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ENGLISH /ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ/ (_ listen ) is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and is now a global lingua franca _. Named after the Angles , one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to England , it ultimately derives its name from the Anglia (Angeln) 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 Romance languages , particularly French .

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. Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London and the King James Bible , and the start of the Great Vowel Shift . 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, as well as 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 in professional contexts such as science, navigation and law.

English is the third most widespread native language in the world, after Standard Chinese and Spanish . 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. It is co-official language of the United Nations , of the European Union and of 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 , and counting exactly how many words it has is impossible.

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 . 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 .

CONTENTS

* 1 Classification

* 2 History

* 2.1 Proto-Germanic to Old English * 2.2 Middle English * 2.3 Early Modern English * 2.4 Spread of Modern English

* 3 Geographical distribution

* 3.1 Three circles of English-speaking countries * 3.2 Pluricentric English * 3.3 English as a global language

* 4 Phonology

* 4.1 Consonants * 4.2 Vowels * 4.3 Phonotactics * 4.4 Stress, rhythm and intonation * 4.5 Regional variation

* 5 Grammar

* 5.1 Nouns and noun phrases

* 5.1.1 Adjectives * 5.1.2 Pronouns, case and person * 5.1.3 Prepositions

* 5.2 Verbs and verb phrases

* 5.2.1 Tense, aspect and mood * 5.2.2 Phrasal verbs * 5.2.3 Adverbs

* 5.3 Syntax

* 5.3.1 Basic constituent order * 5.3.2 Clause syntax * 5.3.3 Auxiliary verb constructions * 5.3.4 Questions * 5.3.5 Discourse level syntax

* 6 Vocabulary

* 6.1 Word formation processes * 6.2 Word origins * 6.3 English loanwords and calques in other languages

* 7 Writing system

* 8 Dialects, accents, and varieties

* 8.1 United Kingdom and Ireland * 8.2 North America * 8.3 Australia and New Zealand * 8.4 Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia

* 9 References * 10 Bibliography * 11 External links

CLASSIFICATION

The Germanic languages in Europe The Anglo-Frisian languages

English Scots West Frisian North Frisian Saterland Frisian

English is an Indo-European language , and belongs to the West Germanic group of the Germanic languages . Most closely related to English are the Frisian languages , and English and Frisian form the Anglo-Frisian subgroup within West Germanic. Old Saxon and its descendent Low German (Low Saxon) languages are also closely related, and sometimes Low German, English, and Frisian are grouped together as the Ingvaeonic or North Sea Germanic languages. Modern English descends from Middle English , which in turn descends from Old English . Particular dialects of Old and Middle English also developed into a number of other English (Anglic) languages , including Scots and the extinct Fingallian and Forth and Bargy (Yola) dialects of Ireland.

English is classified as a Germanic language because it shares innovations with other Germanic languages such as Dutch , German , and Swedish . These shared innovations show that the languages have descended from a single common ancestor, which linguists call Proto-Germanic . Some shared features of Germanic languages are 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, like the other insular Germanic languages, Icelandic and Faroese , developed independently of the continental Germanic languages and their influences. English is thus not mutually intelligible with any continental Germanic language, differing in vocabulary , syntax , and phonology , although some, such as Dutch, do show strong affinities with English, especially with its earlier stages.

Because English through its history has changed considerably in response to contact with other languages, particularly Old Norse and Norman French , some scholars have 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. Phylogenetic tree showing the historical relations between the languages of the West Germanic branch of the Germanic languages

Through Grimm's law, the word for _foot_ begins with /f/ in Germanic languages, but its cognates in other Indo-European languages begin with /p/. 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 ).

* English _sing_, _sang_, _sung_; Dutch _zingen_, _zong_, _gezongen_; German _singen_, _sang_, _gesungen_ (strong verb)

English _laugh_, _laughed_; Dutch and German _lachen_, _lachte_ (weak verb)

* English _foot_, Dutch _voet_, German _Fuß_, Norwegian and Swedish _fot_ (initial /f/ derived from Proto-Indo-European *p through Grimm's law)

Latin _pes_, stem _ped-_; Modern Greek πόδι _pódi_; Russian под _pod_; Sanskrit पद् _pád_ (original Proto-Indo-European *p)

* English _cheese_, Frisian _tsiis_ (_ch_ and _ts_ from palatalisation)

German _Käse_ and Dutch _kaas_ (_k_ without palatalisation)

HISTORY

Main article: History of the English language

PROTO-GERMANIC TO OLD ENGLISH

Main article: 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 Britain and the Romans withdrew from Britain . 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 . _England_ and _English_ (originally _Ænglaland_ and _Ænglisc_) are named after the Angles.

Old English was divided into four dialects: the Anglian dialects, Mercian and Northumbrian , and the Saxon dialects, Kentish and West Saxon . 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 . The epic poem _Beowulf _ is written in West Saxon, and the earliest English poem, _Cædmon\'s Hymn _, is written in Northumbrian. 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 . 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⟩.

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 (_he_, _him_, _his_) and a few verb endings (_I have_, _he has_), but Old English had case endings in nouns as well, and verbs had more person and number endings.

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"

MIDDLE ENGLISH

Main article: 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

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_).

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 language closely 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. 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, and gradually simplified the system of agreement, making word order less flexible. By the Wycliffe Bible of the 1380s, the passage Matthew 8:20 was written _Foxis han dennes, and briddis of heuene han nestis_

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

Main article: 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.

English began to rise in prestige 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. 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 _knight_, _gnat_, 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.

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_

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. 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. 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 and other broadcasters, significantly accelerated the spread of the language across the planet. By the 21st century, English was more widely spoken and written than any language has ever been.

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.

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 _him_, _she_ and _her_, _who_ and _whom_), and where SVO word-order is mostly fixed. 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. 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.

GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION

See also: List of territorial entities where English is an official language , List of countries by English-speaking population , and English-speaking world 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. English is probably the third largest language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin and Spanish . However, when combining native and non-native speakers it may, depending on the estimate used, be the most commonly spoken language in the world. English is spoken by communities on every continent and on oceanic islands in all the major oceans.

The countries in which English is spoken can be grouped into different categories by how English is used in each country. The "inner circle" 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 . 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. _ 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), the United Kingdom (60 million), Canada (19 million), Australia (at least 17 million), South Africa (4.8 million), Ireland (4.2 million), and New Zealand (3.7 million). 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. The inner-circle countries provide the base from which English spreads to other countries in the world.

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. Linguist David Crystal estimates that non-native speakers now outnumber native speakers by a ratio of 3 to 1. In Kachru's three-circles model, the "outer circle" countries are countries such as the Philippines , Jamaica , India, Pakistan, Singapore, and Nigeria 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.

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. Most of those varieties of English include words little used by native speakers of English in the inner-circle countries, 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.

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". 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. 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, 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, the widespread use of English in these countries 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.

