Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About the English Language
Posted on October 14th, 2010 in Language | 1 Comment » |
The plural of box is boxes;
but the plural of ox became oxen not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
Yup, English is a crazy language. We all know that English is probably one of the hardest language to learn since it has over 800,000 words. What you might not know about the English language is where it actually came from and how it came to being the most popular language used in the world today. A recently published article from the Online Graduate Programs Blog describes just that plus many other interesting facts about the English language that you may or may not know about.
English came from Germanic roots: When tribes from what is now Germany came to the land that would be England, they brought with them the language that would eventually grow into the dialect we use today.
There are three basic eras to English formation: Old English, which ran from the 5th through 11th centuries; Middle English, which lasted until the 15th century; and Modern English, which takes us to the present.
English disappeared from written language for a while: The Norman conquest of England in 1066 established Norman French as the upper-class language and relegated English to peasants. Churches keep records in French, and novelists write in that language. Basically, English stops being a written language for more than 100 years.
English literature didn’t reappear until after 1200: Changing political climates led to the Provisions of Oxford, a constitution-like document written in English in 1258. By 1300, English as a language had taken hold again.
Half the words we use today have roots in Old English: Although Old and Modern English look incredibly different, words as diverse as “water” and “be” are merely forms of words that came into English use centuries ago.
There are more than 125 English dialects worldwide: Each dialect uses English in its own way, from pronunciation to construction.
More English speakers reside in the U.S. than anywhere else: More than 250 million Americans speak English (and it’s the first language for 215 million of them), placing it easily at the top of the list. Second place? India, with 125 million.
Dozens of nations have English as their official (or co-official) language: These include the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia.
The first purely English dictionary appeared in 1604: It was called A Table Alphabeticall [sic], and it was written by a schoolteacher named Robert Cawdrey. It was far from a complete guide to the language, and it would take a century and a half for the next step to be made.
According to Illinois state law, it is illegal to speak English: The officially recognized language is “American.”
There is a word in the English language with only one vowel, which occurs five times: “I n d i v i s i b i l i t y.”
“Checkmate” is more literal than you think: The chess term is an alteration of “shah mat,” a Persian phrase that meant “the king is ambushed.”
No one knows who came up with “the whole nine yards.”: The most widely cited story to explain the origin of this phrase, which means “completely” or “using everything,” is that soldiers in World War II started using it in reference to firing the entire length of an ammunition belt on an anti-aircraft gun. Yet there are no written instances of the phrase before 1962, and many other stories and theories have been advanced. Everyone knows what it means; no one knows how it got here.
There’s a reason typists practice using “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”: It contains every letter in the alphabet, making it ideal for mastering keyboard layout.
The longest word in the English language: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, its pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis. The only other word with the same amount of letters ispneumonoultra-microscopicsilicovolcanoconioses, its plural.
English has the most words: Of all the languages in the world, English has the largest vocabulary of about 800,000 words. It has been estimated that the number of actively spoken languages in the world today is about 6,000.
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