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Re: World English (was: Fictional auxlangs as artlangs)

From:R A Brown <ray@...>
Date:Saturday, December 27, 2008, 21:39
<deinx nxtxr> wrote:
>> [] On Behalf Of R A Brown
>> But it is simply not true that [Welsh] survives *only* because of >> political backing because ....... > > Most of the minority languages today are either endangered, or propped up by > some type of protectionists policies.
Methinks you are speaking of languages with little or no literary history. I was giving an example of a language with a well-established literary history. I was _not_ arguing for the survival of all or even most endangered languages. I was replying to your claim that eventually the whole world would be speaking just English, or possibly English and Spanish. My counter claim was that if a language such as Welsh has been able to survive on this island in competition with English for some one and a half millennia (you seem to ignore history), then I think languages with an even greater speaker base and as long or even longer literary history are not likely to disappear under the linguistic imperialism of English. It may be, for example, that all the French people I have met in my seventy years are not typical; but if they are, I can assure you that they are not going to give up their language and take up speaking English (or Spanish). Indeed, why should they? Personally I find it even more incredible to imagine that the Chinese are going to abandon a language that has more than three millennia of written tradition behind it. [snip]
>> ............ but some of >> us see - at least in the instance of Welsh - it as an example >> of enlightenment and _respect_ for the cultural of other people. > > In a lot of cases, that "respect" is more damaging that good. It causes a > group to be isolated from the mainstream if they don't know the national > language.
{groan - slaps head in disbelief} Your own prediction of universal English (and Spanish?) would mean that the majority of the earth's populations would not know _their own_ national language!! But have you never heard of bilingualism? There are, I suspect, no adult Welsh man or woman who cannot speak English. There are, however, very many who have welsh as their L1 and English as L2. To say that such people are cut of from the mainstream is, to put it mildly, nonsense. They know both the national language of their own nation and the national language of the United Kingdom. Bilingualism is the *norm* in very many parts of this planet - indeed, I am told that trilingualism is not uncommon in some parts. I can readily believe that bilingualism with people having their own national language as L1 and English as l2 will become more widespread. Indeed, it may well be that one day monoglot anglophones will generally be seen as unusual and as being linguistically impoverished. [snip]
> What's happened/happening to North American languages. Languages that > thrives only a few centuries ago are now extinct, or close to it. I > recently saw a documentary about the Miss Navajo pageant. At some point the > contestant had to speak Navajo, and all of them struggled just to get out > one sentence. It's English they are using in their daily lives, not Diné.
They have a long literary tradition do they? They are comparable to Welsh, French, Chinese and all the many other languages that must disappear to make way for 'World English'? I think not. This really does seem like extrapolating what happens in the USA to the rest of the world. Things just don't work like that. [snip]
> > It's kind of funny you pick Welsh, because yes, Welsh is one with a lot of > staying power, but languages like Irish and Scottish haven't done so well.
I assume by 'Scottish' you are referring to Gaelic. I don't understand what is funny. Irish & Gaelic "haven't done so well" because of power politics and religious bigotry. Unlike the Welsh, who accepted Elizabeth I's religious settlement, the Irish and the Scots Highlanders (i.e. Gaelic speakers) held onto the old Catholic religion. Their English & lowland Scots overlords ruthless attempted to eradicate the native Irish & Gaelic language and culture. It was massacre, disease & emigration which led to their being almost eradicated - not linguistic considerations. But, despite all that, those languages did refuse to die. I chose Welsh, however, not as an example of a minority or endangered language - but as an example of a language that has coexisted with English and still survives coexisting with English. There is no reason for it to disappear.
> >> An even better example, of course, is Basque which, against >> all odds, has survived the encroachment of Romance for an >> even longer time that Welsh has survived the encroachment of >> English (and Basque on the French side of the Pyrenees does >> not have the political support that is currently enjoyed by Welsh). > > Again, isolation played a big part in keeping this group separated from > everyone else. Those were different times. We don't live in a world like > that any more. We now have more mobility and communications. This is still > a recent thing so the effects aren't all there yet.
