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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.