An insatiable appetite for ancient and modern tongues

Classification: Indo-European, Germanic, West Germanic. English is related to Frisian, German, and Dutch.

Overview. Spoken in every continent, English is an international language employed in diplomacy, science, culture and commerce. Brought to Britain by the Germanic Anglo-Saxons in the fifth century CE, it spread rapidly across the island and into Ireland displacing the Celtic languages.

    In the course of its long history, English experienced deep phonological and lexical modifications that set it apart from other Germanic languages. In particular, it suffered the Great Vowel Shift that changed the pronunciation of many of its vowels, its inflectional morphology was reduced to a minimum, and it incorporated many Latin loanwords, via French, during the Norman period. The establishment of the British Empire helped the propagation of English to many countries, enriching, in the process, its vocabulary with further loans from many tongues of many different families.

Distribution and Status: English is the primary language of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of various small island nations in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is also an official language of India, the Philippines, and of many countries of sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa. Besides, English is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Speakers: English has close to 400 million native speakers in the following countries:






New Zealand

South Africa



















Varieties. British English has many dialects. In England: Northern, London Cockney, Midland, East Anglian, South Western. Other British English dialects are Wales English, Lowland Scottish and Northern Irish. Outside Britain we have Irish English, American and Canadian English, Australian and New Zealand English, the English of India and Pakistan, African English.

Oldest Documents

early 7th c. CE. Law Code of Aethelberht of Kent, an Anglo-Saxon king, fixing compensation for several offenses.

7th c. CE. Hymn to the Creation by the Christian poet Caedmon.


449-1100. Old English. The essentially Germanic language brought by the Anglo-Saxon invaders.

1100-1500. Middle English. It starts after the Norman conquest which brought a great influx of French loanwords.

1500-present. Modern English. Preceded by a systematic change in the pronunciation of vowels, a process known as the Great Vowel Shift.


Vowels. There is considerable dialectal and sociolinguistic variation in the pronunciation of vowels. They differ in length but vowel length is not phonemic in English. In Late Middle English and Early Modern English occurred the so-called Great Vowel Shift that change the pronunciation of all long vowels and explains the frequent discrepancy between spelling in pronunciation.

a) Monophthongs (12):


b) Diphthongs (8): eɪ, əʊ, aɪ, aʊ, ɔɪ, ɪə, eə, ʊə 

Consonants (24).


  1. Alternative notation: tʃ = č, dʒ = ǰ, ʃ = š, ʒ = ž, j = y

Script and Orthography

English is written with a Latin-derived alphabet containing 26 letters:

A a, B b, C c, D d, E e, F f, G g, H h, I i, J j, K k, L l, M m,

N n, O o, P p, Q q, R r, S s, T t, U u, V v, W w, X x, Y y, Z z

There is substantial disagreement between spelling and pronunciation as the following guide shows:.

