Talk:English language

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Good article English language was one of the good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.

"... throughout the world, especially in Commonwealth countries and in many international organisations."

should be organizations. (talk) 21:00, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

Not necessary - both the "s" and "z" spelling is acceptable. Roger (talk) 22:20, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

The link for "Celts" in the "History" section actually points to "Romano-British_culture"

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[edit] The Origin of the English language and Families

The English Language developed from two languages spoken in England, East Wales and Southern Scotland at the time. The lower germanic speaking classes and the upper frech speaking clases. The Language family shoes it as if it is a purely germanic language (whereas French playes a very important part in the English language):

Language family: Indo-European

 West Germanic

I think it should be shown like a family tree showing the child (English) showing both parents (West Germanic & French/ Oïl)


Language family: Indo-European

Germanic              Italic
 West Germanic      Italo-Western
  Anglo–Frisian    Gallo-Iberian 
    Anglic        Gallo-Rhaetian  
         English  —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:29, 22 March 2008 (UTC) 
English is a Germanic language only. French is not a parent language of English, regardless of the number of French loanwords in English. —Angr If you've written a quality article... 22:29, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
I agree entirely. Tony (talk) 01:29, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

it does as the only difference between English and French grammar is that most (but not all) adjectives come after the noun. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:39, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

That's not actually true. For one thing, English makes a semantic distinction between the simple past and the present perfect, which French doesn't. For another, English doesn't have proclitic object pronouns. And so forth. But even the similarities can't change the fact that English is a Germanic language. (A dolphin is still a mammal regardless of how much it looks like a fish!) —Angr If you've written a quality article... 18:32, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

That because the dolphin evolved in a similar environment and is adapted to swimming. You cannot say that for English. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:55, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Two points here. As a fluent speaker of two Romance language and two Germanic languages, among them French and English, let me assure you that there's no doubt that English is Germanic and not Romance. That's my opinion (and the opinion of the academic community) but you are of course entirely free to disagree and have your own opinion. However, Wikipedia is not the place for personal opinions, it's the place for verifiable facts. So if you want to change the language family of English, you'll have to present some reliable, external sources to back up the claim. In this case, it's well nigh impossible to find any such sources, but keep it in mind as a useful piece of advice for other discussions on Wikipedia regarding topics where there really is a case to be made. Cheers JdeJ (talk) 21:21, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
This question seems to crop up very frequently. Perhaps there could be a small section explaining English's classification and why it's classified in the germanic language group. ( (talk) 21:13, 18 April 2008 (UTC))

By the way, in reason why the Oxford Dictionary's Experts description of Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff differ from that recounted here? Here is what can be found here [1]:

It is very hard to make this estimate, particularly as many words reached English, for example, from Latin by way of Norman French. However, the result of a computerized survey of roughly 80,000 words in the old Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd edition) was published in Ordered Profusion by Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff (1973). They reckoned the proportions as follows:

Latin, including modern scientific and technical Latin: 28.24% French, including Old French and early Anglo-French: 28.3% Old and Middle English, Old Norse, and Dutch: 25% Greek: 5.32% No etymology given: 4.03% Derived from proper names: 3.28% All other languages contributed less than 1%

Is the current version biased, or is it the Oxford Dictionary's? Sprotch (talk) 13:56, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

