English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse (a North Germanic language), and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

English has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a group of West Germanic (Ingvaeonic) dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century, are collectively called Old English. Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman Conquest of England; this was a period in which the language was influenced by French. Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London, the printing of the King James Bible and the start of the Great Vowel Shift.

Modern English has been spreading around the world since the 17th century by the worldwide influence of the British Empire and the United States. Through all types of printed and electronic media of these countries, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and professional contexts such as science, navigation and law.

English is the largest language by number of speakers, and the third most-spoken native language in the world, after Standard Chinese and Spanish. It is the most widely learned second language and is either the official language or one of the official languages in almost 60 sovereign states.

Modern English relies more on auxiliary verbs and word order for the expression of complex tenses, aspect and mood, as well as passive constructions, interrogatives and some negation. The variation among the accents and dialects of English used in different countries and regions — in terms of phonetics and phonology, and sometimes also vocabulary, grammar, and spelling — can often be understood by speakers of different dialects, but in extreme cases can lead to confusion or even mutual unintelligibility between English speakers.

Basic English is a simplified version of English created in the late 1920s and early 1930s by Charles Kay Ogden as an international auxiliary language, and as an aid for teaching English as a second language.

Literary comment[]

All works by Harry Turtledove and Laura Frankos are written in English, although the characters in some stories are "really" speaking another language, such as Latin, German, or Russian. This is lampshaded in several stories, although it is slightly violated in others, where characters make uniquely English-language puns, regardless of what language they are speaking in-universe.

English language in "Coming Across"[]

Lingol visited London on his travels through Europe in the 13th century.[1] This was his last trip to Earth until 1979, when he came to San Francisco. The humans in both times and places spoke the English language, but their dialects were very different.[2]

English Language in Earthgrip[]

The English language was phased out of use over the Third Millennium, to be replaced by Spanglish. The 19th-through-21st-century variety came to be known as Middle English, and was a subject of its own branch of study. For example, at Saugus Central University, Jennifer Logan taught a Middle English Science Fiction class, focusing primarily on Robert A. Heinlein and his contemporaries.[3]

Arthur Conan Doyle was another Middle English writer whom Logan enjoyed. While he was peripheral to her primary field, his works helped her save an entire community during her youth.[4]

English Language in In High Places[]

In an alternate where the Great Black Deaths killed 80% of the population of Europe, England never had any international power, so the English language was spoken by very few outsiders. This English was not mutually intelligible with that of the home timeline, although it had some commonalities with the dialect of Yorkshire.

English Language in Noninterference[]

Federacy Basic, or Basic for short,[5] known to historical sticklers by its original name English, was the common language of the Federacy, in which governmental business was conducted. It was also often the medium of academic teaching, especially where a university's fame in a certain field attracted students from many different worlds, such as the Anthropolgy Department of the University of Hyperion.

While the use of English gave some advantage to native speakers of English, (whether from Earth or not), this was not greatly resented by non-English speakers.

The use of English or English-derived languages as a lingua franca long predated the Federacy and even space flight itself, dating thousands of years back to the time when all humans were restricted to Earth. After this long passage of time, citizens of the Federacy worlds took it more or less for granted.

Moreover, an Earth-type planet is self-sufficient in most ways, providing a lot of room for a specific language and culture to develop - and many languages and cultures had more than one planet to themselves, for example Greek culture flourished in both New Thessaly and Alexander, as well as the original Greece on Earth.

As described by Stavros Monemvasios, New Thessalians who did not go off-planet or get a Federacy job could very well live their lives knowing no language but Greek. The same was true for many other languages having a planet or more than one to themselves.

Literacy comment[]

Whether this "Basic" has any specific connection to Charles Kay Ogden's version is unaddressed.

English Language in "The Pugnacious Peacemaker"[]

In Ib Scoglund's timeline, the Norman Invasion never happened, so English developed primarily from the ancient Anglo-Saxon tongue, with no Latin roots. For example, the word for "second" was "twoth." Allister Park was a good linguist, and was able to learn this version of English quickly.

English Language in "Suffer a Sorceress"[]

Princess Anna Komnene of Constantinople was intrigued by the harsh, guttural language spoken by her father's English bodyguards. One word she found useful was "feckless". While she had no idea what a "feck" was, she was sure her husband was without any.

English Language in "Two Thieves"[]

Emperor Alexios Komnenos had a number of English-speaking soldiers in his mercenary guard in Constantinople at the turn of the 12th century. After his resurrection on Riverworld, he encountered a group of 20th-century Americans who also called their language English, even though it was not mutually intelligible with the old tongue.


  1. Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy, p. 368.
  2. Ibid., p. 370.
  3. "The Great Unknown," generally.
  4. "Nothing in the Nighttime", generally.
  5. Called Federacy Standard in one passage.