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Features of the English language

English has changed so much in the last 1500 years that it would now be hardly recognizable to the Anglo-Saxons who brought the language across the North Sea. Although they would be able to recognize many individual words, they would not recognize the way those words are put together to make sentences. Old English, like modern German, was a highly in-fleeted language, i.e. most words changed their endings or forms to show their relationship to other words in the sentence according to number (singular, plural), gender (masculine, feminine, neuter), case (subject, object), tense (past, future) etc. Some modern English words still inflect, but much less so than in other European languages. The English verb 'to ride' inflects into five forms (ride, rides, riding, rode, ridden) whereas the equivalent German verb has sixteen forms. The English word 'the' has only one form, whereas other European languages would have several different forms. The trend towards simplicity of form is considered to be a strength of English. Another strength is the flexibility of function of individual words. Look at these uses of the word 'round':

There was a round table. (adjective)

He bought a round of drinks. (noun)

He turned round. (adverb)

He ran round the field. (preposition)

The car tried to round the bend too quickly. (verb)

This flexibility, together with a flexibility towards the assimilation of words borrowed from other lan­guages and the spontaneous creation of new words have made English what it is today, an effective medium of international communication. English has achieved this in spite of the difficulties caused by written. English, which is not systematically phonetic.

Some loan words

Arabic admiral, algebra, mattress

Spanish mosquito, cigar, canyon

Italian piano, violin, spaghetti

Dutch yacht, boss, deck

Hindi pyjamas, shampoo, bungalow

Turkish yoghurt, kiosk

Japanese tycoon, karate

Malay bamboo, compound

Nahuatl (Aztec) tomato, chocolate

Quechua (Inca) coca, quinine

Hungarian coach, paprika

Classical Greek theatre, astronomy, logic

Gaelic whisky

Russian vodka, sputnik

Finnish sauna

Chinese tea, silk

Portuguese marmalade

Eskimo anorak

Czech robot

Farsi (Iranian) lilac

Basque bizarre

Carib canoe

Australian Aborigine kangaroo, boomerang

Modern French rendezvous, café

Modern German kindergarten

Some 'created' words

xerox, to xerox, xeroxed

a hoover, to hoover, hoovered

mackintosh, sandwich, submarine,

helicopter, pop, rock'n'roll, x-ray,

astronaut, hot dog.

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Английский язык: краткая историческая справка, характерные особенности, современный статус | English today

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