Neither is biased, neither is wrong; they are about different things. The WP article is making a statement about the classification of the language, the family it belongs to (Germanic), while the Oxford Dictionary figures relate to the vocabulary used by that language. English is a Germanic language that has brought many words into its vocabulary from French, Latin, Greek, etc. No contradiction. Still a Germanic language! Snalwibma (talk) 14:11, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
It's not quite clear to me as to what the difference of French based and Latin based vocabulary is. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this? Take the word conversation as an example. Is that borrowed from Latin or French? My guess is, English has it from French and French has it from Latin. I also speak French and when learning this language, I saw that most of the similar words in French and English have common roots in Latin. How do the reputable sources decided on this classification? Tomeasy (talk) 14:47, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
As I understand it, the OED has studied the etymology of each word, and the study cited (which is also in mentioned the article) will simply have taken their word for it. The OED could do this study using the sound changes that have occurred between the Latin and the English: the sounds of words change constantly in a remarkably consistent way across any language, and a word borrowed from French will have changed in a different way to a word borrowed from Latin directly. Or the authors could well have made comparisons with Latin and French using sources written at around the time the word was borrowed. As you see from the study, 4% of words had no etymology given - these 4% could well include those words where it is not clear if it was French- or Latin-origin.
Further, there are general patterns. The study specifically includes modern scientific and technical Latin - I would guess that there are rather more scientific and technical words that have come direct from Latin than everyday words, and that the vast majority of Romance-derived words in everyday English are derived from French, (including Anglo-Norman). Pfainuk talk 15:20, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

One thing to remember is that there is no governing body saying that a word is or isn't supposed to be in the English dictionary, so a word may be in there that is rarely used (also, words that are archaic and never used are in there as well). There was a study done on the 100 most used words in the English language, and every single one of them were Germanic in origin. Keep in mind that many of Latin or Norman-French words are legal or technical terminology that would not be used in every-day conversations. I've studied Romance and Germanic languages the most out of all languages, and every linguistic book I have says that English is Germanic. Kman543210 (talk) 02:23, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Yet one more voice saying that English is germanic, I can speak French and know some Spanish, and once seeing how similar Spanish, French, Portugues and Italian are, and noting that if you know NO German, like me, you can still understand parts of german texts. In the end I will pin down alot, not all, but a lot of English and French's grammatical similarities to the fact that they are both indo-european and happen to have evolved next to each other, also english and french verb tenses don't match up too well, something I would expect of closely related languages. ave matthew at ace ma'noya (talk) 16:43, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

I read all about the radical proposal by some linguists to include English as a distant, but qualified Romance language is sketchy, because the majority of English words are clearly of (West) Germanic origins, more akin to Dutch and Frisian than the present-day German language made up of Low German where the Angles andSaxons came from, and High German dialects. same goes to those linguists had identified Greek as a cousin to Latin and should be placed into the Romance languages. However, Greek is thought to be a relative to Lithuanian and these two branches of the earlier Indo-European (Baltic and Greek) family broke apart about 5,000 years ago going opposite directions (The Greeks went south, the Balts went north). English thrived in the British Isles home to living Celtic peoples: the Scots, Irish and Welsh, and the constant close contact the Anglo-Saxons had with Britain Celts might give an impression English is also a partially Celtic language. + (talk) 20:00, 30 April 2008 (UTC)
Don't mean to be mean, but the IP above got exactly everything wrong
  • No, there's no serious proposal to include English as a Romance language
  • No, it's not true that the majority of English words are Germanic origin, they are of Romance origin. The language is still Germanic, though.
  • No, Greek is in no way a Romance language and no such proposition has been made.
  • No, Greek is not related to Lithuanian. Or yes it is, both are Indo-European, but so are English, French, Russian, Persian, Bengali, Albanian, Swedish, Portuguese, Hindi etc. Greek is not more closely related to Lithuanian than to these languages.
  • No, English is not a partially Celtic language. There are very few Celtic remants in the language.

JdeJ (talk) 22:33, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

Can we put that English words are of Romance origin and of a Germanic Structure? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:35, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Not all of English derives from a Romance language. Many of them derive directly from Latin, then from Norman, then from French; however, the main part of the language is Germanic in origin, not Latin. A few studies have been done showing that the 100 most used words in English are all of Germanic origin, and another study showed that 80% of the 1,000 most used words were of Germanic origin, so it's not just about the structure being Germanic. Many of the words that are of Latin, Norman, and French origin are used in law and science and not every day speech. Kman543210 (talk) 13:43, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

[edit] Could we change the map to reflect the fact that English is the world's lingua franca?

