Why is English the global language and not some other?

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Emanuel Hausmann English SL: Why English? The historical context 03/01/2009

Why English? The historical context

Why is English the global language and not some other?

  • Geographical-historical context        

The movement of English started with the pioneering voyages to the Americas, Asia, and the Antipodes. This expansion continued with the nineteenth-century colonial developments in Africa and the South Pacific. English was so adopted by many newly independent states as an official or semi-official language in the 20th century.

  • Socio-cultural context

People all over the world have become depend on English for their economic and social well-being. English is used all over the world in political life, business, safety, communication, entertainment, the media and education. “The convenience of having a lingua franca available to serve global human relations and needs has come to be appreciated by millions.


The English language arrived in England from northern Europe in the 5th century and began to spread around the British Isles. After the Norman invasion in 1066, many nobles from England fled to Scotland, so English spread out again. In the 12th century Ireland fell under English rule.

At the end of the 16th century there were between 5 and 7 million English speaking people. Between the end of the reign of Elizabeth I (1603) and the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth II (1952), this figure increased almost fiftyfold, to some 250 million, the vast majority living outside the British Isles (America).


The first permanent English settlement dates from 1607, when an expedition arrived in Chesapeake Bay. (Jamestown, Virginia)

Further settlements followed on the coast and on nearby islands such as Bermuda.

In November 1620 the Mayflower arrived with the first group of Puritans and other settlers. They landed in Cape-Cod Bay and established their settlement what is now Plymouth Massachusetts.

The “Pilgrim fathers” were searching for a land where they could found a new religious kingdom, free from persecution and ‘purified’ from the church practises they had experienced in England. It was a successful settlement, and by 1640 about 25,000 immigrants had come to the area.

The later population movements across America largely preserved the dialect distinctions which arose out of these early patterns of settlement. The New England people moved west into the region of the Great Lakes; the southerners moved along the Gulf Coast and into Texas; and the midlands spread throughout the whole of the vast, mid-western area, across the Mississippi and ultimately into California.

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During the 17th century, new shiploads of immigrants brought an increasing variety of linguistic backgrounds into the country.

Then in the 18th century, there was a vast wave of immigration from northern Ireland. The Irish had been migrating to America from around 1600, but the main movements took place during the 1720s, when around 50,000 Irish and Scots-Irish immigrants arrived. Many stayed along the coast, especially in the area of Philadelphia, but most moved inland through the mountains in search of land.

By the time of the first census, in 1790, the population of the country was around 4 million, most ...

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