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The 19th and 20th centuries in English

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After Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in 1805 Britain gained control over the oceans and British ships sailed around the world seeking new spheres of dominance. Also, many new words were imported from a great number of languages and gradually assimilated into English.

The nineteenth century brought many words derived from other languages, among which we can mention Indian (cashmere, pyjamas, polo), Chinese (kow-tow, chin-chin), Japanese (harakiri, samurai, geisha), Malay (sarong, dugong, raffia) and many others. More significant role was played by borrowings from French ? they mostly belong to the arts, food, fashion and politics. Italian brought music terms (piccolo, diva, sestet, vibrato, etc.) and words from other fields (mafia, fiasco, risotto, spaghetti). Spanish words in English are: cafeteria, patio, tango. Some terms were also borrowed from Dutch and African languages.

Not only were the words borrowed from other languages, but also English was spread over other lands. After the First World War Britain domineered about one sixth of the world, including such countries as Canada, Nigeria and South Africa as well as numerous minor islands. About the quarter of the population lived in the countries influenced by British empire.

In the nineteenth century Standard English with Received Pronunciation, which was popular especially in the south of England, became a synonym of being educated. This variety of English excluded all regional features of the language. At the end of the century almost all schools taught the same RP accent to people of all social classes. Among common people, a classification according to the language used took place. The new and old generation used different varietes of the language at different occasions.

Many grammatical developments also occurred, for instance the use of passive voice, new -ing forms and expressions like ?a friend of mine?. For the first time language scholars were provided with an authoritative dictionary, which was published by Oxford University Press.

(based on D. Taitt: "The Shaping of English". Progress, Kraków 1996)

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