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Understanding Modern English Essay

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Updated: Jan 29th, 2022

The simplest way to define Modern English is to say that it is the third stage of the language’s history beginning after 1450. The first two were the Old English and the Middle Ages English. Nevertheless, such time-ordered division is partly schematic since the era of Modern English itself is divided into two stages, Early Modern English (from 1450 to 1700) and Modern English (from 1700 to nowadays). Linguists more often uphold the idea that because of global usage of the language, there is a third stage in the development of Modern English referred to as World English or simply Late Modern English starting after 1945 (Davies, 2005).

During the era of Early Modern English, there was a great upgrowth of science, medicine, arts and theology in Europe. What is more, during the same period in history European countries initiated colonial expansion policies towards Americas, Asia and Africa, and England was not an exception to this trend in foreign policy changes. Such a burst in the development of arts and sciences together with colonization resulted in a drastic increase in the English lexicon mainly be means of borrowing words from foreign languages.

There were two sources of word-loans – European languages (Latin, French, German, Greek, Italian, Dutch, etc.) and Non-European languages (Indian, Arabic, Malay, Japanese, Turkish, Persian, Sri-Lankan, and languages of African and North American tribes) (Barber, 2006). What is also significant about this stage of development of the English language is the life of William Caxton, a man who in 1476 founded the first printing press in London (History: William Caxton, 2014, para. 3).

The underlying reason for the distinction of era Modern English starting from the 18th century is the introduction of printed books on grammar and dictionaries of the English language. Among those, one can mention Lowth’s Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762), Murray’s English Grammar (1794), Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (1828).

What is also significant about this period is introducing compulsory education in English in 1870 and expansion of British colonialism so in many colonies, English was also endorsed as the official language (Davies, 2005). With the burst of development in entertaining industry, the English language has become the language of the mass media, film and popular music. And with shifts in the international system initiated by the World Wars, it has become the language of international organizations and international agreements.

It is the above-mentioned changes in the international system that caused the rise of the English language, and so some linguists separate one more stage of development of the English language, Late Modern English or simply World English. It starts in 1945 with the founding of the United Nations Organization after the World War II. Being one of the organization’s official languages and the language of the winning parties in the World War II, the English language becomes the language of international agreements and international relations. With further development of the entertaining industry and being the language of influential players in the global arena (the United States and Great Britain), it consolidates its positions as the world language.

So, today English is one of the international languages used all over the world. It is the language of politics, economy and global safety, as well as the entertainment industry, travel, and education. Knowing English, one can be sure that he will be understood in nearly every country in the world.

References

Barber, C. L. (2006). Early Modern English. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press.

Davies, D. (2005). Varieties of Modern English: An Introduction. London, UK: Routledge.

. (2014). Web.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Understanding Modern English." January 29, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/understanding-modern-english/.

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