Tuesday, April 8, 2008

One or More Englishes

The cover article of the March 29, 2008, issue of New Scientist discusses the future of English. In the Michael Erard's opinion, English will be massively simplified as non-native speakers use it to communicate across langauge barriers; it will lose its complexity and nuances, reducing to basic nouns and verbs. He has interesting points, but there is no reason to believe that there will be only one monolithic "English" - there are already variations in the use of English even among native speakers in Britain, America, and Australia. English is more likely to follow Latin's course in the Middle Ages and split into a variety of Englishes: one (or more) stripped-down version for non-native speakers to communicate in places like India that have a wide range of local lanaguages, or internationally when people from different countries work together; a variety of local Englishes for various regions across the world, embellished with local vocabulary, such as Singaporean English; and at least one fully complex version for native speakers, probably three or more. There is no reason native speakers should be restricted to simple language for complex ideas, any more than speakers of French or Arabic or Mandarin Chinese are.

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