Correlation between spelling and (British English) pronunciation

a) Vowel sounds

[i:] sheep, field, team, key, scene, amoeba, trio, police, people

[ɪ] it, ship, English, savage, sieve, been, symbol, build, busy, women

[e] bed, any, said, bread, bury, friend, leopard, phlegm, aesthetic

[æ] at, bad, plaid, salmon, hat

[ə] cupboard, the, colour, actor, nation, danger, asleep

[ɜ:] bird, burn, fern, worm, earn, journal

[ɑ:] father, calm, heart, laugh

[u:] ooze, too, tomb, rude, flew, blue, shoe, through, fruit

[ʊ] good, pull, wolf, could

[ɒ] pot, watch, cough, laurel

[ɔ:] ball, law, awe, cause, floor, broad, draw, ought, Gloucester

[ʌ] cup, some, blood, does

[eɪ] make, pray, prey, vein

[əʊ] note, soap, soul, grow, toe

[aɪ] bite, pie, buy, try, guide, sigh

[aʊ] now, spout, plough

[ɔɪ] join, boy, poison, lawyer

ə] near, here, beer, weir, appear, fierce

[eə] hair, there, bear, bare, their, prayer

ə] poor, tour, sure

b) Consonantal sounds

[p] pup, stupid, apple, ripe

[b] bib, ruby, rabble, ebb, tribe, cupboard

[t] toot, booty, matter, butt, rate, cigarette, receipt, subtle

[d] dud, body, muddle, add, bride

[k] kit, naked, take, pick, mackerel, car, bacon, music, queer

[g] gag, lager, laggard, egg, guess, ghost, mortgage

[tʃ] church, lecher, butcher, itch, nature, cello

[dʒ] judge, major, gem, regiment, George, surgeon, budget

[f] fife, if, raffle, soften, rough, toughen, phantom, elephant

[v] valve, over, Slav, Stephen

[θ] thin, ether, froth, thing

[ð] then, either, bathe

[s] passive, mass, cereal, acid, vice, sword, answer, descent, psychology

[z] zoos, fuzz, ooze, phase, xylophone, czar

[ʃ] she, fishing, marshal, martial

[ʒ] leisure, delusion, equation, adagio

[h] hot, hole, whole

[m] mum, clamor, summer, time, plumber, government, programme

[n] nun, honor, dine, inn, dinner, know, gnaw, sign, mnemonic, pneumonia

[ŋ] sing, finger, sink, tongue, handkerchief

[l] lapel, felon, fellow, battle

[r] rear, baron, err, barren, bare, write, rhetoric, bizarre, hemorrhage

[j] yet, bullion, canyon, onion, use, new, Europe

[w] won, one, when, languish, question

Morphology. Modern English nouns, pronouns and verbs are inflected. Adjectives, articles, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections are invariable.

  1. Nominal

  2. gender: masculine, feminine. English has no grammatical gender and, thus, most nouns are not marked for it. However, animate nouns have natural gender, masculine or feminine. Some of them make the feminine by adding the suffix -ess (prince, princess; heir, heiress) or other suffixes (hero, heroine; masseur, masseuse; widow, widower). Others have contrasting forms (boy, girl; father, mother; husband, wife; bull, cow; dog, bitch). The third person singular pronoun distinguishes three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter (he, she, it).

  1. number: singular, plural. Most English nouns have plural inflection in (e)s, others have plurals in en like: ox, oxen; child, children. Some nouns have mutated plurals like: man, men; woman, women or the same singular and plural forms (sheep, fish, craft, some nationalities).

  1. case: nouns have only a genitive marked by 's. Personal pronouns have distinctive forms for subject and object as well as a possessive (genitive) form (see below).

  1. pronouns: personal, possessive, reflexive, demonstrative, interrogative, indefinite, relative.

  1. Personal pronouns: First and second person pronouns are not marked for gender but the third person distinguishes three in the singular (masculine, feminine, and neuter).

  1. Demonstrative pronouns are of two types: proximal (sg. this, pl. these) and distal (sg. that, pl. those).

  1. Interrogative pronouns: who? (subject), whom? (object), whose? (possessive); which?, what?

  1. Indefinite pronouns: someone, somebody, something; anyone, anybody, anything; everyone, everybody, everything.

  1. Relative pronouns: who (subject), whom (object), whose (possessive); which, that.


  1. articles: indefinite, definite. The indefinite article a/an has only a singular form, though some may be used for plural when referring to quantity. The definite article the is the same for singular and plural.

  1. compounds: They have different grammatical functions: noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, verb, conjunction or preposition. They may be formed by:

  1. noun + noun: football, toothbrush, saucepan

  2. noun + adjective or past participle: homemade, time-honored

  3. noun + verb: typeset, pan-fry, rainfall

  4. noun + present participle: heartbreaking

  5. adjective + noun: madman, greenhouse, redhead

  6. adjective/noun + noun + ed: snowcapped, bald-headed

  7. adjective + past participle: cold-blooded, open-minded

  8. adjective + present participle: dry-cleaning

  9. participle + adverb: worn out, washed-up

  10. gerund + noun: dancing shoes, drinking water, washing machine

  11. verb + noun: blowgun, daredevil

  12. verb + adverb: breakdown, makeup, pinup

  13. adverb + noun: overhead

  14. adverb + adjective or past participle: well-known, brightly-lit

  15. adverb + verb: upset, downcast

  16. preposition + its object : indoors, overland

  1. There are phrases that have become compounds: mother-in-law, lighter-than-air, hand-to-mouth.   

  1. Verbal

  1. person and number: are conveyed by personal pronouns. Except for the third person singular in the present tense, verbs do not have any markers for person and number:

  1. tense: present, past, present perfect, past perfect, future, future perfect, conditional, conditional perfect.

  2. The first two are the only tenses formed without an auxiliary verb. Other tenses require the auxiliary verbs 'have' or 'will': Each tense has a progressive or continuous form made by the verb to be + the present participle.