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. Non-native varieties of English are widely used for international communication, and speakers of one such variety often encounter features of other varieties. 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.

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. But English is not a divided language, 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". 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 , 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.

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. Both standard and nonstandard varieties of English can include both formal or informal styles, distinguished by word choice and syntax and use both technical and non-technical registers.

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. 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, although English has been given official status by only 30 of the 50 state governments of the US.

ENGLISH AS A GLOBAL LANGUAGE

See also: Foreign language influences in English and Study of global communication

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

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. 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. 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. 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. 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, 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.

Modern English, sometimes described as the first global lingua franca , is also regarded as the first world language . English is the world's most widely used language in newspaper publishing, book publishing, international telecommunications, scientific publishing, international trade, mass entertainment, and diplomacy. English is, by international treaty, the basis for the required controlled natural languages Seaspeak and Airspeak, used as international languages of seafaring and aviation. English used to have parity with French 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.

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 koineised language in which the standard form unifies speakers from around the world. English is used as the language for wider communication in countries around the world. Thus English has grown in worldwide use much more than any constructed language proposed as an international auxiliary language , including Esperanto .

PHONOLOGY

Main article: English phonology

The phonetics and phonology of English differ between dialects, usually without interfering with mutual communication. Phonological variation affects the inventory of phonemes (speech sounds that distinguish meaning), and phonetic variation is differences in pronunciation of the phonemes. This overview mainly describes the standard pronunciations of the United Kingdom and the United States : Received Pronunciation (RP) and General American (GA) (See Section below on "Dialects, accents and varieties" ). The phonetic symbols used below are from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

CONSONANTS

Main article: English phonology § Consonants

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

Consonant phonemes

LABIAL DENTAL ALVEOLAR Post- alveolar PALATAL VELAR GLOTTAL

NASAL

m

n

ŋ

STOP p b

t d

k ɡ

AFFRICATE

tʃ dʒ

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 when they occur alone at the beginning of a stressed syllable, often unaspirated in other cases, and often unreleased or pre-glottalised 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_ (see below ).

* lenis stops: _bin_ , _about_ , _nib_ * fortis stops: _pin_ , _spin_ , _happy_ , _nip_ or

In RP, the lateral approximant /l/, has two main allophones (pronunciation variants): the clear or plain , as in _light_, and the dark or velarised , as in _full_. GA has dark _l_ in most cases.

* clear _l_: RP _light_ * dark _l_: RP and GA _full_ , GA _light_

All sonorants (liquids /l, r/ and nasals /m, n, ŋ/) devoice when following a voiceless obstruent, and they are syllabic when following a consonant at the end of a word.

* voiceless sonorants: _clay_ and _snow_ * syllabic sonorants: _paddle_ , and _button_

VOWELS

Main article: English phonology § Vowels

The pronunciation of vowels varies a great deal between dialects and is one of the most detectable aspects of a speaker's accent. The table below lists the vowel phonemes in Received Pronunciation (RP) and General American (GA), with examples of words in which they occur from lexical sets compiled by linguists. The vowels are represented with symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet; those given for RP are standard in British dictionaries and other publications.

monophthongs RP GA WORD

iː i nEEd

ɪ bId

e ɛ bEd

æ bAck

monophthongs RP GA WORD

(ɪ) ɨ rosEs

ə commA

ɜː ɜr bIRd

ʌ bUt

monophthongs RP GA WORD

uː u fOOd

ʊ gOOd

ɔː ɔ pAW

ɒ clOth

ɑ bOx

ɑː brA

diphthongs RP GA WORD

eɪ bAY

əʊ oʊ rOAd

aɪ crY

aʊ cOW

ɔɪ bOY

In RP, vowel length is phonemic; long vowels are marked with a triangular colon ⟨ː⟩ in the table above, such as the vowel of _need_ as opposed to _bid_ . GA does not have long vowels.

In both RP and GA, vowels are phonetically shortened before fortis consonants in the same syllable , like /t tʃ f/, but not before lenis consonants like /d dʒ v/ or in open syllables: thus, the vowels of _rich_ , _neat_ , and _safe_ are noticeably shorter than the vowels of _ridge_ , _need_ , and _save_ , and the vowel of _light_ is shorter than that of _lie_ . Because lenis consonants are frequently voiceless at the end of a syllable, vowel length is an important cue as to whether the following consonant is lenis or fortis.

The vowels /ɨ ə/ only occur in unstressed syllables and are a result of vowel reduction . Some dialects do not distinguish them, so that _roses_ and _comma_ end in the same vowel, a dialect feature called weak-vowel merger . GA has an unstressed _r_-coloured schwa /ɚ/, as in _butter_ , which in RP has the same vowel as the word-final vowel in _comma_.

PHONOTACTICS

An English syllable includes a syllable nucleus consisting of a vowel sound. Syllable onset and coda (start and end) are optional. A syllable can start with up to three consonant sounds, as in _sprint_ /sprɪnt/, and end with up to four, as in _texts_ /teksts/. This gives an English syllable the following structure, (CCC)V(CCCC) where C represents a consonant and V a vowel. The consonants that may appear together in onsets or codas are restricted, as is the order in which they may appear. Onsets can only have four types of consonant clusters: a stop and approximant, as in _play_; a voiceless fricative and approximant, as in _fly_ or _sly_; _s_ and a voiceless stop, as in _stay_; and _s_, a voiceless stop, and an approximant, as in _string_. Clusters of nasal and stop are only allowed in codas. Clusters of obstruents always agree in voicing, and clusters of sibilants and of plosives with the same point of articulation are prohibited. Furthermore, several consonants have limited distributions: /h/ can only occur in syllable initial position, and /ŋ/ only in syllable final position.

STRESS, RHYTHM AND INTONATION

See also: Stress and vowel reduction in English and Intonation in English

Stress plays an important role in English. Certain syllables are stressed, while others are unstressed. Stress is a combination of duration, intensity, vowel quality, and sometimes changes in pitch. Stressed syllables are pronounced longer and louder than unstressed syllables, and vowels in unstressed syllables are frequently reduced while vowels in stressed syllables are not. Some words, primarily short function words but also some modal verbs such as _can_, have weak and strong forms depending on whether they occur in stressed or non-stressed position within a sentence.

Stress in English is phonemic , and some pairs of words are distinguished by stress. For instance, the word _contract_ is stressed on the first syllable (/ˈkɒntrækt/ _KON-trakt_ ) when used as a noun, but on the last syllable (/kənˈtrækt/ _kən-TRAKT_ ) for most meanings (for example, "reduce in size") when used as a verb. Here stress is connected to vowel reduction : in the noun "contract" the first syllable is stressed and has the unreduced vowel /ɒ/, but in the verb "contract" the first syllable is unstressed and its vowel is reduced to /ə/. Stress is also used to distinguish between words and phrases, so that a compound word receives a single stress unit, but the corresponding phrase has two: e.g. _to búrn óut_ versus _a búrnout_, and _a hótdog_ versus _a hót dóg_.

