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Distribution of English Language Speakers. Why?. Why is English a Germanic language? Why is it the prominent language? What is the cause of multiple English accents?. English Speaking Countries. English Colonies. English v . French.

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Why is English a Germanic language?

Why is it the prominent language?

What is the cause of multiple English accents?

english v french
English v. French
  • The English defeated the French in the 18th century for control of the American colonies, which solidified English as the language of America.
  • England further diffused English as a dominant language to:
    • Ireland (17th century)
    • South Asia (mid 18th century)
    • Southern Africa (late 19th century)
  • In each case English became an official language (sometimes one of a few.)
american english
American English

More recently the U.S. has diffused English to the Philippines (1899).

In 1946 when they gained independence it retained English as an official language along with Filipino.


The diffusion of English is mainly due to migration since the 17th century in addition to colonization.

But it doesn’t explain the existence of English, especially as a Germanic language with Latin and French influence.

While England had been inhabited for thousands of years little is known of the people or language until the Celts around 2000 B.C.

  • In A.D. 450 the Celts were invaded and pushed back to areas that became Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. (All places known for their distinct accents & languages.)
  • The tribes that invaded were the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons. (All Germanic)
    • Angles (southern Denmark)
    • Jutes (northern Denmark)
    • Saxons (northwestern Germany)
england as we know it
England As We Know It

Most English people today trace their roots to Anglo-Saxons, the two largest tribes of invaders.

Modern English has evolved as a result of the 3 forms of German spoken by those tribes.

The word England is derived from “Angles’ land” written in old English “Engles’ land.” The language of the Angles was known as “englisc.”

The Angles came from a corner, or angle, of Germany.

other influences
Other influences

In addition to the German tribes that settled Vikings invaded and many stayed behind, influencing the language.

In A.D. 1066 England was invaded by the Normans (from Normandy) who spoke French.

This is why English is very different from German today.


When the French invaded they made French the official language of England for over 300 years. All nobles, royals and clergy spoke French.

However, most common people continued to speak English because they were not educated in French.

When England and lost control of Normandy (the invaders having been in England so long had really become English) the country began a long history of conflict with France.

constant conflict
Constant Conflict
  • During those 300 years of French the languages spoken by the people and the nobles began to mix.
  • This resulted in a new language.
  • German influences words:
    • Sky, horse, man, woman
  • French influenced words:
    • Celestial, equestrian, masculine, feminine
language vs dialect

A mutually agreed-upon system of symbolic communication that has spoken & usually written expression

Language vs. Dialect


A distinctive local or regional variant of a language that remains mutually intelligible to speakers of other dialects of that language

problems with determining exact number of languages
Problems with determining exact number of languages
  • Languages are not always easily treated as discrete entities with clearly defined boundaries
  • Not all scholars agree on distinction between “languages” and “dialects”

Most dialects reflect features of the environments where groups live, which is why geographers are interested in them.

The boundaries of certain words used in a country are the isogloss, and they can be constructed for many different words.


Every word has an isogloss, but many have overlapping boundaries.

The development of dialects is why American English is different from British English.

When there are multiple dialects one is often the standard language and widely recognized as the most acceptable.

The standard form of British speech is British Received Pronunciation, which is used by the “upper crust.”

the rain in spain falls
“The rain in Spain falls…”
  • However, not all English people speak that way.
  • Because of the invasion and subsequent division of land into regions 5 different dialects emerged.
    • Northern
    • East Midland
    • West Midland
    • Southwestern
    • Kentish
arbitrary grammar
Arbitrary Grammar

One dialect emerged as dominant. Obviously, it was the language spoken by the upper class residents of London and those at Oxford and Cambridge.

These people eventually wrote the books on proper grammar, arbitrarily deciding that their version of English was “correct.”

british or american english
British or American English

In the 17th century the Atlantic Coast was settled by the English who established English as the language of colonial America.

Even though the United States has been a destination for many immigrants, people found English firmly established when they arrived.

These people became acculturated into a society that already spoke English.

u s english differs in 3 ways
U.S. English Differs in 3 Ways
  • Vocabulary: differs because of the exposure to new objects and experiences that needed to be given new names.
    • Native Americans also influenced the creation of new words for American English.
    • As new objects were invented they had new names in each place: flashlight:torch, elevator:lift, hood:bonnet.


Aaron Webster (creator of the American Dictionary) with an agenda to develop an American dialect.

He removed the u from words like honour and colour and replaced the c in many words with an s, like defence.


Since the British and Americans didn’t interact easily or often the pronunciation deviated over time.

american dialects
American Dialects

New England: Puritans from southeastern England not many from the north of England.

Southeastern: Diversity of people from southeast England, including deported prisoners, indentured servants, and political and religious refugees.

Middle Atlantic: more diverse, Quakers, Scots & Irish, German, Dutch, and Swedish immigrants as well.

mutually unintelligible languages
Mutually Unintelligible Languages
  • Languages that do not preclude knowledge or familiarity of another.
  • English & Russian are mutually unintelligible.
mutually intelligible languages
Mutually intelligible languages
  • Languages of different places that can be understood by each other without specific effort or study.
  • Dutch & German are separate languages but can be understood by each other
  • Does this make them languages?
  • Or dialects?
geographer s perspective on language
Geographer’s Perspective on Language
  • Language is an essential element of culture, possibly the most important medium by which culture is transmitted.
  • Languages even structure the perceptions of their speakers. Attitudes, understandings, and responses are partly determined by the words available.
  • Languages are a hallmark of cultural diversity with distinctive regional distributions.
where are you if
Where are you if…
  • Babies wear nappies
  • Cars have bonnets & windscreens
  • Pencils have rubbers
  • In order to slow traffic a road has “sleeping policeman”
  • People end a list of instructions with “Bob’s your uncle.”