Do remember also that under Franco, Basque was proscribed in Spain. On the French side, there has been no support for Basque. Nor, I think, has this community been so isolated as you suggest. The number of Basque words of Latin and Romance origin are surely testament to its contacts with other languages. Most (all?) adult Basques are bilingual or trilingual. I remember my French teacher (some 55 or more years ago) telling us of an occasion when he went into a shop in the Basque region of France. He spoke to the shopkeeper in French, and the latter replied in Spanish - and that's how the conversation continued. My teaching was speaking in his L2 (French) but understood the shopkeeper because Spanish was his L3, similarly the shopkeeper spoke in his L2 (Spanish) but understood my teacher because French was his L3. Of course both had quite different L1s, namely English & Basque. I suspect this sort of situation is not at all unusual in many parts of the world. Quite clearly that Basque shopkeeper was not "isolated from the mainstream" - he knew _three_ national languages. [snip]
>>> Mainly because Latin America has a lot of monoglots and seems to be >>> the slowest in accepting English. Nations like India and China are >>> already on the English bandwagon. >> English is being used as a matter of convenience, but I see >> no evidence at all that either Hindi or Chinese is on the decline. > > Not yet. These things don't happen in a few years. They happen over > generations.
I'm sorry - but I really do find it easier to believe the moon is made of cheese than believe the Chinese are going eventually and 'inevitably' abandon their own national language with its history of more than three millennia.
>>......... I think it most >> unlikely that these peoples will cease to use Arabic in >> normal speech and reserve it only for worship & reading the >> Qur'an, unless Islam itself declines in these countries. > > Again, it hasn't been that long yet. The educated elite in these countries > already speak English very well.
But Arabic better :)
> More travel, but also more cross-migration of peoples. This Middle East > isn't just Arabs. There are workers flooding these countries from places > like India. Now figure at some point, these people may only have an auxlang > like English to communicate with their bosses.
Indeed - so they will use it. That simply does not mean they have to give up their own native L1s. It does mean they will have to be bilingual - like the Welsh. I am quite certain that this is actually happening. It doesn't their own L1s inevitably disappear. [snip]
>> Quite so - who knows what effect the emergence of China >> and/or Indian as global economic powers might have. If, >> indeed, the Chinese did come to exert global economic >> influence it is not beyond imagination, surely, that Chinese >> might come to have a similar dominance on the world stage, >> especially if Pinyin (or something similar) were adopted as >> the 'international' way of writing the language. > > But English is already deeply entrenched, well established and gathering > momentum in the International role. Try googling "TEFL" and check out the > results. Notice the huge demand for English teachers worldwide, and most > seem to be in China.
It means they want to learn English as their L2 - it does not mean they want to give up speaking Chinese.
> I have no doubts China is the next in line as the US global influence wanes. > That doesn't mean their language will becoming the next world language. It > could take centuries to stop the momentum that English has established.
Things change very quickly. I suspect that in in the late 18th & early 19th centuries someone would have said very much the same as you are arguing, except that the 'global language' would have been French. They would certainly have cited the example of the Russian nobility & bourgeoisie who spoke French amongst themselves, reserving Russian for servants and peasants. But it did not take centuries to reverse French momentum. In the first half of last century it was held that any serious scientist should know German as so much research material was published in that last language. But by the second half of that century, that was n longer the case - English had become the main language of scientific research. What will happen in the future is just speculation. [snip]
> That's one part of my vision of the future I don't find depressing. A world > without language barriers is a good thing. People will all be able to > communicate freely and share information.
But that doesn't require everyone giving up their own national languages so that "English as a world standard will erode away even the bigger of the local languages." It merely requires people to be bi- or trilingual.
> The destruction of individuality > and freethought for conformity on a behavioral level is where the biggest > threat lies, and that's already well underway too.
That is precisely the danger I see if people's own languages and cultures are eroded away. -- Ray ================================== ================================== CENEDL HEB IAITH, CENEDL HEB GALON. (A nation without a language is a nation without a heart) [Welsh proverb]