American English Discussion -- Page 1
Native English Speakers Today there are 350-million native English speakers. These numbers include speakers of American, Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and Scots English. Noah Webster made the earliest use of the phrase American English with characteristic impatience, but ultimate accuracy: "In fifty years from this time (1806), the American English will be spoken by more people than all other dialects of the language." At the outset of the Early Modern English period (1500-1700) fewer than 5-million people in the world spoke English, as compared to 12-million speakers of French, 10-million of German, and 8 million of Spanish. By 1700 the number of English speakers had nearly doubled, while German, Italian, and Spanish barely maintained their numbers of two centuries earlier, and only French surpassed the growth rate of English among the western European nations.
Educated Speakers At the most conservative estimate, an educated speaker of the English language knows around 100,000 words and constructions. The question that often arises is how many words a person needs to know to reasonably read representative modern American text. We could start by examining how many words William Shakespeare used in his written works. We use him because he is considered an expert on the use of the English language and there exists a rather large body of his work.