I noticed that the map does not reflect the status of English in the world today. I think it would be a good idea to colour in countries where say more than 50% of the population is learning English at school or where English is the most taught foreign language a different colour. I know that for example Chile wants to become a bilingual English/Spanish speaking nation within a generation. This would reflect the state of English more accurately as there are now more second of language speakers of English than native speakers. What do you think? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:49, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

I agree, this would reflect the knowlege of the English Language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:04, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Difficult. Would need to be accompanied by verification; a clear set of well-described categories would have to be explicated. English is the most commonly taught foreign language in much of the world. TONY (talk) 11:44, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
I object rather strongly. First of all, learning a language is very different from having any ability at all in that language. Every Irish child learns Irish in school but relatively few can carry out a discussion on any everyday topic for half an hour. Another point of some relevance, how would we establish knowledge in English. Self reported knowledge is well nigh useless, I've met many who claimed to be fluent in languages they barely could construct a sentence in, but also many who were fully communicative in languages they claimed not to speak. Lastly, and on a personal note but probably common to many others, language is also about identification. I may speak English, I may even like English, but that doesn't mean I would prefer to identify with English. JdeJ (talk) 21:21, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Although I don't think the 'not wanting to be self-identified with English' is a valid reason, the fact that you can't really verify competency levels is a very good reason not to include this in a map. I know a lot of people who took several years of a foreign language in the U.S. in high school but cannot speak them. As long as it's mentioned in the article about the wide-spread use of English, I don't think it needs to be on a map. I doubt there is a consistent way to determine competency levels of English around the world. Kman543210 (talk) 02:04, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

The easiest solution would be to just colourise independent states where English is the mother tongue of the majority. But the best solution is in my opinion to try to be as exact as possible, using many colours, and perhaps several different maps. Aaker (talk) 20:10, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

I had an anonymous wiki (for "it was poorly written") remove my entry on other countries where English is the most taught language, has significant usage (many English words appeared in their native languages) and those countries have regular cultural contact with English-speaking U.S. and Britain.

<< Some non-English speaking majority countries in direct or historic cultural contact with either the U.S. like Japan and South Korea as a result of the WWII occupation, and Mexico being the U.S.' geographic neighbor, and Great Britain such as Israel also an U.S. ally and Argentina for diplomatic reasons. A large percentage of people in those countries have familiarity with English words or phrases, but the majority of people can't read or converse much English to begin with.>> + (talk) 17:51, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

[edit] Double Standards

When it comes to maps that show where languages are spoken wikipedia is suffering from double standards. Why is it that the English map uses to two colours to show where English is spoken to highlight that some countries may have English as an official language but not as their main lanugage while the Spanish language map just colours in any country where the language is official regardless of whether the majority of the population speaks Spanish or not. For example, [Paraguay] is predominantly a Guarani speaking country yet it is the same colour as Spain! For language maps to be useful they should all follow the same criteria!

Can't agree there. To begin with, the map on the Spanish languages does use different colours. As for Paraguay being predominantly Guaraní, can't agree there either. More or less everybody is bilingual and Spanish is used at least as much. It cannot be compared with, say, English in Sudan. JdeJ (talk) 08:42, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

Have you actually read the Paraguay article? The Spanish language map only uses different colours for the US where Spanish is not an official language! There are many English speakers living in Germany but no one would think of colouring it in unlike the Spanish language map which colours in US states. Before posting a comment you should double check your information is accurate. I was referring to countries where Spanish is an official language but is in fact not the main language used.

In Paraguay Guarani is spoken by 90% of the population while Spanish is spoken by 75% of the population —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:44, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

[edit] Irrelevant?

