English is a cosmopolitan language. Its global appeal originated not only from certain historical and political factors, but the qualities and characteristics of the language also helped much in its worldwide extension. The most significant characteristics of Modern English is its extraordinary receptive and adaptable heterogeneousness. The ease and readiness with which English borrowed words from French, Latin, Scandinavian, Greek, Indian and other sources is really striking. The development of science and technology, the two world wars also brought a fairly large number of words into Modern English. While Old English had a pure and unmixed vocabulary, Modern English has a rich stock. It received foreign elements and assimilated them in the language. It is this quality at receptiveness that makes it a suitable and attractive vehicle in so many parts of the world.
In the course of time, the spelling and pronunciation of the English world underwent a great change. The old English pronunciation was phonetic and the Middle English followed it closely. Modern English preserves a lack of correlation between the spelling and pronunciation of the word. The same sound is represented by different letters of the alphabet in different words. The letter ‘u’ is pronounced differently in words like out, pull, and fuse, and the sound ‘i’ is spelled differently in words like he, see, deceive and machine. Albert C. Baugh feels that Modern English has an illogical system of spelling as the sound of ‘sh’ has fourteen spelling as in shoe, shine, sure, conscience, suspicion, chivalry, Asia, nauseous and pshaw. There is congruity between the spelling and pronunciation of a large number of words through an ‘h’ sound that has been introduced in words like humble, hospital and honor in Modern English. The pronunciation of Middle English (e) has also witnessed a change in the Modern English period. Words like heal, seat which were pronounced with the vowel-like hate, mate have found a change in the Modern English period.
Another characteristic of Modern English is its inflectional simplicity. Modern English has reduced the endings of old English. The Teutonic inflection of the adjective has been eliminated except for comparative and superlative degrees. The relation of words in a sentence which was indicated by means of inflections is now expressed by prepositions and auxiliaries. The use of word order as a means of grammatical expression is another characteristic of Modern English unlike other Indo-European languages, English shows more regularity in the case of word-order. In Modern English, an auxiliary verb doesn’t stand far from its principal verb, an adjective always stands before its noun, the subject precedes the verb and the transitive verb comes before its object.
Another characteristic of Modern English is its masculinity. English is the language of a grown-up man and has very little childish or Feminine about it. An Englishman does not like to use more words or more syllabus than are necessary. He dislikes strong or hyperbolic expressions. This sobriety of the language is one of the sights of masculinity.
Modern English is one of the most logical languages with the exception of Chinese. The difference between the past he did, the present perfect he has done or the past perfect he had done is maintained strictly. The recent development of progressive tenses has furnished the language with the logically valuable distinction between I saw and I am seeing, I saw and I was seeing.
The development of new varieties of intonation to express various shades of meaning is another characteristic of Modern English. By varying the intonation that is, the pitch and intensity tone of the voice we make the words ‘do’ that grows.
Modern English is free from narrow-minded pedantry. Some languages sacrifice the logic of facts to the logic of saying what is not strictly grammatical. With its adaptable receptiveness and inflectional simplicity and a cosmopolitan vocabulary, Modern English presents a familiar appearance to people from many parts of the world.