The rise of English from being a SMALL language spoken only in the British Isles to the Lingua Franca of the modern world is staggering.

I want to replace the adjective "small" with something else. Could anyone please suggest anything?

  • [grammar note: you don't need the word being there]
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


A minority language is one spoken only by a minority of people in a region. However English has never been a minority language in England (at least not in the last 1000 years).

An obscure language is one which few people know about. But it isn't clear that English was ever particularly obscure, compared with other European Languages.

A regional language is one only spoken in one region. Basque is an example of a regional language. You could also say a "local language".

One problem is that English wasn't especially rare or little-spoken. It was no rarer than French or German, for example. You are also writing a very top heavy sentence (long subject, short end) So perhaps some rephrasing could help. You can split it up into separate sentences. Right now the sentence is doing two or three jobs. It tells you that English has risen. That it was a small languge. And that the change is staggering. You can rephrase to put each fact in a new sentence or coordinated clause.

In the fourteenth century, English was a local language, only spoken on the British Isles. Since then it has spread to achieve dominance as the lingua franca of the modern world. This rise has been staggering and unparalleled in world history.

  • Thanks so much. I am actually writing an essay about the rise of English since the 14th century. So that's why I wanted to use an adjective that would describe it as the language that wasn't yet spoken all over the world. I think "local" seems quite appropriate. But could you please explain as to how I could rephrase it and make it a less top heavy sentence?
    – Shivam
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 7:20
  • a minority language. No quotes around minority.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 20:35

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