English - Orientation



Identification. England, unlike Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, does not constitutionally exist, and thus it has no separate rights, administration, or official statistics. The Church of England is its main distinctive institution. The English maintain their separate identity in sports (soccer, cricket, and rugby) and heritage; this is manifest in the monarchy, aristocracy, and associated pageantry, parliament, pride in their country, and love for their local community (with the local pub being an integrating institution). English poetry, literature, and art is also distinctive. With the decrease of specialized industry, an increase in mass marketing, and greater population mobility, English distinctiveness is threatened. However, measures such as restoration and protection of city centers, the countryside, and historic buildings—along with the movement for greater control and participation in local affairs—help counter the trend toward homogeneity.

Location. England constitutes the largest land area and highest population density of any of the four units of the United Kingdom. It is also the most intensely industrialized region. Located off the northwest coast of continental Europe, it is bounded on the north by Scotland and on the west by Wales. It is located approximately between 49°56′ and 55°49′ N and 1°50′ E and 5°46′ W (not including the Channel Islands). Geographically, England constitutes 130,863 square kilometers or 53 percent of the land area of the United Kingdom and is divided into the uplands and lowlands. Following a line joining the mouths of the Tees and Exe rivers, the uplands in the northwest are characterized by rocky and mountainous areas while the lowlands of the southeast contain gentle rolling country with some hills. For the United Kingdom as a whole, the terrain is 30 percent arable, 50 percent meadow and pasture, 12 percent waste or urban, 7 percent forest, and 1 percent inland water. The climate is variable and mild for its latitudes. Rainfall for the south is 90 centimeters, with the southwest receiving 105 to 158 centimeters per year, while the extreme east gets 63 centimeters. The mean temperature for England in July is 16° C; in January and February it is 5° C. However, the north is slightly colder than the south; winter in the north averages 70 days of frost while the south averages 13.

Demography. The English number 46,168,120 (1989 estimate), 81.5 percent of the population of the United Kingdom. They have maintained their relative proportion of the United Kingdom population, but the proportion of younger and older people has increased because the birthrate declined between 1921 and 1942 and then increased after World War II. The population is primarily urban and suburban. In 1921, more than 40 percent of the people lived in the six great conurbations that center on London. After World War II, there was movement from the inner cities to the suburban fringes and beyond, with the inner cities showing a marked decrease. However, English population density is among the highest in the world, averaging 840 persons per square mile in 1981 for England and Wales and rising to 12,600 for the greater London area.

Linguistic Affiliation. The English language is of the Indo-European Family. Its parent tongue is the West Germanic Group of Proto-Indo-European. The closest related Languages are German, Netherlandic, and Frisian. There is considerable dialectical variation, the most distinctive being in Lancashire, Cornwall, and parts of East London. Radio, television, and transportation are causing these differences to diminish, with the style of the southeast becoming the Standard. However, there is no difference in literary style between the various regions.


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