What are some major characteristics of the English language?

Answer

Among Indo-European languages, English is significant due to its lack of inflection, emphasis on syllabic stress, absence of grammatical gender and low morpheme-per-word ratio (as an isolating language). In addition, grammatical case is all but absent, except for its presence in pronouns.

English evolved from a mixture of West Germanic languages, according to an essay by George Boeree on the Shippensburg University website. As a Germanic language, English inherits an emphasis on modality, which is expressed in auxiliaries such as can/could, must, may/might and others. These words indicate what is within the realm of possibility and are used in the subjunctive mood. English differs from its Germanic relatives in its word order, with most sentences approximating a SVO (subject-verb-object) construction. English also has an irregular stress system where it is difficult to predict which syllable is stressed.

In its infancy, English had a more developed case system and as a result was more inflected. Old English, by comparison, is largely incomprehensible to a speaker of Modern English. Today, dialects of English include American English, Received Pronunciation, Australian English and others. As English is one of the most widely spoken languages, its dialects are numerous, although few vary to a considerable degree from base English. English's closest living relatives are Frisian and Scots.

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