Peculiarities of the English language A. Why choosing this topic??Studying


A. Why choosing this topic'

'Studying the peculiarities of English unlocks a wealth of interesting aspects about the language. 'Full command of the English language is not possible without mastering the difficulties of these peculiarities. 'To get students thinking about the way in which the language is used correctly.

B. Origins

Today, English is the 'lingua franca' of the world ' a legacy of the former British Empire's political, economic, and maritime superiority. English dialects are spoken in many former British colonies such as India, the Philippines, and Australia. English is also studied as a second language by millions of people worldwide.

Why the peculiarities' Just like many other world languages it is a mixture of several languages, starting with words of the Anglo-Saxon dialect spoken in ancient English. It has absorbed thousand of words from both ancient and modern languages. However, original pronunciation and meaning of many words have changed in English, and that is one of the main reasons for the peculiarities.

C. What are these peculiarities'

The following are important peculiarities with regard to grammar, spelling, pronunciation and vocabulary.

Unlike many other languages nouns do not have any grammatical gender which necessitates the changing of verbs and adjectives. The adjectives 'big' or 'interesting' is common to all nouns, such as child, book, stone etc. Moreover, these adjectives apply to both singular and plural nouns (e.g. interesting stone/stones). Furthermore, English nouns and position words are written separately, without any change in nouns, for example, from London, into London, above London etc. This offers a great advantage for searching words in a dictionary. Another peculiarity of English is the verb 'to do'. In languages such as French and Spanish, the verbs 'to do' and 'to make' have the same meaning. In English they are separate.

Counting of large numbers is cyclic, and therefore simple in English. For example, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, thirty- one etc forms a series. In many other languages all numbers, from one to hundred are unrelated and have to be memorized.

Here are a few examples of why one cannot blindly follow English grammar rules: if the teacher taught, why didn't the preacher praught. If writers write and painters paint, then why don't fingers fing' The plural of box is boxes, but of ox it is oxen, not oxes!

Lacking consistency, the English language has 1100 different ways to spell its 44 separate sounds, more than any other language. For a common pronunciation, there are often two different spellings, for example (c-e-l-l) and (s-e-l-l). Moreover, these two words carry a redundant extra letter or symbol (l). Many words carry silent letters. For example, the words (know and knife) are both spelled with a (k), which is not pronounced. Similar and more difficult examples are (isle, aisle, and island) where the letter or symbol (s) is silent. In English a letter's sound often depends on its context within the word ' the letter c can sound soft (receive), or hard (cat). Many words also sound the same, but are spelled very differently, for example (feet and feat); (their and there).

English has an element of strangeness. Students can share in the fun when they realise that, for example, there is no pine nor apple in a pineapple, or there is no ham in a hamburger, while a guinea pig is not from Guinea and it is not a member of the pig family!

English vocabulary also has its peculiarities ' try and explain to students the different meaning of the word 'desert' in the following sentence: The soldier decided to desert in the desert. Do you know which is the most favourite English word amongst non-English speakers' The answer is 'mother', followed by 'passion', 'smile', 'love', and 'eternity', according to a recent British Council survey.

What can be done to understand and know all these peculiarities' Perhaps there is only one basic technique: study, memorize, study, memorize, again study and memorize!

Internet sources

Gogate, M.N. 1999. 'Peculiarities of English Language', All India Radio talk, Pune Station, 24 March. www.say-it-in-english.com

'Introduction: Absolutely Ridiculous English Spelling. www.say-it-in- english.com/SpellHome.html

Metric, M. 'Fun with English'. www.say-it-in- english.com/englishfun.html

Mattocks, J. (ed) 2004. 'Mother the favourite word amongst non- English speakers', Newsfox Press Distribution, 25 November. www.newsfox.com