In terms of rhythm , English is generally described as a stress-timed language, meaning that the amount of time between stressed syllables tends to be equal. Stressed syllables are pronounced longer, but unstressed syllables (syllables between stresses) are shortened. Vowels in unstressed syllables are shortened as well, and vowel shortening causes changes in vowel quality : vowel reduction .

REGIONAL VARIATION

VARIETIES OF STANDARD ENGLISH AND THEIR FEATURES

Phonological features United States CANADA Republic of Ireland Northern Ireland SCOTLAND ENGLAND WALES South Africa AUSTRALIA New Zealand

_FATHER_–_BOTHER_ MERGER yes yes

/ɒ/ IS UNROUNDED yes yes yes

/ɜːR/ IS PRONOUNCED yes yes yes yes

_COT_–_CAUGHT_ MERGER possibly yes possibly yes yes

_FOOL_–_FULL_ MERGER

yes yes

/TˌD/ FLAPPING (_LATTER-LADDER MERGER_) yes yes possibly often rarely rarely rarely rarely yes often

_TRAP_–_BATH_ SPLIT

possibly possibly

yes yes yes often yes

NON-RHOTIC (/R/ -DROPPING AFTER VOWELS)

yes yes yes yes yes

CLOSE VOWELS FOR /æ, ɛ/

yes yes yes

/L/ CAN ALWAYS BE PRONOUNCED yes yes

yes yes

yes yes

/ɑːR/ IS FRONTED

possibly

yes yes

Dialects and low vowels WORD RP GA CAN SOUND CHANGE

THOUGHT /ɔ/ /ɔ/ or /ɑ/ /ɑ/ _cot_–_caught_ merger

CLOTH /ɒ/ _lot_–_cloth_ split

LOT /ɑ/ _father_–_bother_ merger

PALM /ɑː/

PLANT /æ/ /æ/ _trap_–_bath_ split

BATH

TRAP /æ/

Varieties of English vary the most in pronunciation of vowels. The best known national varieties used as standards for education in non English-speaking countries are British (BrE) and American (AmE). Countries such as Canada , Australia , Ireland , New Zealand and South Africa have their own standard varieties which are less often used as standards for education internationally. Some differences between the various dialects are shown in the table "Varieties of Standard English and their features".

English has undergone many historical sound changes , some of them affecting all varieties, and others affecting only a few. Most standard varieties are affected by the Great Vowel Shift , which changed the pronunciation of long vowels, but a few dialects have slightly different results. In North America, a number of chain shifts such as the Northern Cities Vowel Shift and Canadian Shift have produced very different vowel landscapes in some regional accents.

Some dialects have fewer or more consonant phonemes and phones than the standard varieties. Some conservative varieties like Scottish English have a voiceless sound in _whine_ that contrasts with the voiced in _wine_, but most other dialects pronounce both words with voiced , a dialect feature called _wine_–_whine_ merger . The unvoiced velar fricative sound /x/ is found in Scottish English, which distinguishes _loch_ /lɔx/ from _lock_ /lɔk/. Accents like Cockney with "_h_-dropping" lack the glottal fricative /h/, and dialects with _th_-stopping and _th_-fronting like African American Vernacular and Estuary English do not have the dental fricatives /θ, ð/, but replace them with dental or alveolar stops /t, d/ or labiodental fricatives /f, v/. Other changes affecting the phonology of local varieties are processes such as _yod_-dropping , _yod_-coalescence , and reduction of consonant clusters.

General American and Received Pronunciation vary in their pronunciation of historical /r/ after a vowel at the end of a syllable (in the syllable coda ). GA is a rhotic dialect , meaning that it pronounces /r/ at the end of a syllable, but RP is non-rhotic, meaning that it loses /r/ in that position. English dialects are classified as rhotic or non-rhotic depending on whether they elide /r/ like RP or keep it like GA.

There is complex dialectal variation in words with the open front and open back vowels /æ ɑː ɒ ɔː/. These four vowels are only distinguished in RP, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In GA, these vowels merge to three /æ ɑ ɔ/, and in Canadian English they merge to two /æ ɑ/. In addition, the words that have each vowel vary by dialect. The table "Dialects and open vowels" shows this variation with lexical sets in which these sounds occur.

GRAMMAR

Main article: English grammar

As is typical of an Indo-European language, English follows accusative morphosyntactic alignment . Unlike other Indo-European languages though, English has largely abandoned the inflectional case system in favor of analytic constructions. Only the personal pronouns retain morphological case more strongly than any other word class . English distinguishes at least seven major word classes: verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, determiners (i.e. articles), prepositions, and conjunctions. Some analyses add pronouns as a class separate from nouns, and subdivide conjunctions into subordinators and coordinators, and add the class of interjections. English also has a rich set of auxiliary verbs, such as _have_ and _do_, expressing the categories of mood and aspect. Questions are marked by do-support , wh-movement (fronting of question words beginning with _wh_-) and word order inversion with some verbs.

Some traits typical of Germanic languages persist in English, such as the distinction between irregularly inflected strong stems inflected through ablaut (i.e. changing the vowel of the stem, as in the pairs _speak/spoke_ and _foot/feet_) and weak stems inflected through affixation (such as _love/loved_, _hand/hands_). Vestiges of the case and gender system are found in the pronoun system (_he/him, who/whom_) and in the inflection of the copula verb _to be_.

The seven word classes are exemplified in this sample sentence:

_The_ _chairman_ _of_ _the_ _committee_ _and_ _the_ _loquacious_ _politician_ _clashed_ _violently_ _when_ _the_ _meeting_ _started_

Det. Noun Prep. Det. Noun Conj. Det. Adj. Noun Verb Advb. Conj. Det. Noun Verb

NOUNS AND NOUN PHRASES

English nouns are only inflected for number and possession. New nouns can be formed through derivation or compounding. They are semantically divided into proper nouns (names) and common nouns. Common nouns are in turn divided into concrete and abstract nouns, and grammatically into count nouns and mass nouns .

Most count nouns are inflected for plural number through the use of the plural suffix -_s_, but a few nouns have irregular plural forms. Mass nouns can only be pluralised through the use of a count noun classifier, e.g. _one loaf of bread_, _two loaves of bread_.

Regular plural formation: Singular: _cat, dog_ Plural: _cats, dogs_

Irregular plural formation: Singular: _man, woman, foot, fish, ox, knife, mouse_ Plural: _men, women, feet, fish, oxen, knives, mice_

Possession can be expressed either by the possessive enclitic -_s_ (also traditionally called a genitive suffix), or by the preposition _of_. Historically the -s possessive has been used for animate nouns, whereas the _of_ possessive has been reserved for inanimate nouns. Today this distinction is less clear, and many speakers use -_s_ also with inanimates. Orthographically the possessive -s is separated from the noun root with an apostrophe.

