- Accessing National Library Board Singapore Resources
English is the most widely spoken language in the world with over 360 million native speakers and more than 750 million second language learners. It is the international lingua franca for social, cultural, scholarly and business discourse among people of different countries and continents.
English is the official language of more than 60 sovereign states, ranging from Botswana and Cameroon in the African continent to Fiji in Oceania and Ireland in the European continent to Trinidad and Tobago in North America. It is also one of the official languages for non-sovereign entities such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands in America, Christmas Island and Pitcairn Islands in Oceania, Hong Kong in Asia and Gibraltar and the Isle of Man in Europe.
This guide provides resources that cover the structure, development and functions of the English language that are available at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library as well as on the Internet. As the guide is not intended to be comprehensive, interested readers should search the NLB catalogue or the Internet for more resources.
|Search Terms||Call Number|
|English language – history||420; 420.9; 427|
|English language – phonology||414; 421.5|
|English language – grammar||428.007; 428.2|
|English language – vocabulary||428.1; 428.1071|
|English language – lexicography; dictionary||423; 423.028; 423.092|
The history of the English language can be traced back to the 5th century A.D. invasion of Britain by three Germanic tribes from Germany and Denmark – the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. Celtic was the spoken language among the British of the period and the original inhabitants were driven West and North, towards lands that are now known as Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
The Germanic tribes spoke a language which evolved to become Old English (450-1100 A.D.). Britain was again invaded in 1066 by William the Conqueror from Normandy, who introduced French into the English language, which became Middle English, and was spoken until around the 15th century.
A change in the pronunciation of English towards the end of the 15th century resulted in vowels being shortened. New words and phrases were also introduced into the English language, transforming it into Early Modern English (1600-1800).
The English spoken today is known as Late Modern English, which had its roots in the turn of the 19th century, as many foreign words began to be adopted into the English vernacular and new words were created arising from the industrial revolution and the widespread application of technology. A list of print materials listed below, together with online resources, provides more information on the history of the English Language.
- Denison, D. & Miura, A. (Eds.) (2012). Analysing older English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Call no.: R 427 ANA
The editors discuss and suggest solutions to problems in the phonology, syntax, dialectology and onomastics of older English.
- Durkin, P. (2014). Borrowed words: A history of loanwords in English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Call no.: R 422.03 DUR
The book uncovers the origins of loanwords and how they have evolved ever since.
- Gooden, P. (2010). The story of English: How the English language conquered the world. London: Quercus.
Call no.: R 420.9 GOO
Gooden traces the origins of English and focuses on its transformation through the ages. It is beautifully illustrated and accompanied by colour photographs.
- Hurford, J. R. (2012). The origins of grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Call no.: R 415.09 HUR
Hurford examines the biological evolution of language, covering the communication pattern of animals, the transformation of grammar and the growth of human language.
- McCrum, R. (2010). Globish: How the English language became the world’s language. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Call no.: R 420.9 MAC
McCrum examines how English has become the dominant lingua franca in the world today, arising from historical events and circumstances and its gradual modification in different parts of the world to become ‘Globish’.
- BBC. (2014). Ages of English timeline. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/launch_tl_ages_english.shtml
This interactive flash timeline application presents the historical evolution of the English language in a fun and attractive manner, as it fleshes out major events that impacted the development of the language.
- British Library Board. (n.d.). English timeline. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from British Library website: http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/changlang/across/languagetimeline.html
This interactive timeline informs visitors of important chapters in the history of the English language, with examples of words that originated from the different time periods.
- British Library Board. (n.d.). Language and the written word. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from British Library website: http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/changlang/writtenword/writtenwordtimeline.html
This webpage enables visitors to view sample texts from the Old, Middle and Modern English eras.
- Harper, D. (2017). Online etymology dictionary. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from Etymonline website: http://www.etymonline.com/
This website houses a database of English etymology, which is the study of a word’s history and its evolution. Users can search for specific words to learn about their origins, historical usage, and related words.
- Towson University. (2010, April 11). Links to history of the English language resources. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from Towson University website: http://pages.towson.edu/duncan/hellinks.html
This website contains an extensive directory of resources on the evolution of the English language, from its Indo-European and Germanic roots through Old, Middle, and finally Modern English. There are many audio recordings of the historical English language being spoken.
Phonology is the ‘grammar of sound’ and studies the sound system (speech sounds/patterns or phonemes) in a language. The sound system is made up of the pronunciation of words and the prosody (pitch, loudness). In most languages, there is a set of rules that govern how sounds relate to one another, determining for example, which sounds can be combined and in what sequential order.
