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World Languages

Discussion in 'Speaker's Corner' started by anarchist, 15 Aug 2006.

  1. anarchist

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    Not quite sure exactly what I want this thread to be so I'll just braindump and hope somebody expands...

    We have two seemingly conflicting things - the increased level of global migration and the mixture of language that follows from that, and the increased level of "language fascism" (my phrase!) which some countries (Iran, Malaysia and France) seem to be heading towards.

    So one question really is, would a global language be a good idea (albeit practically impossible)?

    I can see the benefits, i.e. practicality, ease of trading now the world is a global market place, breaking down barriers between people who don't communicate (and hence perhaps have fear of each other) because of language differences etc. and I can also see the negatives, i.e. loss of cultural, linguistic and artistic history. Although some languages are seemingly spoken by (and understood by) so few people that it seems keeping those languages alive is perhaps more trouble than it's worth.

    Incidentally, this thread idea was sparked by listening to this programme on the way home from work...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/wordofmouth.shtml
     
  2. starscream

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    I agree with you really. It would be great from a practical viewpoint, and further, I think you are spot on that a lack of understanding leads to fear which leads to suspicion and resentment. A common language would be a small step to alliviating that.

    However, there is obviously a big flip side which would result in a loss in culture. I also enjoy going to other countries and making an effort to communicate in a foreign language, rather than shouting "Egg, beans and chips" ;)
     
  3. Nix

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    Can you ellaborate on the "language facist" remark please, I'm not quite sure I follow...

    I think today, we have a group of main languages, those being: English, Hispanic, Arabic and Japanese.

    With the flux of modern globalisation and westernisation, the English language has in turn become a commodity in itself. I recall that the two languages we may see dominating in future years are Japanese and English due to business. The spread of empire is not going to be a driving force as it once was, and some languages we may find are dilluted or filtered out in time; French for example. Although, I do not believe any language will truely die off as long as their is a nation to support the native tongue, just that growth becomes more difficult.
     
  4. nero120

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    Newspeak? ;)
     
  5. semi-pro waster

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    Language fascist could be used to describe the French for instance, a prominent businessman addressed a session of the EU in English rather than in French and the Prime Minister stormed out. Link here, now maybe it doesn't sound totally unreasonable but there was a valid reason for speaking English and the French are known to be particularly protective of their language because the was the lingua franca or common language(with a name like that who'd a thought it :)) of the EU for a long time although that is changing. I don't know about the other countries that anarchist mentions.

    I'd argue Chinese is bigger than Japanese, in fact it is the most spoken language in the world in terms of numbers who speak it as a first language I believe. I do take the point but I'd say we have at least 5 main languages.

    I personally think that English is likely to carry on gaining more popularity for quite a while(I'm currently working with a company who are placing ESL students and it is frankly quite scary how much demand there is for it) but then it may peak and tail off to allow another language a moment in the sun. That has been the pattern over the course of history, if you look at the great/classical languages - Latin, Greek, even French to a degree, I can't see English dying completely without a holocaust of some sort but it may lose some popularity.
     
  6. Nix

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    Chinese isn't a language, the main language they speak is Mandarin IIRC. Also, the Chinese aren't going to be so populous in a generations time due to the one-child policy, you can expect it to at least half. The Chinese also favour male children, so there's another problem there...
     
  7. semi-pro waster

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    Ok, Mandarin if you prefer, with or without including other dialects spoken in China it is apparantly spoken by more people than the next two biggest combined. The facts and figures appear to vary but most estimates put Mandarin(Chinese spoken languages as a whole) at somewhere around or over 1 billion speakers. That sort of mass does not just disappear quickly, the 1 child policy as I understand it only applies to the ethnic Han Chinese in urban areas so only limits some growth although not all and as far as I can tell China's population is still rising faster than it is declining.

    Yes there are more male children being born in China percentage wise than female but that doesn't automatically greatly impact those who would speak Mandarin, if women from other countries move their their children may be raised as native Mandarin speakers. Of course the opposite may happen and there is an exodus to find women, I don't know but what I would say is that China is still in a fairly strong position with regard to it's language.
     
  8. Nix

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    A strong position, yes. Dominant? No. China's population is set to decline in the next coming generation or two. There will be a shortage of females, so there will be a problem among the growth rate unless China push for large families. The end result is, less population and less native tongue speakers.
     
  9. robmiller

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    Is English not already a global language? It's almost everybody's first choice of second language, most trade agreements/treaty negotiations/any kind of international accords are conducted in it, etc., etc.

    Although if we're picking, I vote Esperanto since it's designed for this sort of thing--better than trying to shoehorn an existing language into the role.

    And yet they'll still have many times more speakers than Japanese.
     
  10. Zefan

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    This is what I was going to raise. The way I see it is "If I were an Alien, which spoken language would I use to attempt communication with humans?" The answer, without a doubt, is English.
     
  11. Nix

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    But as it currently stands, Japan is still a current financial hub which is why I'm arguing it is a strong language. I fully submit that Mandarin is very likely to overtake it in terms of actual number of speakers. Wether or not it remains so, is yet to be established. The staying power of any language is subject to a number of internal and external factors making the paradigm hard to predict.
     
    Last edited: 16 Aug 2006
  12. Nix

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    How would an alien be able to communicate sounds it has never heard before? Who's to say that any sentance structure would even be comprehensible to us?
     
  13. Zefan

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    What I'm trying to say is that it's really obvious that English is THE human language. I'm not trying to actually suggest this will ever happen, it's just an analogy.
     
  14. Nix

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    Just as Latin was 2000 years ago? Language evolves, English itself is based on Greek, Latin and evolution. How many people do you know still speak like Shakespeare?

    English today will not be the English of tomorrow, so defining it as the 'human language' is mis-informed.

    The language of tomorrow may well include brand-names as nouns, etc. It may be some ******* tongue of English and Mandarin as cultures coalesce.

    English as we know it is just the majority language of the 21st century.
     
  15. robmiller

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    What's your point? That we should create a language somehow impervious to these changes and adopt it as a new world-language, forcing everyone to learn it with no discernible benefit since they'll all be dead and gone before English would've changed anyway :confused:
     
  16. Nix

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    Where did I even suggest that, or are just jumping to wild conclusions?

    My point is that defining any language as the 'human language' is foolish.
     
  17. robmiller

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    Defining any language as a human language that will remain so forever is foolish. In what ways is English not the human language, though :confused:
     
  18. Nix

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    There is no one language though is there? You cannot pin-point English as we know it and say "that's the human language". These languages today will be unrecognisable in a few millenia...

    Like I said; English as we know it today is just the majority spoken tongue of the 21st century.
     
  19. anarchist

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    What's the current status of Esperanto - does anybody actually speak it or was it a totally failed experiment?

    Actually, on the programme I linked in my OP, there is a genuine fear that in America Spanish will take over from English in many places. An example they gave is California, where it's predicted Spanish will be the majority first language within 15 (I think) years. The reason they gave is that, previously, second and third generation immigrants would generally adopt the native language (their parents generally stuck with their own language), but nowadays that is happening less and less.

    As for "language fascist", semi-pro waster has explained it better than I could.
     
  20. JimmyEatWorms

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    Not really. Newspeak is about the distillation of language to prevent the free flow of ideas and expression. I suspect a single international language would have the opposite effect.