Talk:English language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Good article English language has been listed as one of the Language and literature good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
Article Collaboration and Improvement Drive Article milestones
Date Process Result
November 24, 2005 Featured article candidate Not promoted
January 23, 2006 Good article nominee Listed
February 25, 2007 Good article reassessment Delisted
June 15, 2008 Good article nominee Not listed
January 21, 2009 Good article nominee Not listed
September 14, 2012 Peer review Reviewed
April 14, 2015 Good article nominee Listed
Article Collaboration and Improvement Drive This article was on the Article Collaboration and Improvement Drive for the week of August 29, 2007.
Current status: Good article

Content moved from the phonology section[edit]

Regional variation in consonants[edit]

There are significant dialectal variations in the pronunciation of several consonants:

  • The th sounds /θ/ and /ð/ are sometimes pronounced as /f/ and /v/ in Cockney, and as dental plosives (contrasting with the usual alveolar plosives) in some dialects of Irish English. In African American Vernacular English, /ð/ has is realized as [d] word initially, and as [v] syllable medially.
  • In North American and Australian English, /t/ and /d/ are pronounced as an alveolar flap [ɾ] in many positions between vowels: thus words like latter and ladder /læɾər/ are pronounced in the same way. This sound change is called intervocalic alveolar flapping, and is a type of rhotacism. /t/ is often pronounced as a glottal stop [ʔ] (t-glottalization, a form of debuccalization) after vowels in British English, as in butter /ˈbʌʔə/, and in other dialects before a nasal, as in button /ˈbʌʔən/.
  • In most dialects, the rhotic consonant /r/ is pronounced as an alveolar, postalveolar, or retroflex approximant [ɹ ɹ̠ ɻ], and often causes vowel changes or is elided (see below), but in Scottish it may be a flap or trill [ɾ r].
  • In some cases, the palatal approximant or semivowel /j/, especially in the diphthong /juː/, is elided or causes consonant changes (yod-dropping and yod-coalescence).
    • Through yod-dropping, historical /j/ in the diphthong /juː/ is lost. In both RP and GA, yod-dropping happens in words like chew /ˈtʃuː/, and frequently in suit /ˈsuːt/, historically /ˈtʃju ˈsjuːt/. In words like tune, dew, new /ˈtjuːn ˈdjuː ˈnjuː/, RP keeps /j/, but GA drops it, so that these words have the vowels of too, do, and noon /ˈtuː ˈduː ˈnuːn/ in GA. A few conservative dialects like Welsh English have less yod-dropping than RP and GA, so that chews and choose /ˈtʃɪuz ˈtʃuːz/ are distinguished, and Norfolk English has more, so that beauty /ˈbjuːti/ is pronounced like booty /ˈbuːti/.
    • Through yod-coalescence, alveolar stops and fricatives /t d s z/ are palatalized and change to postalveolar affricates or fricatives /tʃ dʒ ʃ ʒ/ before historical /j/. In GA and traditional RP, this only happens in unstressed syllables, as in education, nature, and measure /ˌɛd͡ʒʊˈkeɪʃən ˈneɪt͡ʃər ˈmɛʒər/. In other dialects, such as modern RP or Australian, it happens in stressed syllables: thus due and dew are pronounced like Jew /ˈdʒuː/. In colloquial speech, it happens in phrases like did you? /dɪdʒuː/."

Regional variation[edit]

The pronunciation of some vowels varies between dialects:

  • In conservative RP and in GA, the vowel of back is a near-open [æ], but in modern RP and some North American dialects it is open [a]. The vowel of words like bath is /æ/ in GA, but /ɑː/ in RP (trap–bath split). In some dialects, /æ/ sometimes or always changes to a long vowel or diphthong, like [æː] or [eə] (bad–lad split and /æ/ tensing): thus man /mæn/ is pronounced with a diphthong like [meən] in many North American dialects.
  • The RP vowel /ɒ/ corresponds to /ɑ/ (father–bother merger) or /ɔ/ (lot–cloth split) in GA. Thus box is RP /bɒks/ but GA /bɑks/, while cloth is RP /klɒθ/ but GA /klɔθ/. Some North American dialects merge /ɔ/ with /ɑ/, except before /r/ (cot–caught merger).
  • In Scottish, Irish and Northern English, and in some dialects of North American English, the diphthongs /eɪ/ and /əʊ/ (/oʊ/) are pronounced as monophthongs (monophthongization). Thus, day and no are pronounced as /ˈdeɪ ˈnəʊ/ in RP, but as [ˈdeː ˈnoː] or [ˈde ˈno] in other dialects.
  • In North American English, the diphthongs /aɪ aʊ/ sometimes undergo a vowel shift called Canadian raising. This sound change affects the first element of the diphthong, and raises it from open [a], similar to the vowel of bra, to near-open [ʌ], similar to the vowel of but. Thus ice and out [ˈʌɪs ˈʌʊt] are pronounced with different vowels from eyes and loud [ˈaɪz ˈlaʊd]. Raising of /aɪ/ sometimes occurs in GA, but raising of /aʊ/ mainly occurs in Canadian English.