Being phonologically aware means that one understands how speech can be segmented and manipulated and hence is useful for developing literacy and in enhancing one’s reading ability.
- Cruttenden, A. (2014). Gimson’s pronunciation of English. London: Routledge.
Call no.: R 421.58 CRU
This book serves as an essential text for students and teachers of English pronunciation. Contents are divided into three parts: Speech and language, The sound of English, and Words and connected speech.
- Ladefoged, P. & Johnson, K. (2011). A course in phonetics. Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Call no.: R 414.8 LAD
This text provides a good foundation to learn about English language phonetics, with tips on how to identify and articulate different sounds. The accompanying CD enables one to practice speech sounds and various exercises in the book.
- British Council & BBC World Service. (n.d.). Phonemic chart. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from British Council & BBC World Service website: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/activities/phonemic-chart
Visitors to this website can download the British Council phonemic chart and hear the sounds used in the English language for consonants and vowels by clicking on each of the square tiles on the chart. (Note: Adobe Flash Player is required when downloading the chart to a desktop computer.)
- WETA Public Broadcasting. (2011). Top 10 Resources on Phonological and Phonemic Awareness. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from WETA Public Broadcasting website: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/top-10-resources-phonological-and-phonemic-awareness
This list of articles focuses on the development of phonological skills, especially in early readers and speakers of the language. With general information about phonology, ideas for phonological games and activities, and a substantial list for further reading in each article, this website is a useful resource for understanding the theoretical and practical aspects of phonology.
English grammar refers to the set of rules that govern how words, phrases, clauses and sentences are structured in the English language. Knowing basic English grammar enables one to be a more effective writer, advances one’s reading comprehension, encourages a deeper appreciation for literary texts such as prose and poetry and facilitates clear and precise verbal and written communication for different audiences and purposes.
Learning about grammar terminology also cultivates an understanding and respect for the way other languages and dialects are structured and used.
- Klammer, T. P., Schulz, M. R. & Volpe, A. D. (2010). Analyzing English grammar. New York: Longman.
Call no.: R 428.2 KLA
This text encourages readers to analyse English grammar while learning about the language structure and various linguistic theories.
- Larson, R. K. (2010). Grammar as science. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Call no.: R 415 LAR
This is a good introductory text to syntax, covering topics such as phrase structure, lexicon and movement rules, as viewed from the perspective of the principles of scientific theorising. The e-version of the preface for this book can be found at this URL: http://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/9780262513036_pre_0001.pdf
- McIntyre, B. T., Cheung, Y. L. (2011). English style and usage. Singapore: Prentice Hall.
Call no.: R 808.042 MAC
This is a grammar style guide with suggestions for alternative ways of writing a phrase or a sentence, all of which may be grammatically correct but stylistically inaccurate.
- Morenberg, M. (2010). Doing grammar. New York: Oxford University Press.
Call no.: R 428.2 MOR
This fourth edition presents English grammar in a clear and easy-to-digest way, using real-life examples and diagrams to illustrate linguistic theories and sentence elements. Exercises (with answers) are provided to enable readers to practice concepts learnt.
- Nelson, G. (2011). English: An essential grammar. Milton Park, Abingdon: Routledge.
Call no.: R 428.2 NEL
A useful introductory guide to the essentials of English grammar, covering word, phrase, clause, sentence structure, word formation and variants in British and American spelling.
- Quirk, R., et al. (2010). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.
Call no.: R 428.2 COM
Compiled by famed grammarians, this scholarly volume is an excellent reference for learning about the English language structure, with its analysis of how English is used today.
- Sayce, K. (2013). What not to write: A guide to the dos and don’ts of good English. Singapore: Talisman.
Call no.: RSING 808.042 SAY
This is a handy guide that points out mistakes to avoid when dealing with issues such as using acronyms, jargon, quotations, captions, cliches, grammar and punctuation, among others.
- Shrives, C. (2011). Grammar rules: Writing with military precision. Singapore: W&V Press.
Call no.: R 425 SHR
The writer presents English grammar in a humorous way, drawing from his experiences as a military officer in the British Intelligence Corps. He explains for example, how words with the same sound can have different meanings and highlights common mistakes in using punctuation such as apostrophes and dashes. Shrives is also the creator of www.grammar-monster.com, an online grammar reference website.
