English language or THE English language?
the English language

But: English music, English literature, English art

Cool Breezethe English languageBut: English music, English literature, English artCB
Why do we say "The English language is difficult," but we say "English literature is read throughout the world"?

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Hi James M. According to Leech & Svartvik's A Communicative Grammar of English;

It's about generic and specific use. This following example illustrates generic meaning with abstract mass nouns; I like music, English literature, contemporary art,...

In specific use, these nouns take the definite article(the);

The acting was poor, but we enjoyed the music.

For example(again);
The scientific study of language is called linguistics.(generic use)
Before you visit Turkey, you ought to learn the language(specific use)

However the book does not say anything about the English literature and I think It's because the word English literature can not be specified.

Note: I might be completly wrong or the things I have written down were probably off-topic. I'm not sure(as always :/ ). Lets wait for an expert.
Thank you very much, Nugso, for the helpful information.
We use "the" when specifying the full (official) name of a language. Thus, the English language is the full name of a language. English literature can be seen as a (sub)division within world literature. It is all the literature written in English. English literature is not really a name; it is rather a kind of literature much like nazi literature, langauge literature, IT literature and so on.
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Hello, Globus:

Your question really interested me because I could not give myself a good answer.

Thanks to Cool Breeze, Nugso, and Ivanhr, I now understand it much better.


I have also searched the Web like mad, and I have found an answer that I wanted to share.

This person explains that we usually do not use the definite article with school subjects:

English is my favorite subject.
English literature is very interesting.
English language, not English literature, is my favorite subject.

Otherwise, we usually use the article when we use the word "language":

The English language is very difficult. (Or: English is very difficult.)
How did the English language begin? (Or: How did English begin?)
The English language has become the international language. (Or: English is now the international language.)


As a new member, I have noticed that English Forums allows members to link to other grammar helplines, as other helplines allow their members to link to EF. Since I do not know how to link, I thought that it is only ethical of me to credit the person responsible for the above ideas. The user name is "rewboss." His/her comments were posted on June 28, 2006, on UsingEnglish.com. The thread title: The English language or English Language. (P.S. Most of the example sentences are my idea. If they are wrong, I deserve the blame, not "rewboss.")
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