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Low German/Low Saxon is also closely related, and sometimes English, the Frisian languages, and Low German are grouped together as the Ingvaeonic (North Sea Germanic) languages, though this grouping remains debated.

Like Icelandic and Faroese, the development of English on the British Isles isolated it from the continental Germanic languages and influences, and has since undergone substantial evolution.

These shared innovations show that the languages have descended from a single common ancestor called Proto-Germanic.

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Old English originated from a Germanic tribal and linguistic continuum along the coast of the North Sea, whose languages are now known as the Anglo-Frisian subgroup within West Germanic.

As such, the modern Frisian languages are the closest living relatives of Modern English.

English is classified as an Anglo-Frisian language because Frisian and English share other features, such as the palatalisation of consonants that were velar consonants in Proto-Germanic (see Phonological history of Old English § Palatalization).

The earliest form of English is called Old English or Anglo-Saxon (c. Old English developed from a set of North Sea Germanic dialects originally spoken along the coasts of Frisia, Lower Saxony, Jutland, and Southern Sweden by Germanic tribes known as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.

Through all types of printed and electronic media, and spurred by the emergence of the United States as a global superpower, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and in professional contexts such as science, navigation and law.

It is the most widely learned second language and is either the official language or one of the official languages in almost 60 sovereign states.

Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman conquest of England, and was a period in which the language was influenced by French.

Through the worldwide influence of the British Empire, modern English spread around the world from the 17th to mid-20th centuries.

There are more people who have learned it as a second language than there are native speakers.

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