- About, Inc. (2017). English grammar. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from About, Inc. website: https://www.thoughtco.com/english-grammar-4133049
This website extensively discusses grammar and other aspects of the language in focused topical articles. The articles are interesting on top of being informative, and the points in them are illustrated by written examples from a wide range of texts and authors.
- BBC. (2017). Learning English. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/
This is a fun and useful website for learning about English grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and general and business English. Also provides an option for the website to be translated into other languages, such as Portuguese, Russian and Vietnamese.
- British Council. (n.d.). English grammar. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from British Council website: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar
The British Council website gives a rudimentary introduction to the different elements of grammar with interactive exercises for each section provided to test one’s understanding of the concepts taught.
- GrammarBook.com. (2016). Free online English usage rules. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from GrammarBook.com website: http://www.grammarbook.com/
This website provides English usage rules, covering grammar, punctuation and other rules such as capitalisation, spelling, vocabulary and writing numbers. English usage videos and quizzes are also provided.
- Kies, D. (2016, November 17). Modern English grammar. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from HyperTextBooks website: http://papyr.com/hypertextbooks/grammar/
This website is used as a supplementary resource for undergraduate students studying English grammar, and contains detailed information ranging from grammatical structure to common errors in language usage and even professional research findings.
- National Library Board. (2015, March 4). Speak Good English Movement written by Sim, Cheryl. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from Singapore Infopedia.
This article is about the first Speak Good English campaign in Singapore, which was launched in April 2000. The campaign was part of the government’s efforts to promote the usage of standard English in Singapore and discourage the use of Singlish.
- Oxford University Press. (2017). Oxford English grammar course online. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from Oxford University Press website: http://elt.oup.com/student/oxfordenglishgrammar/?cc=global&selLanguage=en
This website offers three progressive levels of English Grammar courses – Basic, Intermediate and Advanced, that can aid in learning grammar rules and proper English usage. Each level includes interactive exercises and games to help one to understand grammar in greater detail.
Vocabulary, in the context of this resource guide, refers to a set of words that one knows in the English language. Our ability to learn new words increases as we progress in life and as we interact with a wider circle of people in different contexts and environments.
Learning new words helps us to communicate with one another socially and in the working world, and helps in acquiring new information and knowledge.
There are different types of vocabulary as follows:
- Reading vocabulary – refers to the words that one recognises during reading
- Listening vocabulary – refers to the words that one recognises upon hearing them
- Speaking vocabulary – refers to the words that one uses when speaking
- Writing vocabulary – refers to the words that one uses when writing
- The Chambers thesaurus. (2012). Edinburgh: Chambers.
Call no.: R 423.12 CHA – [DIC] Contains over 400,000 synonyms and antonyms arranged alphabetically and includes archaic terms, slang and special notes explaining the meanings and usage of words.
- Kipfer, B. A. (Ed.). (2010). Roget’s international thesaurus. New York: Collins Reference.
Call no.: R 423.1 ROG
This is a highly rated and classic reference tool for professional writers, with words grouped according to their meanings to facilitate easy searching for synonyms and antonyms.
- Lindberg, C. A. (Ed.). (2012). Oxford American writer’s thesaurus. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Call no.: R 423.12 OXF
Containing over 300,000 synonyms and 10,000 antonyms, this is a useful reference for writers and includes quotations that illustrate the usage of words and a word finder section organised by subjects.
- Merriam-Webster, Inc. (2012). Merriam-Webster’s intermediate thesaurus. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.
Call no.: R 423.12 MER
This thesaurus is targeted at secondary school level students and is useful for finding words with the same and opposite meanings.
- The American Heritage Roget’s Thesaurus. (2013). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Call no.: R 423.12 AME
This thesaurus covers a wide range of synonyms with definitions to familiarise readers on the relevant meaning of related words.
- Lynch, T. & Anderson, K. (2012). Effective English learning. Unit 6: Vocabulary. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from English Language Teaching Centre, University of Edinburgh website: http://www.ed.ac.uk/files/imports/fileManager/UNIT_6_Vocabulary.pdf
This is an online self-study guide on how to expand and improve one’s vocabulary capacity. Word exercises and study notes are also included.
- UCLES. (2012). Cambridge English: Vocabulary list. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from Cambridge English Language Assessment website: http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/84669-vocabulary-list.pdf
This website is a vocabulary guide for teachers who are preparing students for the Preliminary English Test (PET), with reference to the Cambridge Learner Corpus and English Profile Wordlists. Wordsets and topic lists are included in the Appendix.