Possessive constructions: With -s: _The woman's husband's child_ With of: _The child of the husband of the woman_

Nouns can form noun phrases (NPs) where they are the syntactic head of the words that depend on them such as determiners, quantifiers, conjunctions or adjectives. Noun phrases can be short, such as _the man_, composed only of a determiner and a noun. They can also include modifiers such as adjectives (e.g. _red_, _tall_, _all_) and specifiers such as determiners (e.g. _the_, _that_). But they can also tie together several nouns into a single long NP, using conjunctions such as _and_, or prepositions such as _with_, e.g. _the tall man with the long red trousers and his skinny wife with the spectacles_ (this NP uses conjunctions, prepositions, specifiers and modifiers). Regardless of length, an NP functions as a syntactic unit. For example, the possessive enclitic can, in cases which do not lead to ambiguity, follow the entire noun phrase, as in _The President of India's wife_, where the enclitic follows _India_ and not _President_.

The class of determiners is used to specify the noun they precede in terms of definiteness , where _the_ marks a definite noun and _a_ or _an_ an indefinite one. A definite noun is assumed by the speaker to be already known by the interlocutor, whereas an indefinite noun is not specified as being previously known. Quantifiers, which include _one_, _many_, _some_ and _all_, are used to specify the noun in terms of quantity or number. The noun must agree with the number of the determiner, e.g. _one man_ (sg.) but _all men_ (pl.). Determiners are the first constituents in a noun phrase.

Adjectives

Adjectives modify a noun by providing additional information about their referents. In English, adjectives come before the nouns they modify and after determiners. In Modern English, adjectives are not inflected, and they do not agree in form with the noun they modify, as adjectives in most other Indo-European languages do. For example, in the phrases _the slender boy_, and _many slender girls_, the adjective _slender_ does not change form to agree with either the number or gender of the noun.

Some adjectives are inflected for degree of comparison , with the positive degree unmarked, the suffix _-er_ marking the comparative, and _-est_ marking the superlative: _a small boy_, _the boy is smaller than the girl_, _that boy is the smallest_. Some adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms, such as _good_, _better_, and _best_. Other adjectives have comparatives formed by periphrastic constructions , with the adverb _more_ marking the comparative, and _most_ marking the superlative: _happier_ or _more happy_, _the happiest_ or _most happy_. There is some variation among speakers regarding which adjectives use inflected or periphrastic comparison, and some studies have shown a tendency for the periphrastic forms to become more common at the expense of the inflected form.

Pronouns, Case And Person

English pronouns conserve many traits of case and gender inflection. The personal pronouns retain a difference between subjective and objective case in most persons (_I/me, he/him, she/her, we/us, they/them_) as well as a gender and animateness distinction in the third person singular (distinguishing _he/she/it_). The subjective case corresponds to the Old English nominative case , and the objective case is used both in the sense of the previous accusative case (in the role of patient, or direct object of a transitive verb), and in the sense of the Old English dative case (in the role of a recipient or indirect object of a transitive verb). Subjective case is used when the pronoun is the subject of a finite clause, and otherwise the objective case is used. While grammarians such as Henry Sweet and Otto Jespersen noted that the English cases did not correspond to the traditional Latin based system, some contemporary grammars, for example Huddleston the dependent form functions as a determiner specifying a noun (as in _my chair_), while the independent form can stand alone as if it were a noun (e.g. _the chair is mine_). The English system of grammatical person no longer has a distinction between formal and informal pronouns of address, and the forms for 2nd person plural and singular are identical except in the reflexive form. Some dialects have introduced innovative 2nd person plural pronouns such as _y'all_ found in Southern American English and African American (Vernacular) English or _youse_ and _ye_ found in Irish English.

English personal pronouns PERSON SUBJECTIVE CASE OBJECTIVE CASE DEPENDENT POSSESSIVE INDEPENDENT POSSESSIVE REFLEXIVE

1ST P. SG. _I_ _me_ _my_ _mine_ _myself_

2ND P. SG. _you_ _you_ _your_ _yours_ _yourself_

3RD P. SG. _he/she/it_ _him/her/it_ _his/her/its_ _his/hers/its_ _himself/herself/itself_

1ST P. PL. _we_ _us_ _our_ _ours_ _ourselves_

2ND P. PL. _you_ _you_ _your_ _yours_ _yourselves_

3RD P. PL _they_ _them_ _their_ _theirs_ _themselves_

Pronouns are used to refer to entities deictically or anaphorically . A deictic pronoun points to some person or object by identifying it relative to the speech situation — for example the pronoun _I_ identifies the speaker, and the pronoun _you_, the addressee. Anaphorical pronouns such as _that_ refer back to an entity already mentioned or assumed by the speaker to be known by the audience, for example in the sentence _I already told you that_. The reflexive pronouns are used when the oblique argument is identical to the subject of a phrase (e.g. "he sent it to himself" or "she braced herself for impact").

Prepositions

Prepositional phrases (PP) are phrases composed of a preposition and one or more nouns, e.g. _with the dog_, _for my friend_, _to school_, _in England_. Prepositions have a wide range of uses in English. They are used to describe movement, place, and other relations between different entities, but they also have many syntactic uses such as introducing complement clauses and oblique arguments of verbs. For example, in the phrase _I gave it to him_, the preposition _to_ marks the recipient, or Indirect Object of the verb _to give_. Traditionally words were only considered prepositions if they governed the case of the noun they preceded, for example causing the pronouns to use the objective rather than subjective form, "with her", "to me", "for us". But some contemporary grammars such as that of Huddleston imperative _Run!_).

An infinitive form, that uses the plain form of the verb and the preposition _to_, is used for verbal clauses that are syntactically subordinate to a finite verbal clause. Finite verbal clauses are those that are formed around a verb in the present or preterit form. In clauses with auxiliary verbs they are the finite verbs and the main verb is treated as a subordinate clause. For example, _he has to go_ where only the auxiliary verb _have_ is inflected for time and the main verb _to go_ is in the infinitive, or in a complement clause such as _I saw him leave_, where the main verb is _to see_ which is in a preterite form, and _leave_ is in the infinitive.

Phrasal Verbs

English also makes frequent use of constructions traditionally called phrasal verbs , verb phrases that are made up of a verb root and a preposition or particle which follows the verb. The phrase then functions as a single predicate. In terms of intonation the preposition is fused to the verb, but in writing it is written as a separate word. Examples of phrasal verbs are _to get up_, _to ask out_, _to back up_, _to give up_, _to get together_, _to hang out_, _to put up with_, etc. The phrasal verb frequently has a highly idiomatic meaning that is more specialised and restricted than what can be simply extrapolated from the combination of verb and preposition complement (e.g. _lay off_ meaning _terminate someone's employment_). In spite of the idiomatic meaning, some grammarians, including Huddleston ">_ In the English sentence The cat sat on the mat_, the subject is _the cat_ (a NP), the verb is _sat_, and _on the mat_ is a prepositional phrase (composed of an NP _the mat_, and headed by the preposition _on_). The tree describes the structure of the sentence.

