Language Change Notes


Notes from 'The Story of English'

Language Change - A2 English Language AQA

So I've always found this part of the paper difficult; hence, I bought a book on language change called 'The Story of English.' Here are some detailed notes.

I am adding to this pretty much every day until the exam, so they are not complete yet!

Note: the book is from quite a while ago (like the '90s) so some facts or stats may not be spot on, but there are some good points.

Chapter One: An English Speaking World 

Contains: The spread of English, Education Act, Technology, Industry, RP, The BBC

The rise of English is a remarkable sucess story. When Julius Caesar landed in Britain nearly two thousand years ago, English did not exist. Five hundred years later, Englisc, incomprehensible to modern ears, was spoken by a very small amount of people. Nearly a thousand years later, at the end of the 16th century, when Shakespeare was in his prime, English was the native speech of between 5 and 7 million Englishmen and it was "of small reatch, it stretcheth no further than this iland of ours, naie not there over all."

Four hundred years later, the contrast is extraordinary. Between 1600 and the present in armines, navies, companies and expeditions, the speakers of English - including Scots, Irish, Welsh, American and many more - travelled into every corner of the globe, carrying their language and culture with them. Today, English is used by at least 750 million people, and barely half of those speak it as a mother tongue. Some estimates put the estimate closer to one billion. English is more widely scattered, more widely spoken and written, than any other language has ever been. It is the language of the planet, the first global language.

The statistics are astonishing - it has the richest vocabulary of all the world's languages. The Oxford English Dictionary lists around 500,000 words, and a further half million technical and scientific terms remain uncatalogued. Around 1/10th of the world speaks English as their mother tongue. Three quarters of the world's mail is English. It is the language of technology from Silicon Valley to Shanghai. English is the medium for 80% of the information stored in the world's computers. Nearly half of all European buisness deals are conducted in English. It is the language of sport and glamour: the official language of the Olympics and the Miss Universe competition. English is the official voice of the air, the sea and of Christianity: it is the ecumenical language of the World Council of Churches. Five of the largest broadcasting companies in the world (CBS, NBC, ABC, BBC, CBC) transmit in English to audiences that regularly exceed 100,000,000. 

The truly significant development, which has occurred only in the last 100 years, is the use of English, by 3 or 4 hundred million people for whom it is not a native language. English has become a second language in countries like…


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