English language

Native toUnited Kingdom, Anglo-America, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and other locations in the English-speaking world
SpeakersL1: 380 million (2023)[2]
L2: 1.077 billion (2023)[3]
Total: 1.457 billion
Early forms
Manually coded English
(multiple systems)
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1en
ISO 639-2eng
ISO 639-3eng
  Countries and territories where English is the native language of the majority
  Countries and territories where English is an official or administrative language but not a majority native language
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English is a West Germanic language in the Indo-European language family, whose speakers, called Anglophones, originated in early medieval England.[4][5][6] The namesake of the language is the Angles, one of the ancient Germanic peoples that migrated to the island of Great Britain. Modern English is both the most spoken language in the world[7] and the third-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.[8] It is also the most widely learned second language in the world, with more second-language speakers than native speakers.

English is either the official language or one of the official languages in 59 sovereign states (such as in India, Ireland, and Canada). In some other countries, it is the sole or dominant language for historical reasons without being explicitly defined by law (such as in the United States or United Kingdom).[9] It is a co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union, and many other international and regional organisations. It has also become the de facto language of diplomacy, science, international trade, tourism, aviation, entertainment and the internet.[10] English accounts for at least 70% of total speakers of the Germanic language branch, and as of 2005, it was estimated that there were over two billion speakers worldwide.[11]

Old English emerged from a group of West Germanic dialects spoken by the Anglo-Saxons. Late Old English borrowed some grammar and core vocabulary from Old Norse, a North Germanic language.[12][13][14] Then, Middle English borrowed words extensively from French dialects, which make up about 28% of Modern English vocabulary, and from Latin, which also provides about 28%.[15] Thus, although most of its total vocabulary now comes from Romance languages, its grammar, phonology, and most commonly-used words keep it genealogically classified under the Germanic branch. English exists on a dialect continuum with Scots and then is most closely related to the Low Saxon and Frisian languages.

  1. ^ Oxford Learner's Dictionary 2015, Entry: English – Pronunciation.
  2. ^ "What are the top 200 most spoken languages?". Ethnologue. 2023. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  3. ^ English at Ethnologue (26th ed., 2023) closed access
  4. ^ The Routes of English.
  5. ^ Crystal 2003a, p. 6.
  6. ^ Wardhaugh 2010, p. 55.
  7. ^ English at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019) closed access
  8. ^ Ethnologue 2010.
  9. ^ Crystal 2003b, pp. 108–109.
  10. ^ "How the English Language Conquered the World". The New York Times. 18 January 2022.
  11. ^ Crystal, David (2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. 24 (1): 3–6. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023. S2CID 145597019.
  12. ^ Finkenstaedt, Thomas; Dieter Wolff (1973). Ordered profusion; studies in dictionaries and the English lexicon. C. Winter. ISBN 978-3-533-02253-4.
  13. ^ Bammesberger 1992, p. 30.
  14. ^ Svartvik & Leech 2006, p. 39.
  15. ^ Burnley, David (1992). "LEXIS AND SEMANTICS". In N. Blake (Ed.), The Cambridge History of the English Language (The Cambridge History of the English Language, pp. 409–499). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521264754.006: "Latin and French each account for a little more than 28 per cent of the lexis recorded in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Finkenstaedt & Wolff 1973)".

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