Languages in Great Britain

Term Paper, 2001

13 Pages, Grade: 1.0 (A)


At the beginning of the third millennium English has clearly established itself as the leading language of the world. It is spoken around the globe as either first or second language and this widespread use and distribution has quite led to the emergence of several distinct varieties so that the global situation today is comparable to the fragmentation of single countries, like Great Britain, into dialect areas.

“It has become a good tradition in dialects studies and also in the study of English as a world language to consider varieties and dialects as fully-fledged linguistic systems of their own and not any longer as deviation from some arbitrary prescriptive norm. “[1]

In terms of its genetic affiliation English belongs to the western branch of the Germanic languages and is, by extension, also a member of the group of Indo-European languages. English has expanded considerably and today it is spoken and learnt as a native language not only in the British Isles, but also in North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. “According to recent estimates, there are more than 300 million people who use English as their mother tongue and at least 400 million who use English as a foreign language”[2]. It should be born in mind, however, that today the term English is not used to describe a homogeneous linguistic system, but as a cover term for a number of variations such as American English, Canadian English, Australian English, British English …

As far as British English is concerned, it is regarded by English learners in many parts of the world as somehow the “best” English. That’s because of its origins. In fact, English is native to England and much of Scotland, from where it was passed on to the other native English speaking areas, both in the British Isles and around the globe.

This is reason enough to examine English in the British Isles more closely and to try to find out more about its nature.

The British Isles comprises numerous, often greatly different variants. Furthermore, in England, Scotland and Ireland there exist what are called traditional dialects. These grew up over centuries of geographic isolation and exhibit lexical, morphological, syntactic and phonological differences from each other and from Standard English.


With regards to Wales, the vast majority of the inhabitants speak English and around 20% of the population speak Welsh. Wales is the only area in the British Isles where one of the original Celtic languages has been able to survive as a daily language for many people.

Welsh is an Indo-European language, so is presumably descended like most languages in modern Western Europe from something first spoken on the steppes of central Asia. Its immediate decent is from the Brythonic language. Conventionally one speaks of Early Welsh as being the development of that Brythonic precursor around the time when Britain fell to the Scandinavians, and Old Welsh as being the language of Wales between the ninth and eleventh centuries. Mediaeval Welsh covers the period from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. As far as Early Modern Welsh is concerned, it covers the development over a period from about the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. The publication of the Bible in 1588 established a standard of language, which governs the subsequent development of Late Modern Welsh, essentially unchanged as far as the present century.

But it was the industrialisation of Wales that finally dealt the blow on the Welsh language. The influx of English workers, especially in south Wales, spread the English language once more.

Although the future of Welsh is by no means assured, attempts to keep it alive are made through cultural activities such as Welsh-language schools and a fair amount of broadcasting is carried out in Welsh as well.

Welsh English shares many of the linguistic features of southern English. What distinguishes Welsh English from Standard English is the effect of the Celtic substratum. One of the commonly noted characteristics of Welsh English is its sing-song intonation, presumably influenced by Welsh. In grammar it is largely the same as Standard English. However, Welsh English has distinctions such as the practice of reporting indirect question in the same word order as direct question (I’m not sure is it true or not). Furthermore possession can be expressed by using a prepositional construction. For example, instead of saying “the rich have no luck” they would say “there’s no luck with the rich”.


[1] See: English on the British Isles:

[2] See: English on the British Isles:

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Languages in Great Britain
RWTH Aachen University  (Political Science)
1.0 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
732 KB
detailed literature list
english RP dialects differences
Quote paper
Silvia Broglia (Author), 2001, Languages in Great Britain, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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