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By David Northrup (auth.)

In this booklet, the 1st written concerning the globalization of the English language by means of a certified historian, the exploration of English's international ascendancy gets its right ancient due. This short, available quantity breaks new flooring in its association, emphasis on causation, and conclusions.

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Rather, it is all-purpose languages that are the novelty. Europe was the first part of the world to promote all-purpose national languages. English, as we will see in chapter 2, gained this function earlier than most, at least among the urban elites. Standard French and Spanish languages developed a bit later, the language of the royal court trickling downward slowly through the social strata. At the time of the French Revolution only 20 percent of French citizens spoke French. Modern Italian (Tuscan) and (High) German became national languages in countries that were united only in the last third of the 1800s.

The third and most important tipping point occurred about 1990, when a series of events in different places started a massive stampede in favor of knowing English. Chapter 2 sketches the long, slow history of English in the British Isles. The account of the language’s evolution there is necessarily brief, because the complexity and obscurity of what occurred have little relevance to English’s global spread. Three themes, however, do have greater relevance to the story that follows. The first is that INTRODUCTION 23 conquest and hegemony were important in establishing English in Britain, just as these factors would be elsewhere.

Indeed, Caxton published a second version of the Tales in 1483, based on a variant manuscript. As printed works multiplied rapidly in England after 1500, many more people had access to this work, especially among the sizeable literate population of London. Even some rural people of modest standing acquired a copy. 13 The spread of printed English helped to erode Latin’s dominance. For more than a millennium, the English had regarded Latin as the superior tongue for literary expression, legal precision, and divine worship.

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