has bred a host of English dialects and English-based creole languages and pidgins.

The major varieties of English in most cases contain several subvarieties, such as Cockney slang within British English, Newfoundland English within Canadian English, and African American Vernacular English ("Ebonics") within American English. English is considered a pluricentric language, with no variety being clearly considered the only standard.

The Scots language developed largely separately from the same origins, but following the Acts of Union 1707 usage converged and whether it is a language in its own right or an English dialect better described as Scottish English is disputed. Pronunciation, grammar and lexis differ, sometimes substantially.

Because of English's wide use as a second language, English speakers can have many different accents, which may identify the speaker's native dialect or language. For more distinctive characteristics of regional accents, see Regional accents of English speakers. For more distinctive characteristics of regional dialects, see List of dialects of the English language.

Just as English itself has borrowed words from many different languages over its history, English loanwords now appear in a great many languages around the world, indicative of the technological and cultural influence wielded by English speakers. Several pidgins and creole languages have formed on an English base - Tok Pisin was originally one such example. There are a number of words in English coined to describe forms of particular non-English languages that contain a very high proportion of English words - Franglais, for example, is used to describe French with a very high English content.

Constructed Varieties of English




IPA Description word
Template:IPA Close front unrounded vowel bTemplate:Bold dark redd
Template:IPA Near-close near-front unrounded vowel bTemplate:Bold dark redd
Template:IPA Open-mid front unrounded vowel bTemplate:Bold dark redd
Template:IPA Near-open front unrounded vowel bTemplate:Bold dark redd
Template:IPA Open back rounded vowel bTemplate:Bold dark redd Template:Footnote
Template:IPA Open-mid back rounded vowel pTemplate:Bold dark reded Template:Footnote
Template:IPA Open back unrounded vowel brTemplate:Bold dark red
Template:IPA Near-close near-back rounded vowel gTemplate:Bold dark redd
Template:IPA Close back rounded vowel bTemplate:Bold dark reded
Template:IPA Open-mid back unrounded vowel, Near-open central vowel bTemplate:Bold dark redd
Template:IPA Open-mid central unrounded vowel bTemplate:Bold dark redd Template:Footnote
Template:IPA Schwa RosTemplate:Bold dark red's Template:Footnote
Template:IPA Close central unrounded vowel rosTemplate:Bold dark reds Template:Footnote
Template:IPA Close-mid front unrounded vowel
Close front unrounded vowel
bTemplate:Bold dark reded
Template:IPA Close-mid back rounded vowel
Near-close near-back rounded vowel
bTemplate:Bold dark redde
Template:IPA Open front unrounded vowel
Near-close near-front rounded vowel
bTemplate:Bold dark red
Template:IPA Open front unrounded vowel
Near-close near-back rounded vowel
bTemplate:Bold dark red
Template:IPA Open-mid back rounded vowel
Close front unrounded vowel
bTemplate:Bold dark red


It is the vowels that differ most from region to region.

Where symbols appear in pairs, the first corresponds to the sounds used in North American English, the second corresponds to English spoken elsewhere.

  1. North American English lacks this sound; words with this sound are pronounced with Template:IPA or Template:IPA. According to The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (1998), this sound is present in Standard Canadian English.
  2. Many dialects of North American English do not have this vowel. See Cot-caught merger.
  3. The North American variation of this sound is a rhotic vowel.
  4. Many speakers of North American English do not distinguish between these two unstressed vowels. For them, roses and Rosa's are pronounced the same, and the symbol usually used is schwa Template:IPA.
  5. This sound is often transcribed with Template:IPA or with Template:IPA.
  6. The letter U can represent either /u/ or the iotated vowel /ju/.


