The English language may be defined as:

"1(a) the language of the people of England and the U.S. and many areas now or formerly under British control.

1(b): A particular variety of English distinguished by peculiarities (as of pronunciation)

1(c): English language, literature or composition when a subject of study (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary).


From these definitions we understand that English is a language shared by many different peoples. However, the second definition points to “a particular variety”.

While this seems contradictory at first, it actually integrates with the first definition as the English language is in fact of cluster of dialects closely related to each other. In other words, most of the basic features of the language (phonetics, grammar, syntax, lexicon) are shared by all “Englishes”, but there are minor differences from which an educated ear can tell where a partcular speaker comes from.

Each English-speaking country has developed a received standard, the kind of language used by national televisions and newspapers. At this formal level, differences in pronunciation are subtle and not easy to spot. There are many English traits in Australian English, and a Canadian speaker may be sometimes taken to be American in formal speech.

Local features are more marked in non-standard English (as in county dialect or slang), whenever a colloquial register is preferred to formal use. A speaker's language Distribution of English standards and minority languages English is spoken in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, in most of the Commonwealth countries or other former British colonies).

It is not the official language of the United States, but many member states recognize it as their own. Spanish is spoken and understood by a good portion of Americans especially in the South. There are other consistent minority languages, as Italian, French, Dutch and Low German (especially in the states of N.Y. And Pennsylvania, this one home to the Amish community).

A great number of ancient languages of Asian origin is spoken by native Americans, as Algonquin, Cherokee, Sioux, Apache. And a large Cajun community can be found in Louisiana, who speak a French dialect derived from Acadian French spoken in Canada and parts of Maine.

The black community, widely distributed across North America, speak a dialect that shows close affinity to the American English (SAE) from the Southern United States of the East Coast, where most of these people once lived.

The North, where there were slavery was not practised was a safer place for blacks who had escaped to work as free citizens in the great cities like Chicago, Detroit and New York, but many also crossed the Canadian border, since England had declared slavery illegal in the early 19th century.

In Canada, French is the official language of Quebec, where it is a majority language. However, it is subdivided into a number of non-standard varieties, roughly grouped into Acadian (chiefly spoken in the Maritime Provinces), and Quebec French, (maily spoken in Quebec and part of Ontario).

New Zealand also considers Maori a national language alongside New Zealand English, as South Africa does for Afrikaan, a dialect imported by the first Dutch settlers.

  • Population

    Native English speakers account for 380 million of the world's population but English is the second language for 1 billion people. It is also used in Commonwealth countries where English is not a native language like India or Pakistan, where the presence of numerous dialects can obstacle communication.

    Here, adopting one native language as the national standard could create bitter rivalries between different ethnicities. As a consequence, these nations have chosen English as their second language, teach it and use it at school and in the workplace.

  • English as a world language

    Alongside French, English is the official language of the European Union (EU), NATO and the U.N. and the unofficial language of the World Wide Web. For all these reasons it has become the language of international diplomacy, business and science, and is widely used as a lingua franca. Family: Indoeuropean / Germanic / West Germanic / Anglo-Frisian / Anglic / English ISO 639-1 en ISO 639-2 eng ISO/DIS 639-3 eng

  • International English

    ll Englishes share some basic traits so any variety can be easily understood by any native English speaker, regardless of his or her nationality. However, there is an international standard based on their similarities which excludes local variants. This avoids irritating some speakers from different nations who must entertain a conversation or a correspondence while easying communication among or with non-native speakers who are not knowledgeable with all English varieties.

  • Special English There is also a simplified English standard for learners comprising only the most frequently-used words (little more than a thousand, spoken much more slowly than in a regular news broadcast): it also serves as a learning tool for anyone without a near-native command of English. It is mostly used by the Voice of America, whose audience extends beyond the English-speaking world.
  • Received Pronunciation (RP) and IPA Given the vastness of the former British Empire and the diversity of local English dialects it would be impossible to do justice to all in a few pages. Even when we tried that, a far from clear outline of the English language would emerge.

    Our survey is confineed to official standards hinting to local dialects only when it is relevant to understanding how they contributed to national languages. in the workplace is hardly the one he or she uses at home. The ability to switch from standard to non-standard also depends on the speaker's education but in any case it should never inferred there cannot be intermediate shades between the ends of the spectrum.

    An English citizen from Stratford will use English RP (Received Pronunciation) with people from either outside his county or when he or she is at work while switching to Warwichshire dialect on coming back home at the end of the day.

  • Literature in English. As a result, the term English literature is increasingly becoming a controversial and many prefer to use Literature in (the) English (language) to refer to the body of works produced in the entire English-speaking world. Broadly speaking, we refer to a U.S., a Canadian, a Scottish, an Irish, an Australian literature, and so on. Even nations where English is not a first language have contributed works though the hands of such authors as Joseph Conrad (a Pole), or, more recently, Michael Ondaatje, born in Sri Lanka out of a family of a Portuguese-Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese origin.
  • Social factors. Isolation and distance from the former mother-country, coupled with the influence from native (like Indian or Aboriginal) and foreign (like Dutch or italian) languages has to some extent affected the Englishes if not in their grammar, in some phonetic and lexical aspects. That becomes evident we shift from formal to colloquial speech, from work and school into the household and the neighborhood. Here, we are also in the domain of dialect and slang, as variable as ethnicity, class and religion.

    It is important to note that the presence of many varieties must not be perceived as if they were moving away from 'good' English, least of all RP. Linguists accord them equal dignity, and many of them were diferentiated well before English English was established.

    The same applies to Scottish English, which until recently was wrongly considered a substandard. In fact, Scotland was officially annexed to England in 1707 and had been an independent nation before that. Sometimes its writers and poets are included in English literatures but Ramsay and Burn's “English” is quite far from the language spoken in England and the rest of the world.

    An untrained native English speaker from outside Scotland cannot usually understand Scots because of its different vocalic system and a good deal of words which are not part of any other standard.

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