During the second half of the 18th century, the use of English in the field of business increased dramatically for a variety of reasons. The United States of America was considered to be one of the most economically powerful countries of the world and was also a ‘Victor’ along with Britain during the era of the Second World War. An increased demand for international sales and business was also observed during this time because of which it became necessary for the countries to possess a common medium for communication. For this, English was considered to be the perfect language as it was used by a majority of people as their first or second language. Currently, the English language is being used by 500 million people and therefore is regarded as a ‘global language.’ English is one of the most common languages that is used by a majority of the people worldwide. In statistical terms, approximately 20% of the world’s population uses the English language as their primary or secondary language. The word ‘English’ is derived from the word ‘Anglisc’ which means the speech of the Angles. (Angles is the name of one of the Germanic tribes that occupied England during the fifth century).
The English language is used as a primary language in many countries like the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada and is used as a secondary language in multilingual countries like India, Philippines, and Singapore.
The English language is derived from the Proto-Indo-European language which was spoken by the nomads of Europe about 5000 years ago. The German language is also known to have been derived from this language. The history of English has been classified into three different yet major historical periods which are as follows:
Old English: Old English is the language which was used for communication in England during the time period 500 to 1100. It is considered to be a type of Germanic language that has been derived from prehistoric Common Germanic that was used for communication by the people of the Southern Scandinavia and the people living in the northernmost parts of Germany. Old English can also be referred to as Anglo-Saxon. This name has been derived from the name of two Germanic tribes who invaded England during the 5th century. One of the greatest examples for the work of Old English literature is the poem, Beowulf.
Middle English: Middle English is the language that was used for communication in England in the year 1100 to 1500. The era in which this language was spoken was found to be rich in dialect diversity. During this time five different dialects were identified: Southern, Northern, East Midland, and the West Midland. Sir Gawain and the Green Knights, Havelok the Dane, Canterbury Tales, and Piers Plowman are some examples of the literary works written in Middle English Language.
Modern English: Modern English is defined as the English Language that has been into use conventionally since around 1450 or 1500. Modern English is considered to be highly distinct from the Old English and Middle English language. In accordance with the latest data, Present-Day English is the most up to date stage of the evolution of language. However, there was some linguist who argued for the existence of further stage of evolution in a language known as the World English.
The year 1066 marked the arrival of Norman French dialect (which was French with Germanic influence) in Britain. As the center of learning moved consistently from Winchester to London, the influence of Old English began to cease. Over the time, the Norman French dialect spoken by the people of aristocracy and the Old English spoken by the normal people got associated with each other and became the Middle English.
By the year 1200’s around 10,000 French words became the part of the English dialect. Some words served as a replacement for the English words while some words existed side-by-side with the English language with slightly changed meanings. Changes in spellings were also observed as Norman speaking people spelled the words in the same manner as they sounded. Use of genders for nouns ceased, the concept of inflection word forms and silent ‘e’ was introduced, and constrained word order system was integrated within the dialect.
After the era of Middle English, Modern English was introduced in the year 1500. For example, the works of William Shakespeare is considered as a part of Modern English. During the period of Modern English, a major change was encountered which is infamously known as the Great Vowel Shift. For example- Middle English long high vowel e converted into Modern English long I; Middle English long oo sound changed into Modern English ou sound.