English is a West Germanic language that originated in Anglo-Saxon England and has lingua franca status in many parts of the world, due to the military, economic, scientific, political and cultural influence of the British Empire in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries and that of the United States from the mid 20th century to the present. It is used extensively as a second language and as an official language in Commonwealth countries and is the preferred language of many international organizations.
Historically, English originated from several dialects (now called Old English) which were brought to Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers beginning in the 5th century. The language was heavily influenced by the Old Norse language of Viking invaders. After the Norman conquest, Old English developed into Middle English, borrowing heavily from the Norman vocabulary and spelling conventions. Modern English developed from there and continues to adopt foreign words, especially from Latin and Greek.
Modern English, sometimes described as the first global lingua franca, is the dominant international language in communications, science, business, aviation, entertainment, radio and diplomacy. The initial reason for its enormous spread beyond the bounds of the British Isles, was the growth of the British Empire, and by the late nineteenth century its reach was truly global. It is the dominant language in the United States, whose growing economic and cultural influence and status as a global superpower since World War II have significantly accelerated adoption of English as a language across the planet.
A working knowledge of English has become a requirement in a number of fields, occupations and professions such as medicine and as a consequence over a billion people speak English to at least a basic level (see English language learning and teaching).
Linguists such as David Crystal recognize that one impact of this massive growth of English, in...