  1. Verbs are classified as weak or strong. Weak verbs form the past tense by adding (e)d to the stem. Strong verbs do not add this suffix but, instead, experience a vowel change in the stem. Regular verbs are all weak. Irregular verbs may be either strong or weak.

  2. Weak verbs have three forms: present (talk, talks), past (talked), and past participle (talked).

  3. Strong verbs have four forms: present (sing, sings), past (sang), and past participle (sung).

  1. mood: indicative (all tenses), subjunctive (present, past), imperative (present). The present subjunctive is the same as the bare infinitive e.g., 'that he go'. The past subjunctive is identical to the indicative past except that were is used for all persons (if I were you). The imperative is the same as the bare infinitive which is used for second person singular and plural.

  1. voice: active, passive.

  1. non-finite forms: infinitive, gerund, present participle, past participle.

  2. The gerund and present participle are morphologically identical but have different functions: the first acts as a verbal known while the second indicates that an action is in progress.


    Modern English has, at least in its written form, a fixed word order: Subject-Verb-Object-Adverb. When the indirect object has a preposition, it follows the direct object; when it does not have one, the order is reversed (give the book to me, give me the book). Adjectives regularly precede the noun. Prepositions are used to indicate syntactical relations.

   Relative and interrogative pronouns and adverbs take the initial position in clauses. Yes/no questions that employ the verb to be or the auxiliary have or modal verbs like can/must, are formed by inversion: he is leaving, is he leaving? he can write, can he write? he has eaten, has he eaten? Other yes/no questions use the verb to do at the beginning without inversion: do you like pie?


Old English had few borrowings (from Celtic, Scandinavian and Latin) but the Norman invasion triggered a massive influx of French loans. Later, English borrowed freely from every language it came into contact with, like Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Arabic and Hebrew, Persian and Sanskrit. The Dravidian languages of southern India made a small contribution as well as Chinese, Japanese, American Indian languages, Austronesian and African languages, among others.

Key Literary Works

Great Britain and Ireland

c. 800-1000    Beowulf. Anonymous

  1. This epic in Old English is the earliest major poem in a European vernacular language. It deals with the exploits of the Scandinavian superman Beowulf, who battles against evil monsters that are enemies of mankind in the way of the Germanic heroic tradition.

  1. c. 1360-80    Piers Plowman. William Langland

  2. A long allegorical poem written in alliterative verse, in a simple language, whose subject is man's behavior in society according to Christian principles.

  1. c. 1375    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Anonymous

  2. A medieval chivalric romance, in which the hero, a follower of Arthur and an ideal Christian knight, is subject to a series of tests which are (without his knowledge) all interlinked: a beheading contest with the mysterious Green Knight, an attempt of seduction by the lady of a castle and an 'exchange of winnings' with the master of the castle (one has to give the other what he has gained during the day). Gawain partly fails the latter but is absolved of blame.

  1. 1387-1400    The Canterbury Tales. Geoffrey Chaucer

  2. Tales narrated by pilgrims from different social environments, that deal not only with worldly pleasures and vices but also with spiritual affairs, giving a unique picture of English society in the Middle Ages.

  1. 1586-93    Plays. Christopher Marlowe

  2. Elizabethan tragedian, predecessor of William Shakespeare, who established the dramatic blank verse. Among his works: Doctor Faustus, the first dramatized version of the Faust legend; Edward II, one of the earliest English history plays; The Massacre at Paris based on  the Massacre of  St. Bartholomew's Day in 1572.

  1. 1589-1613    Plays. William Shakespeare

  2. Considered as one of the world's greatest dramatists, Shakespeare gamut is extensive ranging from the great tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth) to the historical dramas (Richard III, Henry VIII), from romantic comedies to fantasy plays (A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest).

  1. 1598-1614    Plays. Ben Jonson

  2. Jacobean dramatist, he exposed in his works the lack of good sense and the vices of men. Among his major plays are the comedies Every Man in His Humour, Bartholomew Fair, Volpone and The Alchemist.

  1. 1600-31    Poems. John Donne

  2. One of the greatest English love poets who departed from the Elizabethan tradition to combine feeling, original imagery and intellectual virtuosity.

  1. 1667    Paradise Lost. John Milton

  2. A blank-verse epic poem telling the expulsion of Satan from Heaven and of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

  1. 1719    Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe

  2. One of the most popular and most widely translated novels of all time, its protagonist is a sailor who survives a shipwreck only to be stranded for 28 years on a remote island. He lives alone for a time but afterwards frees and befriends a native that was going to be eaten by cannibals.

