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Re: THEORY: Anglic languages (was: Difthongization...)

From:Peter Collier <petecollier@...>
Date:Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 17:36
--- John Vertical <johnvertical@...> wrote:

> >On 19/02/08 21:48:23, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote: > >> It's part of sweeping changes taking place in > North American > >> English. [...] > > > >A bad thing? As a conlanger, surely not! It's just > the Real World > >conlanging for a change. Europe and India manage to > get by just fine > >with lots of different languages. Why couldn't > North America? The > >written language needn't break up right away > anyway: Much like the > >status of Latin in the early stages of the Romance > family/late stages > >of Vulgar Latin. > > > >-- > >Tristan. > > I assume English is even bigger a mess than Vulgar > Latin was, tho. It also > demonstrates nicely that language change doesn't > work strictly phylogenetically. > > Which brings me to another topic: what do you > suppose future linguistics > will come to consider the "primary branches" of the > Anglic languages? Will > the basic geographical divisions be maintained? How > about beyond them, can > those be bunched into larger groups (according to > when each group split off > from Britain?) or will we just have to do with > Proto-Anglic > half a dozen > different subfamilies? Which isoglosses will be > considered family-defining, > which areal influence / parallel developments - > rhotacity, cot-caught, > pin-pen, th-stopping? > > (Actually, on second thought, let's put this under > THEORY too.) > > John Vertical >
I have no crystal ball, but from the way things look now I cannot see divergence of the main English dialects being likely, indeed perhaps even the opposite. That is not to say English will not develop and change, it clearly will, I just don't think it will split. Two interconnected reasons for that - Firstly divergence requires isolation, and secondly there seems to be more of a trend towards standardisation. With the collapse of the Empire you have a situation where Roman dialect groups are separated by vast (for the period) gepgraphic distances with no means of instantaneous communication between the various groups. Compare that to the current situation with telecommunications, media, global trade, etc where geographical distance is now irrelevant and you remove the possibility of isolation - barring some kind of catastrophic instantaneous collapse of all civilisation and technology, which seems more than unlikely. I think the predominance of American entertainment media, IT and so on is causing some convergence (definitely on a lexical level, and in certain instances at a phonetic level too). There is also, e.g. for economic reasons, a very great need to ensure that there is mutal intelligibility that I think provides an impetus for standardisation. I think you could reasonably demonstrate that what is happening globally today is akin to what has happened at a national level over the past few centuries with regards to language standardisation and a reduction in the number of dialects. It is very possible that English will not remain a lingua franca long term, although it seems to have many features that make it ideally suited. If/when that time comes I suspect a whole raft of English varieties will disappear from non-L1 areas - India, Africa, etc. Notwithstanding that sort of a retreat there will still be a core L1 English group that will remain i.e. British/Irish, North American and Antipodean. I really cannot imagine that these would become unitelligible to each other. If the dialects even manage to survive being subsumed into a standardised behemoth, surely a more a likely scenario would be per the current situation with Scots and Scottish English, where you have a small continuum between a local dialect and the standard language with a lot of 'contamination' of the dialect? Another remoter possibility perhaps, is that the position of English globally has passed (or will pass at some point before another language can take its place) a tipping point that ensures it remains the main international language. That could lead to a situation where 'English' is distinguished from the language shared by GB/IRL/USA/CDN/AUS/NZ? But again, given the advantageous position such a global language would bestow on native speakers, would its L1 speakers allow their language to drift too far from it? P.


Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>Isolation of English Dialects (was Re: THEORY: Anglic languages)