Modern English syntax language is moderately analytic . It has developed features such as modal verbs and word order as resources for conveying meaning. Auxiliary verbs mark constructions such as questions, negative polarity, the passive voice and progressive aspect .

Basic Constituent Order

English word order has moved from the Germanic verb-second (V2) word order to being almost exclusively subject–verb–object (SVO). The combination of SVO order and use of auxiliary verbs often creates clusters of two or more verbs at the centre of the sentence, such as _he had hoped to try to open it_.

In most sentences English only marks grammatical relations through word order. The subject constituent precedes the verb and the object constituent follows it. The example below demonstrates how the grammatical roles of each constituent is marked only by the position relative to the verb:

_The dog_ _bites_ _the man_

S V O

_The man_ _bites_ _the dog_

S V O

An exception is found in sentences where one of the constituents is a pronoun, in which case it is doubly marked, both by word order and by case inflection, where the subject pronoun precedes the verb and takes the subjective case form, and the object pronoun follows the verb and takes the objective case form. The example below demonstrates this double marking in a sentence where both object and subject is represented with a third person singular masculine pronoun:

_He_ _hit_ _him_

S V O

Indirect objects (IO) of ditransitive verbs can be placed either as the first object in a double object construction (S V IO O), such as _I gave Jane the book_ or in a prepositional phrase, such as _I gave the book to Jane_

Clause Syntax

Main article: English clause syntax

In English a sentence may be composed of one or more clauses, that may in turn be composed of one or more phrases (e.g. Noun Phrases, Verb Phrases, and Prepositional Phrases). A clause is built around a verb, and includes its constituents, such as any NPs and PPs. Within a sentence one clause is always the main clause (or matrix clause) whereas other clauses are subordinate to it. Subordinate clauses may function as arguments of the verb in the main clause. For example, in the phrase _I think (that) you are lying_, the main clause is headed by the verb _think_, the subject is _I_, but the object of the phrase is the subordinate clause _(that) you are lying_. The subordinating conjunction _that_ shows that the clause that follows is a subordinate clause, but it is often omitted. Relative clauses are clauses that function as a modifier or specifier to some constituent in the main clause: For example, in the sentence _I saw the letter that you received today_, the relative clause _that you received today_ specifies the meaning of the word _letter_, the object of the main clause. Relative clauses can be introduced by the pronouns _who_, _whose_, _whom_ and _which_ as well as by _that_ (which can also be omitted.) In contrast to many other Germanic languages there is no major differences between word order in main and subordinate clauses.

Auxiliary Verb Constructions

Main articles: Do-support and Subject–auxiliary inversion

English syntax relies on auxiliary verbs for many functions including the expression of tense, aspect and mood. Auxiliary verbs form main clauses, and the main verbs function as heads of a subordinate clause of the auxiliary verb. For example, in the sentence _the dog did not find its bone_, the clause _find its bone_ is the complement of the negated verb _did not_. Subject–auxiliary inversion is used in many constructions, including focus, negation, and interrogative constructions.

The verb _do_ can be used as an auxiliary even in simple declarative sentences, where it usually serves to add emphasis, as in "I _did_ shut the fridge." However, in the negated and inverted clauses referred to above, it is used because the rules of English syntax permit these constructions only when an auxiliary is present. Modern English does not allow the addition of the negating adverb _not_ to an ordinary finite lexical verb, as in _*I know not_—it can only be added to an auxiliary (or copular ) verb, hence if there is no other auxiliary present when negation is required, the auxiliary _do_ is used, to produce a form like _I do not (don't) know._ The same applies in clauses requiring inversion, including most questions—inversion must involve the subject and an auxiliary verb, so it is not possible to say _*Know you him?_; grammatical rules require _Do you know him?_

Negation is done with the adverb _not_, which precedes the main verb and follows an auxiliary verb. A contracted form of not _-n't_ can be used as an enclitic attaching to auxiliary verbs and to the copula verb _to be_. Just as with questions, many negative constructions require the negation to occur with do-support, thus in Modern English _I don't know him_ is the correct answer to the question _Do you know him?_, but not _*I know him not_, although this construction may be found in older English.

Passive constructions also use auxiliary verbs. A passive construction rephrases an active construction in such a way that the object of the active phrase becomes the subject of the passive phrase, and the subject of the active phrase is either omitted or demoted to a role as an oblique argument introduced in a prepositional phrase. They are formed by using the past participle either with the auxiliary verb _to be_ or _to get_, although not all varieties of English allow the use of passives with _get_. For example, putting the sentence _she sees him_ into the passive becomes _he is seen (by her)_, or _he gets seen (by her)_.

Questions

Both yes–no questions and _wh_-questions in English are mostly formed using subject–auxiliary inversion (_Am I going tomorrow?_, _Where can we eat?_), which may require _do_-support (_Do you like her?_, _Where did he go?_). In most cases, interrogative words (_wh_-words; e.g. _what_, _who_, _where_, _when_, _why_, _how_) appear in a fronted position . For example, in the question _What did you see?_, the word _what_ appears as the first constituent despite being the grammatical object of the sentence. (When the _wh_-word is the subject or forms part of the subject, no inversion occurs: _Who saw the cat?_.) Prepositional phrases can also be fronted when they are the question's theme, e.g. _To whose house did you go last night?_. The personal interrogative pronoun _who _ is the only interrogative pronoun to still show inflection for case, with the variant _whom_ serving as the objective case form, although this form may be going out of use in many contexts.

Discourse Level Syntax

At the discourse level English tends to use a topic-comment structure, where the known information (topic) precedes the new information (comment). Because of the strict SVO syntax, the topic of a sentence generally has to be the grammatical subject of the sentence. In cases where the topic is not the grammatical subject of the sentence, frequently the topic is promoted to subject position through syntactic means. One way of doing this is through a passive construction, _the girl was stung by the bee_. Another way is through a cleft sentence where the main clause is demoted to be a complement clause of a copula sentence with a dummy subject such as _it_ or _there_, e.g. _it was the girl that the bee stung_, _there was a girl who was stung by a bee_. Dummy subjects are also used in constructions where there is no grammatical subject such as with impersonal verbs (e.g., _it is raining_) or in existential clauses (_there are many cars on the street_). Through the use of these complex sentence constructions with informationally vacuous subjects, English is able to maintain both a topic comment sentence structure and a SVO syntax.