  1. 1726    Gulliver's Travels. Jonathan Swift

  2. A satire stressing the arbitrariness of human values in which the hero, Gulliver, embarks on successive voyages ending on strange lands. In Book I he arrives to Lilliput inhabited by very small people; in Book II to the land of giants; in Book III to the floating island of Laputa; and in Book IV to the land of the virtuous and rational horses, the Houyhnhnms, contrasting with the bestial humans, the Yahoos.

  1. 1749    Tom Jones. Henry Fielding

  2. A picaresque novel in which many different characters, romantic, villainous, humorous, comic, and virtuous, move around the country, in diverse social settings, giving a lively description of England in the mid-18th century.

  1. 1836    Pickwick Papers. Charles Dickens

  2. This high-spirited farce is memorable for its numerous characters drawn comically and exaggeratedly and by having in embryo many of the themes Dickens would develop in ulterior novels.

  1. 1848    Vanity Fair. William M. Thackeray

  2. The novel, set in the early 19th century, contrasts the personalities of the two women protagonists, one passive, the other unmorally ambitious, both immersed in a society where people are always unsatisfied going after worthless goals.

  1. 1865    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Caroll

  2. One the most popular children's books of all time where the imagination is unbridled by any moral or social agenda to the point of flirting with the absurd and the nonsensical.

  1. 1902    Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad

  2. Based on Conrad's experiences in Congo, the central character of this novella is the ruthless ivory trader Kurz who exploits the natives to enrich himself and for the sake of power. Dark is the heart of wild Africa, dark is the cruel European colonization, dark lurks in every human heart.

  1. 1904    Nostromo. Joseph Conrad

  2. In an imaginary South American republic, politics, ambition and corruption turns even the noblest desires for change and justice into defeat.

  1. 1922    Ulysses. James Joyce

  2. The action happens in just one day in Dublin during which the thoughts and feelings of the characters are shown by means of internal monologue (stream of consciousness) often conveyed in an innovative, even experimental, language that makes this novel quite unreadable in many parts. Supposedly, there is a parallelism between its three main characters and the protagonists of the Odyssey.

  1. 1924    A Passage to India. Edward M.Forster

  2. Set in India during the Raj, this novel is based on Forster's personal experiences when living in that country. The underlying theme is that of colonialism with its racial tensions and prejudices. The central episode occurs in the Malabar Caves where a Muslim Indian doctor is falsely accused by an English woman, recently arrived to India, of assaulting her.

  1. 1927    To the Lighthouse. Virginia Woolf

  2. This stream of consciousness novel is focused on the sensations and experiences of the guests staying at the Ramsay family's house in the Isle of Skye, during two days ten years apart. The first day, the youngest son wanted to visit the lighthouse but his father opposed him. The trip is made ten years later. In the meantime World War I happened, and Mrs. Ramsay has died as well as some of the guests.

  1. 1934-52    Poems. Dylan Thomas

  2. An individual and original voice, introspective, manifestly emotional and exuberant, expressed through sound and rhythm and unusual word juxtapositions.

  1. 1949    Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell

  2. In this deeply anti-Utopian novel the protagonist is a minor party official in a totalitarian state. He rebels against the regime and is arrested by the Thought Police, tortured and “reeducated” until his mental independence is suppressed.

  1. 1952-83    Plays. Samuel Beckett

  2. Waiting for Godot, Molloy and Krapp's Last Tape are some of Beckett's major plays but in all of them he achieved great concentration and conciseness. Reflecting the anguish of the human condition, their protagonists are trapped in impossible situations not knowing why they are in them and how to get out.

  1. 1957-97    Poems. Ted Hughes

  2. An important part of Hughes's poetry was influenced by his experiences as a farmer. His extraordinarily vigorous poems stress the splendor of the natural world remarking its ferocity and vitality.

  1. 1980-89    To the Ends of the Earth. William Golding

  2. Rites of Passage, Close Quarters and Fire Down Below form a trilogy, written in the form of a journal, by an aristocratic young man on board of a ship going from England to Australia in the 19th century whose attitudes and beliefs change progressively. There is also suspense and the central subject is like a moving ever-changing target.

United States

  1. 1839-46    Tales. Edgar Allan Poe

  2. Stories of mystery, the macabre and supernatural horror, very imaginative, written with a precise technique. Some unforgettable ones: The Fall of the House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death, The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum, and the Murders in the Rue Morgue. The latter is considered the first modern detective story.

