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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: August 2011

1 - English in the Canadian context


One of the most notable demolinguistic phenomena of the modern age has been the expansion of the English language, from its roots as a set of West Germanic dialects in early medieval England to its current position as the leading global lingua franca. It now has hundreds of millions of native speakers and an even larger population of non-native speakers, living in every region of the world. This expansion has involved three major phases: the anglicization of Britain's Celtic population; the transfer of English to other continents through emigration from Britain and colonialism; and the adoption of English as an international language by people in non-English-speaking countries beyond the former British Empire (the three diasporas of Kachru, Kachru and Nelson 2006, originally conceived by Kachru 1985). Part of the middle phase of expansion, beginning in the seventeenth century, was the bringing of English to North America by British colonists. These were as much Irish and Scottish as they were English, thereby reflecting the initial phase of expansion. The eventual success of their colonial project drew many more settlers, first from Britain and Europe and then from all over the world. If they did not already speak English, most of these settlers adopted it and most of their children became native speakers, so that English was established as the majority language of two new multi-ethnic nations, the United States and Canada. This book is a study of the English language in Canada: its current status, history and most important characteristics.

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