The rise of cities like London in the 15th century brought
an increasingly large number of people together in one
place, leading to the standardizing of the English
The growth of a standard language from the London
area can be seen by the mid-14th century, as London
emerged as a political and commercial center.
The fact that manuscript copying thrived in the London
area and that Caxton, an early printer in Westminster,
chose local London speech as a norm for his printing
style, contributed to its popularity.
The East Midlands triangle, bound by London,
Cambridge and Oxford--a populous social, political and
educational center--helped assure that its speech
would become the norm.
New discoveries and inventions brought words like
atmosphere, gravity, pneumonia, encyclopedia and
skeleton into the language.
Sir Walter Raleigh, poet, enterpreneur and explorer,
founded the first English-speaking communities in the
New World in 1584, insuring that English would be the
primary language, not just of England but of the United
From the 17th century, English began to spread around
the world, first as the result of British colonialism, then
due to the Industrial Revolution, to American economic
and political leadership, and finally due to American
In 1755, Dr. Samuel Johnson published his two-volume
Dictionary, which helped establish common meanings
and spellings for English words. Dr. Johnson's
Dictionary helped stabilize the language.
As early as 1780, John Adams wrote: "English is
destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries
more generally the language of the world than Latin
was in the last or French is in the present age. The
reason for this is obvious, because the increasing
population in America, and their universal connection
and correspondence with all nations will, aided by the
influence of England in the world, whether great or
small, force their language into general use. . . ."
In 1828, Noah Webster published his dictionary of
American English. However, both Johnson and Adams
realized that any language in common use must be
living and open to change.
15th century London (left),
Oxford (above) and
Now, English is spoken on every continent--in
Canada and much of the Caribbean, in Australia,
New Zealand, South, West and East Africa,
South-East India and the South Pacific--and of
course, in the United States.
English also is the international language of airline
pilots and of computers.
Other fields such as advertising, broadcasting,
motion pictures, popular music, travel and safety and
education rely heavily on and have helped the written
language as English has spread throughout the
Every night on the TV news, people from all over the
world can be heard speaking English. It's a beautiful
and expressive language, but mostly, now, it's a
language that brings our world together.
Is English the language of the future? Other
languages have been suggested for this
role--including French (because of its prevalence in
diplomacy and in sub-Saharan Africa), and Mandarin
Chinese (due to its prevalence in the East).
Though there are more Chinese speakers than
English speakers, English is more widely used.
However, although French is still a fast-growing
global language, Mandarin is less likely, because it's
so difficult for Westerners to learn, and because the
population of native speakers is declining.
India is expected to replace China in population in
half a century, and English is commonly spoken in
By 2050, the populations of Africa, Asia and Latin
America are expected to continue to be young and
growing, with increasing numbers speaking English.
According to the U.N., the United States will be the
only developed country to be among the 20 most
Even though fewer people may speak English as a
first language, more are expected to use it as a
It is one of the official languages in India, Nigeria and
the Philippines, and textbooks and other publications
in English are available all over the world. The future
bodes well for English!