Modern English (sometimes New English or NE as opposed to Middle English and Old English) is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, which began in the late 14th century and was completed in roughly 1550.
With some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern English, or more specifically, are referred to as using Early Modern English or Elizabethan English. English was adopted in regions around the world, such as North America, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Australia and New Zealand through colonisation by the British Empire.
Modern English has a large number of dialects spoken in diverse countries throughout the world. This includes American English, Australian English, British English (containing English English, Welsh English and Scottish English), Canadian English, Caribbean English, Hiberno-English, Indian English, Pakistani English, Nigerian English, New Zealand English, Philippine English, Singaporean English, and South African English.
According to the Ethnologue, there are almost 1 billion speakers of English as a first or second language. English is spoken as a first or a second language in a large number of countries, with the largest number of native speakers being in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand; there are also large populations in India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Southern Africa. It "has more non-native speakers than any other language, is more widely dispersed around the world and is used for more purposes than any other language". Its large number of speakers, plus its worldwide presence, have made English a common language "of the airlines, of the sea and shipping, of computer technology, of science and indeed of communication generally".
Modern English evolved from Early Modern English which was used from the beginning of the Tudor period until the Interregnum and Restoration in England. The works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern English, or more specifically, are referred to as using Early Modern English or Elizabethan English. By the late 18th century, the British Empire had facilitated the spread of Modern 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. 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.
The following is an outline of the major changes in Modern English compared to its previous form (Middle English), and also some major changes in English over the course of the 20th century. Note, however, that these are generalizations, and some of these may not be true for specific dialects:
Changes in alphabet and spelling were heavily influenced by the advent of printing and continental printing practices.
Consequently, Modern English came to use a purely Latin alphabet of 26 letters.
Total users in all countries: 942,533,930 (as L1: 339,370,920; as L2: 603,163,010)