English language

West Germanic language

The English language is a language that originated in England. It is one of the more widespread and most widely spoken languages in the world.


  • The gift of a common tongue is a priceless inheritance and it may well some day become the foundation of a common citizenship.
    • Winston Churchill, speech at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (September 6, 1943); in Robert Rhodes James, ed., Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963 (1974), vol. 7, p. 6825.
  • To boldly go is rhythmically very neat. The Star Trek scriptwriter hasn't been linguistically bold at all.
  • Luther is often praised for having given, in the 'September Bible', a language to the emerging German nation. In his Bible translation, Tyndale's conscious use of everyday words, without inversions, in a neutral word-order, and his wonderful ear for rhythmic patterns, gave to English not only a Bible language, but a new prose. England was blessed as a nation in that the language of its principal book, as the Bible in English rapidly became, was the fountain from which flowed the lucidity, suppleness and expressive range of the greatest prose thereafter.
  • Five generations ago, Britain was ashamed to write books in her own tongue. Now her language is spoken in all quarters of the globe.
  • The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; and (5) those who know and distinguish....
  • [A speaker who uses a multiple negative] spreads as it were a thin layer of negative colouring over the whole sentence instead of confining it to a single place.
  • The name ["split infinitive"] is misleading, for the preposition to no more belongs to the infinitive as a necessary part of it, than the definite article belongs to the substantive, and no one would think of calling "the good man" a split substantive.
    • Otto Jespersen, referring to split infinitives, in Essentials of English Grammar
  • I say looking at the next 100 years that there are two trends in the world today. The first trend is toward what we call a type one civilization, a planetary civilization... What is English? English is the beginning of a type one language. Everywhere I go around the Earth, people speak English because that is the lingua franca of science, technology, business. They all speak English. It is the number one second language on the planet Earth.
  • Fussing about split infinitives is one of the more tiresome pastimes invented by nineteenth-century grammarians.
  • Johannes Diderik van der Waals (1837–1923) graduated in 1873 in Leyden with a thesis that would make him famous. It was in Dutch ... The famous ... physicist James Clerk Maxwell, much impressed with this piece of work, remarked that it had prompted quite a few researchers to take up the study of the 'Low Dutch Language'. ... In 1910, Van der Waals received the Nobel Prize, but the 'Low Dutch Language' never made it as an internationally accepted language of science, which in previous centuries had been Latin and Greek, later German, French and English. Today, to the regret of some, all science happens in English.
  • I just wanted to say something about (...) my resentment of the identification of this country of Britain with royalty. As if we have nothing else to offer as a culture – the country of my birth. The great contribution, of the English anyway, to the world is literature and language. That language and literature is, in fact, in its tradition quite extensively republican and democratic. I mean our Blake, Milton, our Shelley, many many other great writers, poetry and prose, have been against the idea that Britain is a feudal or monarchic system. One of the great aspects of that tradition is represented by the name Thomas Paine, who is the moral author of your Declaration of Independence. In fact, one of the great accomplishments of the English republican movement, if you like, is the American Declaration of Independence. So it has always struck me as rather bizarre that there is this cult in the United States of English royalism – just the sort of thing I left England to get away from.
    • Christopher Hitchens, "Christopher Hitchens on Diana, Princess of Wales, the Royal Family, Dodi Fayed & Muslim Law" (1997), Washington, D.C.: C-SPAN, 9 May 1997

British vis-à-vis American EnglishEdit

  • It is a misfortune for Anglo-American friendship that the two countries are supposed to have a common language. A Frenchman in America is not expected to talk like an American, but an Englishman speaking his mother tongue is thought to be affected and giving himself airs. Or else he is taken for a German or a Dutchman, and is complimented on his grammatical mastery of the language of another nation.
    • Bertrand Russell, "Can Americans and Britons Be Friends?", Saturday Evening Post, 3 June 1944.
  • The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.
    • George Bernard Shaw, widely attributed beginning in the 1940s, e.g. Reader’s Digest (November 1942). Not found in his published works.
    • Variant: The English and the Americans are two peoples divided by a common language.
  • We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.

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