A dictionary (also known as a word reference, wordstock, lexicon or vocabulary) is a listing of words arranged in an alphabetical order, with their definitions shown and may include examples of how the words are used in sentences, their pronunciation and etymology.
Besides single language dictionaries (for example, English dictionary, Korean dictionary and Spanish dictionary), there are also bilingual dictionaries that translate a word from one language to another (for example, English-Chinese dictionary and Malay-German dictionary) and specialised subject dictionaries that contain specialised words, phrases and technical jargon used in a particular professional field (for example, medical dictionary, business dictionary and law dictionary).
There are also sound dictionaries (for example, phonetic dictionary and rhyming dictionary), reverse dictionaries (entries are arranged in a non-standard format, for example, words that end with the same suffix may be listed together) and visual or pictorial dictionaries.
- Ayto, J. & Simpson, J. (Eds.). (2010). Oxford dictionary of modern slang. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Call no.: R 427.09 OXF
This book contains over 6,000 slang terms and is organised thematically under headings such as people and society, money and time.
- Béjoint, H. (2010). The lexicography of English: From origins to present. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Call no.: R 423.028 BEJ
Béjoint traces the history of the English dictionary from the 17th century to the present day and compares it with French lexicography. His scholarly work is divided into ten chapter headings, such as ‘The American Tradition of the Utility Dictionary’,’ English Dictionaries of the Twentieth Century: The Cultural, the Functional and the Scientific’ and ‘The Study of Dictionary Users and Uses’.
- Dolgopolov, Y. (2010). A dictionary of confusable phrases: More than 10,000 idioms and collocations. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.
Call no.: R 423.13 DOL
This book covers over 10,000 entries of idioms, clichés and expressions and explains their meanings and usage.
- Doyle, C. C., Mieder, W. & Shapiro, F. R. (Eds.). (2012). The dictionary of modern proverbs. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Call no.: R 398.92103 DOY
This is a compilation of proverbs that appeared in the English language from 1900 onwards, originating from many parts of the world, such as North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South America and Central America.
- Flavell, L. & Flavell, R. (2011). Dictionary of English down the ages: Words & phrases born out of historical events great & small. Singapore: Page One.
Call no.: R 422.03 FLA
An interesting book that traces how major world events beginning from 1066, gave birth to many words in the English language, such as ‘chocolate’, ‘jubilee’ and ‘curfews’.
- Flavell, L. & Flavell, R. (2011). Dictionary of idioms and their origins. Singapore: Page One.
Call no.: R 423.13 FLA
This book contains over 400 idioms and explains how they were introduced in to the English language and how they are used today.
- Jones, D. (2011). Cambridge English pronouncing dictionary. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Call no.: R 423.1 JON
This 18th edition contains over 200,000 pronunciations of words, names and phrases and includes essays by phonology experts on pronunciation. “The accompanying CD-ROM includes exercises, pronunciation practice and phonetic search facility for comparing sounds.”
- New Oxford American dictionary. (2010). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Call no.: R 423 NEW
This dictionary contains more than 350,000 words and phrases used in American English, accompanied by attractive illustrations, clear, authoritative definitions, usage notes and word trends chart usage.
- The American heritage dictionary of the English language. (2011). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Call no.: R 423 AME
This concise dictionary is a useful resource for word definitions and includes synonyms, usage, word history and over 4,000 full colour illustrations.
- Cambridge University Press. (2017). Cambridge dictionary. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Cambridge University Press website: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
This website provides access to British and American English, Business English and a Learner’s Dictionary. Also includes bilingual translations for English-Spanish and English-Turkish.
- Collins. (2017). Collins English dictionary. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Collins website: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english
This website provides access to the Collins dictionary, thesaurus, a translator, word games and bilingual French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese and Hindi dictionaries.
- Dictionary.com. (2016). Dictionary.com. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Dictionary.com website: http://www.dictionary.com/
This website offers access to an online English dictionary, a thesaurus, fascinating word stories and stimulating word quizzes.
- Merriam-Webster, Inc. (2017). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Merriam-Webster website: http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Besides providing meanings of words, this website includes a thesaurus, games and quizzes, videos and highlights trending new words and slangs.