This is the English Consonantal System using symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

  bilabial labio-
dental alveolar post-
palatal velar glottal
plosive Template:IPA     Template:IPA     Template:IPA  
nasal Template:IPA     Template:IPA     Template:IPA Template:Footnote  
flap       Template:IPA Template:Footnote        
fricative   Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:Footnote Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:Footnote   Template:IPA Template:Footnote Template:IPA
affricate         Template:IPA Template:Footnote      
approximant       Template:IPA Template:Footnote   Template:IPA    
lateral approximant       Template:IPA        
approximant Template:IPATemplate:Footnote
  1. The velar nasal Template:IPA is a non-phonemic allophone of /n/ in some northerly British accents, appearing only before /g/. In all other dialects it is a separate phoneme, although it only occurs in syllable codas.
  2. The alveolar flap Template:IPA is an allophone of /t/ and /d/ in unstressed syllables in North American English and increasingly in Australian English. This is the sound of "tt" or "dd" in the words latter and ladder, which are homophones in North American English. This is the same sound represented by single "r" in some varieties of Spanish.
  3. In some dialects, such as Cockney, the interdentals /θ/ and /ð/ are usually merged with /f/ and /v/, and in others, like African American Vernacular English, /ð/ is merged with /d/. In some Irish varieties, /θ/ and /ð/ become the corresponding dental plosives, which then contrast with the usual alveolar plosives.
  4. The sounds Template:IPA are labialised in some dialects. Labialisation is never contrastive in initial position and therefore is sometimes not transcribed.
  5. The voiceless velar fricative /x/ is used only by Scottish or Welsh speakers of English for Scots/Gaelic words such as loch Template:IPA or by some speakers for loanwords from German and Hebrew like Bach Template:IPA or Chanukah /xanuka/, or in some dialects such as Scouse (Liverpool) where the affricate [kx] is used instead of /k/ in words such as docker Template:IPA. Most native speakers have a great deal of trouble pronouncing it correctly when learning a foreign language. Most speakers use the sounds [k] and [h] instead.
  6. Voiceless w Template:IPA is found in Scottish and Irish English, as well as in some varieties of American, New Zealand, and English English. In all other dialects it is merged with /w/.

Voicing and aspiration

Voicing and aspiration of stop consonants in English depend on dialect and context, but a few general rules can be given:

  • Voiceless plosives and affricates (/Template:IPA/, /Template:IPA/, /Template:IPA/, and /Template:IPA/) are aspirated when they are word-initial or begin a stressed syllable—compare pin Template:IPA and spin Template:IPA, crap Template:IPA and scrap Template:IPA.
    • In some dialects, aspiration extends to unstressed syllables as well.
    • In other dialects, such as Indian English, most or all voiceless stops may remain unaspirated.
  • Word-initial voiced plosives may be devoiced in some dialects.
  • Word-terminal voiceless plosives may be unreleased or accompanied by a glottal stop in some dialects (e.g. many varieties of American English)—examples: tap [[[Template:IPA]]], sack [[[Template:IPA]]].
  • Word-terminal voiced plosives may be devoiced in some dialects (e.g. some varieties of American English)—examples: sad [[[Template:IPA]]], bag [[[Template:IPA]]]. In other dialects they are fully voiced in final position, but only partially voiced in initial position.

See also

International Phonetic Alphabet for English

Supra-segmental Features

Tone groups

English is an intonation language. This means that the pitch of the voice is used syntactically, for example, to convey surprise and irony, or to change a statement into a question.

In English, intonation patterns are on groups of words, which are called tone groups, tone units, intonation groups or sense groups. Tone groups are said on a single breath and, as a consequence, are of limited length, more often being on average five words long or lasting roughly two seconds. The structure of tone groups can have a crucial impact on the meaning of what is said. For example:

-Template:IPA Do you need anything?
-Template:IPA I don't, no
-Template:IPA I don't know (contracted to, for example, -Template:IPA I dunno in fast or colloquial speech which deemphasises the pause between don't and know even further)

Characteristics of intonation (stress accent)

English is a stress-timed language, i.e., certain syllables in each multi-syllablic word get a relative prominence/loudness during pronunciation while the others do not. The former kind of syllables are said to be accentuated/stressed and the latter are unaccentuated/unstressed. All good dictionaries of English mark the accentuated syllable(s) by either placing an apostrophe-like ( Template:IPA ) sign either before (as in IPA, Oxford dictionary) or after (as in Webster's dictionary) the syllable where the stress accent falls. In general, for a two-syllable word in English, it can be broadly said that if it is a noun or an adjective, the first syllable is accentuated; but if it is a verb, the second syllable is accentuated.

