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History of English
External Influences
The history of English is one of repeated invasions, the newcomers to the islands bringing their own language with them and leaving much of their vocabulary behind. In 1066, the Norman Conquest affected the English language by bringing in French as the official language of the new rulers, yet the English language was too well established to be supplanted by another language.

This is illustrated when one considers that 5,000 Old English words remain unchanged and in common use today. In other words, the heart of the language remains the Old English of Anglo Saxon times.

The pace of the history of the English language quickens after 1476 with the introduction of the printing press. Printing provided more opportunities for people to write and gave their work more circulation.

The dialect of London emerged as the literary standard and the English language began to spread all over the world.

Today English is the mother tongue of about 350 million people and although it is second to Chinese by way of the number of speakers, it is nevertheless much more widely spoken than Chinese over the world's surface.

The most significant step in the progress of English towards its status as a world language took place towards the end of the 16th Century with the expeditions commissioned by Walter Raleigh to the 'New World' (now the United States of America). The first permanent English settlement dates from 1607, when an expedition arrived at Chesapeake Bay calling the settlement Jamestown, after James I.

Then in 1620, the first group of Puritan settlers arrived on the 'Mayflower' searching for a land where they could find a new religious kingdom. They landed at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

These two settlements resulted in different linguistic consequences; the southern explorers came mainly from the West Country and brought with them the characteristic west-country accent, whereas the Puritans came mainly from East Anglia and the surrounding counties.

New shiploads of settlers brought people with a variety of linguistic backgrounds and by 1700 the immigrant population of the continent had increased to around a quarter of a million. (In 1776 it was thought that no less than 1 in 7 of the American population was Scots-Irish!)

During the 19th Century, immigration increased with many people fleeing the results of revolution and famine in Europe. In the decades around the turn of the century, the United States welcomed 5 million Germans, 4 million Italians and 2? million Jews. The linguistic result of the multilingual setting was a large number of loan words making the American language cosmopolitan in content.

It is interesting to note, however, that there has never been any real danger that English might not prove capable of completely assimilating these immigrant tongues. The literary language has in fact hardly diverged from that of the old country.

It is inevitable then that many accents and dialects developed within America, although three main divisions are evident: North, Midland and South.

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English is the second most spoken language in the world but it is the official language of more countries than any other language. Its speakers hail from all around the world.
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