  1. 1837-52    Tales. Nathaniel Hawthorne

  2. Allegorical and symbolic, his short stories are marked by deep psychological and moral insight. Major collections are: Twice-Told Tales (1837); Mosses from an Old Manse (1846); The Snow-Image, and Other Tales (1852).

  1. 1851    Moby Dick. Herman Melville

  2. The central theme of this long novel is the epic fight between the captain of a whale-ship and an enormous white whale (Moby Dick) as seen through the eyes of a sailor boy. Captain Ahab, obsessed by his desire of revenge (he lost a leg in a previous encounter with Moby Dick), leads his ship and himself to destruction. Underlying subjects are triumph and defeat, good and evil, and the existence of God.

  1. 1884    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain

  2. The young Huck runs away from his violent father and, with the fugitive slave named Jim, makes a long voyage on a raft down the Mississippi River. Scenery descriptions are detailed and poetic and the characters are represented vividly and with subtle irony.

  1. 1871-1911    Short Stories. Ambrose Bierce

  2. Black-humored or sarcastic, realistic or fantastic, dealing with war, death and horror. Some of the finest are: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, A Horseman in the Sky, The Eyes of the Panther, The Boarded Window.

  1. 1902    The Wings of the Dove. Henry James

  2. In this late novel Henry James made a powerful study of the characters surrounding a very ill and young heiress, resorting to an innovative technique: there is no omniscient narrator, the author tells the reader only what the characters see, and this from different points of view.

  1. 1923-1936    Short Stories. Howard P. Lovecraft

  2. Based on his personal, often terrifying, mythology populated by forgotten gods from other time-cycles and incorporeal destructive forces, appearing surreptitiously in the rural landscape of  New England.

  1. 1929    The Sound and the Fury. William Faulkner

  2. In this novel, set in the South, using the technique of stream-of-consciousness, the author describes the family relationships of three brothers. One of them an idiot, other a disturbed college student, and the third an embittered businessman.

  1. 1939    The Grapes of Wrath. Joseph Steinbeck

  2. A protest novel dealing with the bitterness of the Great Depression period, its characters are farm workers who, obliged by drought, migrate from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California only to be subjected to exploitation.

  1. 1939-41    Long Day's Journey into Night. Eugene O'Neill

  2. This autobiographical play is dominated by the painful relations between a frustrated father, a drug addict mother, and two sons, one an alcoholic and the other a sensitive and dissatisfied young man.

  1. 1947    A Streetcar Named Desire. Tennessee Williams

  2. In this play, a woman, once a beauty, with delusions of grandeur is crushed by the powerful animal force of her brutish brother-in-law.

  1. 1949    Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller

  2. The play is about a man living in a society (the American) where money and success are the most important values. Not being able to get them, he is compelled to create a false image of himself and, in the end, to kill himself in the vain hope that one of his sons will start a business with the life insurance money.

  1. 1950    The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury

  2. A science-fiction short story collection describing the colonization of Mars by humans who fled from a nuclear war on Earth and the conflict between the colonists and the Martians.

  1. 1940-82    Poems. William Rexroth

  2. Permeated by Oriental philosophy and Ancient Greek poetry, he achieved a synthesis of metaphysical and erotic verse in some poems while in others he conveyed with powerful visual imagery his awe before untouched nature.

  1. 1987    Beloved. Toni Morrison

  2. This poetical novel, set after the American Civil War, is based on the true story of a fugitive slave who fled from Kentucky to Ohio, a free state. When a posse arrives in Ohio to return her to the Kentucky plantation, she kills her little daughter, Beloved, in order to spare her a life of slavery. The daughter, years later, returns to haunt the house where she was killed.


  1. 1968-2009    Short Stories. Alice Munro

  2. Set in southwestern Ontario, these stories are about ordinary people whose emotional lives are described deeply and intensely in a lyrical narrative style.


  1. 1948-2010    Poems. Derek Walcott

  2. The themes of Walcott's works are the natural beauty of the Caribbean islands and their deep cultural and ethnic divisions leading to the fragmentation of identity and isolation. Omeros, Walcott's long epic poem loosely based on the Homeric story, is an odyssey whose heroes are common men.

  1. 1961    A House for Mr Biswas. Vidiadhar S. Naipaul

  2. Mr. Biswas, born in Trinidad to parents of Indian origin, marries unwillingly into a traditional Hindu family. He struggles for economic independence and becomes obsessed with the idea of owning a house to become a respectable man.