Hence in a sentence, each tone group can be subdivided into syllables, which can either be stressed (strong) or unstressed (weak). The stressed syllable is called the nuclear syllable. For example:

That | was | the | best | thing | you | could | have | done!

Here, all syllables are unstressed, except the syllables/words "best" and "done", which are stressed. "Best" is stressed harder and, therefore, is the nuclear syllable.

The nuclear syllable carries the main point the speaker wishes to make. For example:

John had stolen that money. (... not I)
John had stolen that money. (... you said he hadn't)
John had stolen that money. (... he wasn't given it)
John had stolen that money. (... not this money)
John had stolen that money. (... not something else)


I didn't tell her that (someone else told her)
I didn't tell her that (you said I did)
I didn't tell her that (I didn't say it, I could have written it, etc.)
I didn't tell her that (I told someone else)
I didn't tell her that (I told her something else)

The nuclear syllable is spoken louder than all the others and has a characteristic change of pitch. The changes of pitch most commonly encountered in English are the rising pitch and the falling pitch, although the fall-rising pitch and/or the rise-falling pitch are sometimes used. For example:

When do you want to be paid?
Nów? (rising pitch. In this case, it denotes a question: can I be paid now?)
Nòw (falling pitch. In this case, it denotes a statement: I choose to be paid now)



English grammar displays minimal inflection compared with most other Indo-European languages. For example, Modern English, unlike Modern German or Dutch and the Romance languages, lacks grammatical gender and adjectival agreement. Case marking has almost disappeared from the language and mainly survives in pronouns. The patterning of strong (eg. speak/spoke/spoken) versus weak verbs inherited from Germanic has declined in importance and the remnants of inflection (such as plural marking) have become more regular.

At the same time as inflection has declined in importance in English, the language has developed a greater reliance on features such as modal verbs and word order to convey grammatical information. Auxiliary verbs are used to mark constructions such as questions, negatives, the passive voice and progressive tenses.


Almost without exception, Germanic words (which include all the basics such as pronouns and conjunctions) are shorter and more informal. Latinate words are regarded as more elegant or educated. However, the excessive use of Latinate words is often considered to be either pretentiousness (as in the stereotypical policeman's talk of "apprehending the suspect") or obfuscation (as in a military document which says "neutralise" when it means "kill"). George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" gives a thorough treatment of this feature of English.

An English speaker is often able to choose between Germanic and Latinate synonyms: "come" or "arrive"; "sight" or "vision"; "freedom" or "liberty" — and sometimes also between a word inherited through French and a borrowing direct from Latin of the same root word: "oversee", "survey" or "supervise". The richness of the language is that such synonyms have slightly different meanings, enabling the language to be used in a very flexible way to express fine variations or shades of thought. See: List of Germanic and Latinate equivalents.

An exception to this and a peculiarity arguably unique of English is that the nouns for meats are commonly different from and unrelated to those for the animals from which they are produced, the animal commonly having a Germanic name and the meat having a French derived noun. Examples include deer and venison, ox or cow and beef, or swine and pork. This is assumed to be a result of the aftermath of the Norman invasion where a French speaking elite were the consumers of the meat, produced by English speaking lower classes.

In everyday speech, the majority of words will normally be Germanic. If a speaker wishes to make a forceful point in an argument in a very blunt way, Germanic words will usually be chosen. A majority of Latinate words (or at least a majority of content words) will normally be used in more formal speech and writing, such as a courtroom or an encyclopedia article.