Focus constructions emphasise a particular piece of new or salient information within a sentence, generally through allocating the main sentence level stress on the focal constituent. For example, _the girl was stung by a bee_ (emphasising it was a bee and not for example a wasp that stung her), or _The girl was stung by a bee_ (contrasting with another possibility, for example that it was the boy). Topic and focus can also be established through syntactic dislocation, either preposing or postposing the item to be focused on relative to the main clause. For example, _That girl over there, she was stung by a bee_, emphasises the girl by preposition, but a similar effect could be achieved by postposition, _she was stung by a bee, that girl over there_, where reference to the girl is established as an "afterthought".

Cohesion between sentences is achieved through the use of deictic pronouns as anaphora (e.g. _that is exactly what I mean_ where _that_ refers to some fact known to both interlocutors, or _then_ used to locate the time of a narrated event relative to the time of a previously narrated event). Discourse markers such as _oh_, _so_ or _well_, also signal the progression of ideas between sentences and help to create cohesion. Discourse markers are often the first constituents in sentences. Discourse markers are also used for stance taking in which speakers position themselves in a specific attitude towards what is being said, for example, _no way is that true!_ (the idiomatic marker _no way!_ expressing disbelief), or _boy! I'm hungry_ (the marker _boy_ expressing emphasis). While discourse markers are particularly characteristic of informal and spoken registers of English, they are also used in written and formal registers.

VOCABULARY

Oxford Dictionaries suggest that there are at least a quarter of a million distinct English words.

English is an immensely rich language in terms of vocabulary, containing more synonyms than any other languages. There are words which appear on the surface to mean exactly the same thing but which, in fact, have a slightly different shade of meaning and must be used appropriately if a speaker wants to convey precisely the message they intend to convey. It is generally stated that English has around 170,000 words, or 220,000 if obsolete words are counted. Over half of these words are nouns, a quarter adjectives and a seventh verbs. There is one count that puts the English vocabulary at about 1 million words — but that count presumably includes words such as Latin species names , scientific terminology , prefixed and suffixed words, jargon , foreign words of extremely limited English use and technical acronyms .

Since it's an international language, English is expeditious when it comes adopting foreign words, where it would borrow vocabulary from a large number of other sources. Early studies of English vocabulary by lexicographers , the scholars who formally study vocabulary, compile dictionaries, or both, were impeded by a lack of comprehensive data on actual vocabulary in use from good-quality linguistic corpora , collections of actual written texts and spoken passages. Many statements published before the end of the 20th century about the growth of English vocabulary over time, the dates of first use of various words in English, and the sources of English vocabulary will have to be corrected as new computerised analysis of linguistic corpus data becomes available.

WORD FORMATION PROCESSES

English forms new words from existing words or roots in its vocabulary through a variety of processes. One of the most productive processes in English is conversion, using a word with a different grammatical role, for example using a noun as a verb or a verb as a noun. Another productive word-formation process is nominal compounding, producing compound words such as _babysitter_ or _ice cream_ or _homesick_. A process more common in Old English than in Modern English, but still productive in Modern English, is the use of derivational suffixes (_-hood_, _-ness_, _-ing_, _-ility_) to derive new words from existing words (especially those of Germanic origin) or stems (especially for words of Latin or Greek origin).

Formation of new words, called neologisms , based on Greek or Latin roots (for example _television_ or _optometry_) is a highly productive process in English and in most modern European languages, so much so that it is often difficult to determine in which language a neologism originated. For this reason, lexicographer Philip Gove attributed many such words to the "international scientific vocabulary " (ISV) when compiling Webster\'s Third New International Dictionary (1961). Another active word-formation process in English is acronyms, words formed by pronouncing as a single word abbreviations of longer phrases (e.g. _NATO_, _laser_).

WORD ORIGINS

Main article: Lists of English loanwords by country or language of origin Source languages of English vocabulary

English, besides forming new words from existing words and their roots, also borrows words from other languages. This process of adding words from other languages is commonplace in many world languages, but English is characterised as being especially open to borrowing of foreign words throughout the last 1,000 years. The most commonly used words in English are West Germanic. The words in English learned first by children as they learn to speak, particularly the grammatical words that dominate the word count of both spoken and written texts, are the Germanic words inherited from the earliest periods of the development of Old English.

But one of the consequences of long language contact between French and English in all stages of their development is that the vocabulary of English has a very high percentage of "Latinate" words (derived from French, especially, and also from Latin or from other Romance languages). French words from various periods of the development of French now make up one-third of the vocabulary of English. Words of Old Norse origin have entered the English language primarily from the contact between Old Norse and Old English during colonisation of eastern and northern England . Many of these words are part of English core vocabulary, such as _egg_ or _knife_.

English has also borrowed many words directly from Latin, the ancestor of the Romance languages, during all stages of its development. Many of these words were earlier borrowed into Latin from Greek. Latin or Greek are still highly productive sources of stems used to form vocabulary of subjects learned in higher education such as the sciences, philosophy, and mathematics. English continues to gain new loanwords and calques ("loan translations") from languages all over the world, and words from languages other than the ancestral Anglo-Saxon language make up about 60 percent of the vocabulary of English.

English has formal and informal speech registers , and informal registers, including child directed speech, tend to be made up predominantly of words of Anglo-Saxon origin, while the percentage of vocabulary that is of Latinate origin is higher in legal, scientific, and academic texts.

ENGLISH LOANWORDS AND CALQUES IN OTHER LANGUAGES

English has a strong influence on the vocabulary of other languages. The influence of English comes from such factors as opinion leaders in other countries knowing the English language, the role of English as a world lingua franca, and the large number of books and films that are translated from English into other languages. That pervasive use of English leads to a conclusion in many places that English is an especially suitable language for expressing new ideas or describing new technologies. Among varieties of English, it is especially American English that influences other languages. Some languages, such as Chinese, write words borrowed from English mostly as calques , while others, such as Japanese, readily take in English loanwords written in sound-indicating script. Dubbed films and television programmes are an especially fruitful source of English influence on languages in Europe.

WRITING SYSTEM

See also: English alphabet , English braille , and English orthography

Since the ninth century, English has been written in a Latin alphabet (also called Roman alphabet). Earlier Old English texts in Anglo-Saxon runes are only short inscriptions. The great majority of literary works in Old English that survive to today are written in the Roman alphabet. The modern English alphabet contains 26 letters of the Latin script : a , b , c , d , e , f , g , h , i , j , k , l , m , n , o , p , q , r , s , t , u , v , w , x , y , z (which also have capital forms: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z).

The spelling system, or orthography , of English is multi-layered, with elements of French, Latin, and Greek spelling on top of the native Germanic system. Further complications have arisen through sound changes with which the orthography has not kept pace. Compared to European languages for which official organisations have promoted spelling reforms, English has spelling that is a less consistent indicator of pronunciation and standard spellings of words that are more difficult to guess from knowing how a word is pronounced. There are also systematic spelling differences between British and American English . These situations have prompted proposals for spelling reform in English.

