English Will Disappear?

in English
People whose first language is English are apt to be complacent about its pre-eminence. English is seen as indomitable ruling the worlds of business, science and entertainment. Yet in The Last Lingua Franca, Nicholas Ostler serves up a bold corrective to Anglo-centrism and its familiar flag-waving myopia
Ostler, a Briton who chairs the Foundation for Endangered Languages, opens with the provocative statement that the decline of English, when it begins, will not seem of great moment
Ostler gives an account of the fluctuating fortunes of other major world languages. In each case their majesty has proved fragile. For instance, the might of Persian, established over a period of almost a thousand years, was shaken to its foundations in just 16. If we imagine that the supremacy of English will endure forever, says Ostler, we are guilty of both memory failure and a signal lack of imagination
Today, were told, English offers an entry card to the worlds Executive Club. But sceptics suggest that its prospects are tainted by its association with Britains exploitative past and Americas recent taste for political interventionism
Worriers allege that the diffusion of English must lead to its break-up: it will develop in many directions, its various new forms in the end becoming mutually unintelligible
Ostler contends that the future promises something quite different: a new linguistic world order, in which China, India, Russia and Brazil, increasingly dominant economically, will discover that they can secure their positions in the global marketplace without recourse to English. The international form of the language will evaporate, and English will revert to being spoken only in its native heartlands. Those heartlands will be less important politically and commercially
Usually, anyone who argues that Englishs position is insecure proposes that some other language most likely Spanish or Mandarin Chinese will supersede it. Yet Ostler takes the view that by around 2050 no global lingua franca will be needed. To a large extent, this will be thanks to technology, for example as improved machine translation will make more languages mutually accessible
Yet while he writes with engaging crispness, at times the text becomes forbiddingly technical, and one can lose oneself in a thicket of thorny names and bristling verbiage
Ostlers arguments are cogent and alarming. Yet he leaves us with a salutary thought: while the world can today seem flat and homogenous, and while a language dies out every fortnight, many distinct tongues persist, and in them survives a rich miscellany of traditions, histories and nuances of human character(Information derived from the network)
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This article was published on 2010/12/16