  1. 1958    Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe

  2. Chinua Achebe is an Igbo writer (one of the main cultural and ethnic groups of Nigeria) who chose English to depict the loss of identity in African societies produced by the imposition of Western customs and values. This first novel, set in the 1890s, is the story of the downfall of an Igbo village chief brought about by Christian missionaries and the colonial rulers.

  1. 1971    Labyrinths, with Path of Thunder. Christopher Okigbo

  2. Christopher Okigbo was a Nigerian poet killed in 1967 in the civil war whose collected poems were published posthumously under this title. Well acquainted with Greek and Latin classical literature as well as with English poetry, he developed a personal modernist idiom based on Nigerian music and rhythms, African myths, his Igbo landscape and his own experiences.

  1. 1963-2001    Plays. Wole Soyinka

  2. The main subject of Soyinka's plays is authoritarianism and the shortcomings of Nigerian society treated in a satirical and, sometimes, poetical vein.

South Africa

  1. 1883    The Story of an African Farm. Olive Schreiner

  2. This semi-autobiographical novel, tells the story of a girl living in an isolated farm in the grassland of South Africa, and her struggle for independence in a rigid Boer society.

  1. 1953    The Lying Days. Nadine Gordimer

  2. Based partly on her own life, this novel depicts the growing political awareness of a young white woman residing in a mining town near Johannesburg where racial segregation and narrow-mindedness prevail.

  1. 1963    The Blood Knot. Athol Fugard

  2. A play about two half-brothers who live together in a small shack in Port Elizabeth. Zachariah is black, Morris has a lighter colored skin. They have different temperaments but they need each other. Zachariah has struck up a pen-pal relationship with a white girl but in racially segregated South Africa he has no chance of developing a personal relationship with her, and Morris is meant to replace him at their first meeting. The latter adopts the behavior of a white man and starts to despise Zach…

  1. 1983    Life and Times of Michael K. John M. Coetzee

  2. The novel tells the story of a hare-lipped gardener, Michael K, who has always been treated with contempt by everybody. He makes a difficult and perilous journey from his town in the middle of civil war to his mother's rural birthplace but in the end returns to his point of departure. Trapped in a world he cannot comprehend he is abused many times but his longing for freedom is never thwarted.

India and Pakistan

  1. 1935    Untouchable. Mulk Raj Anand

  2. One day in Bakha's life, a boy working as a toilet-cleaner who due to its "unclean" job belongs to the lowest caste in India. As an "untouchable" he is forbidden to have physical contact with any member of a superior caste. He accidentally touches one and this catastrophic event poisons everything that happens to him afterwards.

  1. 1961    The Man-Eater of Malgudi. Rasipuram K. Narayan

  2. Set in Malgudi, a fictional southern Indian village, the novel blends humor and realism in the characterization of the protagonists, the printer Nataraj and his two friends, whose uneventful lives are disturbed by the arrival of an overbearing foreigner. He dies, and murder is suspected leading to mistrust and accusations...

  1. 1981    Midnight's Children. Salman Rushdie

  2. An allegory about modern India mixing historical fact with fiction in a magical realist atmosphere. The protagonist and narrator, born exactly when India gained independence, has telepathic powers (as others born at the same hour) and a huge dripping nose with an acute sense of smell which are not very useful to spare him from the political and religious upheavals of post-independence India.


  1. 1961    Riders in the Chariot. Patrick White

  2. The very different lives of an eccentric heiress, an Aborigine artist, an Holocaust survivor and a kind washerwoman are connected only by a common religious vision: four horses drawing a chariot into a shining future (the fiery chariot of the Book of Ezequiel in the Hebrew Bible). It  affects the way they deal with other people and their prejudices. Charged with symbolism, this work shows the author's concern with man's isolation and his need of meaning.

  1. © 2013 Alejandro Gutman and Beatriz Avanzati                                                                               

Further Reading

-Growth and Structure of the English Language. O. Jespersen. University of Chicago Press (1982).

-The Origins and Development of the English language. T. Pyles & J. Algeo. Heinle (2004).

-The Cambridge History of the English Language. 6 vols. R. Hogg (ed). Cambridge University Press (1992–2001).

-A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. R. Quirk, S. Greenbaum, G. Leech & J. Svartvik. Longman (1985).

-The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. R. Huddleston & G. Pullum. Cambridge University Press (2002).

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