English is noted for the vast size of its active vocabulary and its fluidity. English easily accepts technical terms into common usage and imports new words which often come into common usage. In addition, slang provides new meanings for old words. In fact this fluidity is so pronounced that a distinction often needs to be made between formal forms of English and contemporary usage. See also sociolinguistics.

Number of words in English

As the General Explanations at the beginning of the Oxford English Dictionary state:

The Vocabulary of a widely diffused and highly cultivated living language is not a fixed quantity circumscribed by definite limits ... there is absolutely no defining line in any direction: the circle of the English language has a well-defined centre but no discernible circumference.

The vocabulary of English is undoubtedly vast, but assigning a specific number to its size is more a matter of definition than of calculation. Unlike other languages, there is no Academy to define officially accepted words. Neologisms are coined regularly in medicine, science and technology—some enter wide usage; others remain restricted to small circles. Foreign words used in immigrant communities often make their way into wider English usage. Archaic, dialectal, and regional words might be considered as "English" or not.

The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition) includes over 500,000 headwords, following a rather inclusive policy:

It embraces not only the standard language of literature and conversation, whether current at the moment, or obsolete, or archaic, but also the main technical vocabulary, and a large measure of dialectal usage and slang (Supplement to the OED, 1933).

The difficulty of defining the number of words is compounded by the emergence of new versions of English, such as Asian English.

Word origins

Image:Influencegraph.PNG Template:Main

One of the consequences of the French influence is that the vocabulary of English is, to a certain extent, divided between those words which are Germanic (mostly Old English) and those which are "Latinate" (Latin-derived, either directly from Norman French or other Romance languages).

A computerised survey of about 80,000 words in the old Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd ed.) was published in Ordered Profusion by Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff (1973) which estimated the origin of English words as follows:

  • French, including Old French and early Anglo-French: 28.3%
  • Latin, including modern scientific and technical Latin: 28.24%
  • Old and Middle English, Old Norse, and Dutch: 25%
  • Greek: 5.32%
  • No etymology given: 4.03%
  • Derived from proper names: 3.28%
  • All other languages contributed less than 1%

James D. Nicoll made the oft-quoted observation: "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary." [2]

Writing system


English is written using the Latin alphabet. The spelling system or orthography of English is historical, not phonological. The spelling of words often diverges considerably from how they are spoken, and English spelling is often considered to be one of the most difficult to learn of any language that uses an alphabet. See English orthography.

Basic sound-letter correspondence

Only the consonant letters are pronounced in a relatively regular way:

IPA Alphabetic representation Dialect-specific
p p
b b
t t, th (rarely) thyme, Thames th thing (African-American, New York)
d d th that (African-American, New York)
k c (+ a, o, u, consonants), k, ck, ch, qu (rarely) conquer, kh (in foreign words)
g g, gh, gu (+ a, e, i), gue (final position)
m m
n n
ŋ n (before g or k), ng
f f, ph, gh (final, infrequent) laugh, rough th thing (many forms of English used in England)
v v th with (Cockney, Estuary English)
θ th : there is no obvious way to identify which is which from the spelling.
s s, c (+ e, i, y), sc (+ e, i, y)
z z, s (finally or occasionally medially), ss (rarely) possess, dessert, word-initial x xylophone
[[voiceless postalveolar fricative|Template:IPA]] sh, sch, ti portion, ci suspicion; si/ssi tension, mission; ch (esp. in words of French origin); rarely s sugar
[[voiced postalveolar fricative|Template:IPA]] si division, zh (in foreign words), z azure, su pleasure, g (in words of French origin)(+e, i, y) genre
x kh, ch, h (in foreign words) occasionally ch loch (Scottish English, Welsh English)
h h (initially, otherwise silent)
[[voiceless postalveolar affricate|Template:IPA]] ch, tch occasionally tu future, culture; t (+ u, ue, eu) tune, Tuesday, Teutonic (most dialects - see yod coalescence)
[[voiced postalveolar affricate|Template:IPA]] j, g (+ e, i, y), dg (+ e, i, consonant) badge, judg(e)ment d (+ u, ue, ew) dune, due, dew (most dialects - another example of yod coalescence)
[[alveolar approximant|Template:IPA]] r, wr (initial) wrangle
j y (initially or surrounded by vowels)
l l
[[labial-velar approximant|Template:IPA]] w
[[voiceless labial-velar fricative|Template:IPA]] wh Scottish and Irish English, as well as some varieties of American, New Zealand, and English English

