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a language belonging to the west German group of Indo-European languages. English is spoken and used in state affairs, literature, and science by approximately 200 million people in Great Britain and Ireland (together with Irish), the United States, Canada (together with French), Australia, New Zealand, and partially in South Africa and India. It is one of the five official and working languages used by the United Nations. English has its origin in the language of the ancient German tribes (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes), who migrated from the Continent to Britain during the fifth and sixth centuries. The complex interaction of the ancient German tribal dialects, which were carried to a Britain already settled by Celtic tribes (Bretons and Gaels) and then developed as the English nationality was taking shape, led to the formation of territorial dialects on the old tribal basis. During the Old English period (seventh-11th centuries) the language was represented by four dialects: Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon, and Kentish. Because of the economic and political influence of the kingdom of Wessex during the ninth and tenth centuries in the cultural life of England, the West Saxon dialects attained the greatest significance. After the penetration of Christianity into England during the sixth century, the Latin alphabet replaced the ancient German runes and the influence of the Latin language was reflected in English vocabulary. From the language spoken by the Celts, conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, little more than geographical names was retained. The raids of the Scandinavians at the end of the eighth century, ending with the submission of England in 1016 to the Danish king, led to Scandinavian settlement in the country. The interaction between the closely related languages—English and Scandinavian—resulted in the presence of a considerable number of words in modern English of Scandinavian origin as well as several phonetic peculiarities characterizing the dialects of northern England. Merging with the Scandinavian languages strengthened a number of grammatical tendencies in English. The conquest of England by the Normans in 1066 led to a prolonged period of bilingualism when the English language, having three basic territorial dialects (northern, central, and southern), was preserved as the language of the people, but French was considered the language of state. Its prolonged use at the royal court and in Parliament, courts, and schools meant that after the French language was forced out of these areas (toward the 14th century) much French vocabulary remained in the English language.
The formation of a national English language on the basis of the London dialect, which combined southern and east-central dialect features, took place during the formation of the nation. During the second half of the 13th century and the first half of the 14th century the features of the southern dialect were noticeably supplanted by the peculiarities of the east-central dialect in the language of London. The Middle English period (12th-15th centuries) in the development of the English language is marked by a number of changes which sharply distinguished the Middle English phonetic system from the Old English. Since all the inflections were unaccented, the reduction of unaccented vowels was also evident in a considerable simplification of morphological structure in the English language. The introduction in England of the printing press (1476) made possible the consolidation and dissemination of the London forms, a process greatly aided by the popularity of the works of the prominent writer G. Chaucer (1340–1400), who wrote in the London dialect. However, the printing of books fixed certain traditional spellings which even then failed to reflect actual contemporary pronunciation. In this manner began the divergence between pronunciation and spelling so characteristic of modern English. During the 16th and 17th centuries the so-called Modern English language took shape. Scientific and philosophical works began to be written in English and not in Latin; this change demanded the development of terminology. The sources for this enlargement of vocabulary were borrowings from Latin and Greek and also in part from Italian and Spanish and during the 17th century from French. In grammar the contemporary English language is characterized by analytical structure—that is, the type of structure in which the basic means of expression of grammatical significance are word order and function words, which demonstrate the relationships between words and groups of words.
During the second half of the 17th century and especially during the 18th century there appeared many normative grammars and works on orthoepy whose authors tried to bring order to the grammatical norms of the language, some on the basis of rational grammar, others beginning from the living use of the forms of the language. The purist tendency of the 18th century (J. Swift, J. Addison) was directed against the penetration into literary English of neologisms of a colloquial sort (for example, truncated words) and superfluous borrowings. The colonial expansion of England during the 17th through 19th centuries caused the dissemination of English beyond the borders of Great Britain and led to the origin of several regional differences, mostly in vocabulary. The differences in the American variant of English from the British can be explained by the fact that the first settlers in North America (1607) came from London and its suburbs, with later settlers coming mostly from northern Great Britain and Ireland. In American English there are not so many strongly pronounced dialects as in Great Britain. On the basis of the Linguistic Atlas of the USA and Canada (1939), published under the editorship of Professor H. Kurath, seven dialects are distinguished, including the dialect of the central and western regions of the USA—the most significant in terms of territorial dissemination; in the USA it is considered the basic literary norm (general American). The distinction between American and British variants of English is most evident in vocabulary and to some degree in phonetics; differences in grammar are insignificant. Despite the great number of neologisms in the lexicon of American English, American word-building patterns have remained the same as those of British English.
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V. N. IARTSEVA
["Exploring the Pick Operating System", J.E. Sisk et al, Hayden 1986].