Linguist John McWhorter has written an article about the variety of human languages and its expected development. Nowadays, there are about 6000 languages spoken, but only about a tenth of these is expected to make it into the next century.
Personally, the author does not enjoy this prospect, but he does not see an objective disadvantage if a large number of languages should die out. This proposition may be debated, but the argument put forth in the article are pretty convincing. There is another statement that puzzles me, however:
Perhaps a future lies before us in which English will be a sort of global tongue while people continue to speak about 600 other languages among themselves. English already is a de facto universal language
A world using English as Lingua Franca appears time an again, sometimes as (positive) utopia, sometimes presented in a more negative way. But how realistic is this scenario? I will grant that English does take this role in my life (both personal and professional) whenever my native German cannot be used.
However, this is just a very small part of the world — Europe and America are just a very small part, since more than half of humanity live in Asia. If there really is a universal language one day, who knows which one will win?
Moreover, some of the advantages of English McWhorter gives are a bit subjective — verb conjugation is quite simple, indeed, an learners rarely complain about the absent genders, either. On the other hand, English spelling and pronunciation are incredibly complex — offhand, I cannot think about any othere language (bare galic) that uses the latin alphabet verwendet and still employs a similarly strange spelling.
I shall conclude with a little anecdote concerning the idea of a lingua franca: a few days ago, I had to co-ordinate something with two colleagues. Unfortunately, there was no language all of us would have shared; this despite the fact that each of us could talk to every other member of our little team. Thus, we used three different languages (English,German, and Polish) and explained everything important twice so all of us understood.
3 Kommentare • deutsch