Although letters and speech sounds do not have a one-to-one correspondence in standard English spelling, spelling rules that take into account syllable structure, phonetic changes in derived words, and word accent are reliable for most English words. Moreover, standard English spelling shows etymological relationships between related words that would be obscured by a closer correspondence between pronunciation and spelling, for example the words _photograph_, _photography_, and _photographic_, or the words _electricity_ and _electrical_. While few scholars agree with Chomsky and Halle (1968) that conventional English orthography is "near-optimal", there is a rationale for current English spelling patterns. The standard orthography of English is the most widely used writing system in the world. Standard English spelling is based on a graphomorphemic segmentation of words into written clues of what meaningful units make up each word.

Readers of English can generally rely on the correspondence between spelling and pronunciation to be fairly regular for letters or digraphs used to spell consonant sounds. The letters _b, d, f, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, y, z_ represent, respectively, the phonemes /b, d, f, h, dʒ, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, j, z/. The letters _c_ and _g_ normally represent /k/ and /ɡ/, but there is also a soft _c_ pronounced /s/, and a soft _g_ pronounced /dʒ/. The differences in the pronunciations of the letters _c_ and _g_ are often signalled by the following letters in standard English spelling. Digraphs used to represent phonemes and phoneme sequences include _ch_ for /tʃ/, _sh_ for /ʃ/, _th_ for /θ/ or /ð/, _ng_ for /ŋ/, _qu_ for /kw/, and _ph_ for /f/ in Greek-derived words. The single letter _x_ is generally pronounced as /z/ in word-initial position and as /ks/ otherwise. There are exceptions to these generalisations, often the result of loanwords being spelled according to the spelling patterns of their languages of origin or proposals by pedantic scholars in the early period of Modern English to mistakenly follow the spelling patterns of Latin for English words of Germanic origin.

For the vowel sounds of the English language, however, correspondences between spelling and pronunciation are more irregular. There are many more vowel phonemes in English than there are vowel letters (_a_, _e_, _i_, _o_, _u_, _w_, _y_). As a result of a smaller set of single letter symbols than the set of vowel phonemes, some "long vowels " are often indicated by combinations of letters (like the _oa_ in _boat_, the _ow_ in _how_, and the _ay_ in _stay_), or the historically based silent _e_ (as in _note_ and _cake_).

The consequence of this complex orthographic history is that learning to read can be challenging in English. It can take longer for school pupils to become independently fluent readers of English than of many other languages, including Italian, Spanish, or German. Nonetheless, there is an advantage for learners of English reading in learning the specific sound-symbol regularities that occur in the standard English spellings of commonly used words. Such instruction greatly reduces the risk of children experiencing reading difficulties in English. Making primary school teachers more aware of the primacy of morpheme representation in English may help learners learn more efficiently to read and write English.

English writing also includes a system of punctuation that is similar to the system of punctuation marks used in most alphabetic languages around the world. The purpose of punctuation is to mark meaningful grammatical relationships in sentences to aid readers in understanding a text and to indicate features important for reading a text aloud.

DIALECTS, ACCENTS, AND VARIETIES

Main articles: List of dialects of the English language , World Englishes , and regional accents of English

Dialectologists identity many English dialects , which usually refer to regional varieties that differ from each other in terms of patterns of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. The pronunciation of particular areas distinguishes dialects as separate regional accents . The major native dialects of English are often divided by linguists into the two extremely general categories of British English (BrE) and North American English (NAE). There also exists a third common major grouping of English varieties: Southern Hemisphere English, the most prominent being Australian and New Zealand English .

UNITED KINGDOM AND IRELAND

See also: English language in England , Northern England English , Scots language , Scottish English , Welsh English , Estuary English , Ulster English , and Hiberno-English Map showing the main dialect regions in the UK and Ireland

As the place where English first evolved, the British Isles, and particularly England, are home to the most diverse dialects. Within the United Kingdom, the Received Pronunciation (RP), an educated dialect of South East England , is traditionally used as the broadcast standard, and is considered the most prestigious of the British dialects. The spread of RP (also known as BBC English) through the media has caused many traditional dialects of rural England to recede, as youths adopt the traits of the prestige variety instead of traits from local dialects. At the time of the Survey of English Dialects , grammar and vocabulary differed across the country, but a process of lexical attrition has led most of this variation to disappear.

Nonetheless this attrition has mostly affected dialectal variation in grammar and vocabulary, and in fact only 3 percent of the English population actually speak RP, the remainder speaking regional accents and dialects with varying degrees of RP influence. There is also variability within RP, particularly along class lines between Upper and Middle class RP speakers and between native RP speakers and speakers who adopt RP later in life. Within Britain there is also considerable variation along lines of social class, and some traits though exceedingly common are considered "non-standard" and are associated with lower class speakers and identities. An example of this is H-dropping , which was historically a feature of lower class London English, particularly Cockney, but which today is the standard in all major English cities—yet it remains largely absent in broadcasting and among the upper crust of British society.

_ Speech example An example of an Essex male with a working-class Estuary accent (entertainer Russell Brand ) -------------------------

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_ Speech example

An example of a Scottish male with a middle-class Renfrewshire accent -------------------------

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_ Speech example An example of an English female with a received pronunciation accent, which is also known as Standard English or 'BBC English'. -------------------------

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English in England can be divided into four major dialect regions, Southwest English , South East English, Midlands English, and Northern English . Within each of these regions several local subdialects exist: Within the Northern region, there is a division between the Yorkshire dialects, and the Geordie dialect spoken in Northumbria around Newcastle, and the Lancashire dialects with local urban dialects in Liverpool ( Scouse ) and Manchester (Mancunian ). Having been the centre of Danish occupation during the Viking Invasions, Northern English dialects, particularly the Yorkshire dialect, retain Norse features not found in other English varieties.

Since the 15th century, southeastern England varieties centred around London, which has been the centre from which dialectal innovations have spread to other dialects. In London, the Cockney dialect was traditionally used by the lower classes, and it was long a socially stigmatised variety. Today a large area of Southeastern England has adopted traits from Cockney, resulting in the so-called Estuary English which spread in areas south and East of London beginning in the 1980s. Estuary English is distinguished by traits such as the use of intrusive R (_drawing_ is pronounced _drawring_ /ˈdrɔːrɪŋ/), _t_-glottalisation (_Potter_ is pronounced with a glottal stop as _Po'er_ /poʔʌ/), and the pronunciation of _th-_ as /f/ (_thanks_ pronounced _fanks_) or /v/ (_bother_ pronounced _bover_).

Scots is today considered a separate language from English, but it has its origins in early Northern Middle English and developed and changed during its history with influence from other sources, particularly Scots Gaelic and Old Norse. Scots itself has a number of regional dialects. And in addition to Scots, Scottish English are the varieties of Standard English spoken in Scotland, most varieties are Northern English accents, with some influence from Scots.