In order to prove that English retains a Germanic intonation and phonology, a user claimed that "Native speakers of Romance languages, for example, who do not understand any Germanic languages, often still cannot distinguish between spoken English and Dutch.". The claim lacks sources, but what would it prove even if sourced? I've experienced plenty of native speakers of English (a Germanic language) unable to distinguish between Swedish (also Germanic) and Japanese, believe it or not. And I've experienced native speakers of many languages, among them many English and German, completely unable to tell the difference between Italian (Romance and Indo-European) and Finnish (Finnic and Finno-Ugric). The only thing that tells us it that people who don't speak a language usually don't recognise it. Sure, people may recognise a language with tones from one without, but would they be able to tell the difference between Chinese and the unrelated Vietnamese or Thai languages? So I cannot see what the statement would prove, but I'd appreciate imput if someone else can. JdeJ (talk) 21:11, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Slightly off-topic but I would instantly tell Swedish from Japanese, take it from me. And I would easily tell Korean from Japanese or Chinese - they all sound very different. Just wanted to share my personal experience. --RokasT (talk) 10:54, 19 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm sure you would, but I dare to say most native English speakers wouldn't. I've even seen it tested. If you don't see the speaker, it seems to be a random guess. If you see a Japanese person speaking Swedish or a Swedish person speaking Japanese, almost everybody gets it wrong. Telling apart languages we don't know at all is almost impossible; most people just judge by the appearance of the speaker. JdeJ (talk) 08:19, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

The discussion about exotic languages is senceless. In Europe and in North America almost everyone can distinguish a Germanic language from a Romance language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:46, 2 May 2008 (UTC)

How is Swedish an exotic language?! Ciobanica (talk) 08:04, 19 May 2008 (UTC)
I guess by the strict definition of "exotic": of foreign origin or character; not native, any language that is not your native language would be exotic. I would never call any language exotic; it would just be "foreign". All linguist classify English as Germanic, so the whole discussion of whether English is Germanic or Romance seems moot to me. Kman543210 (talk) 08:17, 19 May 2008 (UTC)

In Europe there are basically three major groups of languages:

  1. Romance: Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian
  2. Germanic: German, Dutch, Flemish, English, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish
  3. Slavic: Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech and Slovac, Serbian, Croatian and Bulgarian —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:58, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

[edit] Wrong Example Provided

In the section Vocabulary, there are examples of Latin, Greek and Sanskrit words which are cognates with English words to illustrate that English is Indo-European in origin.

However, the Greek example oios, duo, treis is wrong because oios means not "one" but "only, single". If you want "one" in Greek than it is "heis (m), mia (f), hen (n)". --RokasT (talk) 10:54, 19 April 2008 (UTC)

Is that modern or ancient greek? ( (talk) 09:40, 20 April 2008 (UTC))
Ancient, but the point is that when listing cognates, it's important to list words that are actually cognates, not words that are necessarily exact synonyms. Giving heis, mia, hen would be silly, because the point is to show a Greek cognate of one are, not a Greek synonym of one. The most direct cognate of one in Greek is oinos "an ace (on dice)", so I changed it to that and glossed it. —Angr 16:30, 20 April 2008 (UTC)
What you are telling me is known to me. "heis, mia, hen" are slightly obscured by the phonological evolution of the Greek language but the root en- is obvious enough for anyone to draw a correct conclusion as it corresponds perfectly to the Latin un-us and German ein, etc.

If you find oinos to be a better example, feel free to use it. --RokasT (talk) 20:13, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

Heis, mia, hen is from the PIE root *sem- (in particular, heis < *sem-s, mia < *sm-ih2, hen < *sem), so it's related to English same and some, but not to one. —Angr 16:55, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Apparently this is the case. I made a little mistake concerning etymology of one in Ancient Greek. Thanks for corrections anyway. --RokasT (talk) 12:37, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

[edit] Number of words

In the "Number of words in English" section it would be nice to see some information about the the number of different words that an average person actually uses. I guess these would have to be ballpark ranges, probably with separate estimates for "educated" people and people of that other type, and perhaps for spoken and written English. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:07, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

[edit] Original research or just trolling?

