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|Era||15th 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, Indian English, 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, 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".
Modern English evolved from Early Modern English which was used from the beginning of the Tudor period until the Interregnum and Restoration in England. 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. By the late 18th century, the British Empire had facilitated the spread of Modern English through its colonies and geopolitical dominance. Commerce, science and technology, diplomacy, art, and formal education all contributed to English becoming the first truly global language. English also facilitated worldwide international communication. English was adopted in North America, India, parts of Africa, Australasia, and many other regions. In the post-colonial period, some of the newly created nations that had multiple indigenous languages opted to continue using English as the official language to avoid the political difficulties inherent in promoting any one indigenous language above the others.
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). Contemporary 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.
- Terttu Nevalainen: An Introduction to Early Modern English, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 1
- 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.
- Nevalainen, Terttu (2006). An Introduction to Early Modern English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
- Romaine 2006, p. 586.
- Mufwene 2006, p. 614.
- 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