GA and RP vary in their pronunciation of historical /r/ after a vowel at the end of a syllable (in the syllable coda). GA is a rhotic dialect, meaning that it pronounces /r/ at the end of a syllable, but RP is non-rhotic, meaning that it loses /r/ in that position. English dialects are classified as rhotic or non-rhotic depending on whether they elide /r/ like RP or keep it like GA.

In GA, the combination of a vowel and the letter ⟨r⟩ is pronounced as an r-coloured vowel in nurse and butter [ˈnɝs ˈbʌtɚ], and as a vowel and an approximant in car and four [ˈkɑɹ ˈfɔɹ].

In RP, the combination of a vowel and ⟨r⟩ at the end of a syllable is pronounced in various different ways. When stressed, it was once pronounced as a centering diphthong ending in [ə], a sound change known as breaking or diphthongization, but nowadays is usually pronounced as a long vowel (compensatory lengthening). Thus nurse, car, four [ˈnɜːs ˈkɑː ˈfɔː] have long vowels, and car and four have the same vowels as bath and paw [ˈbɑːθ ˈpɔː]. An unstressed ⟨er⟩ is pronounced as a schwa, so that butter ends in the same vowel as comma: [ˈbʌtə ˈkɒmə].

Many vowel shifts only affect vowels before historical /r/, and in most cases they reduce the number of vowels that are distinguished before /r/:

  • Several historically distinct vowels are reduced to /ɜ/ before /r/. In Scottish English, fern, fir, and fur [fɛrn fɪr fʌr] are pronounced differently and have the same vowels as bed, bid, and but, but in GA and RP they are all pronounced with the vowel of bird: /ˈfɝn ˈfɝ/, /ˈfɜːn ˈfɜː/ (fern–fir–fur merger). Similarly, the vowels of hurry and furry /ˈhʌri ˈfɜri/, cure and fir /ˈkjuːr ˈfɜr/ were historically distinct and are still distinct in RP, but are often merged in GA (hurry–furry and cure–fir mergers).
  • Some sets of tense and lax or long and short vowels merge before /r/. Historically, nearer and mirror /ˈniːrər ˈmɪrər/; Mary, marry, and merry /ˈmɛɪɹi ˈmæri ˈmɛri/; hoarse and horse /ˈhoːrs ˈhɔrs/ were pronounced differently and had the same vowels as need and bid; bay, back, and bed; road and paw, but in some dialects their vowels have merged and are pronounced in the same way (mirror–nearer, Mary–marry–merry, and horse–hoarse mergers).
  • In traditional GA and RP, poor /pʊr/ or /pʊə/ is pronounced differently from pour /pɔr/ or /pɔə/ and has the same vowel as good, but for many speakers in North America and southern England, poor is pronounced with the same vowel as pour (poor–pour merger).


There are several problems with this sentence in the introduction:

"It is closely related to the Frisian languages, but its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse (a North Germanic language), as well as by Latin and Romance languages, especially French."

1. The "but" after Frisian languages makes the sentence sound as if one would assume that English should have been influenced by Frisian, just because it is most closely related to it.

2. English hasn't been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages but Norse.

3. There should be no brackets in the sentence.

4. English hasn't been significantly influenced by other Romance languages but French.

I therefore suggest this sentence:

"It is most closely related to other West Germanic languages like the Frisian languages and Low German/Low Saxon, but its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by North Germanic Norse, Latin, and Romance French. ArchitectMan (talk) 17:04, 3 November 2017 (UTC)

