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23 September 2014
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English today
The birth of English
The spread of English

English today by Professor Peter Trudgill

In the British Isles, it is safe to say that the entire indigenous population can speak English, even if a proportion of them are bilingual in some other language.

The major dialect division in Britain used to be between Scotland, Northumberland, Durham, Cumbria and northern Lancashire and Yorkshire, on the one hand, and areas to the south, on the other. Today, however, as traditional dialects are dying out, this major boundary has shifted for most speakers to the England-Scotland border. The growing importance of urban speech in the formation of modern dialects of British English reflects the changing demographic, transport and economic situation.

The emerging dialect pattern is currently one of a division of the major regional varieties of English into two groups: seven major city-based regions of Newcastle, South Yorkshire, Manchester, Liverpool, East Midlands, Birmingham, and London; and six more rural relic areas of North Lancashire and the Lake District, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, the Welsh Marches, and Cornwall and Devon. In Scotland and Northern Ireland dialects are surviving more strongly, but the growth of dialect areas around Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Belfast can also be observed.

Outside the British Isles, English is now the most widely used lingua franca - language of communication between speakers who do not have a native language in common - in the world, and there are now more speakers of English as a foreign language than mother-tongue speakers: there are perhaps 600 million proficient non-native speakers as opposed to about 400 million native speakers. In addition, there are about 90 million speakers of English as a Second Language.

In countries where English is a Second Language, such as India, Nigeria, Kenya, Hong Kong, and many others, English has some form of official status, is used as a lingua franca amongst the educated classes, and is widely employed in the education system and in the media. Many educated speakers in such countries will use English as their primary language i.e. the language they use most, even if it is not their first i.e. native language. This means that many immigrants from countries of this type to the United Kingdom are as fluent in English as native speakers, even if they do not necessarily use Engish for domestic purposes.


Your Comments
What is your experience of English?

Veronica Sutcliffe from Nottingham
What a shame thatthe old expressions are dying out. My mother and Grandmother had some quaint ones that we all used and never questioned but where they came from I've no idea. Some of the more regularly used ones were; "Throng as Throp's wife" - meaning very busy "Throng" or "Thronged" about a place meant it was busy - as in "The market was really throng today" "Kaled" - meaning someone stopping you from getting on - as in "I would have been back sooner but Mrs so and so kaled me" "All wacked up" - a girl or woman going out with all her make up on "Getting wacked up" - putting on makeup "Dressed up to the nines" - girl or woman dressed up in her best. "Dunican" - Toilet - this expression was used by my father who came from the south. "Chuntering" - moaning under the breath "Young jockey" - fond expression for a child who has done something amusing "Mardy" - child who is being a pain or crying for nothing "Snap" - food taken to work "Snap tin" - tin to take food to work in "Put a spurt on" - to hurry up "Get your/my skates on" - to hurry up "Get cracking" - hurry up - as in "I shall have to get cracking or I'll not get finished. "Clemmed" or "Clemmed to death" - this had two meanings it was either to mean the person was very cold or very hungry as in - "Dinner's just about ready, you must be fair clemmed" I could go on and on about all the words that my mother and grandmother used. What a pity they are going out of use. It makes for such a rich colourful heritage and so interesting to hear all the different local variations. I would be interested to know if anyone else used "Throng as Throp's wife" and where it originated from. Also where "kaled" came from.

John, Nürnberg
My Dad used two expressions that still fascinate me; Coughing me rops up. No one has ever been able to tell me what a rop is. The second is working me tripes off/out. Of course tripe can be simply translated as guts, but I have never heard anyone else use this term.

Colin from Harrogate
More West Riding words - callin' (first vowel rhymes with pal)- chatting or gossiping, rootin' - looking for something, typically in a drawer.

Arthur Heslop from Coundon ,County Durham
Anyone heard these before, "There's thou is "this means there you are. Parney(rain) Juckle(dog) Gallower(horse) Cowey(anything) D (dead) Jasper (monkey) I'll be to dig outa yer (i want to fight you).

Anne from Canada-formerly Sheffield
Having been in Canada for more than thirty years I didn't think I still had an accent but my Canadian husband is always picking me up on certin words that I say like mardy,clever clogs, whats up wi you. I'm due for a trip and can't wait to hear that slang again.

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