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|Era||18th century CE-present|
|Latin script (English alphabet)
English Braille, Unified English Braille
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, Indo-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 of America, 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".
Early Modern English lacked uniformity in spelling, but Samuel Johnson's dictionary, published in 1755 in England, was influential in establishing a standard form of spelling. Noah Webster did the same in the United States, publishing his dictionary in 1828; see American and British English spelling differences.
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Public education increased literacy, and more people had access to books (and therefore to a standard language) with the spread of public libraries in the 19th century. Many words entered English from other languages as a result of contact with other cultures through trade and settlement and from the migration of large numbers of people to the United States from other countries. World War I and World War II threw together people from different backgrounds, and the greater social mobility afterwards helped to lessen the differences between social accents, at least in the UK. The development of radio broadcasting in the early 20th century familiarised the population with accents and vocabulary from outside their own localities, often for the first time, and this phenomenon continued with film and television.
Outline of changes
The following is an outline of the major changes in Modern English compared to its previous form (Middle English). Note, however, that these are generalizations, and some of these may not be true for specific dialects:
- disuse of the T-V distinction (thou, ye). Modern English retains only the formal second-person personal pronoun, "you" (ye), used in both formal and informal contexts.
- use of auxiliary verbs becomes mandatory in interrogative sentences.
Changes in alphabet and spelling were heavily influenced by the advent of printing and continental printing practices.
- The letter thorn (þ), which began to be replaced by th as early as Middle English, finally fell into disuse. In Early Modern English printing thorn was represented with the Latin y, which appeared similar to thorn in blackletter typeface (𝖞). The last vestige of the letter was in ligatures of thorn, ye (thee), yt (that), yu (thou), which were still seen occasionally in the King James Bible of 1611 and in Shakespeare's Folios.
- The letters i and j, previously written as a single letter, began to be distinguished; likewise for u and v. This was a common development of the Latin alphabet during this period.
Consequently, Modern English came to use a purely Latin alphabet of 26 letters.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Standard English". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Sihler 2000, p. xvi.
- Lewis, M. Paul; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2016). "English". Ethnologue. SIL International. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
Total users in all countries: 942,533,930 (as L1: 339,370,920; as L2: 603,163,010)
- Algeo & pyles 2004, p. 222.
- Algeo & Pyles 2004, p. 175.
- Algeo & Pyles 2004, p. 215.
- Algeo, John; Pyles, Thomas (2004). The Origins and Development of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth Cengage. ISBN 978-0-155-07055-4.
- Sihler, Andrew L. (2000), Language History: An Introduction, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 191, John Benjamins, ISBN 978-9027236982