That sentence should imply that English has been influenced by Frisian because it's most closely related to it. Most closely related means that they were part of the same language, then a dialect continuum, more recently than English and other Germanic languages. Language contact is part and parcel of a dialect continuum. This is also the view of mainstream linguistics which groups English and Frisian in an "Anglo–Frisian" branch of West Germanic, so implying a closer relation than English has with Low German and Low Saxon. Bearing this in mind I think your reworded version is a little misleading. I agree on the brackets though and that the sentence is a bit long and clunky. My vote would be to reword it to "...its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by Norse, Latin and French." – filelakeshoe (t / c) 10:43, 4 November 2017 (UTC)
On second thoughts, maybe retain the "...and Romance languages, especially French." – in certain lexical sets, English has imported quite a lot of Spanish and Italian vocab, too. See List of English words of Italian origin and List of English words of Spanish origin, a lot of these are really common words. Also lots of Eurasian trade route jargon ultimately from Arabic, Persian and Turkish entered English through Italian. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 10:46, 4 November 2017 (UTC)

The first sentences of the introduction should inform about a) the countries in which English has the most native speakers: 1. USA, 2. UK, 3. Canada, 4. Australia, 5. South Africa, 6. Ireland, 7. New Zealand, b) which languages it is most closely related to: 1. Frisian, 2. Low Saxon/Low German, 3. German, 4. Dutch, 5. Afrikaans, and c) which languages its vocabulary has been most significantly influenced of: 1. French, 2. Norse. Since the introduction is very bad, i want to change it to:

English is a West Germanic language that evolved from Germanic dialects spoken by Anglo-Saxon tribes that settled in Britain. It derives its name from one of those tribes, the Angles, and thus ultimately from the Anglia (Angeln) peninsula in the Baltic Sea. It is the most commonly spoken Germanic language, accounting for at least 70% of speakers of this Indo-European branch, and is regarded as the global lingua franca. The countries with the most English native speakers are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand. English is most closely related to the other West Germanic languages of Frisian, Low Saxon/Low German, German, Dutch, and Afrikaans. Apart from Latin and Greek, the English vocabulary has been most significantly influenced by French, a Romance language, and by Norse, a North Germanic language. ArchitectMan (talk) 20:13, 24 November 2017 (UTC)

I guess it would be 3. Dutch 4. German 5. Afrikaans, not 3. German 4. Dutch 5. Afrikaans.--2001:A61:260D:6E01:FD44:66FE:20FD:AB22 (talk) 16:53, 21 December 2017 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request[edit]

please change: Old English originated from a Germanic tribal and linguistic continuum along the coast of the North Sea, whose languages are now known as the Anglo-Frisian subgroup within West Germanic. to: Old English originated from a Germanic tribal and linguistic continuum along the coast of the North Sea, whose languages are now known as English, Frisian and Low Saxon. (the Dutch Low Saxon dialects are dialects of the North Sea continuum too)Aaron1976 (talk) 08:23, 28 November 2017 (UTC)

@Aaron1976: Not done. We need a reliable source. Please see WP:RS for more. CityOfSilver 08:33, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
The current claim can't have a reliable source either because it's wrong.Aaron1976 (talk) 08:53, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
Nevertheless, we still need a reliable source for changing it. If the current text were blatantly wrong and unsourced, we could just remove it, but you appear to be suggesting more that it's incomplete. Please find a good source for the change you want to see. (The Anglo-Frisian languages article is tagged for inadequate sourcing, and I was unable to verify what you said by looking for a source used in that article.) RivertorchFIREWATER 17:52, 28 November 2017 (UTC)

Anglo-Saxon vs. French influence[edit]

I just read this very interesting research about the origin of the vocabulary of English. It turns out that the most commonly used words in English have an Anglo-Saxon origin, whereas less commonly used words tend to have a French and Latin influence more often. Unfortunately the Wikipedia article is protected, but maybe someone else wants to add this interesting result into this article in the future. (talk) 21:01, 9 December 2017 (UTC)

While interesting, it's basically a blog, and not scholarly research either, which is what is needed for a language article. - BilCat (talk) 21:21, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
any fule kno this, & it's in the article: "The most commonly used words in English are West Germanic.[207] The words in English learned first by children as they learn to speak, particularly the grammatical words that dominate the word count of both spoken and written texts, are the Germanic words inherited from the earliest periods of the development of Old English.[13]" - in word origin. Johnbod (talk) 04:23, 10 December 2017 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 13 December 2017[edit] (talk) 19:30, 13 December 2017 (UTC)
Not done: it's not clear what changes you want to be made. Please mention the specific changes in a "change X to Y" format. —KuyaBriBriTalk 20:06, 13 December 2017 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 2 January 2018[edit]

Some grammer and spelling corrections. Lkj;lk';l (talk) 23:53, 2 January 2018 (UTC)

Not done: it's not clear what changes you want to be made. Please mention the specific changes in a "change X to Y" format. JTP (talkcontribs) 00:32, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

English letters around 1700[edit]