In Ireland , various forms of English have been spoken since the Norman invasions of the 11th century. In County Wexford , in the area surrounding Dublin , two extinct dialects known as Forth and Bargy and Fingallian developed as offshoots from Early Middle English, and were spoken until the 19th century. Modern Irish English , however has its roots in English colonisation in the 17th century. Today Irish English is divided into Ulster English , the Northern Ireland dialect with strong influence from Scots, as well as various dialects of the Republic of Ireland. Like Scottish and most North American accents, almost all Irish accents preserve the rhoticity which has been lost in the dialects influenced by RP.

NORTH AMERICA

Main articles: American English , General American , African American Vernacular English , Southern American English , and Canadian English

_ Speech example An example of a southwestern Arkansas male with a rhotic accent ( Bill Clinton ). -------------------------

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_ Rhoticity dominates in North American English . The Atlas of North American English _ found over 50% _non_-rhoticity, though, in at least one local white speaker in each U.S. metropolitan area designated here by a red dot. Non-rhotic African American Vernacular English pronunciations may be found among African Americans regardless of location.

American English is fairly homogeneous compared to British English. Today, American accent variation is often increasing at the regional level and decreasing at the very local level, though most Americans still speak within a phonological continuum of similar accents, known collectively as General American (GA), with differences hardly noticed even among Americans themselves (such as Midland and Western American English ). In most American and Canadian English, rhoticity (or _r_-fulness) is dominant, with non-rhoticity (_r_-dropping) becoming associated with lower prestige and social class especially after World War II; this contrasts with the situation in England, where non-rhoticity has become the standard.

Separate from GA are American dialects with clearly distinct sound systems, historically including Southern American English , English of the coastal Northeast (famously including Eastern New England English and New York City English ), and African American Vernacular English , all of which are historically non-rhotic. Canadian English , except for the Atlantic provinces and perhaps Quebec , may be classified under GA as well, but it often shows raising of certain vowels , /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ , before voiceless consonants , as well as distinct norms for written and pronunciation standards.

In Southern American English , the largest American "accent group" outside of GA, rhoticity now strongly prevails, replacing the region's historical non-rhotic prestige. Southern accents are colloquially described as a "drawl" or "twang," being recognised most readily by the Southern Vowel Shift that begins with glide-deleting in the /aɪ/ vowel (e.g. pronouncing _spy_ almost like _spa_), the "Southern breaking" of several front pure vowels into a gliding vowel or even two syllables (e.g. pronouncing the word "press" almost like "pray-us"), the pin–pen merger , and other distinctive phonological, grammatical, and lexical features, many of which are actually recent developments of the 19th century or later.

Today spoken primarily by working- and middle-class African Americans , African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is also largely non-rhotic and likely originated among enslaved Africans and African Americans influenced primarily by the non-rhotic, non-standard English dialects of the Old South . A minority of linguists, contrarily, propose that AAVE mostly traces back to African languages spoken by the slaves who had to develop a pidgin or Creole English to communicate with slaves of other ethnic and linguistic origins. AAVE shares important commonalities with older Southern American English and so probably developed to a highly coherent and homogeneous variety in the 19th or early 20th century. AAVE is commonly stigmatised in North America as a form of "broken" or "uneducated" English, also common of modern Southern American English, but linguists today recognise both as fully developed varieties of English with their own norms shared by a large speech community.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

Main articles: Australian English and New Zealand English

_ Speech example An example of an Australian male with a general Australian accent. -------------------------

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Since 1788, English has been spoken in Oceania , and Australian English has developed as a first language of the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Australian continent, its standard accent being General Australian . The English of neighbouring New Zealand has to a lesser degree become an influential standard variety of the language. Australian and New Zealand English are each other's closest relatives with few differentiating characteristics, followed by South African English and the English of southeastern England, all of which have similarly non-rhotic accents, aside from some accents in the South Island of New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand English stand out for their innovative vowels: many short vowels are fronted or raised, whereas many long vowels have diphthongised. Australian English also has a contrast between long and short vowels, not found in most other varieties. Australian English grammar aligns closely to British and American English; like American English, collective plural subjects take on a singular verb (as in _the government is_ rather than _are_). New Zealand English uses front vowels that are often even higher than in Australian English.

AFRICA, THE CARIBBEAN, AND SOUTH ASIA

See also: South African English , Caribbean English , and Indian English

_ Speech example An example of a black male with a South African accent. -------------------------

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English is spoken widely in South Africa and is an official or co-official language in several countries. In South Africa , English has been spoken since 1820, co-existing with Afrikaans and various African languages such as the Khoe and Bantu languages . Today about 9 percent of the South African population speak South African English (SAE) as a first language. SAE is a non-rhotic variety, which tends to follow RP as a norm. It is alone among non-rhotic varieties in lacking intrusive r. There are different L2 varieties that differ based on the native language of the speakers. Most phonological differences from RP are in the vowels. Consonant differences include the tendency to pronounce /p, t, t͡ʃ, k/ without aspiration (e.g. _pin_ pronounced rather than as as in most other varieties), while r is often pronounced as a flap instead of as the more common fricative.

Several varieties of English are also spoken in the Caribbean Islands that were colonial possessions of Britain, including Jamaica, and the Leeward and Windward Islands and Trinidad and Tobago , Barbados , the Cayman Islands , and Belize . Each of these areas are home both to a local variety of English and a local English based creole, combining English and African languages. The most prominent varieties are Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole . In Central America, English based creoles are spoken in on the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua and Panama. Locals are often fluent both in the local English variety and the local creole languages and code-switching between them is frequent, indeed another way to conceptualise the relationship between Creole and Standard varieties is to see a spectrum of social registers with the Creole forms serving as "basilect" and the more RP-like forms serving as the "acrolect", the most formal register.

Most Caribbean varieties are based on British English and consequently most are non-rhotic, except for formal styles of Jamaican English which are often rhotic. Jamaican English differs from RP in its vowel inventory, which has a distinction between long and short vowels rather than tense and lax vowels as in Standard English. The diphthongs /ei/ and /ou/ are monophthongs and or even the reverse diphthongs and (e.g. _bay_ and _boat_ pronounced and ). Often word final consonant clusters are simplified so that "child" is pronounced and "wind" .

As a historical legacy, Indian English tends to take RP as its ideal, and how well this ideal is realised in an individual's speech reflects class distinctions among Indian English speakers. Indian English accents are marked by the pronunciation of phonemes such as /t/ and /d/ (often pronounced with retroflex articulation as and ) and the replacement of /θ/ and /ð/ with dentals and . Sometimes Indian English speakers may also use spelling based pronunciations where the silent ⟨h⟩ found in words such as _ghost_ is pronounced as an Indian voiced aspirated stop .

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