English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and is now a global lingua franca. It is an official language of almost 60 sovereign states and the most commonly spoken language in sovereign states including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and a number of Caribbean nations. It is the third-most-common native language in the world, after Mandarin and Spanish. It is widely learned as a second language and is an official language of the European Union and of the United Nations, as well as of many world organisations.
English arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England as a fusion of closely related dialects, now collectively termed Old English. These dialects had been brought to the south-eastern coast of Great Britain by Anglo-Saxons settlers by the 5th century. The word English is the modern spelling of englisc, the name used by the Angles and Saxons for their language, after the Angles' ancestral region of Angeln. The language was also influenced early on by the Old Norse language through Viking invasions in the 9th and 10th centuries. The Norman conquest of England in the 11th century gave rise to heavy borrowings from Norman French: thus a layer of elaborate vocabulary, particularly in the field of governance, and some Romance-language spelling conventions were added to what had by then become Middle English. The Great Vowel Shift that began in the south of England in the 15th century is one of the events that mark the emergence of Modern English.
Through the worldwide influence of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom from the 17th to mid-20th centuries under the British Empire, it has been widely propagated around the world. Through the spread of English literature, world media networks such as the BBC, the emergence of the US as a global superpower, and the Internet, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and in professional contexts such as science.