Written accents

English includes some words which can be written with accent marks. These words have mostly been imported from other languages, usually French. But it is increasingly rare for writers of English to actually use the accent marks for common words, even in very formal writing. The strongest tendency to retain the accent is in words that are atypical of English morphology and therefore still perceived as slightly foreign. For example, café has a pronounced final e, which would be silent by the normal English pronunciation rules.

Some examples: ångström, appliqué, attaché, blasé, bric-à-brac, café, cliché, crème, crêpe, façade, fiancé(e), flambé, naïve, né(e), papier-mâché, passé, piñata, protégé, raison d'être, résumé, risqué, über-, vis-à-vis, voilà. For a more complete list, see List of English words with diacritics.

Some words such as rôle and hôtel were first seen with accents when they were borrowed into English, but now the accent is almost never used. The words were considered very French borrowings when first used in English, even accused by some of being foreign phrases used where English alternatives would suffice, but today their French origin is largely forgotten. The accent on "élite" has disappeared from most publications today, but Time magazine still uses it. For some words such as "soupçon" however, the only spelling found in English dictionaries (the OED and others) uses the diacritic.

Italics, with appropriate accents, are generally applied to foreign terms that are uncommonly used in or have not been assimilated into English: for example, adiós, coup d'état, crème brûlée, pièce de résistance, raison d'être, über (übermensch), vis-à-vis.

It was formerly common in English to use a diaeresis to indicate a syllable break; for example, coöperate, daïs, reëlect. One publication that still uses a diaeresis for this function is the New Yorker magazine. However, this is everwhere increasingly rare. Nowadays the diaeresis is normally left out (cooperate), or a hyphen is used (co-operate). It is still common in loanwords such as naïve and noël.

Written accents are also used occasionally in poetry and scripts for dramatic performances to indicate that a certain normally unstressed syllable in a word should be stressed for dramatic effect, or to keep with the meter of the poetry. This use is frequently seen in archaic and pseudoarchaic writings with the "-ed" suffix, to indicate that the "e" should be fully pronounced, as with cursèd.

In certain older texts (typically British), the use of ligatures is common in words such as archæology, œsophagus, and encyclopædia. Such words have Latin or Greek origin. Nowadays, the ligatures have been generally replaced in Commonwealth English by the separated letters "ae" and "oe" ("archaeology", "oesophagus") and in American English by "e" ("esophagus"). However, the spellings "oeconomy" and "oecology" are now generally replaced by "economy" and "ecology" also outside the U.S.

For further information on how one can type diacritics and ligatures, see British and American keyboards, keyboard layouts.

See also



Social, cultural or political



External links



Further reading

  • Baugh AC and Cable T. A history of the English language (5th ed), Routledge, 2002 (ISBN 0415280990)
  • Bragg, Melvyn The Adventure of English: The biography of a Language, Arcade Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1559707100
  • Crystal, David (1997). English as a Global Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521530326.
  • Crystal, D. The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language (2nd ed), Cambridge University Press, 2003 (ISBN 0521530334)
  • Halliday, MAK. An introduction to functional grammar (2nd ed), London, Edward Arnold, 1994 (ISBN 0340557826)
  • McArthur, T (ed). The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press, 1992 (ISBN 019214183X)
  • Robinson, Orrin, "Old English and Its Closest Relatives", Stanford Univ Press, 1992 (ISBN 0-8047-2221-8)

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