In Robert Morton's geography book "Geography Rectified - or , a Describtion of the World" [1] , it seems like two versions of the letter "S" exist. The "S" but also a letter looking like "f" without the "crossing line". Please see the fifth PDF-page (unnumbered in the original); the strange letter here illustrated by me by a "*" , in a few examples - "I*lands", "Hi*tories", "Cu*toms", "al*o" etc. The sound value must be an S (or C) , I guess. I'm not native in English, I should add. Anyone who can explain this letter ? ("S" and "s" are also present , so this can't be the explanation.) Boeing720 (talk) 16:43, 29 January 2018 (UTC)

It's a Long s. Dja1979 (talk) 20:04, 29 January 2018 (UTC)

England/Great Britain[edit]

It seems silly from my point of view to have a lead for this article that links to Great Britain but not to England. The Angles specifically moved to and settled in the area now known as England (well in fact Anglia), and the reason it is named so is because they settled there and not elsewhere in Great Britain. Furthermore, the rest of Great Britain were not English speaking for several centuries - exactly because the Angles did not go there. Saying that they moved to the Island Great Britain may be technically correct, but it is less precise than saying they moved to England, and borders on being misleading since they only specifically settled in England.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 09:32, 7 February 2018 (UTC)

Actually Anglo-Saxon England included the areas where most of the modern Scottish population lives. Johnbod (talk) 12:04, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
Sure, Berwickshire and East Lothian were part of Anglo-Saxon Bernicia. I don't think this is a good argument for not making the association between Anglo-Saxons, English and England, clear with a link to England instead of Great Britain.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 12:15, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
Well the article begins (inaccurately of course): "English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and is now a global lingua franca. Named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to England, it ultimately derives its name from the Anglia (Angeln) peninsula in the Baltic Sea." I see rather more issues there. Johnbod (talk) 12:24, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
By all means bring them up. Though maybe with a little less gratuitous snarkiness?·maunus · snunɐɯ· 12:53, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
?? I just did. Johnbod (talk) 12:58, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
No you didn't. You just expressed that you found it to be obviously inaccurate with a plurality of issues.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 13:00, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

The version of the lead that passed GA two years ago was like this: "English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and is now a global lingua franca.[4][5] It is an official language of almost 60 sovereign states, the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand, and a widely spoken language in countries in the Caribbean, Africa, and southeast Asia.[6] It is the third most common native language in the world, after Mandarin and Spanish.[7] It is widely learned as a second language and is an official language of the United Nations, of the European Union, and of many other world and regional international organisations.

English has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a set of Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the fifth century, are called Old English. Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman conquest of England.[8] Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London and the Great Vowel Shift. Through the worldwide influence of the British Empire, Modern English spread around the world from the 17th to mid-20th centuries. Through newspapers, books, the telegraph, the telephone, phonograph records, radio, satellite television, and the Internet, as well as the emergence of the United States as a global superpower, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and in professional contexts such as science.

There is little morphological inflection in Modern English, and the syntax is generally isolating. English relies on auxiliary verbs and word order for the expression of complex tenses, aspect and mood, as well as passive constructions, interrogatives and negation. Despite noticeable variation between the forms of English spoken in different world regions, English-speakers from around the world can communicate with one another effectively. Different accents are distinguished only by phonological differences from the standard language, whereas dialects also display grammatical and lexical differences." Since then general lead attrition has taken place as every editor and their grandmother who reads the article thinks they need to add whichever piece of information they personally find to be most imporant without taking into account the whole. I would support a return to that much more pithy version.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 12:59, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Weird and offensive map[edit]

The current map in the infobox seems a weird combination original research and misinformation. Showing countries where English is official or co-official is the default option and would be appropriate here as well. However, showing several countries with not even 1% native English speakers as "majority English" is both inaccurate, original research and downright offensive. While I do believe myself to be fairly competent in English, I most certainly do not identify as an English speaker, nor do any Scandinavian I ever met. Maps in infoboxes are for official status (de jure or de facto) not for estimates of how many people might speak a language with some (undefined) level of competence as a second or third language. Jeppiz (talk) 02:24, 10 February 2018 (UTC)

