England - Languages

    

English originated in England and remains its official language to this day. In fact, English is now the official language of many of the countries all over the world. Originally, Old English was spoken. This language had its origins in Indo-Europe and the Anglo-Frisian branch of a Germanic language, the people of which brought it to England in the fifth century of our Common Era (CE). However, when the Normans conquered England in the 11th century, Old English was reserved or the lower classes, while the upper classes spoke in Latin (the accepted language of the European Christian churches) and Norman French.

Then, by the 1600’s, English had returned as the main language spoken by most of the country’s inhabitants. However, this was not the English of old. Rather, this more modern English, also called Middle English, had a distinctly French influence. Words were pronounced and spelt differently. This was made even more pronounced during the English Renaissance, when Latin and Greek began to infiltrate the English language of the day.

Today, the modern English used in England and the rest of the world is likewise sprinkled liberally with influences from Latin, Greek, French and many other languages. English has the largest number of words in comparison to any other language. Excluding its scientific terms and technical words, the language comprises approximately half a million different words, according to The Oxford Dictionary.

Image of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) on engraving from 1845. English philosopher, statesman, lawyer, jurist, author and scientist. Engraved by J.Cochran from a picture by Van Somer and published by J.F.Tallis.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) on engraving from 1845.
English philosopher, statesman, lawyer,
jurist, author and scientist. Engraved
by J.Cochran from a picture by Van
Somer and published by J.F.Tallis.

Cornish was another community language spoken until the 1700’s, when it saw its almost complete demise. Today, though, it is undergoing a resurrection that began at the beginning of the 1900’s, and is protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Relatively few locals of Cornwall still speak the language. Despite this fact, literature and textbooks continue to be printed in Cornish and it continues to be taught in certain schools in order to revive it as a minority tongue.

Punjabi is another popular language and is the mother tongue of the Sikhs. There is a fairly large population of those who adhere to Sikhism in England, and they have introduced many of their customs and cultures into the country, including their languages. Sikhs perform their religious ceremonies and rituals in Punjabi, making it particularly important to their heritage and beliefs.

Urdu is another language that hails from Pakistan and certain states in India. Because of the large number of Pakistani residents in England, Urdu has become a significant language of its modern culture. This language is a register of Hindustani, so people that are fluent in Standard Hindi are able to understand spoken Urdu too (and vice versa). This language comprises 39 letters and 13 extra characters. It is written from right to left, unlike English.



Other major languages spoken by minority groups in England include:
• Chinese
• French
• German
• Greek
• Gujarati
• Hindi
• Italian
• Japanese
• Polish
• Portuguese
• Russian
• Spanish
• Turkish
• Vietnamese
• Welsh

Every facet of a country’s culture, history and heritage, not least of all the languages that characterise it, plays an integral role in that country’s identity. Therefore, examining its languages and their proliferation reveals many secrets about the country of England.