Why is English so wierd?

About English

A global intercontinental community of 430 million people

An essentially Germanic language with a lot of weirdness

Conjecture: a simple language that is continually being simplified so it can be used as a second language by adults

What came before English?





Place names: Tor, Combe, Worthy

Descendent languages: Welsh, Cornish

The historical phases of English

Old English

Post-Roman, West Saxon (Wessex dialect), Beowulf

Middle English

Danelaw, Chaucer

Modern English

Tudors, Shakespeare, King James Bible

Old English

Alfred the Great

Hwæt, we gar-dena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon

Lo, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped...

Middle English


classroom, fat-chewer, son of the soil, red shirt, code monkey, silver-tongued, pig's bladder

a blanket of white lay on the land

Not adjective-noun as with Greek

wound-hoe (sword) versus wine-dark sea

horsebreaker, blackest night

Modern English

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York

Vowel shift




All English vowel spellings are consequently weird

English grammar

Written grammar is political and hence weird

Spoken grammar is straight-forward

Except for Received Pronunciation

Word order

Little black dress

The boy kicked the ball











To create a plural in English add an 's'; because French

Stadium, Stadia, Stadiums

Bigfoot, Bigfeet, Bigfoots

Archaic plurals (-en suffix)


by, then, until, so, this, to, with, and, of

The ball was kicked by the boy

I wrote you; I wrote to you

The boy kicked the ball with force

The boy by the wall kicked the ball;
the boy kicked, by the wall, the ball;
the boy kicked the ball by the wall

Stress, pitch and poetry

Rising pitch to indicate a question, see Australians

Pitch and intonation are not fixed

hamlet, nuclear

Native speakers like rhythm ,
hence iambic pentameter, cadence, repetition and couplets

English suits blank verse and songs

Why is English so wierd?

By Robert Rees

Why is English so wierd?

An ignite talk on the wierdness of

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