  • I think it means "majority of the people there speak English" or have some kind of competence in English that. We could ask User:Sulez raz. But I agree that including it is odd, even silly and misleading. What kind of data is this based on? Who defines "competency" if that is indeed what is indicated? I looked at the map for French too, which is more sensible. No, I think we need a new map, and what is not blue or green on the current map should be scrapped--which would clean up the infobox a bit too. Drmies (talk) 02:29, 10 February 2018 (UTC)
I agree. My guess would by that orange, for example, means that the majority has (some) knowledge of English. The risk of misleading readers is big, as you say. Casual readers may think it means the majority are (native) English speakers. As you also say, the definition of competence is unclear. I agree we need a map; either one of the countries where English is spoken natively by the majority of the population or (perhaps better) one that shows where it is the official and majority language, and official but not majority. Those kind of maps would be clear and easy to source, unlike the removed map that was neither. Jeppiz (talk) 13:49, 10 February 2018 (UTC)
Would make more sense to simply reinsert the previous map.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 14:26, 10 February 2018 (UTC)
Agree, that map has been here for years, its criteria have been widely discussed and consensus is well established. Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 16:06, 10 February 2018 (UTC)
Thanks, Jeppiz! (talk) 17:07, 11 February 2018 (UTC)

West Germanic languages[edit]

I don't see how it is necessary to include most West Germanic languages as being closely related to English in this article's lead. Obviously they will be since, well, English is a West Germanic language and therefore other West Germanic languages will be similar. Surprise, surprise. It's stating the obvious. Furthermore, I think it's common knowledge that English is related to German, Dutch and Afrikaans, just the same way Spanish and Portuguese, Hebrew and Arabic, are affiliated. They don't need credit. I believe the lead should just include the languages that are, at least, far more closer (in this case, Frisian and Low German). No point of adding all the other major West Germanic languages, which, I think, seems really superfluous. Meganesia (talk) 1:47, 17 February 2018 (UTC)

The problem is that whichever languages are excluded or included someone else comes along within a month or two and adds or removes them again. For people who don't know what "West Germanic" is it may be relevant to know that English is closely related to Dutch and German, for others it may be more relevant to have others mentioned. My main interest is that the list should be as short as possible (i.e. only the most relevant) and as stable as possible (i.e. with the least risk of people driving by to add their favorite language). Other than that I don't really care which languages are listed as English's closest relatives.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 14:58, 16 February 2018 (UTC)

Weird timeline in lead[edit]

Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London and the King James Bible!? What? Is there meant to be a "later" between "London and" and "the King"? Hijiri 88 (やや) 20:46, 27 February 2018 (UTC)

tried to fix it.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 20:55, 27 February 2018 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 3 March 2018[edit]

Add runes to the writing system section as runes were used in old English language and other language articles have writing systems that are no longer used (talk) 11:51, 3 March 2018 (UTC)

Not done Please provide reliable sources that support your suggested edit. IffyChat -- 13:08, 3 March 2018 (UTC)
Runes are already mentioned.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 13:08, 3 March 2018 (UTC)

The English language is a Romance language[edit]

The English language is a Romance language. This can be seen in the video "Is English Really a Germanic Language?" by Langfocus. The words are Romance and the grammar is not like German grammar either. Spanish and French can be understood better than German. German is more difficult to understand. Skyrider999 (talk) 09:20, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Unfortunately that is complete and utter nonsense. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 09:38, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
English: English LANGUAGE, French: LANGUE Anglais, German: Englische SPRACHE. And it has been proven through a text analysis and word comparison done in the video. Skyrider999 (talk) 10:13, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
We still have the word "speech" as well, do we not? Find some serious academic sources which stand up to the overwhelming consensus to the contrary then we can talk. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 10:31, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
The video is an academic source because Langfocus seems to be an academic. Every Spanish or French text is a source proving that English has more in common with those languages than with German, which is too difficult with its Germanic words and grammar. Skyrider999 (talk) 11:09, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
That video actually explains why English is a Germanic language regardless of the large number of words from Romance languages. English may have adopted many words from French and other Romance languages but its history and core grammar is undeniably Germanic. Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 11:34, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
Yes, Skyrider did not even understand the argument of the video correctly.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 11:57, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Spurious "largest vocabulary" claims should not be proliferated on Wikipedia[edit]

Everybody knows claims like these are nonsense. It is impossible to compare the vocabularies of two languages, as arbitrary inclusion/exclusion criteria that cannot be possibly applied consistently to two different languages can yield any result one desires. And indeed, here's what the very source cited for the claim says: "How many words are there in the English language? There is no single sensible answer to this question. It's impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it's so hard to decide what actually counts as a word."

The claim is thus at best unsourced and needs to be removed.

--2A02:8070:E284:B100:DDE3:E568:376F:10FC (talk) 19:27, 15 March 2018 (UTC)

We had removed that once when the article was reviewed, but decay works its ways. I've removed some of the peacocking.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 20:43, 15 March 2018 (UTC)