I'm having a hard time deciding if the editors repeatedly inserting the link to an extreme fringe theory are acting in good faith and really don't know better or if they are just trolling. Assuming WP:FAITH, I hope it's the former. It should be obvious to anyone that a lunch presentation at Rotary in Munich is not a reliable and good source. Rotary has got many merits, but being a recognised academic institution for linguistics is not among them. If the misguided users only interest is to find a source for the Brythonic substratum in English, there are many much better sources available. If they want to sneak in a link to the fringe theory about a Semitic substratum by linking it to a more respectable theory, they are simply being dishonest. Whatever the case, I hope they read up on Wikipedia policies, especially those about sources. JdeJ (talk) 23:05, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

While I'm not (yet) doubting their WP:FAITH, this source really doesn't belong here (unlike the other source on the Celtic substratum, which is perfectly professional). Any source that claims that "Semitic peoples founded a great civilisation in the British Isles" (or similar) is clearly WP:FRINGE. In addition, the repeated statement that "English is a German dialect, a Low German dialect" (I thought it said "English is a Germanic dialect", as did Neblousity when he added it, until I read it over) is just wrong on both counts (English is Anglo-Frisian, not Low German). It's like saying that French is a dialect of Italian.--Yolgnu (talk) 23:30, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

I have protected the page from editing until this dispute is solved here on the talk page. —Angr 06:08, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

The reason I think this source should stay is because it's one the most in-depth articles I've seen on some of the underlying differences between English and Insular Celtic and the PIE descended languages on the continent. For example, on the external possessor construction, which was present in Old English, but absent in Modern English. The fact that he puts forward the semitic substrate theory, to explain those differences, is not a reason to discredit the whole article in my opinion. I have no agenda to push that particular theory though. (Nebulousity (talk) 11:52, 27 April 2008 (UTC))
Please understand that although an in-depth source is good, the source should be credible as well. If I would write an even more extensive piece on the same subject, claim that the reason is the English is the language of the moon and the publish it on the web-page of a tennis club in in Monglia, should we include that as well. No matter how extensive the source is, it's credibility is zero. A fringe theory on the web-page of the rotary club in Munich is not a credible source. JdeJ (talk) 18:24, 27 April 2008 (UTC)
Okay, although I think the issue is being exaggerated a bit, if the concensus is that it's not a credible enough source then so be it. No need to keep the page locked because of this. (Nebulousity (talk) 18:40, 27 April 2008 (UTC))
Is anything known about the pretenter/author of the talk to the Rotary club? It is possible (though not very likely) that he/she is a highly respected academic linguist.
Should a presentation by Steven Hawking about Black Holes be disregarded just because he happened to be speaking to a suburban book club rather than a NASA sponsored international conference? The venue per se should not be taken as the only determinant of credibility. Roger (talk) 16:12, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

The Angles and Saxons that landed at their time in England didn't speak Germanic dialects, but Low German dialects. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:00, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Actually they spoke Anglo-Frisian dialects, not Low German dialects, but both Anglo-Frisian and Low German are Germanic. —Angr 05:52, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

[edit] Word origins

In the article has been stated that the words of Germanic origin have a percentage of 25 %. I suppose that in this statistic have not been included composed words (like: go in, go out, go up, go down, go on, go through, go back, go away, etc.). But exactly this compounds can be found very often in all Germanic languages, and each of them has its own meaning. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:05, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

Good point, but I don't think those are counted as seperate words. ( (talk) 07:31, 12 May 2008 (UTC))

In this case the statistic is not accurate, because the Romance synonyms like: ascend (go up), descend (go down), are all counted. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:48, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

[edit] Belize

Belize is coulored dark blue in the Geographic Distribution map of English language, where the countries in which people speak English as their first language are shown in dak blue but I think that people there don't speak it as their mother tongue. They speak further more Belizean créole, Spanish and Mayan languages as a first language although English is the major second language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:54, 22 May 2008 (UTC)