Modern English

Modern English

Modern English is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.

Despite some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern English, or more specifically, are referred to as using Early Modern English or Elizabethan English. English was adopted in regions around the world, such as North America, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand through colonisation by the British Empire.

Modern English has a large number of dialects spoken in diverse countries throughout the world. This includes American English, Australian English, British English, Canadian English, Caribbean English, Hiberno-English, Indo-Pakistani English, Nigerian English, New Zealand English, Philippine English, Singaporean English, and South African English.

According to the Ethnologue, there are over 1 billion speakers of English as a first or second language as of 1999. English is spoken in a vast number of territories including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Singapore and Southern Africa. Its large number of speakers, plus its worldwide presence, have made English a common language for use in such diverse applications as controlling aircraft, developing software, conducting international diplomacy, and business relations.



Early Modern English lacked uniformity in spelling, but Samuel Johnson's dictionary, published in 1755 in England, was influential in establishing a standard form of spelling. Noah Webster did the same in America, publishing his dictionary in 1828; see American and British English spelling differences.

Public education increased literacy, and more people had access to books (and therefore to a standard language) with the spread of public libraries in the 19th century. Many words entered English from other languages as a result of contact with other cultures through trade and settlement and from the migration of large numbers of people to the United States from other countries. World War I and World War II threw together people from different backgrounds, and the greater social mobility afterwards helped to lessen the differences between social accents, at least in the UK. The development of radio broadcasting in the early 20th century familiarised the population with accents and vocabulary from outside their own localities, often for the first time, and this phenomenon continued with film and television.

Outline of changes

The following is an outline of the major changes in Modern English compared to its previous form (Middle English). Note, however, that these are generalizations, and some of these may not be true for specific dialects:




Changes in alphabet and spelling were heavily influenced by the advent of printing and continental printing practices.

  • The letter thorn (þ), which was already being replaced by th in Middle English, finally fell into disuse. The last vestige of the letter was writing the as þe, which was still seen occasionally in the King James Bible of 1611.
  • The letters i and j, previously written as a single letter, began to be distinguished; likewise for u and v. This was a common development of the Latin alphabet during this period.

Consequently, Modern English came to use a purely Latin alphabet of 26 letters.

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Modern English — n. the English language since about the mid 15th cent.: see also EARLY MODERN ENGLISH …   English World dictionary

  • Modern English — noun English since about 1450 • Hypernyms: ↑English, ↑English language * * * ˌmodern ˈEnglish 7 [modern English] noun uncountable the English …   Useful english dictionary

  • Modern English — noun English spoken since the great vowel shift, completed in roughly 1550. See Also: Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English …   Wiktionary

  • Modern English — English language that is currently in use …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Modern English — the English language since c1475. Also called New English. * * * …   Universalium

  • Modern English — Mod′ern Eng′lish n. peo the English language since c1475 Also called New English …   From formal English to slang

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