- Oxford University Press. (2017). Oxford dictionaries. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Oxford Dictionaries website: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/
This is the online version of the Oxford Dictionary which not only provides definitions of words but also offers dictionaries for languages spoken around the world, such as French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
- Pearson ELT. (n.d.). Longman dictionary of contemporary English online. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Longman dictionary of contemporary English website: http://www.ldoceonline.com/
This online dictionary provides 155,000 examples of common English word usage, highlights of 3,000 most frequent words used in written and spoken English and 4,000 new words and meanings.
Online Open Access Journals
Open Access Journals are scholarly journals that are freely available over the Internet without requiring any subscription fee or password. Below are some examples of open access journals that focus on English language.
- Asian Economic and Social Society. (2016). International journal of English language and literature studies. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Asian Economic and Social Society website: http://www.aessweb.com/journals/5019
This journal is published quarterly, both online and in print by the Asian Economic and Social Society. Its scope covers English linguistics, literatures written in the English language, and English sociolinguistics.
- Canadian Center of Science and Education. (2016). English language teaching. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Canadian Center of Science and Education website: http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/elt
English language teaching is an international peer-reviewed journal that is published monthly and covers subjects such as “theory and practice in English language teaching and learning, teaching English as a second or foreign language, English language teachers’ training and education”.
- Directory of Open Access Journals. (2016). Browse Subjects. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) website: https://doaj.org/subjects
DOAJ provides online access to titles of scholarly and academic journals on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from arts and humanities to science and technology. On selecting the “Language and Literature” link at this page, the site will conduct a search to list the journals and articles on the subject. It covers over 200 journals focusing on linguistics. Some examples of these journals published in English include: 1) 3L Language, Linguistics and Literature: the Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies; 2) ELTWorldOnline.com; 3) The English Languages: History, Diaspora, Culture and 4) English Language and Literature Studies.
- International Journal of English Language and Translation Studies. (2016). International journal of English language and translation studies. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from International Journal of English Language and Translation Studies (IJ-ELTS) website: http://eltsjournal.org/
IJ-ELTS is published quarterly and is targeted at students, teachers, researchers and scholars involved in the study of English language, literature, culture and translation studies.
- International Journal of English Studies. (2016). International journal of English studies. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from International Journal of English Studies website: http://revistas.um.es/ijes
The International Journal of English Studies (IJES) is a bi-annual peer-reviewed journal that is published by the University of Murcia, Spain. It focuses on “English Language and Linguistics, Applied English Linguistics, Literature in English and Culture of the English-speaking countries”.
- Oxford University Press. (2017). ELT journal. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Oxford University Press website: http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/
ELT Journal is published quarterly and is targeted at teachers who teach English as a second language or as a foreign language, covering the principles and practice for how English is taught and learnt globally.
- The Journal of English as an International Language. (2017). The journal of English as an international language. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from Journal of English as an International Language website: http://www.eilj.com/
This journal is published twice a year and covers the structure and development of English and its relationship to different cultures and languages.
Accessing National Library Board Singapore Resources
Accessing the Print Materials
You can search the library catalogue (for physical materials) in the library and from home (http://catalogue.nlb.gov.sg). The easy search function allows you to search/browse by author, title, keyword, subject and ISBN/ISSN whereas the advanced search allows you to narrow your searches to specific media types or language holdings. In both instances, you will also be able to limit your search to specific libraries by clicking on the “limit by branch” option.
To search Lee Kong Chian Reference Library’s Holdings
If you wish to search for only materials available in the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, please always click on the “Limit by Branch” button at the bottom of the page, after you have keyed in your search term. This brings you to a new page whereby you will be able to select the library of your choice. Choose “Lee Kong Chian Reference Library” and select “yes” under the “Display only items available in the selected branch below” and then click on search.
Things to note:
Once you have identified the title that you need, please double-check the following information and write down the necessary info:
i. The “Status” of the item: the item is not available in the library, if the status displayed is “in transit”, “in process” or “not ready for loan”.
ii. Double-check that the item is in Lee Kong Chian Reference Library under “Branch”.
iii. Write down the Location Code and the Call Number of the item. This helps you to locate the item within Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. Please refer to the table below for more information (Note: Please feel free to approach the counter staff for help in locating the books.)
All featured books and periodicals are located at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.
Accessing the Databases
The National Library Board (NLB)’s eResources are free for all NLB members. Click here to find out how to register as a member.
If you’re having problems registering or logging in, please contact us. If you wish to find information in the databases but am not sure where to begin, or need recommendations on which databases to use, please use the “Ask A Librarian” function or send an email to email@example.com for help. The librarian will get back to you within three working days.
The information in this resource guide is valid as at Mar 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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