There has never been a language like English. Mother tongue to around 375 million people and second language to many hundreds of millions more, the first language of business and the internet, English is truly a world-wide language. English has a unique position as the essential language skill for the world, for it is in English that the world is communicating. It is the prime beneficiary of the world-wide communications revolution and the only language ever to have achieved global status. In recorded history – in a little over one-thousand five-hundred years - it has grown from the local dialect of a minor Germanic tribe of a few thousand people living in the north of continental Europe to become the most widespread language ever. Never before has any language achieved the status now enjoyed by English, nor could this dominance have been predicted. How English has become the global language is a natural area for enquiry.
The history of English is a well-worked topic. A survey of the catalogues of major research languages around the world – including those in countries whose first language is not English - shows that in the last two-hundred years English has been by far the most academically studied language ever, yet even this enormous scholarly effort did not predict the present success of English. With hindsight the key stages which have led to the development of the language may be established, and the story told of how English has grown from an Indo-European dialect to its present global dominance. This short eBook presents an over-view of the development and spread of English in terms of seven key stages. Each is exemplified by a brief text, and the impact of that stage on the development of global English is set out. Of these stages one is prehistoric, four are mediaeval, and only two belong to the modern world. The first five of the seven steps took place before English began its global spread, the sixth made it a world language, and the seventh transformed it into the one global language.